Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rescuerama: A Mystery in Progress – Part 2

After much discussion, my husband and I agreed to keep the cat overnight and take her to a vet the next morning to be scanned. We gave her water, which she eagerly lapped up. Our food options were less successful.

We tried treats (i.e., food we had on hand) that our own cats had loved—yogurt, cheese, eggs, halibut. Finally, the obvious came to my husband: tuna. The cat tried it and gave me a look that could only be interpreted as “You figured it out! I’m so very grateful.” In contrast, had our old Burmese been in the same situation, she would have shot me a look that meant “Now how bloody hard was that, hmm? Pathetic human…”

My husband set up a litterbox with sand, which we had in preparation for making luminaria for the holidays. The cat used it and we were grateful. It looked as if we’d all make it through the one night together.

I’m not sure how to describe the little lost cat (whom we shall call Djuna from now on for the sake of practicality). She’s unlike any other cats I’ve known. She immediately acted comfortable in our home. Or perhaps she is simply self-assured regardless of location and situation. She is exceedingly polite; that is, she seems to wait for permission to do anything she wants—whether it’s sitting in my lap or wandering into another room. She doesn’t meow. Her communication style is completely nonverbal. Djuna either stares at us until we comprehend her wishes or she touches us with a paw. She’s a startling amalgamation of our previous animal companions: tiny with a plush coat like our Tortie, intelligent like our Burmese (sans the ’tude), calm like our special-needs cat and, like our pooch, not interested in having her photograph taken. She follows us everywhere, cleans herself every few moments, and delights in bellyrubs and cuddling. We started wondering who sent her to us, what she was trying to tell us, whether the souls of our other animals were, indeed, all crammed together inside her… But then she took the trip to the vet in stride and we knew she was her own, singular self since none of our other creatures enjoyed traveling.

 A vet tech scanned Djuna and found—EUREKA!—a microchip. We waited in a small room of the Victorian-house-turned-animal-clinic for news of the cat’s guardian. As much as we loved having a cat in our lives again, we were relieved that soon she would be in the arms of the person who no doubt missed her terribly.

The vet tech returned to our room with mixed news. The phone number listed with the microchip was defunct, but we could try the address listed. The cat had been adopted from the Paris Animal Welfare Society (P.A.W.S.), which said it would take Djuna back and re-adopt her.

Our hopes weren’t dashed. It was too early to surrender Djuna to P.A.W.S. First, we would visit the address listed on the microchip.

It was a duplex not far from our neighborhood—IF you were travelling by car. But a tiny cat? We shuddered to imagine how many busy streets she had crossed to find her way to our bushes. We wondered how direct her path had been and who had noticed her along the way.

No one was home at the duplex. So I left a note, explaining that 1913 __________ Road was the address given to P.A.W.S., that we had no current phone number or name, yada yada yada.

Late that afternoon, I received a call I wasn’t prepared for.

to be continued…

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet…

Are you stumped over how to dress your animal companion this Halloween? Why not try the partnership approach shown in these photos?

[Photos from Halloween Horse.]

Rescuerama: A Mystery in Progress – Part 1

A cat fight erupted in our bushes Thursday night and I dashed outside to break it up. A bit of loud clapping did the trick.

I looked around to see the perpetrators and in the quiet came high-pitched, muffled mewing. Turned out to be the young pit-bull mix across the street, who was showing his concern for the action in my yard.

As I walked down the sidewalk and continued looking for the cats, one of them came running toward me and threw herself down on her back in my path—hinting at a bellyrub. She was certainly friendly, but I’d never seen her around the neighborhood. I obliged her wish for contact, yet I felt like someone was watching us. Sure enough, a neighbor’s cat was staring at me with dagger eyes. Ah, now I knew both parties behind the altercation.

The neighbor’s cat typically follows me around and comes running to me whenever I call his name. Now I’d betrayed him with a tiny, inconsequential female who had trespassed his turf. Or whom he was romancing. He stalked toward us and I scooped up the female, telling the male to go home.

I felt terrible. Whether he wanted to fight her or woo her made no difference to me. As far as I was concerned, they sounded the same and both sound terrible.

I walked up the street to check with a neighbor whose indoor cats sometimes escape for an outdoor spree. Unfortunately for the sprite in my arms, the neighbor’s cats were all present and accounted for. Now what?

I returned toward my home and a concerned party guest from across the street stopped me to see the cat. She’d heard the commotion and wanted to make sure the cats were okay (she has four of her own). Since neither cat was hurt, she suggested I simply put the cat down so she could find her way back home. I would hear this same suggestion from someone else later.

Without a plan of my own, I tried it their way. I didn’t feel good about it. My husband distracted the male cat in the front yard while I released the female in the back. But when she started to follow me, I knew I couldn’t abandon her to the night and the multitude of dangers that lurked there.

She would stay with us until the morning, when we’d get her scanned for a microchip.

to be continued…

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Whimsy

Saw this in The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain:

A woman was once introduced to Mark Twain at a Christmas party. Feeling obliged to discuss literature, she asked him if he thought a book was the most useful gift one could give. He replied:

“Yes, but of course it depends on the book. A big leather-bound volume makes an ideal razorstrap. A thin book is useful to stick under a table with a broken caster to steady it. A large, flat atlas can be used to cover a window with a broken pane. And a thick, old-fashioned heavy book with a clasp is the finest thing in the world to throw at a noisy cat [without hitting the creature, of course! -cjj].”

Now I’ve an addition to Twain’s list. This morning I played the book game that’s been traversing the Internet for a few years. It works like this:

Turn to page 52 of a book near you. Scan down to the fifth sentence and write it out.

I saw some examples that were intriguing, and a collection of examples that made a surreal little story. I reasoned that because I read several books at a time, I should be able to create a nice mash-up of fifth sentences.

How wrong I was. Nearly every sentence was a bore and hardly representative of the books I’m reading.

Marilynne Robinson’s poetic first novel Housekeeping, for example, contains precious little dialogue; instead, she writes long descriptions and ruminations about loss and identity. The book deserves to be read slowly and thoughtfully. So imagine my surprise to copy this as the fifth sentence on page 52:


That’s it! A one-word sentence. And the sentences from the other books weren’t any more interesting.

So I tried a workaround—the sixth sentence of page 66. This time Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite writing gave me:


I give up. Maybe the trick is combining sentences from a variety of readers rather than from one reader’s variety of books. Why don’t YOU try this game and share your results on Lull. Or, if you prefer, you may e-mail me your sentences and I’ll include them in a future post.

[Photographer unknown; found on Spine Facing Out.]

Oops! Forgot to Say…

The Draw the Line video came to me from a Lull reader and I failed to acknowledge her in that post. A belated thank-you, dear reader, for the heads-up on an important issue.

If you need a nudge to sign the Draw the Line petition, read Indiana Senate-hopeful Richard Mourdock’s view on pregnancy after rape. The article includes info on Romney’s position regarding abortion—that is, his positionS, since he can’t bring himself to commit to just one.

[For a brief historical overview of other Republicans’ comments on these topics, read Salon. See Ms. magazine’s recent issue for voting suggestions.]

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wake Up, My Sisters

Women around the world are fighting for more respect and better treatment—for equal education, for parity in marriage, for an end to gender-justified violence. Yet we’re losing ground right here in our own backyard.

Please spread the word that our reproductive rights are being dismantled, state by state. Send politicians a message by signing the Draw the Line petition. We owe it to the previous generations who worked so hard to improve the status of women in the U.S.

We owe it to ourselves.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Put on a Happy Face

This is a Burmese Roofed Turtle. I know this only because the company that makes the peanut sauce I use, A Taste of Thai, promotes conservation of Burmese Roofed Turtles (among others).

I’ve always been fond of turtles. Can’t say why. Even had a toy Steiff turtle as a youngster (as well as wild turtles I shouldn’t have had).

Neither of these turtles have to think about smiling—they’re just made that way. And they make me smile back.

If you need a lift today, take another look at these reptile faces and see if your own mug doesn’t start to mirror their grins.

Friday, October 19, 2012

When Abandonment Is Just the Beginning

Some animal shelters have drop-off areas where people may leave/“surrender” their pets anonymously, thereby transferring responsibility of the animals’ care to the shelter. This practice is not unlike the city ordinances allowing people to drop off babies at fire stations and hospitals. As much as we hate providing for such circumstances, it’s loads better than the alternative: abandonment.

I’ve heard one report after another of animals abandoned here in the Bluegrass: the dogs thrown out of cars, the puppies hidden in a dog-food bag along a road, the pregnant ponies dumped in a field, the animals left in foreclosed homes. You get the picture. Earlier this year, two hikers discovered just how far some people will go to get rid of a pet.

In the White Mountains of New England, on a stretch of wilderness travelled only by experienced purists, the hikers noticed a large box. Before they had enough time to puzzle through how and why it was there, it moved! Cautiously, they peeked inside. Staring back at them was a small, unkempt, sickly, senior dog.

Whoever left him there had taken great pains to position him where he wouldn’t be found, in an area from which he wouldn’t likely escape. But in all the person’s strategizing, s/he apparently didn’t consider how the kindness of a couple of strangers can snowball.

The hikers believed the dog would be bear bait if left on the mountainside. So they agreed to carry him to the nearest town and find a shelter that could help him.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”
—Amelia Earhart

The shelter staff dubbed the little fellow “Scruffy” and told his story on their Facebook page, where author Tom Ryan saw it. Scruffy needed expensive medical treatment that Ryan knew the shelter could hardly afford. Since he had once benefitted from the kindness of strangers himself—or, rather, his dog had—Ryan spread the word about Scruffy’s predicament on his own Facebook page. From across the country, fans of his book, Following Atticus, quickly covered the costs for the patient. Better yet, a local couple adopted Scruffy.

Then, when a happy ending seemed on the horizon, Scruffy’s health took a dive. Once more, Ryan rallied his readers to the cause and again they came through. What’s more, the vet staff was so impressed by the number of people pulling for Scruffy that they kept their fees to a minimum—a blessing for the young couple who had adopted the forsaken pooch, never expecting the roller-coaster of worry and fear and hope he would also cost them.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because today, Scruffy is healthy and home. His journey from mountaintop abandonment to a loving family is a reminder that sometimes it really does take a village. Sometimes, it takes the kindness of many strangers to change the direction of one small life.

Was it worth it? Heck, yeah! Whenever we act together in kindness, we improve our world—if only by a tiny, furry bit.

[Photo of Davis Path by Tom Pirro; photo of Scruffy by one of his adoptive guardians, Corey Engfer.]

A Perfect Month

Take in the season as much as it lets you. Touch it, smell it, breathe it in. October never disappoints.

“Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.”
—Carol Bishop Hipps

[Photo from Free Kibble; photographer unknown.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BOOKreMARKS: Get Rabid for Halloween

Looking for something spooky to read this month? Try Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus.

If you’d told me last year that I’d enjoy reading 200+ pages about rabies, I would have politely corrected you. Yet that’s exactly what happened a few months ago when I devoured the collaboration between Bill Wasik, a writer for Wired.com, and Monica Murphy, a veterinarian (and married to Mr. Wasik). It’s a romp through history, ever focusing on the disease and its victims, its symptoms, and its treatments—all the while weaving cultural and historical perspectives into the story. Werewolves, vampires, and zombies figure into the picture, too.

After speaking with an animal control officer earlier this year about rabies, I suspected her department acted more on myths and assumptions than on facts (long story involving a sweet fox). I promised myself I’d research the topic, but procrastinated. Then Rabid caught my attention at the library and I thought it might shed some light on the issue.

It didn’t answer my specific questions, yet the book offered so much more. It made me realize how much Louis Pasteur contributed to the world, how important rabies vaccinations are for pets, how rabies research helped scientists understand how to breach the blood-brain barrier, how and why dogs are perceived so differently in countries beyond U.S. borders, how rabies figured into literature and laws. With so much context, even zombies started making sense.

If you’re craving a little gore and horror to get you in the holiday spirit, read Rabid. It won’t disappoint.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Caring for Dogs: Another Trailer Story

Remember the woman who insisted on riding for 26 hours in a trailer with her menagerie of hooved critters and a parrot? Here’s a different take on travelling with animals:

I saw this spare, metal trailer hooked to a spacious RV at this year’s Bluegrass Stockdog Trial (a competitive event where dogs herd sheep according to whistles and commands from their human). Yes, while the humans travelled in comfort, the Border Collies were confined to a small space that was open to the elements (which at that time was a deadly, hot sun) and hugged every bump and hole of the road. You can probably guess how I felt about those humans.

I started planning how to open a civil discussion with these people about their dogs’ needs—perhaps suggest that they trade up for a trailer equipped with suspension and climate control. Then I noticed a sticker on the front passenger door that read:

A Good Reason Why Stupid People
Shouldn’t Vote

Hmm. A civil discussion suddenly seemed unlikely. I resorted to telepathically sending my sympathy to the pooches.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumnal Pleasures

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.”
—Nathaniel Hawthorne

I’m with you, Mr. Hawthorne. Hence my spontaneous afternoon trip to a wildlife sanctuary on Friday. My husband and I chose a short hike through a meadow.

At first glance, it didn’t look like much. No trees boasting spectacular oranges and reds, no large, foraging mammals to watch.

But if you paid attention, the fields were full of subtle color and fragrance, and the air was alive with busy insects—myriad kinds of bees, butterflies, and grasshoppers. Transformations of texture surrounded us: bright flower petals were now downy seed transports, supple grass blades had become whispering dry stalks, once-green seed pods hung brittle and brown from trees.

Wherever you are, I hope you, too, get a chance to explore the sunshine and creations of the season.

Friday, October 12, 2012

When A Remake Won’t Do

This economy has driven many people into dire straits. Some have nearly folded under the weight of adversity; others have reinvented themselves.

If you’re somewhere in the middle—struggling with becoming that cloying, self-help symbol of transformation, the butterfly, and can’t achieve enough lift-off to finish the job of changing your life—then I have an easier visualization technique for you caterpillars in stasis.

I have a dream.

That is, I had a dream about a species of butterfly that doesn’t progress beyond the caterpillar stage. Just when this caterpillar can no longer sustain life as it is, instead of cocooning her/himself, s/he latches on to whatever might serve as wings—leaves, fabric, plastic bags—and flies.

In my dream, the butterfly that arrested my attention was as big as a dinner plate and having trouble flying. Its movement was arduous and erratic. This was largely due, I think, to the butterfly’s choice of wings: a sunny-side-up egg and a golden waffle from someone’s al fresco breakfast plate. Yes, the desperate butterfly I saw chose items of different weights and viscosity that kept him off-balance and made flight awkward. Yet he persevered, even with syrup dripping here and there. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

Upon waking, this segment of my dreams seemed initially like a complete non sequitur. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated its appropriate symbolism.

I came to believe that the “breakfast-food butterfly” represented every person who’s ever been hobbled by something—be it financial woes, chronic illness, or emotional turbulence. Sometimes when you struggle against the odds, transformation isn’t in the cards. The most practical option is to make do with what’s at hand in order to get by, get on, get ahead.

Latch on to whatever propels you and rise. It may not be beautiful. It may be nothing you ever aspired to or even wanted, but it’s far better to make do than not do.

[Butterfly photographer unknown; graphic art from Skirt! magazine.]

Political Chuckle

[One of many Tea Party T-shirt slogans by Jeremy Kalgreen.]

Newest Muppet Wants Meaningful Job (Doesn’t Everybody?)

Sesame Street will introduce Brandeis today, a service dog in training. Which means Sesame Street will be schooling the first generation of television viewers who will not only know the many wondrous tasks service dogs perform daily but also know how to behave around these dogs (e.g., don’t let your pooch initiate playtime when the service dog is working).

Well done, Sesame Street. Good luck, Brandeis. You’re training for something grander than you imagined.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Parsing Political Language

In this final month of the election season, Christopher Weyant’s New Yorker cartoon seems especially pertinent:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Trailer Tales: Balancing Evil with Big-Hearted Behavior

As you may imagine, my reading is frequently filled with the unconscionable things people do to animals. Here are a few I’ve come across since Wednesday:

1. To desensitize the horse who doesn’t like having his/her ears touched, some folks twist and pull the horse’s ears, sometimes to the point of breaking the cartilage. It’s an Old West version of “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” A blogger believed this had been done to the horse she’d recently adopted and is now rehabilitating.

2. To counter the horse who fights having a bit in her/his mouth, some folks turn the horse’s head to the side and tie the tight rein to a stirrup (the one connected to the saddle on the horse’s back). They may leave the horse immobilized in that position for hours. One blogger suggests: “Before you think of doing this to your horse, tie the top of your head to your knee with a shortened length of rope and see what you learn!”

3. To retire a breeder dog who’s no longer a top producer, one option is to dump her along a road. One such dog was discovered near San Francisco this week—thrown from a car, bloody, emaciated, still swollen from her recent (and final) litter. Thankfully, a Good Samaritan found her and took her to BadRap Barn.

My ability to sift and steel through these stories fluctuates. I don’t share many of them on Lull because I want to spare you the disgust and hopelessness and rage and sick, sick feelings these atrocities bring out in me. And yet, I believe we have to be aware of some (though not all) of these situations if we want to change the world. We need to know the details in order to prevent them from happening in the future. We need to know our enemies and how they operate.

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”
—from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Are you still reading? I hope so, because we’re finally getting to the good stuff—the other side of the balance sheet. The two positive stories I heard or read this week each involve a horse trailer…

Anna Blake, a horse trainer, wrote about a client of hers who was moving to a new state. The first piece of good news is that, unlike so many people who get rid of their animals before moving (or even before going on vacation), the client was taking her critters along. What’s more, the client insisted on riding in the trailer with them: three draft horses, two donkeys, and a parrot—each a rescue, each with some kind of challenge. The woman packed a cooler, a sleeping bag, and a chaise longue into the trailer and settled in for the 26-hour ride. She would spend that time calming her companions and watching for signs of discomfort or illness.

I love her deep concern and care for her charges. This warm-and-fuzzy story alone was enough to buoy my emotions over the evils roiling within my reading reach. But last night I heard about a more impressive animal advocate.

A woman (a friend of a friend) attended an auction in Pennsylvania (I don’t know which one; my friend was lean on details) with trailer in tow because she fully expected to purchase a horse. She stayed for the whole auction, but by its end, she didn’t hold the winning bid for anyone. She would be going home to her 700+-acre farm with an empty trailer.

She returned to her vehicle only to find FOUR creatures packed into her trailer! Someone apparently hadn’t sold them and, not wanting to keep the horses any longer, dumped them in the least guilt-inducing way that came to mind: Leave the animals in someone else’s trailer—make the animals someone else’s problem.

Fortunately for the ponies, the friend of my friend is not the abandoning kind. She shifted her mindset from going home empty-trailered to planning how to introduce her herd at home to these four new horses—horses who might otherwise have ended up taking that long, painful journey to the abattoirs South of the Border.

Some folks simply don’t know how to be good; they need role models to emulate. Other folks? Well, they bewilder me. But I’ll keep searching for a way in to their deeply hidden reserve of emotional intelligence.

Meanwhile, let’s circulate these trailer tales. They’re spirit-lifting, plus they might prompt others to tap into their own goodness the next time an opportunity arises.

[Paintings by George Stubbs.]

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It’s World Animal Day

Celebrate as you see fit…

“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”
—A. D. Williams

[Photographer unknown.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It’s pouring. Again.

We can hear the water hit the building here, hear the cars tear through the river running down our street. But back in the Windy City, we lived in a massive old building on the third floor and the weather at ground level wasn’t always obvious to us. For our dog, the weather was NEVER obvious.

The pooch did not like rain, so on mornings of precipitation, I tried to postpone our walk until skies cleared or rain only drizzled. The word postpone, however, was lost on the dog. She wanted her walk and she wanted it immediately.

And so we’d go—me trudging toward what I knew was ahead, she like a bat out of Hell down three flights of stairs and nearly crashing headfirst into the foyer door.

Her tail fanned, her butt wiggled. “Through this door and out one more to the glorious world of scents and friends and beach and…”

Screeching halt at the bottom of the porch steps. That’s when weather became obvious to her and she made an about-face toward the front door, which is when I would clothe her in a clownish yellow rainsuit that she found humiliating. (I admit it wasn’t the right style for her, but we bought it long before pet couture became a big business and, since we’d paid a small fortune for it, we couldn’t justify purchasing a new one. In retrospect, maybe she would have skipped the histrionics with a style-appropriate coat, negating the cost of it and increasing our enjoyment—or tolerance—of rainy days. Sigh.)

The best thing for the pooch about getting wet was getting dry. It was her favorite game, one we called Mummenschanz. All that was necessary was to hold out a bath towel matador-style and she’d bury her head in it. She didn’t mind getting a body rubdown, but having her front half covered in towel was ecstasy. She’d bounce around reshaping her form beneath the fabric, nose the towel up and down, push it into a human for a head rub, and if it fell off, we were required to start the game all over again. If the dog was especially wet and didn’t get dry, it was only because we had other things to do and stopped playing the game somewhere around the fourth or fifth round. At such times, we brushed her with a lavender-scented cloth (to avoid eau de wet dog) before releasing her to dry naturally.

As fond as I am of those memories, I don’t envy anyone their morning walk today. The muddy-yet-happy dogs pictured are what you have ahead of you. May you stay relatively dry and drama-free.

[Photo by Ron Schmidt of Loose Leashes.]
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...