Few nights ago, when I was working late, I felt like someone was watching me; but when I glimpsed at the dark backyard, I saw nothing, so I return my attention to my computer. The latest flavour of Ubuntu had given me enough troubles with mobile broadband that I want to dump them and returned to Windows (if only Windows is not sold at one million Rupiah per install in Indonesia), so like usual, I tried to work around the issues while trying to keep in mind that they helped animals and wildlife with each of their copies.
The feeling continues, though, so while laughing at my own idea of a handsome (or hungry) vampire keeping an eye on me, I looked out from the window and find Tortie curling up on its frame, watching me. That explains why I can't see her with a glimpse. She is, well - a tortoiseshell, and her condition give her a solid ground to be stealthy.
The cat's charm took over me. Immediately I forgot my computing and play with her at the window, stroking her soft and fluffy fur and praise her for being such a marvelous member of the Whiskers' Syndicate, when I realized that she's been with us for a year now. She was a star May last year when I submitted her story to celebrate Mother's Day in Animal Rescue Chase.
Then I heard soft scratches from the door behind me. Another mother is waiting to share the night with me.
Unlike America that celebrate Mother's day in May, Indonesia celebrate Mother's day in December 22nd (no idea why).
A few days before Indonesia Mother's Day last year, I met Estebel.
It was a few days before my final day at the office; an emotional time as I remembered it was this office that brought me to Bandung, and get me to start Whiskers' Syndicate. Also because the office and their self-proclaimed loyal underling did whatever they can to make me miserable. That office consists of old time, dead wood employees who climbed their corporate ladder by licking the asses of those above them, and they sure hate shooting star employees who rise and shine with their aptitude. Every single day someone would come to my cubicle and try to scratch some information on a company secret that they can use, or trying to get me to talk bad about someone above them, although they know I sewn my mouth shut.
A particular day was different, when an errand boy who knows I used to pick up street cats came into my cubicle and lean on me to whisper: "Mam, there's a street cat, a beautiful one, with two kittens, in the security post and I think you should get them"
I raised my eyebrow and smile. He continues, "The drivers and I had been trying to hide them, because they are not noisy or dirty and they are good looking; but my supervisor found out and I was ordered to throw them away into the river"
Then I stop smiling. That errand boy's supervisor is one of those loyal underlings.
"What you think I should do? This is office hour. You'd be in trouble if your supervisor found out"
"I put them in a box", he said, "I put holes at the side, and hid them under the drivers' bench. The drivers know. All of them vote that I should tell you because you wouldn't have allow the cats to be killed. It's beautiful. They are dark grey, not black, not grey, but like those in the movies. You can see it by yourself later"
I got his point. " When your supervisor gone to the boss to report his daily work, call me from the kitchen"
He went out as fast as he went in.
He will make a very good informant, or spy, in a James Bond movie, I think, or some direct selling salesman.
The call came near lunch time, and I rushed out to the security posts. There are some drivers there but when they saw me walked leisurely toward them they either pretend they didn't see me or walk away.
I went inside, grab the only box under the bench, and walk out like nothing happened.
This started to sound like a suspense movie.
I walk straight to the block across, where a pair of dog rescuer lives. The kind husband and wife are relative to a pet shop owner to which I frequent (the only one in Bandung who would risk her business advocating people to spay and neuter and stop breeding).
Like I thought, they were out. Both of them are running an architecture business so they gone out often, but their maids knew me and my business.
The maid who answered my door bell opens the gate and when she heard rustling sound from the box, she guided me directly to an empty space in a garage.
I put down the box and told her that I will be coming back after 5 pm, and to inform her bosses when they came back home.
When I walked out from the office at 5pm, the errand boy from earlier was standing right at the doorway and when I passed, he went to the other way and as he passed me whispered, "Thank you, mam, you're not going to be sorry"
I was almost convinced that I was in a spy movie.
That time, the one who answer my door bell at the rescuer's house was the wife herself.
"Your cat is diligent" she said. "When I got home the box was already empty. I found her and her two kittens in a corner. They came out from the air hole at the side, clawing it bit by bit until it's large enough for her and her kittens to go out"
"How do you know it was her?" I asked. She also keep several cats after they got neutered before returned on the street.
"All of my TNR are yellow. She is black and white, and she has two very sick kittens"
She wasn't kidding me when she said the kittens are sick. They looked fine in general, but their eyes were watery and there were plenty of crusts around their nose. So was their mother, actually, but since her nose was black the crusts were hard to be seen.
She was also not kidding about the mother cat being diligent. We put her into another box, and put holes at the side, and she stuck her paw out and start digging. In fifteen minutes all three of them were out again. We did it about three times with various boxes until we settled with a crate. I brought her directly to the vet and the two kittens were diagnosed with severe pneumonia and Chlamydia. One of them has blue fur but it's not the real blue. It was black that fade because of malnourishment.
I called the mother Estebel (eSaved by The Bell (boy)) and the two kittens Shadowfax because of the grey coat (and I like Lord Of The Rings) and Lightningstrike because of white lightning mark on his black forehead (I'm not really keen on Harry Potter).
Estebel cared deeply for her two kittens. She never stop trying to get her kittens to nurse and milk although her kittens stop drinking as their condition deteriorate, and she keeps herself well. She eats a lot, she sleeps a lot, she drink her medicine. I have never seen a cat so willingly swallow medicine before.
Although we tried, the two kittens died two weeks later. Estebel mourned properly. She kiss her kittens, she licks them, she sits by them as I left them alone for a while, and she watched all the way when I bury her kittens.
Her habitual self care didn't cease, however. She still eats a lot, she still clean a lot, and I notice her tummy were getting bigger and harder. I gave her de-wormer, and she lets out quite a number of worm, but her tummy didn't stop growing, while her body seems to stay thin. So I brought her back to the vet and see if she get tape worm. That time, the vet's verdict was a shock: Estebel is pregnant, and judging from the USG, she has been pregnant when I took her home.
So Estebel has been carrying babies while caring for two sick kittens, and I have never had trouble with her whatsoever.
Estebel carried her pregnancy during the most turbulent times in my life. She entered my life when I was most troubled of the rat race that consumed my life, she gone through with me as I tried to balance my new life as a full time rescuer, she sit steady when my confidence gone wobbly and in panic I took another job, she was with me when I go through the most troublesome job in my entire life, for a month, and then she gave birth when I hit bottom.
I was in the middle of trying to drag myself up after I lost Chase, and I am not keen on anything at that time. I keep tending to the cats, I feed them, I cleaned their litter boxes and their play ground. I give medicine to the sick one, but I was pretty much a walking dead. I didn't do anything special to prepare Estebel and her babies except giving her vitamins and extra food, and when I think of it now, I felt guilty because I was sort of neglecting her.
In exchange, Estebel took part in changing the direction of my life that end of April. I left her at the backyard to enjoy the sun, the way she always liked to do after she got breakfast, but I didn't let her in until somewhere in the afternoon. I took my medicine and fall asleep, but then awakened by the sound of a baby kitten right under my room's window.
Half tumbling, I ran out to find that Estebel has been licking on a new born black baby, and its cries were getting the attention of the other. Without much thinking I grab my towel (that I use to take a bath) and wrap her and her babies and take them inside. I got a cage ready at the living room, just in case I rescued a panic cat, so I pretty much just lay her and her babies inside the cage with the towel, get a bed linen and cover the cage. I boil some water, prepare a bowl of warm cat milk, and put it inside the cage at the corner with some food.
By that time she already gave birth to the second. A black and white baby that has a black smear on its nose and mouth just like her. And then the third.
Then I heard the fourth born (I can't replicate the sound, just the sound of a cat baby being born), but I didn't hear any cry. I thought Estebel was working on it so I just sit quietly in front of the covered cage.
After a few minutes, I heard a rustling sound and my curiosity got over me, so I peeked and found her licking a baby excessively, but it didn't move, so I ran to get some drinking straw, took the baby and try to blow some air inside.
It was a stillborn after all.
She stared at me all the time, so I looked back at her and tell her "It was a stillborn, Estebel. It was never there to begin with. I am sorry"
I was about to leave her with the stillborn when I heard another sound. I peeked in and another one was delivered safely.
No wonder her tummy was so big. She was carrying five babies, and delivering it in such a nice order. Black, B/W, another black, the stillborn (it was black), and B/W. All the B/W are medium hair, while the blacks are short haired. One of the B/W has long tail, the other one has short tail. One of the blacks also have short tail, and the other one long tail.
Talking about being well organized, eh, Estebel? Are you mocking me?
After five babies, Estebel went for recharge
It was watching her giving birth that mostly changed my life. I lost some income and got through some trouble and lost a beloved pet, and I trashed about like a mad man, while Estebel endures all the pain of carrying babies and raising two kittens, losing both of them the same day, cure herself of Chlamydia while pregnant, and still go through every single thing silently.
I am embarrassed of myself for being so weak and as punishment I pull myself up, dust myself, and put back the armour of courage and acceptance that I have scattered around during last month. Life goes on, and so do we.
That's not all. Estebel continue to eat a lot, ask for milk (as soon as she learn that I got kitty milk heh), drink her vitamin, chew fish oil capsules (I did the grinning and ugly face for her), swallow dewormer, anything I gave her, she finished it. Estebel never left her babies. She just stay in the cage silently and wait for the next ration. She slips out of the cage when the towel is dirty and go straight back into nursing as soon as I replace it.
After her babies started to crawl out of the cage, the kitty season begin, and I saved four more dire kittens from the street, starting with a white and yellow tabby I called Freed (story coming soon!) all of whom she allows to nurse from her.
Freed tried to snuggle. Estebel later adopted him
With her growing family, Estebel ask for more food. She can eat up to four portion of cat food in one day, not to mention her milk, but I understand she is trying to produce milk as much as possible, so I never refuse to give her more.
She nursed her kitten so well that it grows healthy and strong, and beautiful, and big (I mean fat).
The litter and the free-loader
Besides, Estebel saved my life. I was at the crossroads with a cloudy human mind, and Estebel come across and going through what she meant to be, and that reminded me of what I meant to be, and go through with it.
Estebel taught me that changing lives, and world, starts with me. She care for herself not out of selfishness but because she wants to give her best to her children. If I am to change the worlds of so many street cats I should first have enough of myself to be able to give my best for them. I needed to stay healthy to be able to go around feeding the feral, I needed enough sleep to write properly, I needed to be healthy to get some job and pay the bills.
Estebel reminded me of my own advice, a line long forgotten in the mess of my nowadays: Life goes on, and so do we. She taught me to let go by allowing two of her kittens to pass, and told me to move forward by raising four, and adopted extra four.
All the books that I read ask me to think of others first, and I totally agree with that, but this mother cat showed me that in order to do that, I should start with myself, and let the ripples that comes afterwards do its own part.
My rambling mind goes right back at the door when it's finally opened. Estebel has been diligently scratching, and scratching, and scratching, and the law of attraction returns her calling.
I jumped off from the bed and meet her round eyes in that middle of the night.
"Happy Mother's day, Estebel. You want some milk? Night snack?"
She just turn her back and walk straight to the refrigerator.
Better than me, it seems like she knows what she wanted after all. As I follow her, I thought that maybe, I got the answer of why ancient people worship animal God, and while they did, their culture were so much advanced than those who adores fellow human.
I know that Mother's day hype had passed, but May is still around for a couple of days, and I need names for Estebel's kittens.
If you would like to send me some suggestion, one name for one kitty, click the "comment" and then choose "name/url". Enter your name and email and your suggestion by citing the number of which kitten you would like to name (see pictures below). I will edit all entries by hiding your email address and show only your name, so it's safe!
If you want to vote for one name that others submitting, also leave a comment about your support on one name.
If you are not interested to enter but have something to say? That's OK too. Go ahead and comment, it'll be a pleasure!
If you are not joining but would like to help a little, that'd be highly appreciated. June is only a week away and our donation can are still empty (see the blue Pitch In box at the top right)
We are open for suggestion until May 31st.
Four chosen one (one for each kitten) will have this:
handmade mat! It's 67 cm (26.3 inches) long and 45 cm (17.7 inches) wide.
When you win I will contact you by email to confirm your choice. You can make it into your room mat, give it to your cat, hang it on the wall, use it as a table runner, or use it as your sleeping pillow's case. You name the colour. Just tell me!