Along for the ride:

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cats by the dozen. What was I thinking?

Who knew? 36 cats in one back yard and twelve across the street. 
On a scorching hot day, a couple of months ago now, an undefined movement caught my eye as I walked past an old red Honda parked on a sloping cement driveway. They looked like loosely rolled up towels, one beige, one white. A second look revealed two new born kittens; blind and helpless. Mama cat was herself a kitten; barely into adolescence. She'd given birth under the car and her babies had rolled out onto the hot concrete. I had two dogs with me, one was obsessed by felines as prey so I took them home and returned with water and food for mama cat and replaced the babies in the shade beneath the vehicle. It was obviously not a definitive solution so, being me, I went and knocked on the front door.
My new found friend, Ernest, welcomed me with open arms. He and his adult, but not very useful, daughter had been eating lunch and having a "what the heck can we do?" conversation about the cat colony.
Ernest explained that his wife had been feeding two feral cats and he had continued after she died, two years ago. Cats did what cats do and he was spending almost all of his Social Security check to nourish the hoards three times a day. He had also been turning down invitations to family weddings and other gatherings, for want of someone to care for the cats.

I told them about the free county program called TNR, Trap, Neuter, Return which is designed to stop feral cats from reproducing, and all the fighting and injuries that are a byproduct. Kittens young enough to be socialized are adopted to new homes and adult feral cats are brought back to familiar territory to live out the rest of their lives.

I was somehow nominated to get things started.
As I only had one trap of my own and this was a sizeable task, I emailed across the Nextdoor neighbors group and quickly had rounded up four more traps and made new connections at the same time. I've carefully taped everyone's names on their traps, to be sure I know which is which.
It was hard for Ernest to withhold food on the evenings before my cat trapping assignations. Hungry cats are more likely to overcome their fear and get caught. Ernest felt he was letting them down. he was also very upset that some kittens were caught, leaving distraught mama cats and some Mama cats were caught, leaving kittens behind. There were no small kittens left abandoned. There were some little gangs of mixed age litters, used to hanging out and playing together, as in the top photo cat-carrier shot. Unfortunately not all animals survive living free. One kitten was cold and lethargic when I picked him up in the long grass, even in California summer heat. He and one other didn't make it.
We live in unincorporated County lands and our territory is covered by an animal shelter 40 miles away, with a very few roving Field Officers to deal with all animal emergencies in a very large area. A trapped cat is considered an emergency and they come as fast as possible to collect them, then return them to same address after spay neuter surgery, or adopt out if young enough.
I set traps in the early morning and usually catch something within a couple of hours. Ernest keeps an eye out and lets me know how that's going. I move the covered traps to a shady spot on the side of the house and call it in to dispatch, after checking the ears to be sure I'm not wasting anyone's time. The Field Officers have been great, although twice they've called back to tell us they'd been redirected onto another emergency and couldn't come immediately. Once there was a herd of goats on the freeway and once a mountain lion in a back yard. On both those occasions I made the trek to deliver my catches.
The black and white youngster above was one of my early catches. After being neutered and returned, he is always first to set off one of my traps. I think he sees that as the price of admission to a sardine breakfast. I've had to release him a half dozen times. We're calling him Boomerang!
The shelter vets make a small clip at the tip of one ear, to show those that have been through the system. It can be hard to spot if a cat has a clipped ear when its in freaked out, whirling dervish mode in a trap. I always cover the traps to reduce trauma, but I have to look in to see what's in there. Black ears are the hardest.
This little black kitten is from across the street. I was aware that they had cat issues because there were always cats out front when I went by. In for a penny, in for a pound, I knocked on their door too. They were suspicious at first as neighbors had filed complaints about them. The lady wanted to capture the kittens herself, which she hadn't done to date, so I left my number and crossed my fingers.
I have found it very motivating to inform people that a female cat can get pregnant at 16 weeks. Their eyes get wide and I can see them doing the math in their heads.
Debbie did call me to collect one kitten. I had a friend that had offered to foster and socialize before it went up for adoption. I drove it to her house. Socialization was going well but the little guy was not gaining weight and had goopy eyes that didn't completely clear up with bathing. She took him to her vet and spent over $200 for eye drops and antibiotics. A couple of days later she called that he had thrown up twice. We were worried about dehydration and unable to fund more emergency vet visits, so I dropped everything to collect him and get him to the animal shelter. I checked on line to see his status and they had discovered an infestation of lice and had put a time limit on his being taken in by a rescue group, as they were submerged by kitten season.
Friend spent time on the phone begging local cat rescues to step in. One group had a volunteer headed for the shelter anyway but no room in the car for one more. By then it was 6pm on Sunday night. I said I'd go the next morning, get the kitten and deliver to rescue.
Monday morning, after 90 minutes hanging out at the shelter, kitten was nowhere to be found. 
They put calls into the people who had worked the evening before and promised to get back to me.
An email followed that kitten had indeed been picked up by that rescue. Friend called rescue to confirm and was told kitten was not in their system. Back to the shelter I went, to get answers. I can't even remember how they resolved it  but they did confirm that the kitten had gone to the volunteer from rescue, who had kept him to foster and he hadn't made it into anyone's computer system yet as the vet running the cat rescue was, herself in hospital. I did make one more call to the rescue group and all was confirmed. Whew!
I used the lice info as more motivation for Debbie to get her act together catching cats at her house. Her cats were not healthy. She was still full of excuses. A week or more later I got a call from Debbie's Dad. It's his house. She's living there, taking care of him. Angelo called to say he'd caught two kittens and what should he do now? He was as sick of waiting on Debbie as I was.

The somewhat pin-headed cat in these three pictures appeared in my yard ten days ago. There was also a young ginger cat hanging around. At first I though they must belong to new neighbors but it seemed strange that this cats big ear was visibly clipped. It must have been a feral. I spent some time puzzling about the new felines and my resident pair were upset, afraid to eat and constantly having face-offs with the new guys. The penny was slow in dropping, as I've caught too many cats to be able to recognize one from the other. However, the distinctive markings of he/she who shall now be called Winnie, clicked as a cat I'd captured the prior weekend.

The shelter had confused my info with that of Ernest and deposited these cats at my house, a problem I neither deserved nor needed and it could have been very bad for the cats. 5am last Saturday found me setting traps at my own house, trying to shoo away the cats I didn't want and hide from those I did. Winnie was captured after one false attempt of a closed trap that was empty of both cats and sardines.
I drove Winnie home and went back to bed for an hour, feeling very satisfied that I'd restored the Cat-Balance around me. Sunday morning double-take! Winnie was waiting to be fed outside my door. I questioned myself. Had I made a mistake in the semidarkness? Had I caught the right cat. I had a photo of Winnie in my garden to compare with the photo I took before I released her back to her home. They were from different sides and I went back and forth from one image to the other, doubting myself. I finally snapped a shot of her from the other side and matched up her markings.
Cats are known for finding their way home. I've never heard of a cat doing the opposite. I gave up. Now I have 4 outdoor cats. Territory issues are settling down. All that remains is to name the new orange cat. He's too shy for now to get a picture.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Cause and Effect

The Artistic One scored this week, in many ways. Big win; passing his written test to renew his License to drive; after a dozen fruitless treks to the DMV and many attempts on my part to explain that he needed to answer as if a Cop were asking the questions, not as if recounting an amusing anecdote to another cliche French Driver. (The California Department of Motor Vehicles deserves credit for the availability of a French Language written test and the courtesy shown at each visit.)
Second win was to find a pleasing pair of new glasses. The old ones were horrible when he first selected them and then he just had the lenses replaced over time, rather than changing the frame, so the ugliness was with us for years. No change in his eyesight over a two year period and the enormous surprise that insurance kicked in and there was no charge. Flabbergasted!
There have been several weeks of TAO complaining of general fatigue and lack of interest in anything but sleep. He's barely set foot at our business since before Christmas and I've been envisioning a future with a spouse in a diminished mental state, unable to drive or participate.
He had a similar malaise a year, or so ago. That episode included falling asleep at the wheel and crossing three lanes of midday freeway traffic, before the vibrations of scraping along the concrete center divide woke him up. The Doctor diagnosed Sleep Apnea and TAO was fitted with a breathing machine for use at night. Much whining ensued.
"What's this for?" "Why do I have to wear this?" "I don't like it" "I don't see anything wrong with me?" and repeat...
I've felt angered by the impression of dealing with a recalcitrant toddler and worried about where this was headed.
I emailed TAO's doctor and she set up a full range of blood, urine and EKG tests. She brought him in to examine him up close and determined something we've heard before; that his oxygen level is low, but he's otherwise healthy. He needs to breathe better at night.
The breathing device has a chip that discloses how often it is used and how it is functioning. At our latest meeting to review, the Tech told us that TAO was using the machine less than two hours a night and that, during those two hours air was often leaking from the face mask.
Armed with the info that this had to change, as he was otherwise deemed healthy, I asked the Tech if the extended swoops of TAO's mustache were the culprit. Of course they were!
The riot act was read, a trim ensued and the machine stayed on with less leakage. After only a couple of days, brain function and concentration swam back up out of the murk of oblivion and TAO was no longer lying in bed for eighteen of every twenty-four hours.
We went to the DMV and the written test was passed at first attempt. 




Monday, December 26, 2016

Trying to Keep Up


Blogging is harder than it used to be. Technical issues ; such as blue-tooth connections to i-pad keyboards being unreliable or Blogger deciding it can't upload photos when needed; as well as less mental bandwidth for composition in a life, of necessity, filled with other things, have reduced Blogging from a fulfilling passion to a peripheral destination.
The year end season being a symbolic nudge to evaluate Life, I recognize that the changes are not all bad. That doesn't mean I don't miss certain things. Yesterday, on my way to visit a friend in Hospital, I detoured off the freeway and drove up the canyon, past the reservoir, winding up into forested hills to collect Bay leaves for my kitchen. Bay trees grow freely along the roadside, at certain elevations; where the oaks begin to give way to the redwoods. It's as wise to watch for deer as for cyclists, although on Christmas morning there were neither. I was returning to a known tree; a natural resource with a safe place to pull over; no Ravine and no Poison Oak.
When I cut the engine and got out of my vehicle I was flooded by memories of things I hadn't even registered that I had missed. The pungent scents of moist dirt and plants; The patent leather sheen of dark green Bay leaves catching winter sunlight and roiling waves of birdsong, personifying the movements of branches lifting and falling on the tides and eddies of wind-gusts.
I had to stop hiking due to arthritis in my knee. I have greatly reduced my dog fostering for that same reason and due to some things in life that meant I had to take up some slack caring for my husband and being engaged in a long commute every day, as house prices and rents became unaffordable in our area.
Funnily enough, having to relocate our business at the end of our lease, for the same rent tripling reasons, has been a gift, in terms of hours that are now returned to us for things other than stop and go traffic. It also turns out that same commute had inflamed my poor knee. I've gone a year without a cortisone shot, that I previously begged for every twelve weeks. Walking was always a time to enjoy sights and sounds. When my feet move, my brain does the same. Many years ago, when my parents were still alive, I'd fine tune descriptions of what I was seeing to include in the letters I wrote to them. Later, I'd write those thoughts down in my blog. I still revisit older blog posts occasionally, to relive a moment and refresh a memory. That's always been one of the best things about having a blog.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lassie for President!


 Delilah went to her new home yesterday. She'll have a collie companion and a couple of cats.
Too weak, when she first arrived, to eat standing up and with a massive infection in her teeth and jaw, she was also in heat when found on the streets. As an older dog with health issues, the pound was going to euthanize her if we didn't collect her immediately. Several people detoured many miles to run a relay of rescue as she was several hundred miles away.
Despite the stinkiest bad breath you could imagine, Delilah turned out to be a gentle and gracious collie-star.
If you look closely at the photo of her eating, you can see the protrusion of her hip bones through her fur. The vet wanted to wait for her health and weight to improve before spaying her and treating her teeth. He gave her antibiotics and pain meds, which worked well. We were also afraid she might be pregnant. Relief! No more puppies for this one.
She's gained 20lbs in just a few weeks; begun growing in a respectable collie fur coat; discovered the pleasures of being a couch potato and made many cat, dog and human friends.
Delilah's been the easiest dog I've had around for a long while. There's a serenity to her. She loves being with people, although sometimes chooses to sleep near the cat instead, and has none of the separation anxiety that we so often see in rescues.
Bless the adopters who will take on a mature creature.

Monday, September 12, 2016

I wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire!

Few people push me to the point of no return. An excecreble human who betrayed us and did us harm has died at a relatively young age. When his name has come up in the past, I have answered one of two ways. "When I have nothing good to say, I was taught to say nothing", followed by a telling silence, or "I would'nt piss on him if he were on fire".
The news just trickled through that he has died unexpectedly of a possible stroke. My husband is shocked that I cannot be a hypocrite in this situation. I wish he had been struck down many years ago. As it is, I will be thankful that I will not ever have to make a choice to waste perfectly good urine.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reports of His Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

The Artistic One came with baggage, and I don'tmean the kind with wheels! However, it seemed that the drama was left behind so many years ago that it was not even a shadow on the rear view mirror of our lives.
Last Saturday, as we were working hard to meet a client deadline, TAO had what might be called a near death experience. One of his sons called on my cell phone, asking if his Dad was all right. I passed the phone to TAO, who was next to me and he headed to a quieter part of our building to take the call. He came back chuckling and telling us we should celebrate his return from the dead.
His ex-wife had called her son to tell him that his Father had died. He was very upset, as one would imagine. Several minutes into the conversation, the Ex mentioned she wasn't 100% sure of her facts. Multiple anguished phone calls between siblings ensued, followed by calls from France to the US. 
My understanding of the facts leads me to the following interpretation. The first is a given; someone is batshit crazy (more than before) and needs to be watched closely from now on. Second; the alchoholic cousin who left a message on her answering machine that started the ball rolling was interested in selling a painting TAO had given him long ago. He'd counted the decades on his fingers and made a self-serving leap to the conclusion that TAO must be long gone and, as such, the painting must be more valuable.
French Farce anyone?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Smelly Cat...

The good news is that Slinkie does not have a mystery disease, or cancer, as I had feared. The vet said she'd put on weight and was disinclined to torture herself with the Kitty-Yoga poses necessary to keep herself clean.
The diagnosis was made from a distance, as my, usually sociable, cat hissed and growled from her solidly anchored position on the table top scales. 14.8 lbs is just over a pound more than she weighed three months ago, when she came in for her yearly shots. The vet had suggested that I start feeding her some dry kibble to keep her teeth clean. It also kept her from waking us up in the pre-dawn hours, begging for breakfast. That's been lovely, but no more. Kitty diet is on.
I bought cat shampoo to go and once home with my grumpy feline, donned an apron as I filled a plastic bowl with tepid water. The kitchen sink has a movable shower head attachment which is great.
Lifting Slinky into the waiting bath, holding strategically to the scruff of her neck with one hand, pointing the rearing, clawing side of the cat away from me, I was able to give her a good soaking, despite her vertical position and charming commentaries. Next was time to add shampoo to the mix. I flipped the cap, inverted the bottle and squeezed...nothing.
Technical hitch being the interior plastic seal that was unbroken. Wet cat at arm's length in one hand, shampoo bottle gripped under same arm, I managed to unscrew the cap, find a knife and perforate to allow free flowing shampoo. After several applications and rinses, Stinky cat has been reborn as soft and silky cat. Once she finished drying herself off and was served her carefully apportioned dinner, she seemed much happier.