|Tweeny chilling on the table at the park|
When we first met Tweeny he was in a drive, up under a car, parked just off the seafront road. With him were his two female siblings, Tiger and Miss Marbles. He was just a kitten then and summer vacation in our village was coming to a close - August 15 is the cut off point. All the folks from Nicosia would be spending less and less time here; those from abroad would be going home. This meant that all the people who had been handling and feeding the cats and summer kittens would no longer be around to love on them and put out food. They would leave them behind. You would see the cats and kittens waiting patiently and with full faith outside these houses sure that their someone was to return. (Can a cat hope? Sure they can. And they can experience disappointment, too.) Of course, their someones wouldn't return for months or possibly even a year, and maybe not ever if they were holiday rentals. But still the cats and kittens would wait. Often, getting very hungry by this point, they would follow strangers down the road, maybe hoping it was their vanishing caretaker? Maybe hoping for a scrap of food or a little of that love and affection they knew? We don't know. We just saw them following any and all strangers. And we saw them ignored.
|An adolescent Tweeny in the grotto|
The man who owned the particular house Tweeny, Marbles and Tiger were camped at, feeds kittens in the summertime. He must have some very good qualities, this man, because all the feral kittens who pass through his hands turn into the sweetest of cats.
But then he leaves. He comes for shorter and shorter visits, until he is just coming on the weekends. He would put food out for the kittens, and they would go around the back of his house then. But during the week they were on their own and waiting for him in his drive.
We saw them every day. They would be playing so close to the road. They were climbing the telephone pole just off the curb. When we drove by they were there. When we walked by with our dog, Muji, they would be there. It was making us crazy. Finally one night I took them some food. I threw it up under the one car he leaves behind, and the kittens went ravenously after it. And then more kittens started coming,.. and more.
The man must have found the remains of the food, because not but a few days later he had called a security company. I saw the van parked out front. In case he had put in a camera, our food tosses were over at his house.
All we could do was hope and pray these three kittens would find the kibble bowl in the grotto at the park nearby. Sure enough, one night we found them there. It wasn't long before we figured out they were Cindy's kittens. Perhaps Cindy had been this man's cat, too.
|Cindy, Tweeny's mom, back when we first met her|
She still had a flowered collar with a bell on then, but underneath all that fur she was emaciated
The 3 kittens started growing and getting to know us. They were so funny with their antics. We called them The Banana Splits, if you are old enough to remember that kids' show, if not: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtD4mn9CeH4&feature=related
Soon it was time to have them altered. We didn't have traps then, but it was not a problem because they were hand friendly enough to just pop in the carriers. So we altered all three of them, about the same time we altered their mom, Cindy.
|We put Tweeny in one carrier|
|And we put his sisters, Marbles (front), and Tiger (rear), in another larger carrier|
We brought them home for an overnight after their surgeries, and we have regretted ever since that we did not keep them all. I am sure we have pictures somewhere of that sleepover, but I haven't been able to find them.
We took pictures of their release. The next morning all three were there for their feedings. In fact it was at this time that our feedings became more elaborate. We started taking canned food as well as kibble, and stayed with them while they ate. We played with them - with all the cats that let us. But two days later we noticed that Tiger's and Marbles' incisions looked reddened and as if they were opening up. We should have taken Tiger and Marbles that day, but we didn't. The next day Tiger was gone, and she never came back again. We were heartbroken.
|Tweeny's release at the park after neutering|
|That was Tiger in the center front|
|Our feedings became more involved at this point|
Maybe someone else had noticed and taken her to a vet? She was so beautiful and so sweet it is not a far stretch that someone from the apartments or perhaps even this man had taken her home with them. Or maybe an infection had set in and something had happened to her. We were so upset over Tiger's disappearance, we took Marbles straight away to the vet to have her incision looked over. It was decided she needed a course of antibiotics, so she came home with us and we never took her back to the park again.
|Marbles lives with us now - she looks so much like her mom, Cindy|
Cindy, Marble's mom
But this was before we had crossed that threshold into a house full of cats. It's when we were still trying to fortify that wall around our heart. I love that moment in the movie "Out of Africa", when the dam is breaking, and they are trying desperately to repair it, and Karen says, "Let it go, let it go. This water lives in Mombasa anyway." Trying to hold our boundaries and at the same time let our love flow is a futile effort.
I remember once, when we only had 5 or so cats, we visited with a couple who alters feral cats. Both their front door and their back door were open and there must have been thirty cats going in and out of their house. And I turned privately to my husband and said, "This will never be me."
And yet here we are. They say old age is not for sissies. Neither is what we do. And yet I am a sissy.
So what was Tweeny like? He was 100% classic domesticated Tabby. He didn't have a mean or aggressive bone in his body. He was cuddly as all get out. I used to hold him in my arms and he would stay there as long as he could. He was one of those cats you could hold on his back, flop around and hug on and he just loved it. He never tried to get away or could have enough. When it was very cold, I would wrap him snug up against me in my big down coat. He would fall asleep there.
|Tweeny and me|
Tweeny couldn't make the transition at the park. He couldn't stand all the new activity there. He was scared of the Tom Cats who were moving into the territory. He started crossing the street more and more.
|Tweeny on the far right - he started crossing the street more and more as workers came during the day to prepare the park for summer vacationers|
We even brought him home one more time when we saw him cross the street, and, foolishly, we took him back again.
He followed me down the street once, just before he died, and I ignored him on some of the worst advice I've ever been given in my life. I will always regret it. I have learned since then that saying no to life is never the right thing to do, no matter how ill equipped I feel I am to say yes, financially or otherwise. (Waiting for someone else to come along and do it is what everyone else is doing.) I've come to believe the yes comes first, the provision comes later. That is the story of the fishes and the loaves. That is the story of the Good Samaritan, and it is why Christ and Mary are called by the Orthodox Church the new Adam and the new Eve, because they didn't say no to God like Adam and Eve did. They said yes.
|Tweeny used to follow me back to my car after the feedings - that's Greyboy in the background|
We think it is wrong to release cats back on the streets after altering. And yet we do it. What we would like is to find homes for them, but no one seems to be willing to take in any cats! That is why we want to make our next home in this village into a sanctuary for them. We are renting now, but one day we hope to have a piece of land, so that after we alter them we can release them on our own secure land, and we can look after them. We will look after them. We won't say no again. We love them. We love them all.
I know we let Tweeny down. We made some very bad decisions. We have twice as many cats in our home now as we did then, and yet we thought we were at our threshold!
I guess if I would like you to take anything from Tweeny's death and this story, it's to ask you yourself if you really are at your threshold? Can you really not fit one or two more cats into your life? What if everybody could?
|Tweeny when he was at our house|
One more thing. The strangest thing happened the morning we found Tweeny in the road. This elderly woman was at the park, sitting down on the rocks by the sea, and we had never seen her before. It's quite a treacherous walk down there, especially for someone her age.
Her head was in her hands and she was apparently grieving. We took a closer look.
She was all in black. Was it a widow? A nun? We don't know. But we have never seen her again.