Friday, November 30, 2012

“Well, the frost is on the pumpkin and the hay is in the barn…”

It’s the final day of November and time for me to admit that Autumn is waning. The “Season of Giving” has been poking at me since July and now that Thanksgiving is over, I guess I’m ready to embrace it.

Adieu, Autumn.

[Pumpkins Experiencing Life by Lana Gits.]

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Endnotes: The “Really?” Department

“I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.”
—Baruch Spinoza

Mr. Spinoza, I’m trying really hard to follow this path but sometimes—well, too many times—I just don’t get people.

Human Thwarts Evil
In Homer’s Odyssey, Gwen Cooper recalls a first date. When he picked her up, she invited him into her apartment for drinks. She left him in the living room while she made cocktails in the kitchen. Upon her return, she found the date towering over her tiny, terrified, BLIND cat (Homer)—whom he’d trapped in a corner and was hissing at.

Yes, you read that right. The MAN, not the cat, was hissing. The man’s explanation? The animal was headed for him and everyone knows black cats are bad luck.

Thankfully, the author ended the date right there—no cocktail, no second chance.

Human Bags Dinner
In my efforts to understand both sides of some issues, I’ve been reading Stephen Bodio’s Querencia, where I found this photo of deer in a backyard. Beneath the pic, Bodio writes:

“Part of the neighborhood deer herd, a healthy population that lives well on our landscaping. My friend Tyler took a doe from this group last week by bow, shooting from a blind he set up near the swing set.”

Slaughter near the swing set. Really?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Get Your Daily Dose

“A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search for truth and perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.”
—Lewis Mumford

[Photo by Vadim Trunov.]

A Gentle Giant Comes A-Callin’

My Thanksgiving kicked off with an unexpected and magnificent visitor. He was staying with a neighbor who knew I’d want to meet him. What she didn’t know was that I had been reading about his relatives in Shepherds of Coyote Rocks by Cat Urbigkit. Now my neighbor’s guest was about to bring part of the book to life for me—the part about the great guardians of sheep the world over, the Anatolian Shepherd.

Yup. I got to hang with a massive, laidback pooch named Luke.

He never looked at me, but Luke never hesitated to let me know he thought I should pet him nonstop. We were outside on a warm and sunny morning, so why not take advantage of the beautiful day? I sat in the yard and fulfilled my obligations to my new friend.

It was hard to reconcile the oversized lap dog beside me with the fight-to-the-death guardians Anatolians are bred to be: working dogs used to protect livestock from all predators—including wolves, mountain lions, and grizzlies. But my time with Luke made it easy to understand why the sheep in Shepherds of Coyote Rocks put their absolute trust in their canine guardians. Anatolians are an unlikely combination of extreme gentleness and extreme protectiveness.

At one point, Luke sprawled out next to me and extended his front leg across my lap—to make sure, I guess, that I didn’t try to get away from him. I didn’t mind. I could have stayed like that all day.

[The pic is Chakra, an Anatolian up for adoption through the National Anatolian Shepherd Network.]

Friday, November 23, 2012

Take Advantage of Black Friday Adoption Specials

Did you know that black cats and dogs, like old or disabled dogs and cats, are the last to get adopted from shelters? Here are a few reasons why they get ignored:

1. Their online pictures don’t look like much—black coats are difficult to photograph—so they’re overlooked by potential adopters.

2. Black fur and faces are difficult to read, so people can’t easily understand the intentions or emotions of black animals (even some canines have trouble reading black dogs).

3. People are idiots. I mean, SOME people can’t get past their belief that black is bad luck, especially when it’s on a cat.

Today is Black Friday at shelters across the country. They’re offering special deals and deep discounts on black critters of all ages. If you’re in the market for a pooch or kitty, go BLACK today. I guarantee their ebony coats won’t bring you bad luck.

[Top pic from Healing Rescue Dogs, middle pic from Petfinder, and bottom pic from I Can Has Cheezburger?]

Old Dog, New View

Since enjoying Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus—a memoir about identity and leading a meaningful life set against a background of Ryan hiking the White Mountains with his unique Schnauzer, Atticus—I’ve been following his blog. This May, Ryan got wind of a 15-year-old Schnauzer on Death Row.

The dog was left at a kill shelter by the very family who had cared for him all his life. The facts are a tad murky, but it seems that for some time they had been keeping the pooch in a crate all day for the sake of convenience, for the Schnauzer had become deaf and mostly blind. He was also extremely arthritic, making mobility a challenge, and the family had given up on him.

The Schnauzer’s health, not surprisingly, quickly declined at the shelter and euthanasia was looking like his only future. That is, until a Schnauzer rescue and Tom Ryan stepped into the picture.

Ryan believed the pooch deserved to be loved and to live in comfort. Judging from the dog’s health and age, he had only a couple of months left before reaching a natural end. Ryan wanted to give him dignity for those two months. So he adopted Will.

Will wasn’t an easy customer. He’d grown to distrust humans and bit Ryan repeatedly. But Ryan knew all about betrayal and distrust, knew relationships take time to develop; he didn’t hold it against Will.

Ryan did whatever he could to give comfort to Will: “Will likes to be tucked in and feel secure against the night. He likes flowers. He likes music playing near his head where he appears to get more out of the vibration than the actual sound. So we get him flowers, cover him at night, and play music for him. If all it takes to make someone feel loved is to give them a few simple pleasures in life, why not do it?”

What surprised Ryan was how much Will began to change, physically as well as emotionally. With proper medical treatment, his pain was managed, his mobility stabilized, and his personality started to emerge. Will wanted to live.

It’s now well past that two-month mark Ryan originally thought he was dealing with, and Will is a new dog. He nuzzles rather than bites, hangs out with Atticus, attends book signings with Ryan, and has even taken up mountain hiking (albeit in a stroller) with his new tribe. This month for the first time, he showed interest in sleeping with the humans in their bed. He’s proof positive that old doesn’t mean done, that a meaningful life may be achieved even at the geriatric stage of life, that love is always worthwhile.

November is Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month. If you’re in the market for another critter or in a position to foster one, please consider an elder animal. They have so much left to give to those willing to recognize it.

Watch a video (second from the top left) of Will romping in the yard. If you want a “pawtographed” edition of Ryan’s book, here’s the info.

[Top photo of Tom and Atticus by Ken Stampfer; middle photo of Will and bottom photo of Will and Atticus by Tom Ryan.]

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Houston, We Have A Pumpkin Problem

If you’ve been reading Lull for any length of time, you probably know that cooking scares me. I keep doing it, and my sister—whose culinary gifts far exceed my limited kitchen imagination—keeps encouraging me.

So I created a simple menu for the holiday and started by baking a pumpkin pie. After using the name-brand canned pumpkin, I noticed that the can was rusty. Just on the outside. However, the expiration date is fine.

Why would the can be rusty? I don’t know. But if you don’t see any new posts on Lull after today, you’ll know why.

Of course, death by pie isn’t a bad way to go…

[Photo: I don’t know who is pictured or who took the picture. For some reason, my whole “Google experience” has dramatically changed today and limited my research capabilities. Oh, Google, why have ye forsaken me?]

With Gratitude for My Readers…

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

While We Walked

Each photograph here is from an autumnal stroll through our ’hood.

Some milkweed pods caught our attention one day and, upon closer inspection, my husband noticed the array of colorful bugs.

Hedge-apple trees were plentiful in the country when I was young and somehow they’ve stuck with me as something wholesome and good. Lucky for me I don’t have to travel to the country to find them anymore. Our neighbors have one in their yard! They create fall arrangements with the fruit.

This past weekend we walked down a street that was breathtakingly golden. The sun illuminated both the leaves still clinging to branches and those that carpeted the ground and sidewalks. Nothing but ginkgo leaves and fruits for an entire block, yet the street sign read “Catalpa.”

What do you see in your neighborhood this week?

It’s Coming!

The countdown to the big feast of gratitude means turkeys everywhere are looking for a way out of Dodge. Do ’em a favor and serve a vegetarian menu this year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Dog, A Cat, and A Cabin

I learned from my mother this week that the Festival of Trees (as in Christmas trees) is already over in my hometown. Here in the Bluegrass, some of my neighbors have already erected Christmas trees inside their homes—not to mention wreaths, lights, and miscellaneous decorations displayed outside—and set it all alight in the evenings.

Now I like Christmas as much as anyone, but this is a wee bit early for me to get into the holiday spirit. I haven’t let go of October yet! Autumn is one of my favorite seasons and I try not to cut it short.

Autumn brings memories of a handful of long weekends spent with my husband in Door County, Wisconsin. Each time, we stayed in a utilitarian cabin at the northernmost tip of the area, away from the quaint of the touristy villages nearby. Each time, we attended a fish boil and ate enough buttery white fish and potatoes and onions plus homemade cherry pie to tide us over until we could return some other year. Each time, we bought sour cherry preserves, experienced something new (an artists’ retreat one year, a self-guided scooter tour of Washington Island the next), and each time we pined for our pets.

So one year we decided to take them along. We figured they’d be thrilled not to be left behind with a sitter. We couldn’t wait for them to smell the woods and the lakes, taste the buttery fish, watch a few wild turkeys.

Before we even reached the state line, though, we were reminded why we always left “the girls” at home. Traveling made the pooch sick and nervous, even with her best feline pal beside her. The more she fretted, the more the cat talked. The more the cat talked, the more the pooch fretted. Soon the cycle escalated into howling and vomiting; we were still four hours away from our destination.

Thankfully, once we settled into the cabin, the payoff of including our girls on our mini-vacation began to materialize, though not quite the way we’d anticipated.

Precious, our 18-year-old special-needs kitty, was in exploration overdrive. She LOVED the cabin—ran from one corner to the next as if they were Disneyland rides. She was ECSTATIC to be included and HATED when we left her alone to go somewhere. She embraced the warmth of the fire in the fireplace and “helped” with every kitchen chore.

The pooch, on the other hand—who looked for all the world like a typical country hunting dog—woofed and whimpered at every new sound. She never slept, which only exacerbated her lack of courage. The fire was evil and she couldn’t fathom why her white pal wasn’t picking up on the sinister atmosphere enfolding them. We thought some playtime in a small field would get her mind off her worries. Things went well until her face made contact with the Kong we threw for her and her eyebrow swelled. So we thought a jaunt through a wooded area would take her mind off her swollen face—the scents, the critters, the new terrain. We encouraged her to explore, but she wanted us to go in first and clear the path of the goblins she was sure lurked beneath leaves and travelled on breezes. This became difficult to manage because the pooch didn’t want to wait by herself at the edge of the woods nor did she want her people separated from each other. Clearly, our 70-pound “country” dog would have preferred to experience this alien territory in our arms rather than on the ground. Have you seen that Subaru commercial where the group of dogs go camping and end up locking themselves in the car at night after hearing the local wild animals? Our pooch should have been cast in that commercial—no training or acting necessary.

Oh, how we wished our pooch had more courage. But we didn’t hold it against her or push her to do more than she could handle. We were delighted that our elderly cat, at least, took such pleasure in her vacation environment. Her increased interest and activity alone made the entire trip worthwhile. Of all the Door County experiences we fondly remember, the weekend with our four-leggeds will remain the standout.

[Top pic is Miss P ready to go; photo of Mertha’s Cabin at The Clearing by Denny Moutray.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shoes Make (or Break) the Day

“It wasn’t the first broken shoe lace that set the tone for the day. It was the second one.”
—Lucas M. Peters, via Creative Nonfiction magazine

Hope your day unfolds better than did Mr. Peters’.

[Photographer unknown.]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Birds of a Feather?

On a walk this week, the sky blackened with crows. I stopped to watch as they circled a tree—some lighting on it, others frolicking together in the air near it. Like the starlings earlier this fall, they seemed to be preparing for an event.

This brought to mind the scarecrow exhibit I saw last month at the local arboretum. Here’s one of my favorites—the “Free Range, Heritage Breed Urban Chicken Made Entirely of Recycled, Repurposed and Locally Sourced Organic Materials” (as the signage read):

This chicken probably wouldn’t scare any corvids, but it might give them something to think about.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Leaf-and-Root Tribe

Hurricane Sandy made quick work of hundreds of grand trees across the East. I’ve read several blogs whose authors are embarrassed that in light of the widespread loss experienced by others, they lament the downing of their trees.

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”
—Martin Luther

Martin Luther understands your sorrow. And so do I. I get teary-eyed every time a treetop here is butchered to clear a path for electrical lines or an elderly tree is cut down because it’s become a hazard or an inconvenience. Trees are a treasure to our planet. They clean our air, provide food and shelter, and impart beauty. That we feel bonded to the trees we know and respect their gifts shouldn’t be embarrassing. It’s only natural that we would mourn their life's end.

Indeed, those who made it through Sandy without losing their loved ones or homes or livelihood are fortunate beyond measure. Even so, they may still grieve the passing of Nature’s tall wonders.

[Photo from the Old Growth Forest Network.]

The Month of Thanks Giving

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving this month, though giving thanks can happen any month, any day. Today I’m especially grateful I’m not a Wood Duck. Let me explain.

If you watched Nature’s “An Original DUCKumentary” last night on PBS*, you already know what I mean. It’s not the low survival rate of “Woodies” that I’m grateful not to contend with. (Nearly every animal larger than the tiny ducklings—eagles, herons, foxes, turtles, even fish—find them to be tasty treats.) Would I were a Wood Duck, I wouldn’t get past my second day of life—the day each diminutive, flightless Woodie follows its mother’s voice to the water.

First step? Climb out of the nest, which is in a tree cavity, and jump to the ground from a height of up to 89 feet. This is what inspires my gratitude, for I would be the first Woodie left behind.

I don’t have the kind of courage it takes to jump 89 feet into the unknown. Or maybe it’s faith I lack. Whatever. I simply don’t have what it takes to be a Wood Duck.

Makes me happy to be human.

* If you missed “An Original DUCKumentary,” try watching it online. The ducks are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, the footage often borders on extraordinary, and Paul Giamatti is a terrific narrator.

[Top photo by Nature’s Poetry; bottom photo from The Inn at Bowman’s Hill.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Endnotes: What Lingers from My Reading

This is the beginning of a new series I’ve been noodling on for some time. It’s a compendium of the facts, events, and ideas from my nonfiction reading that I believe deserve a larger audience. For those of you without the time or inclination to read the books from my lists, “Endnotes” will give you an inkling of what stands between the boards.

Considering my current reading theme, the posts will most likely be animal-related. There’s a wealth of information out there that the general public isn’t aware of (and in some cases, even the scientific community isn’t sharing with one another) and should be—about animal behavior, intelligence, emotions, and compassion. What we don’t know can hurt us, and our ignorance most assuredly hurts nonhuman animals.

These posts may or may not include commentary, may or may not be short, may or may not appeal to you. Even so, when you see the word Endnotes in the title, you at least know what lies ahead. And so we begin…

Bad News for Bears
Bears aren’t the only animals who become sobriety-challenged* periodically, but black bears’ benders were noted in Massachusetts one year and the hunting season was put on hiatus until they recovered. Apparently, after gorging on apples, the cider left in the bears’ stomachs fermented and caused the critters to stumble around in a stupor.
—From John McPhee’s Table of Contents

* I realized this morning after reading Sally Roth’s Attracting Songbirds to Your Backyard that I’ve come across downed birds before who had probably had a few too many berries. They looked sick, stunned, in need of help. And then suddenly, as I was anxiously thinking through what to do next, they’d fly off. Silly me: They didn’t require rescue; they just needed to wait out the hangover.

A Different Kind of Dairy Farm

When visitors to Kite’s Nest Farm are invited to try milk from the farm’s dairy cows, people get more than a mouthful. They learn firsthand that cows allowed to live freely and raise their calves naturally produce milk that even lactose-intolerant folks can tolerate, milk that varies in taste according to the breed it came from and according to each animal’s eating and drinking preferences. They learn that dairy farming doesn’t have to be cruel to be profitable.
—From Rosamund Young’s The Secret Life of Cows

A Hippo Driven by Compassion
Separated from her herd, a tiny impala escaped into a nearby African river as a pack of African wild dogs chased her. They ceased their hunt at the water’s edge, though, for they were outmatched by a formidable predator the young impala hadn’t noticed: a crocodile.

Nearby, another creature was watching as the drama unfolded, and though she was no enemy to crocs, she took action when the reptile grabbed the impala in his vise-like jaws. The hippo charged the croc, which likely astonished him more than roughed him up, and his prey flew out of his mouth.

The hippo nudged her rescue out of the water and the baby struggled to move to firmer ground. The hippo stood over the impala, slowly and repeatedly blowing air into the little one’s airways and across her body, trying to strengthen and warm her. But the croc had been too much for the babe. In spite of the hippo’s efforts, the impala perished.

Why is this anecdote important? Typically this kind of cross-species compassion in the wild is not believed or is rationalized or ignored altogether by the scientific community. However, this particular event—showing not only compassion, but swift decision-making and noninstinctive behavior—was caught on film. Similar events may happen in the wild far more frequently than we’re aware of.
—From Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s Dogs Have the Strangest Friends

[Bear photo by Jim Blackwood; cows photo by Rosamund Young; impala photo by Rebecca Conroy.]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Love Primer


“…To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go. ”

—from “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver

[Art by Jamie Wyeth.]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Of Clocks and Cats

—Attributed to Colette, May Sarton, 
Sigmund Freud and, no doubt, others

[Art by Pierre Bonnard.]

Rescuerama: A Mystery in Progress – Part 4

Note: As I wrote earlier, Djuna wasn’t crazy about having her photo taken. What’s more, her true color never showed in the pics. So instead of reusing the few photographs of her I have, I’m relying on famed (and unknown) artists to illustrate my tale. In case you missed a previous installment of this series, here they are:
Part 1            Part 2            Part 3

The next morning I searched the Lost/Found category on Craigslist. It doesn’t make for cheerful reading. I wanted to run out and search for every dog and cat listed—especially Abby, the old Great Dane whose family placed a new ad every few days, begging for sightings of her. How does anyone see a Great Dane on the loose and NOT do something? Or not even think it odd?

As for Djuna, one ad was hopeful—the photo looked like her—and I wrote to the family. If they weren’t the right match, I’d post an ad of my own.

But it was time to return to the vet—with the cat in case we had to start the whole scanning process over again. Once more, Djuna took it in stride—no wiggling, no whimpering, no howling. I held her in my arms, swaddled in a bath towel, and she watched out the window, taking everything in and enjoying the ride.

Indeed, Djuna had to be scanned again, but we left the vet’s office with the name of the last known guardian (a phrase I will be using repeatedly, so going forward, I will refer to the last known guardian as “LKG”). We were on our way, I thought. I’d just search out all the people in Lexington with that name, then contact those who lived within a couple of miles from us. Surely we’d be able to find out whom Djuna belonged to.

Of course, things are never as simple as we want them to be. Though the guardian’s name wasn’t exotic or even unusual, it wasn’t common either. At least not to me. In Lexington, however, it’s a popular name and can be spelled a variety of ways. I tried them all and came up with a short list of addresses to visit.

We left Djuna at home for this mission. Instead, I took a flyer that had her picture and description on it and the name of the LKG. I explained the situation and asked residents to call or e-mail me if they even recognized the name of the person I was looking for. Oddly enough, I didn’t have to leave the flyer on any doors because everyone was home! But no one got me closer to Djuna’s family.

When we returned to our apartment, there was a message from the family I’d e-mailed earlier. I was so excited I could hardly comprehend what was written. I had to read it again: Their cat wasn’t microchipped and hadn’t come from a shelter. Djuna wasn’t theirs, for both were true of her, and now I had to write back saying as much. I felt awful for them.

At this point, another day had passed and we were no closer to getting Djuna home. I’d created some flyers on her behalf, which we got out before being stymied by the weather, but they were by no means enough to get the job done. The shelter was closed on Sundays, so Djuna would stay with us through the weekend. (Yay!)

When I finally accepted that the microchip was getting us nowhere, I changed course. I made a list of a handful of Web sites on which to advertise Djuna’s story and, after searching on each of them for a report of her disappearance and finding nothing (Why? Didn’t anyone miss this little jewel?), I posted a FOUND CAT report on each.

Then I reworked my flyers to include the name of the LKG. I hoped someone might recognize her name and let her know that Djuna, whether still the woman’s or not, was homeless once again. If nothing else, I hoped that I would get a lead on the person who last had Djuna.

Djuna enchanted me every time she sat up on her back legs like the
cat in this photo. And like this cat, she wanted to be part of everything.
Whenever food or drink was involved, she insisted on “deep sniffing.”
Never tasting, just breathing in the aroma with her nose a hair’s breadth
away from the fare.
Meanwhile, little Djuna was swiftly taking charge of our home.

She still didn’t talk. Except during that moment when I first introduced her to the windowsill. No sooner had her paws touched wood than she raised her back and hissed. And growled—tiny, nearly inaudible growls. I assumed she was intimidated by the pumpkin outside. “It’s okay, Little One,” I assured her. “It’s just a pumpkin—it won’t hurt you” and WHAM! The pumpkin flew off the ledge and in its place, after slamming into the window, stood the very tomcat I’d rescued her from the night before. Djuna had not been afraid of a silly little pumpkin; she was upset about the lurker outside! I promptly closed the blinds and scooped her up. The neighborhood cat didn’t bother her again and she didn’t utter another word.

We did whatever her stare demanded. If she wanted the blinds open for bird-watching, open they were. If she preferred tuna to the new kibble I’d bought her, so be it. If she wasn’t following us around, she was luxuriating on the shearling (it had belonged to our pooch once upon a time) we’d placed under the coffee table for her—which became her “fort.” If we were on the couch, she was between us for belly rubs. If we were in bed, she cuddled up beside us (but NOT—no no no!—under the covers; her choice, not ours). And if someone dared to shut the bathroom door, she made quick work of getting it back open.

As she relaxed in her surroundings, we caught her playing with an acorn a few times; otherwise, she wasn’t interested in interacting with toys. Who needed toys when you had an overactive imagination? Djuna held sudden bouts of play with imaginary friends—chasing, stalking, pouncing, twirling, and flying across the room. These bursts ended as suddenly as they began and they cracked me up every time. I’d forgotten what great entertainment furballs are.

Oh dear. The very thought of precious Djuna ending up in a cage disturbed me. I didn’t have the heart to turn her over to the shelter, and I couldn’t keep her. I HAD to find her family. I couldn’t let her distract me from that goal.

On Monday, with a list of stores and intersections in hand, we posted our new-and-improved flyers around.

On Tuesday afternoon, as I headed to a friend’s house for a previously scheduled get-together, I stopped at another neighborhood clutch of stores to post more flyers. When I returned home later, I found a voicemail waiting for me.

to be continued…

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Athena Adds Insult to Injury

As if there hasn’t been enough devastation and heartache in the east, a winter storm is moving in to areas already hit by Sandy. That old saying “You’re given only as much as you can handle” is bunk.

I know there are probably more people in need right now than there is help for them. Even so, I’m going to make a plug for the voiceless at risk: the animals.

A number of animal welfare organizations have been on the ground rescuing pets and wild animals from the debris. As residents continue getting evacuated, many face the wrenching inevitability of parting with their animal companions—dogs, cats, rabbits, lizards, horses. Some of the rescue organizations are taking in these cherished pets—offering housing, food, and care—for however long it takes for the families to return to a normal living environment (see video below).

Let’s do what we can to help these fine organizations help the animals and their people. Here are a few of the groups that have mobile teams in the area. The links provided take you to a secure donation page.

Make a donation.
Also, read about Hazel and her new friends.

Best Friends Animal Society
Make a donation.
Read how Best Friends is helping local shelters.

The Humane Society of the United States
Make a donation.
As is typical in these rescue efforts, natural disasters reveal animals who have been living for some time in neglectful or abusive situations, and those left to brave severe weather in the backyard. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) followed up on a tip about a house from which an elderly couple had been removed and taken to a hospital and where it was believed their animals remained. HSUS found a scared, malnourished elderly dog short-tied to a fence outside. And inside? Cats living in filth and disorder—the same filth and disorder the elderly couple had presumably contended with prior to Sandy’s arrival. Without the weather emergency, I wonder how long it would have taken for these folks and their animals to get help.

DIY Rescue and Foster
If you’re in the area, check out the Hurricane Sandy Lost & Found Pets page on Facebook set up to reunite pets with their people. Look for the pets posted. They’re probably scared and hiding, or scared and difficult to approach. Some local shelters are asking for folks to foster animals in need until the owners’ living situations have stabilized.

[AP photo by Craig Ruttle.]

Monday, November 5, 2012

Considering a Vote

I know someone who has never voted and doesn’t plan to start tomorrow. I also know some people who feel their votes don’t count because they’re outnumbered by the other party in their states. For these people, I present a passage from David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster:

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

[Art edited from a Robert Indiana–style illustration by JP Trostle.]

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Compassionate Governance

Before we go to the polls on Tuesday, it may do well to consider the words of a long-ago politician of character:

“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
—Hubert H. Humphrey

[Photo by Chalmers Butterfield.]

A Religion By Any Other Name

“I don’t know about you, but I practice a disorganized religion. I belong to an unholy disorder. We call ourselves ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment.’”
—Kurt Vonnegut

[Bird Dogs by Dana Hawk.]

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rescuerama: A Mystery in Progress – Part 3

“Hello?” asked a female voice through the phone. “You left a note on my door about a cat?”

Well, I’d left a note on the only front door of the duplex, which opened into a foyer between two apartments. “Yes—”

“I don’t have a cat. You’ve got the wrong address. I’ve lived here for a long time and I’ve never had a cat.”

Hmm. The cat isn’t very old; her lodging at this address couldn’t have predated the woman’s residence there. Was the microchip info a sham? Who adopts an animal and lies about their identity?

Oh, right. Students do. This is a university town and, as in many other university towns across the U.S., students miss their pets at home, pick out new pets at local shelters, then bend the truth a bit in order to get around restrictions for adopters. Later, each spring when students return to their parents’ homes for the summer break, they leave behind (read: abandon) their adopted pets. But that’s another story.

“—moved in two months ago and her cat is always getting into my side of the basement…” The woman on the phone was talking again and I was trying to make sense of it. Next I heard, “She let the cat out and told me she hoped it would find a new home.”

Excuse me? Did I hear that right? She didn’t WANT the cat anymore so she simply opened a door and nudged the cat OUTSIDE?

The woman on the phone warned that if I returned the cat to her neighbor, the “rehoming” process would just start again. She needn’t have worried. As far as I was concerned, her neighbor shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, get the cat back.

Now what? As I wrote earlier, the shelter the cat came from would take her in again. But my new focus was the woman who put her outside. Should I report her to animal control for endangering an animal? Should I report her to the animal shelter for reneging on her commitment to care for the feline?

Furious, I stewed over this for the better part of the evening. I wanted to scream at that woman just as I’d screamed at the fellow who slammed his pooch onto the ground, back first.

On the other hand, the cat in my arms was healthy and sweet and clean. She may not have known how to play with toys, or didn’t care to, but that’s hardly a sign of neglect. She couldn’t get enough of our affections, yet that doesn’t mean she’d been deprived of attention before. It appeared the only wrong move her guardian had made was sending her outdoors.

As I puzzled through the possibilities, the phone rang. It was the cat’s neighbor. Again.

“You’re not going to believe this—”

Try me, I thought.

“But my neighbor’s cat came back.”

Hunh? “Excuse me?”

“Her cat—his name is Piper—just came home, so the cat you have isn’t hers.”

“Oh.” Geez. Now what? I still had to find the guardian of the cat in my house AND I felt compelled to help poor Piper. “Please tell your neighbor to take Piper to a shelter. If she can’t or won’t do it, please tell her I’ll do it for her. But she should NOT put Piper outside again.”

“Yes, I’m going to have a talk with her after she gets her kids in bed.”

“Okay. Call if you need me. And thank you so much for letting me know about Piper.”

I was still angry. I know I’m bucking an age-old mythology* that cats want to be outside, that they can survive fine on their own. They do, and they can. But unless we—as the guardians responsible for keeping our cats safe and healthy—can protect our cats while they’re outside, we owe it to our cats to keep them inside.

So how did Djuna get outside? Was she put there or had she escaped? I wouldn’t know until I found her guardian, and that meant getting a name. We would have to return to the vet and beg for more information.

Until then, more lollygagging was in order.

to be continued…

* I’ve since learned from a retired animal cruelty investigator that letting a cat fend for itself outside is legal in the Bluegrass. (Not so for a dog, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it.) So apparently anyone can adopt a cat and then turn it outside to make its own way. No food, no water, no interaction, no medical care. We have responsibilities toward dogs but not cats? It may be legal, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Campaigning à la Formula One

Saw this on a friend’s refrigerator this week and couldn’t keep it to myself:

“Politicians should dress like race-car drivers. At least we’d know who their corporate sponsors are!”

[Photo from the Jaguar Clubs of North America.]
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