MANY WAYS TO ROAM [3]: LEGEND

On Tuesday, 16:34 pm, after a brief geriatric illness, Ainu passed away in her sleep.

She was only ten, but those ten are exceptional.

If there wasn’t Ainu, there will never be Whiskers’ Syndicate.

She was born from a stray mother, who roamed around my boarding house, very shortly after I moved to Bandung.

Her mother was skin, bone, sick, and pregnant, lured into the boarding house by feeble rice and broth and trapped inside the house to be the plaything of the toddler of the boarding care taker.

Though he was three years toddler, he kicked her, beat her up with his hand, and when his tiny hand got hurt, pick his dad’s flip flop and chased her around the house slapping her wherever it might land. He hung her up side down by her hind legs, he picked her by the ear, lift her as high as he could, and throw her to crash on the coffee table.

There is no animal welfare law in Indonesia; animals are things, not ones. I can only look, and the dad would let his son have anything as long as it kept him from crying out loud and throwing tantrums.

I can only creep down the stairs at midnight, and lead her to my rented room, feed her, gave ointment to her sores, and cried for her.

I told her many, many times, all the time, that no one will ever touch her in harm’s way if she stayed in my room.
I was the customer; I pay for the biggest room in that dilapidated boarding house; I was king.

The young mother, whom I called Amazing Grace, stayed.

Ainu was born in a cold, rainy night, just like the day she went away. She was born on my arm, on the bed, because her mother refused to stay alone in the box by my side.

Ainu was the last of five, the smallest, the weakest.

She was the sickliest.

And she was born in the time when I was not financially adequate myself. There was only steamed fish and little rice, once a day, for the cats, and a pack of instant noodle, once a day, for myself.

She has no hope, but she always held her head high.

When I got myself into the first outbreak that wiped out 30 out of 35 cats under my care, she held her head high.

When I had to move from boarding to boarding, and live day to day, hand to mouth, she held her head high.

As I climbed my way through the corporate ladder, working from daybreak to the next just so I can afford better treatment for the cats, she held her head high.

Years passed by and Whiskers’ Syndicate grew from boarding room to a rented house, she held her head high.

When I carry her in her basket, and showed her to one hundred square meters grassland backyard, she held her head high.

“Ainu, this is your permanent home”

She held her head high.

When, two years later, our shelter was obliterated by a typhoon, and we lost everything but ourselves, I hold her and said, “I am sorry, Ainu. I am back to zero”

She held her head high.

As many more seasons come, and many more cats go, she held her head high.

Especially when she sniffed from afar, I was holding bread, her favorite, she held her head high.

When she was down and sick, she held her head high.

When the vet told me there was no hope for her, again, she held her head high; and hold her life in her own terms.

She walked by herself, like brand new, the next week I took her for check up, and everyone called her: miracle.

She held her head high.

When she lost her teeth one by one, when she grow thin age by age, she held her head high.

She climbed the cattery, she climbed her cat tree. She jumped platform by platform, up to the ceiling and back again, she screamed like a banshee and fight younger cats like a wildfire.

She held her head high.

Though I know, and she knows, we cannot turn back time, she held her head high.

There was a time when I abandoned Facebook for a while, because every story, even when I wrote about a cat’s passing, people will comment: Oh, my cat who and who lived to twenty and she is still as young as three!

I looked at her. She was weakening much earlier than twenty two, but she held her head high.

I held my head high, and cut every single one in my friend list but two, and start Whiskers’ Syndicate all over again.

Then, one after another, we have you. We have two thousand other followers who probably never come, but click then thumb, but those who won’t bother, don’t matter.

Every time I fell down on my knee, she climbed on my window and held her head high.

I hold my head high, and start again, walk again, run again. If I fall again, and many times again, like Ainu, I hold my head high, and start again.

The day she knew she would never eat solid food again, she went into the house. She never climb again, she never jump again; but she held her head high, and take her life in her own term.

The eve of her passing, she can no longer move, she can no longer blink.

I told my house mate: She held her head high, and take her life in her own term. I cannot believe that after a decade, I will be seeing her hold her head high no more.

When my house mate woke up at dawn, she told me: Ainu crawled on her diminishing tummy like a snake to the door of my bedroom, and she is still alive.

She held her head high.

She held her head high and waited for me to regain my footing, to remember all the decade that we go through thick and thin together, and to remember all with pride.

And then, she took her life in her own term.

~ Josie

Though Whiskers’ Syndicate has been around for a decade, it’s only ten years. We have not yet arrive to Canaan. The challenge is surmounting, the sorrow is drowning, the pain is overwhelming; but this is Ainu’s legacy: We held our head high, and keep walking.

We are not here to change the world. We are not here to save lives.

We are here to give chance and hope to as much of those who otherwise has none, and let them hold their head high, and take their lives in their own term.

This week to the beginning of February, we are trying to raise more than our weekly need in Ainu’s memory; so there will be better chance and hope for strays like her, and the mother before her, to all the cats after her.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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Josie And The Whiskers' Syndicate

The first and only cat refuge in Bandung (West Java - Indonesia) a capital breeder of a nation without animal welfare law. We care for Bandung's unwanted animals, operate a TNR as much as our budget allows, and continue to educate people about compassion to animals

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