Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kitty Rigging for the Rain

It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who said, "Into each life some rain must fall."  At my age, I understand this, but how do I explain it to the new kittens?  And all the cats at the feeding stations?

Is the season's first storm coming?

There is thunder and lightening outside.  Will it be the first rain of the season in Cyprus?  The kittens living outdoors now have never seen rain or lightening, or heard the sounds of thunder before. 

Storm clouds in Cyprus, brewing over my village today

In case it rained, I ran about earlier rigging the front porch for the cats and kittens who won't come inside.  The signature of a girl is everywhere, as I rigged things together with strings and bows. 

My 'fight like a girl' attempt at keeping some of the rain off the front porch - a use what you've got approach

The front porch floods terribly when it rains, and when you mix the rain with the high winds off the sea, you get a real mess.  I did the best I could today with the short warning, but I am going to have to come up with something better. 

I moved everything I could off the veranda over to the less exposed side of the porch

 Gini checks out my make do kitty shelter

I guess he thinks it's pretty OK, but it is not raining yet

The houses in Cyprus aren't built with any thought for rain.  I am not sure most are built with any thought at all, except perhaps to protect investments in the poured concrete industry.  Still, I love this house.  It's the best one I have lived in here.

Meanwhile the kittens were highly alarmed and terrified at the strange new sight of lightening and the strange new sound of thunder. 

I shuddered to think of what was going on at the feeding stations.  The food would be soaked.  It would be a mess and I was praying all the kittens and cats out would find shelter. 

I found this broken plastic chair last year to keep the food in the grotto at the park dry over the winter, it's still there.
It works really well.  I need more like it for the other feeding stations.

It indeed poured, and nearly everything got soaked on the porch.  When I peered out calling for any last takers,  there was only one cat, Astro, taking refuge there, rain was flooding in under the front door, and Gini came wailing to the window to be let in.  Thank God most of the kittens have at least their first vaccinations.  This is when flu season starts. 

A soaked front porch after the rain and no cats

Pegs checks out the indoor flood.  Pegs has seen rain before.  She's lived it and has the T-shirt as she came from the park. 

About ten minutes after the rain let up, there were five soaked kitties at the porch door begging to come in: Twiddles, Krystallo, Bashful, Sweet Corn, and Bouncie.

Bashful, safe and cozy dry now

 Krystallo, drying off in my lap
Bouncie, having a good bath
Sweet Corn and Twiddles are already back outside. :)  Go figure. 

Sisters Boogie and Bouncie playing before the rain
Rudi atop the dog house watching his changing world. 

It's dark now, and I still have to go out to the feeding stations.  It's going to be a mess, and the cats will be desperate, but there is nothing I can do but cleanup, and start making better preparations for the next rain.

Thank God my sister sent me some rain pants. 
The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Collars for the Cats

When you are safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home.
-Thornton Wilder

That can't be truer than of cats!  Personally, I am done with adventures in my own life.  Waking up every day is only adventure I need.  But I do wish the cats would give them up, too!
Collars for the cats
Until I have a real cat sanctuary or a gigantic home, I can't keep all the cats at my house safe, which means inside, which is the only safe place for a pet, though I wish I could.  And, as it is, I can't keep the ones outside from having their adventures, like crossing the road, chasing rabbits, dining at neighbors, batting at snakes, and being curious about the horses across the way.  But I would like to do everything I can for them under my present circumstances.

I have been wanting to get some collars and tags for the cats at my house for a long time and have been pricing them at pet stores.  Even at a volume purchase they are still very expensive.

But recently I found the collars pictured above at a grocery store nearby at one euro each.  They are nice, too, being very soft, and with a clasp instead of a buckle, which I like. 

Best of all, which I didn't even notice until one night driving up to the house, headlights on, they have reflective material sewn into the bands.

The grocery store only had five, but I bought them all.  I am hoping they will bring in some more.

Since they were pink, I gave them to five of the girls who spend all or most of their time outside: Giblet, Bette, Minnow, Krystallo, and Cindy.  I tried to put one on Mandy but she wasn't having it.  Maybe she will have a change of heart.




 ( I don't have a picture of Krystallo in hers yet, in fact, I think she is dining at the neighbors this weekend - at least I hope that is where she is )
Mandy wasn't having it

A kind person sent in a 20 dollar donation this month and this is what I did with part of it.  I will save the rest to buy more collars when I can find some.  Hopefully they will have some blue ones for the boys!

To the kind lady who donated the money, I thank you.  Twenty dollars can go a long way for the cats.  I appreciate your heart. 

My hope is it will protect them and keep them a little safer. 

Sweet little Giblet in her collar.  Giblet is vaccinated, spayed, and ready for adoption!

Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety.
-Henry Hallum Tweedy


PS  If you would like to donate some collars and or tags for the cats, please contact me and I can give you an address to send them to.  Thank you!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When I Come Home

One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home.
- Pam Brown 

"Well hey there!"

If coming home to one small cat can change an empty house into a home, what can many different size cats change an empty house into and what does it feel like to come home to them all?

Well, I'll try to explain with a little show and tell. 

First off, I have to be really careful when I open the gate and come in the driveway, because they start darting everywhere. Sometimes I have to tap my horn to get them out from in front of the car.  This makes me nervous.

I park in back on the gravel, and walk back up to the house.

If it's really hot out they will gather from the four corners of the world and wait under the shade of this ficus tree, like this, to greet me:

 Gathering under the shade of the ficus tree

Otherwise, when it's cooler, they come straight to the car, and pile in as soon as I open the door, and before that if the windows are open.  They are also on the roof of the car, the hood, and crawling up the windshield:

This is fun, I usually stay in the car a little while when this happens.

When I appoach them up close, I start to feel really happy.  If I were a dog my tail would wag.

Some have greater expectations upon my return than others, just like people

A Dance Craze Greeting:  The Bump

Inquisitory Greeting:  Why did you leave? Where did you go?  Where's my tea?  Did you bring soft food?

Romantic and Tender Greeting: Where have you been all my life?
Batmanesque Greeting: Boof! Swat! Yow!
Comical Greeting: A whole lot of tail and ducked head
Comforting Chillax No Big Deal Greeting: All's well now, Human Mom is here.
Yep, it sure is Mini. It's well with me now, too. 

Fun Time Greeting:  The Pile-on

The best of all.

Who hath a better friend than a cat?
- William Hardwin

Not me. 

Wait!  What about me?

That includes you, too, Muji. :)  You're the fattest cat of all.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Animal Rescue Burnout by Gila Todd


Animal rescuers: burnout

July 28, 2013
This won’t be one of my regular articles, all nicely organized and written as an AP style news piece. You will get this one from my heart instead of my head, as my feelings on this matter run very deep inside of me.

As a young child dragging home broken and unwanted animals I could never have imagined it was some sort of calling for me. I never dreamed I would spend my adult years trying to save almost every unwanted pet I encountered. But here I am, in mid life, with a houseful of pets discarded by others, in a circle of friends who live just exactly as I do, trying to rescue the thrown away pets of the world.

Rescuing animals: we live it, eat it, sleep it, breathe it, and take it everywhere we go with us. It’s a calling, a gut reaction, a determination to right the wrongs of others, and to save innocent lives as we speak out for those creatures that have no voice of their own.

Most of us live paycheck to paycheck and do without much so that our animals can eat and see the veterinarian. It’s no different than being the parent of a pack of two legged toddlers. They need, we provide, and many times to the detriment of ourselves. But we do it all, with no regrets.
With the vast numbers of homeless pets in our nation today, we realize that we just can’t save them all, even though we try as we give it our best shot day after day.

Our hearts break a thousand times a week as we see animals euthanized because there is simply no place for them to go. We open our email accounts to people begging for help, looking for a place to rehome their pets, for one reason or another. Our phones blow up with calls and texts for the same reasons. We open our Facebook accounts only to scroll through pages and pages of pets needing homes, some who have suffered starvation, illness, and abuse, and many who have died at the hands of heartless humans. Almost everywhere we venture outside of our homes we see pets in need. It never ends. The numbers are simply just too great.

Amongst the rescuing I have done, I’ve taken thousands of images of pets trying to get them recognized and into loving homes. In the midst of my five page job description (when once employed by a shelter) it just boiled down to my doing whatever it took to help the animals, and I did it gladly, with no complaints. Some of the work was dirty, hot, cold, and many times heartbreaking. Budget cuts ended my employment with the shelter, as economics do so often with many programs in animal rescue. But having become known for my efforts, working in rescue didn’t end with the job. It seldom does for any of us.

Continuing to work with animal rescue, volunteering any time and skills I can muster up, and being a shelter board member, I am blessed to work with some of the best people in the business. People who live, eat, and breathe animal rescue in the same fashion (or more so) than I do.

Being close to so many in this business, I see their mix of joy and disappointment on a regular basis and my heart breaks for them when they feel the burn of this calling; the burn deep inside of each of us when we have done everything right only to see an animal put down because no one wants it. The burn inside we feel when we’ve rescued one that’s been so ill that even with the finest medical care just isn’t strong enough to make it. The burn inside when we encounter animals that have been abused, and sometimes killed, by the hands of a human being. And to feel the fury of the latter is a scorn like no other. It will make a person look at the human race through tainted eyes and make one cautious of almost everyone.

I watch my fellow rescuers struggle with the choices before them when the burn happens, and it happens to every single one of us at one time or another. That point that we get to when we can’t see through the fury and the tears. When we can’t sleep at night for the atrocities we’ve seen that play over and over again in our heads. For the souls we’ve see in the eyes of needy animals who we’ve failed to save, even though we did everything in our power to do so.

Does one stay in rescue and do what can be done and be satisfied with the results? Or step away from the whole mess, stop checking email, shut off the phone and un-friend every rescuer, crossposter, shelter, on our Facebook page? Oh, and just don’t leave the house.

In the decade that I have been active with animal rescue, I have only seen a handful of rescuers actually be able to pull away and stay out of the scenario completely. Even those will admit it is a struggle to stand back and let others do the job. Though some have chosen to step back and stay out, the urge to save never goes away.

Why so difficult to leave all the craziness behind? Because for most, being a rescuer is not a conscience choice we make. People just don’t wake up one morning and say “Wow. I think I will be an animal rescuer.” It’s a drive that lives inside of us and not something we have consciously made the choice to do. To save the life of an innocent is just a natural reaction for most, and we do it without batting an eye.

We go out and about and see an animal in distress and we automatically flock to it trying to fix whatever ailment it may have, and if we can’t fix it, we find someone who can. We see abuse and instead of idly standing by, we react to stop whatever abuse might be occurring, and many times will do so without regard to our own well being. We get a call, or an email and know that on the other end there is a helpless animal that’s whole life is being thrown into uncertainty.

We’re a breed all our own. It’s an impulse for us and not something that we can shut off just because our hearts are aching and we just don’t think we can take anymore. We react like we breathe, without thinking to do it; it just happens. And somehow the numbers we save keep us going even though the many we fail to save haunts us, always. It's all a question of how much we can really take.

With 10,000 animals dying in shelters, every single day in the US alone, it’s hard to step back and pace oneself, but it’s something anyone in animal rescue must learn to do. We must learn to recognize the burn, step back a few paces, and find a way to regroup before we hit that point of no return. A point we would forever regret.

I write this for all my fellow rescuers who understand every word, and for those of you out there who think we are all crazy and cannot fathom why we put ourselves through it.


Great article...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

'Something You Somehow Haven't to Deserve' - Remembering Theo

'Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.'
Theo in the old house
'I should have called it Something you somehow haven't to deserve.' 
-- Robert Frost, from The Death of the Hired Man 


Ryan on Theo's grave



'Theo' was short for Theodorus.  Theodorus is an old Greek name meaning "gift of god" - from the Greek words, θεος (Theos) "God", and δωρον (doron) "gift".

Theo, my gift from God

From there I nicknamed him Thirio, meaning 'strong beast' in Greek.  I am like a mockingbird.  I never stop making variations on names for the cats.  Their names are a continuum that eventually turn into songs.


I did a lot of paintings of Theo.  I did one with some of these nicknames for him.  I sometimes called him Teddy Bear, because he was like a Teddy Bear. 

Theo was one of the kittens Sammy's daughter fed while she was here.  When she left she asked me to look after him and his family, who I named the Davis Family, because I had named his Mom Bette Davis.

Bette Davis, Theo's mom

So I fed them there, checking on them every day.  Until they all disappeared. 

I continued to put food out at Sammy's anyway because I knew other cats fed there.  One day I was thrilled but panicked when Minnow, Theo's sister, came around the corner of the house, small and alone.  She looked defeated, dejected.  She was pitiful, limping, her front leg broken and savaged with bite marks.  I brought her home and Nik took her to the vet.  The vets splinted her leg with a tight wrap, one she never failed to extricate herself from like Houdini a strait jacket.  She was condemned to a small carrier for a time where she wouldn't be able to move around too much.

But still, no Bette, no Theo at Sammy's.  What happened to them?

Minnow, Theo's sister, with her broken and savaged leg, getting treated by vets George and Christina

I was so happy the day Theo surfaced again.  He was still a kitten then, even though it seemed like a long time later .  One day he leaped triumphantly over my fence from my neighbor's yard, like Don Quixote, full of challenge, bluster, and adventure, delighting in the advantage of surprise he had over me.  I was confused because I didn't know he knew where I lived.  I wasn't far from Sammy's, but still.  Had he been watching me?  Since he had disappeared, I had worried sick about him.  Especially after what had happened to Minnow. 

Bette, their Mom, was the last to reappear.  She showed up outside the house one night with an abscessed tooth, drooling and unable to eat. I thought she had been poisoned.  The tooth was extracted.

Minnow was small, and remains a small cat; Theo, on the other hand, grew up to be big and stocky, not cut, but muscular, with a broad head and shoulders and a full and silky, even juicy feel, like a mango.  Mangos are my favourite fruit.   I eventually drew him as a mango.  I drew Theo a lot.  He was always close by.  He was always near my lap when I was drawing. 

Theo's sister, Minnow, is still a small cat, while Theo was husky

Theo stayed in the garden all that day, the day of his triumphant leap over the fence.  He eventually curled up on Nik's chest  in the back garden and started purring.  He had no problem later just walking in the house to meet the other cats.

Theo inspired mixed feelings in Nik.  Nik nicknamed him 'Theo Underfoot', because he was always as a kitten underfoot.  Though there was some affection in the name, I sensed some annoyance, too, causing me to become Theo's protector, defender, and champion. 

Nik nicknamed Theo "Theo Underfoot"

Maybe it was overprotection that caused Theo to become such a Momma's boy.  Or maybe it was his Greek name that inspired him to behave like a good Greek son.  I don't know, but between me and Bette and Minnow, Theo had all he needed.  He never played with any of the male, or female cats, for that matter, outside his immediate family and gene pool, very much like many Cypriots. 

Theo loved his Mom, Bette

A familiar sight, Theo loving on his Mom, Bette, on the couch

He and his mama Bette would lay on the couch for hours licking each other affectionately.  Bette was not nearly so interested in her little Minnow, in fact she was kind of mean to her.  But I often found Theo and Minnow curled up the same way as Bette and Theo,  I just rarely saw all three together.  Minnow learned to become wary of her capricious mom. 

It was OK that Theo didn't make other friends, Minnow provided Theo with lots of play, and they would tear through the old house with abandon, breaking lamps and whatever else was in their paths

In fact, Minnow is still breaking stuff.  She broke my lamp by the front door two days ago.

Theo's sister, Minnow,... I call her Mini, fast and small, she and Theo broke a lot of stuff together

Minnow and the lamp she just broke; that's little Olive below her 

A sweet sight, siblings Theo and Minnow sleeping together on the couch

I got so used to seeing them this way, I drew Minnow and Theo as one great mass.

As Theo started to grow big, Minnow became a little iffy about their games and took to shrieking when Theo wanted to play.  It was in that way Theo lost his playmate.  No matter, she would still lie with him on the couch sometimes, and he still had his two moms, his best gals, Bette and me. 

Theo and Morris took a problematic dislike to one another.  I don't know why.  Morris was a smidge older than Theo, but they were both male, ginger and white, and I guess they had too much in common.  All heck broke loose if one caught the other in the litter box.  Now that I think about it, maybe that was the problem between Nik and Theo.  Maybe they were too much alike.  I have the same problems now with Twigs and Giblet. 

Morris - He and Theo weren't wild about each other
Theo, too many similarities with Morris to get along?

Twigs stalking Giblet

Theo laid on the couch with me the same way he did with Bette.  Wherever he was, he always looked up at me with an expression I have been wracking my brain to define, but I can't.  It was in the end pure Theo, only his own.  It was intense, it was pleading, it was devoted, it was fixed, it was innocent, and it was all these other things I can never explain.

pure Theo

He would occasionally take a swipe at another cat.  It was so out of character with the look on his face, that it always surprised me.  After, he would look up at me, at the least, with complete innocence, as if he if did not understand he had just done something aggressive, and, at the most, like he had done his second best girl, me, a favour.  Like this:

"But... it was for us, I did it for us."

The only look I can even compare to Theo's was my old dog Gracie's.  Gracie was in love with me.  I have had many dogs but Gracie was the only one who ever 100% chose me.  

Gracie loved me.  I loved her, too. 

 Maybe, like Gracie, Theo just loved me. 

Maybe he just loved me.

Whatever it was, I never felt worthy of it, and, yet, maybe, it was something I didn't have to deserve.

Theo looking out from the old balcony enclosure

It was right after I took this next picture that Theo disappeared.  I can't remember how long he was gone.  A week?  Two weeks?  My life is a blur of 36, 48 hour days, litter boxes, water bowls, thickets catching my hair, aching knees, long runs to the vet, mosquito bites, an overheating car, and not nearly enough sleep.  I hoped that maybe, like Astro, if Theo had been hit by a car, he would only have suffered minor injuries and would eventually lug himself back and all would be well but a slight limp.... just like Astro.  I prayed. 

The last time I saw Theo healthy.  He disappeared after this picture

He did lug himself back one day.  I opened the front door and there he was.  I was over the moon, stunned, pinching myself.  Then I saw him walking funny.  I called the emergency clinic in Larnaca.  She asked me to describe his injury and then told me it wasn't an emergency.  It was a holiday at the time.  Her vets told me when they finally saw him that it indeed had been an emergency.  Theo couldn't peepee.  He was in distress.  

The vets told me he was better and sent him home.  He was better for a while.  Then he got worse.  When I finally saw another vet it was diagnosed as diabetes, not a car injury at all. 

Theo became very ill
Theo was hungry every fifteen minutes.  The only food he would eat was expensive.  I had to ward off the other cats and put him in the bathroom to eat.  These were labor intensive days that I will treasure the rest of my life.  When someone is sick and you are caring for them you bond with them in a way like no other.

Theo couldn't handle the long journeys back and forth in the hot car to the vets.  They eventually took their toll and he grew worse.  I stayed up with him on his final night in this world.

I had just stepped in the other room when I heard him utter his last cries.  I ran in.  He was just leaving.  I called to him, and called to him, even after I suspected he was gone.  It's hard to let go. 

I picked him up and took him to my bed, laid him there, and continued to hope.  I sang him the song I use to sing to him when I knew he was hungry again....I sang him...

Tay-o, Ta ay-o,...Tay-o, Ta-ay-o,...Tay-o, Ta-ay-o, Tay-o with Tay-o

Ron helped me bury Theo.  He told me he would bring me a cross to put on Theo's grave.  Ron was good for his word because one day I went outside and there it was.  He had slipped in quietly unbeknownst to me and placed it there.

Ryan lying on Theo's grave, with the cross Ron brought.  Theo's sister Minnow is in the foreground

I still miss Theo every day.  He was gallant right up until the end.  What heartiness he lost in body he maintained in spirit, and that is how I will always remember him: hearty, thick, strong, a juicy hunk of love.  He never stopped looking at me the way he did, even at the end. 

I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud

Will hit or miss the moon.’ 



 It hit the moon.

Then there were three there, making a dim row,

The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.

-- Robert Frost, from The Death of the Hired Man 

Bette, Minnow, and me... in the olive grove


 Thank you, Theo.  I love you. 

Awww,...Ryan  :)

Ryan knows, Theo is only asleep, he'll be back

We'll see you soon Theo.  :)

PS  While I was writing this post, Ryan has disappeared.  Please pray he is safe and he comes back.  I find myself absentmindedly calling Vincent Theo these days.  They are related through Bette, Tweets, Big Van, and Twigs.  I see something of Theo's spirit in him. 

Vincent, Theo's great nephew, has something of Theo's spirit