Monday, January 30, 2012

In for a Dime, In for a Dollar – The Tale of Two Kitties

Part 2: Shadow

This is the second of V.K. Whetham's guest posts about the miracle cats who chose her household as their forever home.

A year ago this month, the wind was howling the entire night so hard the roof seemed to shake and I was certain the siding on the house was being peeled off – again. This is not unusual for where I live now. The wind is our constant companion throughout the year, but is always particularly unrelenting and brutal in January.

The dogs were restless that night. They woke me up several times, almost every hour. The first couple of times they went outside to do their business and to, no doubt, check on the siding and shingles for me. Strangely, the third time they woke me they refused to leave the house. They just stood watching me, tails wagging, ears perked up, clearly “on alert” but with no perceivable enemy or concern.

By four a.m. I was exhausted and exasperated by their behavior. “What is it?” I begged, more than asked. “What’s wrong?” I encouraged the dogs to go outside for the umpteenth time and my usually obedient canines looked at me like I had clearly lost my marbles. They were not going outside. It was windy and cold. They had no business to do out there.

My son woke up and came into the living room. I told him about the dogs’ strange behavior and he just shrugged, conveying not only disinterest but general annoyance as well. “They woke me up,” he groused, as he headed to the kitchen. Then suddenly he stopped. “What’s that?” he asked. I hadn’t heard a thing. “Can’t you hear it?” 

My son opened the front door then, dressed only in a shirt and underwear, went out into the 40-degrees-below storm. Moments later he returned with the saddest-looking thing that I’d seen in a long time.

The tiny creature looked like he was about six weeks old. His fur was thin and sparse. Alarmingly, I could see every bone in his body, including every tiny vertebra that made up his long, bluish-grey tail. Huge green eyes looked at me. And, unbelievably, this little feline was purring.

I shuddered. And I looked at my son. We rushed to show the kitten where the water and the food were located. A tiny shred of hope crept up my spine when the kitten drank a large amount of water, nibbled on the food and then returned to the water.

My son pleaded, “We have to keep him!” 

“Of course, no question; but, honey, I don’t know. He’s so tiny and sick. Little ones are fragile. You have to be prepared. He may not survive.”

My son shrugged, this time conveying the clear message he was siding with the dogs that night: I had lost my marbles and had no idea what I was talking about.

That morning we took the kitten to the vet. He was very emaciated but otherwise in good health. He was also more likely six months old than six weeks. He was very small for his age.

The vet gave us some food and told us to come back in two week when hopefully the little guy could be neutered and given his shots. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

How did this tiny kitten find us? Our home is surrounded by eight-foot-tall bushes. A small kitten could crawl into the yard but dogs can’t, even in the winter. The porch light wasn’t on and there was no sign on our door that said, “Security found here,” despite what my family may think. Stranger still, we have never heard Shadow meow since that winter’s night. He purrs quite loudly but does not speak.

What was a six-month-old kitten doing outside in the middle of winter? Kittens that young don’t usually wander far. He may not have been out long in the cold, because it doesn’t take long for anything to become emaciated in freezing temperatures, but certainly he’d been out for at least a day or two. He was on death’s door – another few hours, maybe a day, and we probably would have found a horror on our porch and not the purring machine we did.

This past December, our beautiful black cat, Stryder (named after the king in the Lord of the Rings), passed away unexpectedly. One day, I may write about Stryder, who lived up to his name in every way possible. But not today. I have folded his memory away for now and hidden him behind a door. When the pain has lessened, I will open the door and tell you about the king. 

Shadow is a miracle brought to us, I believe, by God. Fuzzy had not lived one day without a feline companion, and he was bonded inseparably to my son and to his buddy, Stryder. I think it was a miracle that saved Shadow, and I believe that God knew Stryder’s days were numbered and Fuzzy would need another companion. We would all need another companion; not to replace our old friend but to ease his passing so we could bravely let him go.

How else could Shadow – against improbable odds, facing a sure death, in a winter storm and in the dark – have found the one porch in the entire neighborhood where a family was awake and could hear his cry for help and take him in?

I have learned that faith is not only believing in God but also believing in all his promises. It’s why I pray, “Please make me the person my dogs think that I am, and thank you for my cats who remind me that I am not that person yet.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In for a Dime, In for a Dollar – The Tale of Two Kitties

Part 1: Fuzzy

This 2-part guest post is by V.K. Whetham, considerately filling in for me as I continue to not get my new Vet Tech Tales posts prepped in time. Patience, new Tales really are on their way! Meanwhile, enjoy V.K.'s lovely tail, er tale ...

Previously I have written about my love and dedication to the canine species. But my devotion to the animal kingdom does not end there. I had the privilege of growing up in a household that tolerated all manner of pets. We owned a particularly cool parakeet named Peppi and a fish aquarium. And, we had one great dog, named Trooper, who passed away at the age of 13. What we did not have, however, were cats. My father is extremely allergic, and this condition must have caused him to disdain the feline species.

My siblings and I have all adopted cats after leaving home. I suppose a psychologist would have something to say about this. After all, Dad can’t be in a house with a cat without breaking out in tears and hives and gasping for breath. It makes visiting his children difficult, to say the least.

I, on the other hand, would argue that our adoption preference is less about our relationship with our father and more about the character of cats. Both dogs and cats humble me, but in different ways. I pray God will make me the person my dogs think that I am and thank Him for my cats who remind me daily that I am not that person yet.   

We have two cats who allow us to live with them at this time, and they came to us uniquely. Cats seem to find their Person while people tend to find their dogs.

My first home was a small country house about a mile outside a rural town. It was a great place to live. Our backyard butted up against a cornfield. There were no street lights on our dead-end, dirt road that we shared with only a handful of neighbors. They were all great people, willing to lend a hand whenever there was a need.

There was only one spoiled apple pair in the bushel. And they lived directly next door to me.

They were nice enough. They had two young girls who enjoyed playing with and watching over my younger son. But I could tell they were a troubled family. The mother didn’t work and the father was frequently “laid-off.” The children were often dirty, with tangled hair, and were out at all hours of the day and night.

I could tolerate all of that. My real pet peeve was the propensity of the family for adopting puppies and kittens that always “ran away” before reaching adulthood. Phoenix wrote about a similar experience she had and she termed such people “puppy hoarders.” I had never thought about it like that – I just considered the family to be irresponsible.

Year after year, I watched the family adopt one puppy after another, one kitten after another, usually in the spring. The puppies and kittens would disappear sometime in the winter. The neighbor across the road told me all about it before I even had a chance to see it for myself. She swore one of their dogs was found miles away and adopted by a kind farmer.

The situation saddened me, but I hoped the missing dogs found better homes since the family didn’t spend much time with their pets after winter set in. It was too cold to play outside with wintery wind and freezing temperatures and the pets were never let inside.

Ten years ago this past fall, the family moved away to the city, in hopes of finding a better job, better schools, a better life. They left behind four cats, all barely a year old. The house they lived in was rented out and, dutifully, the renters dumped cat food on the porch every day for the cats. No care, no love, no dish, no water and no shelter.

The fall passed and then came the brutal winter with its freezing temperatures. My son, at the tender age of eight, would go out looking for the cats during the worst nights. We would feed them and give them shelter, but they refused to stay inside. One after another the cats disappeared until the only one left was Sasha. And Sasha was pregnant.  

The night before Easter, she came to our door. It was very cold and we let her in. We fed her and then we went to bed. On Easter Sunday we awoke to find that she had given birth to eight tiny kittens.  

We raised them until Sasha weaned them and she began to insist on being let out. I decided to take the kittens and her to a no-kill shelter in the city where I thought they had a better chance of being adopted into loving homes and not being left outside in the cold as mousers.

My son asked if he could keep one, and I agreed. He chose a particularly feisty kitten that he named Angel. I have no idea why. She was anything but -- always underfoot, always racing through the house and getting into flower pots while her littermates were content to rough house in their box and take long naps.

By then it was spring. The crocuses and daffodils and tulips were blooming. It was warm and sunny. The weekend before I planned to take the kittens to the shelter, we took them outside to romp around. They loved the grass and the sun. One kitten, named Fuzzy because of his long hair, took a liking to a bush and crawled under it.

After a few minutes, Fuzzy came out with a two-inch thorn sticking out of his lower eye lid. It looked like it could have been all the way in his eye. I am bit less squeamish now than I was then, but I make no apologies for my scream, tears and panic. It’s not every day you see a thorn sticking out of a kitten’s eye!

After gathering up the kittens and Sasha, we rushed Fuzzy to the vet. I watched as he unceremoniously pulled the thorn out of Fuzzy’s eye with tweezers and then rubbed antibiotic ointment into it. Fuzzy showed no sign of distress the entire time; in fact, he was, quite curiously, purring. And, as I remember it now, he was purring with a smug look on his face.

The vet looked at me and I looked at him. He is one of those really cool vets who don’t believe in making fortunes out of caring for animals. He said, “He needs his shots and he’s old enough to be neutered. You can make payments.”  I kid you not. He was that abrupt and that matter of fact. What could I do but nod? Fuzzy had already cost me a vet visit. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

The next weekend, Fuzzy stayed home while his siblings and his mother took a trip to the city.

To this day, I am absolutely convinced that he knew about his pending trip and decided he wasn’t going anywhere.

Fuzzy is a great cat. He is totally and absolutely devoted to my son. He follows him from room to room like a dog. He also bonded with the cat, Stryder, that already lived with us. They became best friends and behaved like brothers. Most of the time, Fuzzy and Stryder would hang out together, groom each other and sleep soundly side-by-side. But, like brothers, they sometimes didn’t get along. Fuzzy would torment Stryder deliberately by swishing a tale in his face or nudging him out of the food bowl. Stryder, the tougher and more mature of the two, would tolerate this up to a point, but usually the teasing would end with a race around the house and Stryder thumping Fuzzy on the head.

Then along came Shadow.

"Part 2: Shadow" will continue on Monday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Upcoming Blog Tour: I Love Rescue Dogs - Do YOU Have a Story to Share?

The ever-energetic Landra Graf, who guest posts here every month with recaps of how the rescue org she's involved with -- Pawsibilities R Endless -- is doing, is busy at work putting together a blog tour around rescues. The 8-week tour starts Feb 20. All the details, including the themes for each week, are here.

Animal Junkies will be participating in the tour, and I'd love to have as many stories each week as possible. For those of you who would like to contribute but don't have a blog of your own or simply have only one or two stories to share, send me your stories (pictures most welcome!) and I'll be happy to post them here and promote them via Twitter and Facebook. We'll share our links with the Small Town Rescue blog who'll them share them out along with other participating blogs.

Please check the weekly themes on Landra's site and send me your post the week before so I can get it scheduled at the appropriate time.

If you've already contributed rescue stories, I'll be sure to link to them during the appropriate week so new visitors to the blog can easily find them. I may even repost one or two depending on how much new material does or doesn't come in.

During the tour, I'll be giving away some Vet Tech Tales ebooks and a few SECTOR Cs as well to people dropping by and commenting here. Plus there'll be a special enticement or two donated by this blog to help out the Pawsibilities rescue. Details to come!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In The Garden In Nong Kaem

I'm still sorting out my new Vet Tech Tales amidst prepping a number of new and reprint stories for various authors associated with Steel Magnolia Press. Meanwhile, Wilkins MacQueen has been kind enough to submit a guest post about a cat rescue to take up my considerable slack. This post first appeared on her website on January 19. Enjoy.

I’m sitting in the garden chatting away with teachers when this small cat, I believe it is about six months old, starts yowling at me. I look at it, it is thin. It looks back at me then jumps in my lap. It’s crying. I put it down, then run around the corner and buy a little bag of kibble for it. The cat gulps the food down, purrs and settles on my lap and goes to sleep.

We have a lot of feral cats in my neighborhood. They like to hang out at the school and a few become semi tame because the kids play with them. I don't want a cat. Pets aren't allowed in the building, and I don't want the responsibility or the hassle of a pet. I may jump countries, then what happens to the thing? I close the door to my heart, quit petting it and put it on the ground. It rubs and meows against me.

A Brazilian teacher latches on to it, taking the heat off me. I tell her she'll be sorry. The thing needs shots, worming, it will have to be spayed. What if she goes travelling? I won't look after it. Please don't ask. I'll tell you now, no. The cat leaps from Brazilian arms back into my Canadian lap. I hand it back.

The cat has a home with the Brazilian girl. The next day the teacher brings the cat down to the garden. She's looking a little tired. The cat kept her up all night. The teacher's sister is arriving in a few days and the sister hates cats. The teacher buys food, kitty litter and a tray. The cat runs around the garden, zooms up the rose apple tree and pounces on the table where we're sitting. With decent groceries the cat's energy is off the scale. I have to leave.

The sister arrives a few days later, all aflutter, jet lagged, excited/exhausted, she runs her mouth at about 50 K an hour. She's quite entertaining but never runs down. I mean never. The cat rolls her eyes at the sister then gives me a knowing look. This is going to get ugly.

Next day, in the garden, we meet again.

"I hate cats. I can't stand cats. This is a street cat. Who would keep a street cat? Cats are dirty. That one has to be. Been living on the street. It kept me awake so I booted it off the bed." The sister has an infinite supply of air. The tirade keeps on. Fortunately she's only here on a stopover to Viet Nam. I have to leave.

The cat has a nice home and a sister to annoy. Perfect. Pusskins (I didn't name her) jumps on the sister whenever she can. She walks between her feet and bats at her ankles. The sister is irritated having to share the apartment with a cat and threatens to throw her off the balcony. I feel sorry for the teacher. The tug of war is wearing.

The day the sister leaves, Pusskins has had enough of being pushed off the bed, swatted at, getting dirty looks and listening to verbal tirades from the sister. She bites the sister on the ankle. I hear the scream a floor below. To make it worse, the sister is a nurse. I went to say a breathless goodbye (the sister, breathless now from the bite, motored on about the cat and her wound).

I don't know what possessed me; like the cat I was fed up I guess. "You should maybe get some rabies shots. Street cat, you know."

The teacher rolls her eyes at me, begging me not to egg her sister on.

"And don't touch any animals in Viet Nam, the biggest cause of death there is rabies. And with the bird flu, well I'd go vegan while you're there. They eat dog meat there. Is your leg infected? Let me get some iodine for that." The teacher is ready to clobber me; I couldn't help it. Iodine stings.

So the sister leaves and all is right with world until the Bangkok Brazilian sister starts getting phone calls from other countries. The sister went on Facebook and gassed on and on about the cat bite. She is sure she has rabies. The teacher gets a call the next morning at 6 a.m. from her sister's ex-husband. He's telling her to get the bloody cat to a vet and get it tested. Take the cat in. The Asian phone calls will stop.

I don't know, I guess I was in a bad/devil mood. I told the teacher the only way to test a cat for rabies is to cut its head off and send it away to a lab.

So then I get a phone call. Can I go up and put the cat in a basket. Sure. The teacher has a plastic basket out, another piece of plastic that kind of resembles an ironing board and a very long scarf. She thinks she can put the cat in the plastic-weave basket, tie the ironing board on top with the scarf and get on the bus. The ironing board is way too small to effectively cover the basket.

I plunk on the bed. How do I tell her she has lost her mind if she thinks that contraption will hold a cat on a moving bus? I can see the cat running around the 80 bus at top speed and the two of them getting thrown off, whereupon the cat will run off into the bushes never to be seen again and I'll never hear the end of the rabies saga that will drag on until the sister gets the series of rabies shots. "Why don't you buy a cat cage?"

The teacher is on her belly on the floor trying to get the cat from under the bed.

"Leave the cat. I'll get it." I whistle and the cat runs out from under the bed and jumps in my arms.

The teacher has to take the cat NOW. There is no time for a cage. My cell phone goes off. It is another teacher, one with a car. The teacher in need of transporting the cat has called the three people she knows with cars asking for a ride. This is the first of two more calls I will receive. All three said yes, then called me asking ME to tell her no, they can't take the cat. I laughed and declined. I'm not getting into this. I'm on the balcony now because I don't want to hurt feelings.

I'm in awe Miss Brazil thought she could get a cat to travel several kilometres on a bus in a plastic weave small topless picnic basket with a plastic ironing board and a scarf. But anyone who could name a cat Pusskins, well life on the far side gets pretty strange some days.

I pull out her wheelie. "There, put her in that." We have a discussion that ends when I tell her the plastic basket has no lid, the cat will scratch her trying to get out and will escape. The wheelie is the only safe way to transport the cat since she won't buy a cage. The dark will keep the cat calm. What do they do to wild animals after knocking them down with a drug-infused loaded dart? Cover their eyes. Like you've seen them animals shows, huh? (I used "them" and "huh" on purpose. I'm trying to make a point. It works with this teacher some days.)

I put the cat in the wheelie and zip it up. I hear a plaintive meow but it is out of my hands. At least I was able to save the cat from being transported in a plastic basket tied together with a designer scarf and stop the teacher from looking like a total moron trying to take a cat on a bus like a crazy person. She wheels down the road to the bus stop, plaintive meows coming from the suitcase.


I get the story in the garden. The vet, speaking very good English, talks to my friend about rabies. He asks where the cat is. She says in my suitcase. He wants to see the cat. The wheelie is put on the examining table and unzipped. Pusskins purrs when she's patted and blinks contentedly at her new mother and new gynecologist. The vet looks at his new client and her cat; his face is blank.

"And why do you think this cat has rabies?" The vet is looking at her very curiously. Not too many people bring patients in by suitcase.

"I don't. My sister does."

"And where is your sister?"

"Viet Nam."

"I see. And why does she think the cat has rabies?"

"Because it bit her."

"In Viet Nam?"

I can't stand to listen to this. I excuse myself to get a Birdy can of coffee -- it has less sugar than canned Nescafe. The break in the action doesn't help. The conversation retelling goes on.

"No, on the leg in my apartment."

"Whose leg?"

"My sister's."

"In Viet Nam?"

"Yes. No. She was here before she went to Viet Nam."

"Oh. What makes you think the cat is sick?"

"I don't. My sister does."

"The one who was bitten."

"That's right."

The vet moves on. He assures the teacher the cat is very healthy. He's never seen a cat in Bangkok with rabies; in the countryside yes, here no. The cat gets her first shots and travels home via the wheelie.

I bet you think this is the end of the story.

I see the teacher the next day when she brings Pusskins down for some air. Pusskins runs away, disappearing over the garden wall, jet propelled, like she has a rocket with legs strapped on her belly. The teacher's got exams to write and then mark. She's exhausted.

Pusskins kept her up all last night, pouncing, playing, yowling and knocking things over. She'd throw herself down on her back, legs twitching, then leap up and walk between the teacher's legs. I tell the teacher the cat is in season, all that good food kicked her innards into high gear. The cat came back about three a.m. The teacher heard her howl and ran downstairs to save Pusskins from falling into Tom's clutches. Tom is a square-faced local boy who won't take no for answer by the looks of the offspring he's sired down the street. That's the cat I'd like to catch and whisk off to the vet.

The next day the teacher and the cat come downstairs. Pusskins is on a leash. She's bucking and jerking. I feel my eyes bulge.

After three more nights I get a call to put the cat in the bag again. The cat is going in for surgery. The teacher looks exhausted. The cat has played and yowled away these past nights.

This time the vet has gone to ground and hides in the back. A vet tech with excellent English gets the story of how Pusskins is climbing the walls all night and the teacher can't get a wink of sleep. Pusskins flew up on the bathroom vanity and knocked a glass penguin off the shelf. A gift from a student from another country is in a million pieces in the garbage.

"Oh, she's distressed."

"Not as much as I am."

The vet tech tells the teacher cats in the tropics are different from cats in cold climates. Here, cats are in season almost nonstop. She needs to draw blood and it takes a day to get the results back, so the teacher can take the cat home and bring it in tomorrow.

"No, I've got a better idea. Keep the cat. I need a good night's sleep. Operate tomorrow."

The cat is partway through her seven day recovery at the vet's. Turns out P is two years old.


Dear Reader,

I am an animal lover. This story is a light-hearted look at a very serious problem. Unwanted animals live on the edge of hunger, illness, car accidents, poisoning and loneliness. Although I poked a lot fun here at the human characters, rest easy, the cat in the story has an excellent home and she's off the streets for good with a happy rest of her life ahead of her.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rescue Puppies

Today's guest post is by Landra Graf.
Puppies! Yes, those cute, tiny fur balls who draw us in with the pouting looks and absorbing stares. Puppies are a big part of rescues, and Pawsibilities has a lot of experience when it comes to puppies. We typically have at least one puppy at any given time in one of our foster homes. Fostering these energetic animals is a challenge and a joy.
Some of the challenges include potty training, breaking bad habits (like chasing cats), expensive vaccinations, and preventing potential disease. In our neck of the woods, the most debilitating disease is Parvo. Parvo comes in two forms, both of which are extremely contagious and deadly. Parvo in the right conditions can survive on inanimate objects for up to 5 months. Pawsibilities has seen its fair share of Parvo outbreaks in the local pound, and has assisted multiple times in attempting to save puppies and adult dogs affected by the disease. You can learn more about it at
I won’t go on about the challenges or horrible things that can happen with puppies because this post is also about the good things. Puppies bring lots of joy and energy to a foster home. Similar to children, puppies tend to light up the room when they enter. Their antics and discoveries are just as enjoyable as watching a child walk for the first time or hearing a child’s first word. Puppies are also typically the first to be adopted the fastest from a rescue. With a puppy, owners and fosters have the opportunity to mold and train the dog—which is far easier than training adult dogs with formed behaviors or bad habits.
With that said, I would like to present to you Pawsibilities’ current puppies available for adoption!
First is Brooklyn, a Boston Terrier/Chihuahua/Dachshund mix. She was dumped in the country near our home base, on a junction of 2 major highways. She’s only 8 months old and is currently working her way through the regular vaccinations she needs. Brooklyn’s favorite things to do include cuddling on the couch and giving kisses. Of course, she’s learning to house train and is getting acclimated to the idea.

Then we have the rough and tumble Abbott! A 5 month-old Terrier/Shepherd Mix, he’s a big fan of squeaky toys and attention, but is also up for car rides and walks well on a leash. This little guy loves to play, wrestling with anybody who’s willing. House training is going extremely well, and all signs point to the fact that Abbott is quick learner.
So you can see we have some cute puppies. They never stay with us long, and we love each one to bits. With the challenges come the joys too. Their pictures tell that story. When you think of adopting, remember that puppies, like children, can be expensive. But they reward love and care with many years of play, fun times, and the companionship they provide.
Pawsibilities…Are Endless is a tiny rescue located in Central-West Missouri not far from Warrensburg, Sedalia and Whiteman AFB. We specialize in helping animals in need find their forever homes. To assist in these efforts, not only do we provide local adoptions, but we work with other rescues to find homes for our furry packages across the United States. In Pawsibilities' mind, nothing compares to helping an animal find their happy-ever-after.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another Voice Stilled

Sorry, friends! Unexpected business on the books side of things pre-empted my schedule for posts here on Animal Junkies. I'll be back with the new series of Vet Tech Tales starting next Friday, Jan 20.

As it's generally pretty quiet on the farm in winter, I'd love some guest posters to come and talk about their best beastie friends. Do you have a story to tell or know someone who does?

Meanwhile, I'm saddened to announce that my house is a little quieter today with the passing of another of my parakeets. My little flock were all of an age when I first brought them home to their outdoor aviary built on the side porch of the house where I used to live.

Over the last year-and-a-half I've lost a number of the flock, mostly to age simply catching up with them. It won't be long now before I'm down to one sweet bird, and I'm already tearing up at the thought of how that 'keet will feel being alone when all its life it's had the companionship of others. It's so clear how much they love and depend on one another.

I know the day when the last of the flock is gone will be here sooner that I can ever prepare for. The constant chatter of the 'keets has made this house feel so much more alive. I'm not looking forward to the day when the last of the chatter dies.