Threading Through The Red Sea part 4: An Open Letter from A Hoarder

Last February, there was a cat sanctuary named Caboodle Ranch, home to a couple of hundred (some say a thousand) of cats. The sanctuary was raided after an “undercover” videotaping of sick cats in deplorable condition by none other than PeTA. ASPCA is said to be involved in the raid.

The raid raise global controversy unlike any other, and in the middle of the cloudy water, a fellow crafter for animal wrote a blog she said is “inspired” by the Caboodle Ranch case.

She said blatantly in her blog post that, despite has nothing to do with Caboodle Ranch, or PeTA, or ASPCA, and that she even didn’t know what exactly going on, she still think that the owner of Caboodle Ranch had passed the thin line between rescuing and hoarding, and that according to herself, the raid somewhat dwindled the public trust on rescuers. Moreover, she said that as a rescuer herself, much more further, she said that she feel betrayed and hurt by what Caboodle Ranch had done.

By the way, she also said along the line of, if we rescuer has common sense, we’d know our limit, and once we reach our limit, stop taking in more animals.

Deep in my heart, I know where she was going, and what she was trying to do with the post. A short while prior to that post, we all have a newsletter from a craft selling portal about the importance of social networking to our sales, and blogging, aside from the infamous Facebook and Twitter, is one of the best sales booster. And if you search the internet how to begin blogging, you will find that most advices say that you should start by hitting the heating topic, and go from there.

Combined by a sudden “boost” of enthusiasm (if I can’t say rather aggressive ambitiousness) that she had never shown before (e.g: by jumping into any volunteer vacancy in our crafter group) I think I got the big idea. She is trying to boost sales, and she was trying to ride the heat of Caboodle Ranch case. But I also think that, with all due respect, writing about heated topic without sound knowledge of the fact is killing herself, especially because here, in the animal welfare war, there are no lukewarm party, much less neutral one. Unless you are ready to swallow the flame, you’d better play it safe. Besides, playing sides and angered the other is definitely not going to boost any sales.

As a friend I was trying to warn her that it’s not good to judge without knowing all the fact, but she told me that she read enough from all the comments in Facebooks and websites (one of them are PeTA’s) and that gave her enough basics to write.

Since she didn’t seem to bother seeing what I was really trying to say at the bottom line, and the hint of “whatever you say folks, keep it for yourself, I am moving on” I just stay quiet instead of wasting my time by trying to go further.

Four days later, I got a notification that a reader (who are a complete stranger) put on a comment on her blog. She got her first flame.

Needless to say, she brush that off too, and after the same “I read enough” rebuttal, that was met with an even fiercer reply, she told her reader “I am so done with this topic, have a good day!”

Yaay…. (in an undertone)

Unfortunately, although I remained quiet during the short ‘flaming’ session, what she wrote in her blog about “stop taking in another animal when we reach our limit” disturbed me; because honestly, I don’t think it’s all that’s easy, even in a sovereign countries like USA or UK or even Switzerland (that as the strictest animal welfare law in the world) and much more in Indonesia, that has no animal welfare law.

I mean, if you were strolling on a park one day and found a skin-and-bone cat, so hungry that he meows weakly to anyone that passed, even if he’s been kicked around as result, and your house is full, would you walk away? If you walked your way to the office and found a tiny kitten that has been dumped on the road, and your house is overcrowded, would you turn your head the other way? If you see a cat with very ugly sinus that can’t even walk properly, would you close your eyes and just pass? If you just, by any chance, sit around and saw someone coming to you with a box of teeny weeny baby cats and dump them on you, and your house is full, would you just stand up and show your “attitude” on them? “Hey mister, my house is full, go find somewhere else, I am so done with cats, have a nice day!”?

This morning, as I cycle to the office, I saw a 6 months old cat, skin and bone and literally sun-dried (yeah, like chappy, flaky paint under scorching sun), so weak that she crinkled like raisin and can only lay by the road, waiting for his heart to stop.

So?

Before we get to the answer to that, here is a copy and paste of how my associate define hoarder:

I consider myself a No Kill rescuer. […] The difference between someone like myself (for instance) and a hoarder is that the hoarder does not know his or her limits or chooses to ignore them.  This individual will become hyper-focused on the animals and will withdraw, rather than engage with anyone, let alone the rescue community.  The person will become isolated and may not let anyone onto their property.  A major clue to someone who may be a hoarder posing as a rescue is that they will not make efforts to–or even be open to–rehome animals.  That person is not a rescue.  That person is a hoarder.

We all know that my house is full, hence, I reached my limits. And there’s this cat on the road. So, I walked away? Sorry little cat, my house is full, and you are lying on the wrong road. Try another house….

But I picked that cat up, get back home, and put him on a cool compress, give him electrolyte, and offer him a small plate of soft food, and of course, late for work.

This is Indonesia. People are lynched because they are different, at least verbally abused for the rest of their life, and isolation is only small part of how people here treated those who are different, in any part. So, I am isolated because while people here treat animals like “thing” (of no value) I choose to treat animals like “one” (with all values attached) and I am not ashamed to show it.

But looking at the definition above, now I am a hoarder too?

Then come here and flame me. Come here and spat on me, call me a rescuers’ traitor, a disgusting piece of thing, bad mouth on me as you like, then, go inside my over crowded house, and meet the Whiskers’ Syndicate.

I have all the misfits in place: A cat with hernia (Renoir, he is now healed), a castaway Persian (Boo), a cat with twisted leg (Jan), another cat with no teeth whatsoever (Tortie), a cat that once walk by dragging his lower limb (Rexie II, he is now healed), a cat that’s so traumatic she will push herself under the pillow when she sees the stranger (Harley), a victim of vet malpractice (Sports), a cat that only meows once a year (Bobtail), or a black cat that’s blind (Braille), then meet Friskies, Tiger Lily, Blossom, Mini…

But hey, like many other who peeked in and surprised, I promise I won’t say anything when you mimic them saying “It’s not what I think it would be! They are healthy, clean, fat….”

Labeling people is as easy as categorizing fruits. Judging them from your personal perspective is as simple as pointing fingers, but I wish this fellow crafter, and to whom it may concern, understand that, deciding on something by regards of an individual definition is like looking onto the whole earth from a tiny speck of dew in the twilight.

And if you have that much sparks in your soul that you can define someone in such “robust” way, remember that rescuers are human beings like you, they just live in another bucket, one that might not be as sparkling as your metropolitan city, or as large as your grand house, nor as stern as your judging definition. Somewhere out there in Rwanda, someone is abandoning their family and become isolated because she is trying to save Gorillas from being victim of two extremist political parties at war. Somewhere out there Vietnam a group of young men and women are trying to help bears from being tortured to death for their bile and by that risking their lives. Somewhere out there in the jungles of India, fresh graduates abandons their bright future and roam through the forest  trying to save the tigers. Somewhere in the open sea, a boat-full of people are abandoning their land to guard the whales. Somewhere out there in Iceland or Japan, someone is filming like crazy to reach out on behalf of the dolphins. Somewhere in the most remote part of Borneo, strangers are trying to save the Lorises and orangutans from being poached to extinction in the name of Palm Oil. Somewhere here, in Bandung, a capital breeder city of Indonesia, a small pair of hand is trying to at least ease the lives of 400 thousand stray cats that otherwise will never know what it means to be alive. (Don’t eyeball on that 400 thousand. That’s statistical data obtained on February 2010).

We are lonely, we are isolated, alone, oppressed, in fear and worry. We are in permanent financial recession, we are far from our families and the luxury of your safe, green-grassed yard. We are tired, but we can’t just stop and go on a vacation. Our house, or facilities, are full, but unfortunately we do not share your cold heart to just walk away and stop rescuing just because our facilities are full. We have all of your indication of a hoarder. We, human beings just like you, are longing for affection and understanding, but we cast our own need away because there are these animals who need those compassion and understanding more than we do, and while we still can write websites, blogs, take photos and reach out to the world, the animals that represent our cause might not have any chance even for one second.

We will be happy for you if you get your happiness on that boost of sales, or by labeling us, but before you shut us down and tell us to have a nice day, let us say that our happiness does not come from an empty house. Our happiness comes from being able to save lives, even if it is only one more.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Threading Through The Red Sea Part 3: The Incredibles

Just as Easter blends death and suffering with healing and resurrection, the Syndicate had met their share of loss and victory.

Learning from prior experiences with Calici, most cats that can hold on to, or stop sneezing after 10 days more likely to survive. I have eight kittens with Calici and although they all hold on until the tenth day, four of them can’t make it back to their better side.

This is the story of the other four who stays:

Fantastic Four 2
From left to right: Friskies, Blossom, Tiger Lily, Mini

Some elder told me that it is the last drop that turns the cup over. In my case, it’s Friskies.

I call him that way because when I found him inside a deep gutter (it’s 2 meters or 6 feet 65 inches deep, I have to borrow a ladder to pick him up), he looks exactly like that yellow kitten in Friskies Cat Food bag. He was the smallest in the Syndicate and so I don’t put much hope when his symptoms start showing (see the black crust under his eyes and on his jaw).

The one who turned the table is Friskies, the weakest of the whole batch of sick kittens whom I took in. He was already sick when I met him on the street (see that black crusty residue under his eyes and mouth), and I took him in only so I can comfort him through the darkest hours of his short life.

I had forgotten that God works mysterious ways, and that’s not limited to human only. By the time I lost Patch, Friskies can no longer swallow anything. He was severely dehydrated and fully dependent on his iv to live on. On wee hours in the morning he often wake me up with his cries, asking to be comforted from his fevers. I haven’t got proper rest for the whole week now, and that took toll on my strength, as well as my spirit. Though I hate to admit it, at that time, I kind of rather let him go than watch him suffer longer.

Just when I was completely ready to let him go, I notice that he had stopped sneezing. His nose no longer runny. He still got watery eyes, but they are a lot sharper now than the first time I met him. It seems like he got over his critical period and get a grip on life.

He started to grow stronger, and soon enough, learned to sit instead of laying down on his side, and along with his slow recovery, he brought my morale back up.

I might not lose after all.

Unfortunately, however, I ran out of money, and the healthy ones need food too. So I called one of the vets on the clinic and asked if I can get some more antibiotics on credit. I told my vet that Friskies had just turned for the better, and I don’t want to give up now, despite the grim chance.

She laughed and tell me to come after her practice is over.

What awaits me is a box full of antibiotics, iv needles, Ringer Lactate and cans of Royal Canin Recovery. An invoice in an envelope too, actually, but I figured she can wait for another week with that big grin.

“How’s your score?” she asked “four to none” I said, sourly.

“Chin up. I’ve got more than twenty coming up here with the same infection, but none of them came back alive”

I can understand why. Here in Indonesia, vet is only useful when people want to know when to mate their “pet”, how much litter their “pet” is going to have, when their “pet” is having trouble laboring, while they want all the litter alive so they don’t have to score a “loss”, when they need vaccination before selling their puppies/kittens, and when their animals are old and need “sleeping”

With daily agenda like this, it’s no wonder that veterinary science in Indonesia has not gone far from 1950s curriculum, and that most new vets in this country is more adept in “breeding science” than healing science. Come right here to Bandung and I can show you that most of the vet here is either a licensed breeder or an animal show enthusiast.

While countries like Europe developed a more advanced way in handling Calici, most of the vets relies only on one shot of antibiotics and vitamins and leave the rest to God.

Surely, I will rely on God, but that doesn’t mean I will just sit there watching the cats die doing nothing. This Calici has to learn by now that I am no Rapunzel who sits forlornly inside her tower waiting for Knight in shining armor. More so because 2 months old Tiger Lily fought her hardest, clinging to life.

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And at the same time, Blossom is getting better as well. Mini is catching up a few days later.

Like an hour of sunrise throws eight hours of night, one after another, the sick cats are getting better. They stop sneezing, and their eyes started to dry and come alive. They are still week and have to rely on tube feeding, but I can see that the antibiotics and immune booster start to work faster and better.

The night is over, but I can’t be happy yet. I still need to stay vigil to their condition until they completely stabilize.

Truly, like many articles and scientific journals, what truly heals cats with Calici is total care, even when the cat seems to stop living (can’t eat, can’t drink, can’t breath, can’t move), the readiness of their patron to become their second life is what turns the table. In my case, it’s my willingness, and the vets, and the Syndicate’s supporter to keep on living in their sake. I keep feeding them, re-hydrating them, keeping them warm, keeping their nose clean. I am ready to be late to work, and lie about my tardiness. I am ready to give anything, and not stop even though all hope seems to be gone. The vet keep pushing me to give them antibiotics, advising me on yet another method whenever new symptom came up, and the readers, my friends, the Syndicate’s supporter keep watching out for another ways to handle Calici. All this is what kept them alive until today.

The Incredibles, as the title said, is not only the cats, but also all of you.

With this post I wanted to say that, no matter what kind of disease, whether it is a small scab, a deadly virus, or a lurking cancer, whether you are in the best part of the world that has the best veterinary technology, or in the most remote of Africa, Amazon, or deep in the forests of Asia, when your animal is sick, and the avant garde treatment is far away, the first, and foremost healing that you can offer your animal is commitment. Commitment to become their shadow, commitment to become their life, commitment to hold on till the end, whatever the result is.

Because back then, when these cats said “I do” to go home with you, they gave you their nine lives, and have been living up to it; but now, when they are sick, or old, or weak, the only thing they need is one life. Just one.

So, like Moses raise his voice in gratitude when God guide them through the red sea, and away from Egypt, I too, raise my voice, in the name of The Whiskers’ Syndicate to you all for your support, your information, your input, your donation, prayers, good thoughts, and most importantly, not giving up on us, a bunch of castaways and useless, unimportant existence.

Here is the four champions taken today: Saturday, April 28, 2012, 10 days after their last sneeze.

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Tiger lily
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Mini
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Blossom
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Friskies

Happy Easter 2012

Note:

In reference of my statement about how vets in Indonesia lacks knowledge and training about wildlife conservancy and healing science, below is a link to a testimony by Dr. Liang Kaspe. She has been successful in breeding endangered animals in Surabaya zoo, her last successful story is assisting comodo dragon and her baby. The story is in Indonesian, but it is easily read with google translate or babelfish.

Dr. Liang Kaspe: Surabaya Zoo’s favorite Midwife

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Threading Through The Red Sea Part 2: The Fantastic Four

Easter in pagan perspective has been associated with spring: a month full of heavenly showers that brings earth back to life from its deep sleep in winter.

In Indonesia, a tropical country right on top of equator, Easter will mark the shift from rainy season (October – March) that pours rain every day, to dry season (April – September) that never rains.

Bandung, however, is a little bit different.

Geographically speaking, Bandung is located in an ancient crater that was once a Jurassic lake between three giant volcanoes. This will mean water does not evaporate that fast, and it makes this town damp all day long. For people who lived in 4 season countries, Bandung will be in eternal spring.

Demographically speaking, Bandung is a small town, with lower level of education, slower economic growth, and as result, prehistoric attitude. Bandung’s state of mentality is like USA or Europe at the start of 20th century. If that doesn’t seems too far behind, we are now in the first quarter of the 21st.

But what is heaven for humans, is hell for the animals. The endless showers, the dampness, the constant cold is a killer combination for cats, especially those who doesn’t have a roof to hide from the rain, ones who can’t find a warm attic to run from the cold temperature, and for all that roam on the merciless streets in the breeder capital of Indonesia, where approximately one thousand of unwanted animals were dumped in landfills and abandoned in traditional markets, cemeteries, and the streets to fend off for themselves.

May I remind everyone once more that Indonesia doesn’t have animal welfare law?

Enough for the academic lecture, because what I saw year after year as a rescue in Bandung is no more than feral (automatic) genocide. Bandung is in perpetual kitty season, and every month of two my house will be flooded with sick and hopeless kittens, or weak and helpless seniors.

Due to limited space that I have (again) I have to choose which one is coming with me, and which one has to live communally in abandoned lots or cemeteries, with rations of food that I regularly distribute. Whiskers’ Syndicate does not have volunteers, we do not have people, much less communities like those boasted by the “sanctuary” or “shelter” or “rescue” organization over the internet in USA or Europe, or wherever. Whiskers’ Syndicate is a tiny, rented studio filled with hopeless cats (and occasionally dogs – horses goes somewhere else) undergoing their green mile while they are queuing to climb the rainbow bridge. I am the only man power behind the “rescue” though for long, I consider myself a competitor of the animals’ undertaker who tries to give them comfortable last mile in life.

One of the most common undertaker that I encounter is called Feline Calicivirus, which is:

virus of the family Caliciviridae that causes disease in cats. It is one of the two important viral causes of respiratory infection in cats, the other being feline herpesvirus. can cause a rapid epidemic, with a mortality rate of up to 67%. Initial symptoms include discharge from the eyes and nose, ulceration in the mouth, anorexia, and lethargy, and occur in the first one to five days. Later symptoms include fever, edema of the limbs and face, jaundice, and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.

Diagnosis of FCV is difficult without specific tests, because the symptoms are similar to other feline respiratory diseases.

It has a beautiful nickname too around vets: Calici. It sounds more like the name of a pretty woman than a microscopic grim reaper don’t you think?

Let me translate to English: cats infected with Calici will not develop severesymptoms. It will start with sneezing and watery eyes. They they will grow ulcers on their tongue, which grows in number and the sneezing will block their ability to smell food. When this happened, the cat will lose their ability to eat (naturally because it is painful to chew or swallow). Since they aren’t eating, they got dehydrated, and finally, meeting death in a slow process in which their body will convulse for hours, depending on their physical strength, as they scream in pain due to the endless spasms until their last breaths.

Kittens without adequate motherly nutrition is better in this case, because death come quicker, and therefore, less painful.

Calici has a very simple body structure, so they are easy to duplicate. It can disperse through air, water, even simple touch, which is why it is highly epidemic in cats, because they groom each other, the sniff each other, and often share food and water bowls.

This is our version.

Easter week this year started with Sue and Tykes, whose stories I shared in another post. Tykes had moved on sooner, but Sue lived on for another month when I brought Spring home.

I met Spring near a monumental park, five minutes bike ride from my rent. She was sitting helplessly by a deep gutter under torrential rain, because some maniac put mud on her eyes and cut all of her whiskers.  I think I don’t have to explain why people done that.  Some do it to pass their already useless time, and because it’s “cute” (yeah? in which part?).

As soon as I dried Spring up and lay her down in a warm pillow at home, I set out to buy some medicine, and on my way home, was almost made stumbled when a rabbit jumped across the street under the heavy rain.

Or I thought it was a rabbit. The white fluff shiver under some neighbor’s doorstep and I don’t have a heart to just pass, because whomever rabbit it is, it must be cold and scared. So I pull aside and bent down, and met Tutti Cutie in the eye.

Now scroll the screen back up, and look at those round, hopeless eyes, and you will see why I can’t turn him down.

So I come home with medicine, and another soaked up kitten.

Two days later I saw Sue stared outside through the gap of the fence for the whole hour and when I peeked out of curiosity, I found Patch, not much better from the other kittens: shivering, sneezing, and starving.

With that condition I was bound to have a showdown with pretty Calici again and so I geared myself up, just enough when Sue started to refuse her food, and grow a white speckle on her lips. The grim reaper is coming.

Handling Calici is generally symptomatic. For those who really love and care (and pay attention) to their cat(s) it’s not that hard, as long as you keep an eye on your kitten and detect it on the first symptom appearance, be it lethargy, or mouth ulcer, continuous sneezing, or even food refusal. Keep your kitten warm all the time, continue to rehydrate her, never stop the antibiotics, extra dose of vitamins and immune boosters, and if he or she can hold on over a week or until his/her sinuses dried up, there are good chances that they are going to make it.

However, that also means you will have to monitor your cat practically 24/7. My rescue years had given me a solid training in giving intra venous re-hydration so that I can handle the initial stage without having to go back and forth with a sick cat and expose them to the elements and instead, keep them in the warmth of their isolation basket. I made myself a night lamp with 15 Watts bulb to keep the kittens warmer, and if necessary, add a bottle of warm water inside their cage.

The challenge will escalate when they got into the next stage, because you will have to force feed them. None of them would want to eat because their tongue and lips are full with ulcers, hence it’s painful to even swallow. In some cases, they can have cramps on their jaws that they can’t open their mouth at all.  I am sure you know how much patience and skill is needed to tube feed a sick cat.

If nothing can go in, you will have to leave your cat at the vet’s because he/she will need iv, which is yet another challenge.

Working with feverish cats means they will be trashing around due to the uncomfortable heat and pain in their muscle, and if you cannot keep them calm and still, the iv needle can’t go in, much less help them.

Sometimes, instead of appreciating what you are trying to do to save their lives, cats in pain will bite you.

So here comes my dire warning: if you are not tough enough to master your temper, don’t touch your sick cat. Bring them to the vet, and let them handle it, with the risk of ripping your wallet or draining your pet insurance. Trust me, it is still better than killing your beloved pet with your own hand in a fist of anger.

Handling Calici, in short, require patience, and high quality care. Your cat will need your totality, and if one cat need you that much, I have eight.

It is impossible to hold three side jobs in a week and still spend sufficient time to attend the sick properly, So I took my leap of faith, and gave up all my side job. I left our food solely to the strength of my salary, and a lot of prayers that one of God’s angel, or God Himself, will drop His wallet somewhere around my account.

Luckily, He did. Otherwise I would have been hitting the headlines when my starved body, along with twenty cats, were found inside a small rent in a beautiful resort city of Bandung. He sent a few of His angels to drop extra money so I can buy cat food and stock up on rapidly-decreasing medical stock.

And then, there is some quote saying that you a ray of light, no matter how small, is the brightest when you are in the darkness. Of all eight, four shone out brightly.

Fantastic Four 1
From left to right: Sue, Spring, Tutti Cutie, Patch

While other kittens come and go like the swift breeze, these four: Sue, Spring, Tutti Cutie (spell it like you want to spell Tutti Frutti ice cream) and Patch fought harder. They do not refuse their iv, they embrace the warm bottle, they stay still when the iv needle puncture their emaciated body, and they tried their hardest to eat, though only one lick and leave everything else to the tube.

Sue fought a good ten days before she gave up and went over the bridge on Holy Thursday, just when I read the bible on Last Supper as my atonement for not being able to attend mass. Early in Good Friday, Spring moved over, and in the evening my Tutti Cutie call it quits on my laps. She is the youngest of the four, and the only one to develop jaundice.

Patch went on in early Saturday.

I hate myself for losing, but one of the two vets to whom I am a regular warned me that Calici is not every cat’s fight. Here in Indonesia, in damp, damned Bandung, Calici is certain death. For those orphaned cats who has no guarantee of immune system to hold on over a week are magnificent, and I should never forget that I still have another four that I need to defend. Not to mention the other twenty that I manage to keep healthy.

My brother’s text is even more cruel. Here is a copy paste:

Not everyone can stay. Noah’s ark can only hold a pair of each animals, and you’ve only got two hands. You’ve got four more to fight with, so better keep that chin up and those eyes open rather than crumbling for the dead.

It is the most cruel comment, but probably the truest.

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Threading Through The Red Sea part I: A Mi Manera

Most of baby boomers like me possibly don’t know Frank Sinatra, though he is one of my favorite singers.

Not because of his voice, nor his look, but for the invaluable lyric in each of his songs.

One on my top list is “My Way” that talks about a performer (my mother said it’s about a runner, but I don’t know, Frank Sinatra’s already dead before I got to learn about that song so I can’t ask about it via his twitter), who, tells his journey of life: the ups and down, his rights and wrong, and the best of it: his pride in questing through life. This song is re-formatted and sung in Spanish by Simon Cowell’s Il Divo around year 2k and I love this Spanish version better because it actually empowers the original lyric.

Last week, however, I found an even more powerful version of that song through the life journey of a small kitten, namely, Frank, of course.

I met Frank sitting forlornly on a sidewalk by the puddle near my office, where I stop to pat him on the head and share the ferals along my path. He was a little bit dirty, but otherwise seemed all right, and even have full stomach, so I intended to leave him after feeding but feel uneasy because he was, after all, too quiet for a kitten. He didn’t meow, he didn’t jump, or run, or head butt, he just sit there, looking at me, with blank expression.

So here is the plan: my boss is not around that day, and other staffs won’t care, so I can sneak him into the office, bring him to the vet, and when he was declared OK, I’ll put him back.

Part one initiated immediately. I can easily found an empty space in my bag, push him in, and walk by as if nothing happened. Nothing, but a little note in my head: his belly was darn hard.

For the rest of the working hours he stay inside my workstation, sitting by the fireplace (well, actually it’s my computer CPU). He ate more fish, drink the whole bowl of water (trust me, he drank a lot!) but still quiet.

Hence, part two initiated. I bought him home, put him inside a basket along with Mama-san (she has an appointment for spay surgery, but that’s another story) and brought both to the vet.

The examination is pretty quick: he has mega-colon, and the vet told me he is a SHE, though she (the vet) knows that I address any cat with “he”, it’s my trademark quirk.

Mega colon is:

a term used to describe a very dilated, flabby, incompetent colon.  This usually occurs secondary to chronic constipation and retention of feces, but may be a congenital dysfunction.  Megacolon itself is not a specific disease entity, but it will usually result in obstipation (inability to defecate), since feces is retained in the colon in a larger diameter than is able to pass through the pelvis.  This feces also becomes very dry and hard, as water is absorbed by the colon.  Surgery may be required to treat this condition if medical management has been exhausted.

~American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Mega colon  usually happened to senior cats between 5-9 years old, but here in Indonesia, anything can happen, especially to ferals. My newly-found, three months old companion probably had severe, prolonged dehydration on the street before I found him. His feces were too hard so he has to get a C section, which for a kitten his age, is a very risky procedure.

The other option? Leave him be, and he’d be dead after a few days, because his hardened feces will obstruct the intestine, and whenever she eats, or drink, his intestine will grow bigger, and finally burst.

I took the risk, and the vet start operating him right away, despite the clinic was fully packed that day.

We started at around 8 pm, and finish at 10 pm, extracting around 100 grams (that’s an ounce) of hard-rock feces from his colon and a cup full of urine. The surgery itself shouldn’t be that long, but the expanded colon had already obstructed his urinary tract. He can’t pee, and all his urine was kept inside his small kidney that it was swollen and when the vet cut him open, some of its smaller blood vessel already started to burst. His kidney was bleeding and the surgery became more complicated.

What amazed the whole clinic was the small kitten’s resilience. With extended surgery time, no one had high hope, but he made it past the surgery and woke up with a loud meow. He came home with two iv pipes on his small body, but the vet said his vital sign is good.

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Hi there! got a nice dream back then?
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The vet was shaking her head when she put on the iv, Frank’s leg is as big as the catheter head

Tell me about vital sign. This little kitten is such a devil, even a few hours after the surgery (that got to be wee hours in the morning right? The surgery finished in 10 pm) he already tried to jump out of his basket, and therefore, prevent me to get any sleep at all.

This made me worried because he was supposed to stay put (remember the iv), so my only option is to bring him along to the office to make sure she won’t  drag his iv bottles all over places. Unfortunately my boss is coming, so I can’t possibly smuggle him inside without being noticed. The only thing I can do is to make him as comfortable as possible that he can sleep the whole day like other cats do when I am working. Then, for the whole day I worked with worry inside my head.

Canceling all my after-hour jobs that day, I went straight home, only to see what I feared the most. There he is, sitting by the door, dragging an empty iv bottle behind him. When I gasped in terror he instead pranced and jumped and run to welcome me, still with that iv bottle behind him. So, I called the vet and tell her what happened as well as informing her that I am going to get the iv needle off Frank so he won’t stuck his extra tail somewhere and hurt himself. The vet laughed, and I remembered her telling me I got myself a tough little lady, but that means the kitten’s going to be all right. It was Wednesday.

For the next two days Frank took part in toppling my kettle off the counter (don’t know how he done that, I just saw the kettle tumbled), running all over places and rammed into the adults, got bathed by Peta (my ultimate, supper nanny cat – you won’t believe he’s male), climb on my bed, play hide and seek in the cardboard castle, catch four roaches and killed them all by himself, and eat like an elephant. He climbed all the way to the top of my head whenever I sit on the floor to put my shoes on, climbed on my legs asking for my food, and get Sue out of her shell and made her a ‘normal’ kitten instead of an outcast.

The next Saturday, four days after, no one would believe he’s been sick, though I’m worn out for not sleeping for four nights watching him and prevent him from jumping all over places too much and tell him to sleep instead. I have cancelled all my side jobs and lost good amount of money that I need to keep the Syndicate operating, but for a life, it’s worth it. I brought my feisty little friend to the vet clinic early that day, before its open hour because I know the staffs and vet would want to play with him a little bit, and everyone is happy to pet him and call him “good girl” until the vet said “Josie, this time you are right, your kitten is a boy, not a girl” Obviously his enlarged colon had suppressed his tiny testicles that he looked like a girl.

A ha; and I bet Sue is not going to be happy about it. Sue, my pocket monster, jacket camper kitten was kind of shy and a loner, and no kitten, much less adult cat can go near her without making her hiss or yowl. This tough kid, however, can do that with no problem.

Since then, his name is Frank (you know where that name came from right?) and I happily book an appointment in Tuesday to remove his sutures.

At Monday, however, I found him sitting powerlessly by the door, among everyone else, when I came home from work.

All right, kittens are known to drop their stamina suddenly, only to bounce back a moment later, but this is worrying, so I called the vet again, ask her to stay longer (it was 9 pm) because Frank is deteriorating at an alarming state.

I arrived at the clinic fifteen minutes later, and both vets at the clinic were ready for lifesaving procedures. Frank is still sliding down, and within the next hour almost every pipes and cables in the surgery room were attached to him. They gave him warmed up iv, oxygen, heart monitor and then performed CPR when he slide down further, and they didn’t stop trying until midnight.

Frank was gone.

It’s not the first time the two vet ladies came to me withholding their tears. In this breeder capital city the most complicated thing a vet can perform is a C section for a female animal in labor (the breeder gave them too much hormones and vitamins they have too many or too big children that they can’t come out naturally), but for them, the real challenge always come from me, with my street picked animals, and though neither of them wish for such challenge, it gave their four years of bachelor degree education more meaning.

I shrugged. “Hey, Frank was hopeless, but you ladies gave him a chance to be a real kitten for the whole week. Don’t say that doesn’t count”

“But he was the bravest, strongest kitten I have ever met”, said one nurse, “I think he is a miracle”

“Then let’s keep it that way, won’t we? He did it his own way. He broke all of our forecasts”

I mean, we would never know why he slides down that fast, but he was a street cat  kitten. It has been a harsh weather, and we wouldn’t ever know what he’s been eating before we met, how he lived and how hard the elements had beaten him in his street life.

But just in case any of you are curious. Just in case, below is the real song, so you know what Frank is like:

And now, the end is near;

And so I face the final curtain.

My friend, I’ll say it clear,

I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.

I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;

But then again, too few to mention.

I did what I had to do

And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;

Each careful step along the byway,

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew.

But through it all, when there was doubt,

I ate it up and spit it out.

I faced it all and I stood tall;

And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.

I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.

And now, as tears subside,

I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;

And may I say – not in a shy way,

“No, oh no not me,

I did it my way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught.

To say the things he truly feels;

And not the words of one who kneels.

The record shows I took the blows –

And did it my way!

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Three Different Stories

Every day on my way home from the office I will drop by a small supermarket just 5 minutes away from my rent to buy ground chicken or beef for the kittens.

The road in front of the supermarket is not big, just enough for two cars passing each other at the same time, and around one and a half meter of sandy sidewalk at both sides.

One particular thing about that road is that although it is small, vehicles that passed over that road was never slow. Public transport, cars, and especially (and of course!) the nasty motorcycles swooshed speedily. I have heard thousands of stories of hit and run over there, and yet, no police, no law enforcement; but I guess by my past post anyone can figure out what country we lived in.

I am trying to stroll by quietly along the sandy area, when I heard mews of a kitten from my right, and turn to a house nearby in reflex. I saw a yellow kitten sitting on a plant pot, shivering under the wet and windy night.

As I leaned over at the house’s fence to see if the kitten has a mother nearby, I heard another mew a few steps ahead.

“Oh gee, some litters had learn to walk and play too far”, I said to myself as I stand up, heading to the second mew.

Unfortunately my eyes has never been too good, especially at dark nights like this. The streets has no lamps so I have to count on the almost scarce lighting from the houses.

A few seconds later some car zoomed pass me and from the flash of it headlamp I spotted a silhouette of a teeny tiny kitten, right at the rim of the road, mewing in fear.

I started to run toward the silhouette, and after a few steps, hear yet another mew. There’s another teeny tiny kitten between me and the silhouette, right at the edge of a full gutter.

All right: one girl, two hands, three kittens; and zooming vehicles at unpredictable interval.

Feels like a sudden death rugby.

So here is the plan, I don’t have anything with me, but I wear an over-sized raincoat, with two, deep, side pocket that are big enough for the two kitten. I shall walk toward the silhouette, sweep the one by the gutter along the way, and came back for the first kitten afterwards and carry it with my hand.

I took a deep breath and start walking. One two three steps and quickly sweep the kitten by the gutter.

Then I hear a car horn and zooming machine. The light had touched the edge of my eyes so I’d better be hurry.

The kitten I was holding is struggling to break free, and it hinder me from keeping in focus as I run toward the other, but I still run. On the slippery road and with poor vision I still run, focusing on my ear and the voice of the growing frantic mew before me.

I was only two steps away from the fearful kitten when the car finally

zoomed pass me and squash the kitten.

Suddenly it went quiet. After the car squeaked at the corner and vanish in its speed the world is quiet. The road is quiet, the wind died down, the rain started to shower, the kitten in my arms turned silent. I can’t even hear my breath, nor the pounding beats of my own heart.

Right there, at the place where the silhouette of a hopeful cat once stand, a dark lump now replace it, with dark, round shadow on the street surrounding it.

I don’t know how long I stand there, petrified, but a train of laughter from some men behind me tug me back to real time.

“What’s up girl? Don’t know what to do? Guess you know, come here to us”

I turned around and stare at them straight in the eye. I must look scary because they lose all their smile and leave me at once.

When I looked down, the kitten I have been holding on curled up inside my palm, staring at me with his round eyes.

“Let’s pick up the other one” I whispered. I push him into my pocket and he didn’t resist.

And we walk back to the house, where I saw the first kitten. She was sitting there, under the gate pole, staring at me as if she was looking at a devil.

I reached out to her and she jumped back, so I squatted and wait.

It took her a long time before she moved forward to sniff on my finger, and let me touch her head.

I don’t wait too long, I grab her on the back of her head and lift her swiftly and my sudden move scare her. On my chest she hissed and yowl and bite, but I don’t care. I pushed her Into my other pocket, and wait until she is calmer before I start walking back.

The Syndicate is unusually quiet when they saw me walked in silently, without ground meat in my hand. They only watch when they saw me pulled out the smaller kitten, the one by the gutter, and start drying him up. He was only as big as my palm of hand, probably even less than one month old.

P2221067
I thought I had just rescued a piece of Lego

The little girl from the house refused to leave my jacket, and since it’s almost midnight I don’t want to make too much noises, so I leave her there. What I mean by noise is not her, it’s me. She puncture quite a number of holes on my hand.

P2201058
Pocket Monster

Within two days the two kittens are getting better, though the smaller one, the one I come to call Tykes (don’t ask, it’s just bubbled up in my mind) got URI (Upper Respiratory Infection), and scabies all over his body (literally everywhere!) while the girl (came to be known as “Sue” because she wears white shoes on all four) are going well.

On the third day after our meeting Sue is getting even better, starting to play with other kittens, though whenever she hear loud meow or noises, she will still jump onto my jacket and is angry when I tried to take it away (it’s full with mud when the car zoomed pass me and splattered rain water, I need to wash it as soon as possible because it’s white).

P2221075
Jacket Camper

Tykes is sliding down. He only cry when I left him too long, and when he begged to be put back onto my bed, so he can curl up on my sleeping pillow all day and all night (if not otherwise picked up by me to be fed).

P2251086
Tiny Tykes

P2251085

He gave up two days later despite my efforts to bring him back to his health.

It’s ten days after the incident today, but it is still fresh in my mind, sometimes wake me up with nightmare at night. I believe that part of me are still feeling guilty for not being able to save Tyke’s litter mate, though other part remains realistic that street kittens has slim chance of life especially on bad weather and bad living condition, and that Tykes was indeed too young, too tiny.

I am still ever grateful that Sue survives, though, despite a bad infection on her back toes. She is a chubby yellow tabby who loves to climb and run.

This is our lives: one day, three different stories.

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The Other Side Of The Coin

Deep in my heart I know this day will soon come. The day when my strength failed, and my body worn down to the bone. Juggling between different jobs and caring for countless of homeless animals aside from more than 15 cats in my own home required some kind of super human strength, and it is God’s hand only that I survived that way for three and a half years.

Even so, I have never thought that it would be coming yesterday. My head spin, and I have difficulties staying awake, so I call my boss and ask for a leave. I was going to go home to catch some Zs I have been depriving myself of these past two weeks, and when I am back on my feet, will spend some time to finish my long forsaken schedule in finishing my website.

Alas, I took a flight down the stair, and the usually quiet and mind-own-business office gone chaotic. Within a few minutes a car was set and I was rushed to the hospital. The doctor recognize me and ordered that I stayed hospitalized for at least a week to see if my liver had gone back swollen like last time.

Well, not again. I have a ton of stray cats and dogs waiting for me on the street, and considering the stormy weather these last 6 months, the smaller ones won’t even have a chance if I stop even for one night.

So I turn my creativity on and wait for the next visiting hour to drag my iv into the toilet, and took the needle off my vein. I put my own clothing back on, and slip out of the toilet like a normal visitor, and put myself in the next herd of leaving guests. I turn to the cashier, pay my fees, and go home with a bus.

Sounds like some thriller movie scene? Well, what do you expect of a detective novels addict? Besides, I am not going to pay yet another million to sleep uselessly in the hospital while animals are dying on the streets every second passed.

Naturally no one will ask when I don’t show up in the office the next day. They all think that I am sleeping soundly in the hospital again ( I went to the hospital twice before) while I am going round the bank taking care of my stolen wallet, but that’s another story.

Besides, my short, cheap stunt has nothing to do with this post. What I wanted to share is my experience during the three hours I spend in the ER.

I  was curious about the noises and cries from across my room that I peeked out of my bed, and saw three men been dragged in.

They are typical Bandung youngsters, with skinny pants taken down to the hip, so their underwear (or in most case, their black, smelly butt) will show when they bend down, goth styled T-shirt, and messy hairdo. It’s a mix of Kanye West and Punk Goth rock band that haven’t taken a bath for a year.

Looking at their burnt legs and arms, I first thought they got into accident while mixing alcoholic drink or drug (some times into toxic drink that killed the entire gang), or getting into traffic accident while strutting their home-made Harley Davidson. Unfortunately, however, both guesses were wrong.

Soon after they were brought in, a herd of doctors swarmed in with their pack of nurses and all sort of equipment, and their shirt been torn, and their heart examined, and one minute later I heard

Number eight’s gone!” and the pack that previously handled him dispersed and divided themselves to handle the other two. It happened automatically within a minute, that I was in shock of how such emotional moment can be handled like a lifeless routine.

It sank in almost immediately to me that the man has died, and my curiosity was further drawn to the other two. One has troubled heart, the other has slim chance of life.

One of the girls who brought them into the hospital sobs right next to me, not realizing that the bed next to her has someone sitting on it. She was all red that I didn’t want to interrupt her river of tears, until the nurse who handle me came by and handed me over a pack of pills. “You should be laying down instead of snooping, lady” he warned.

What happened? I nod at the three rows of bed across mine, not heeding his order.

Working on electricity, and got shocked”

All three of them?”

Yes, well, people here are stupid. When someone got shocked, the other tried to tug them and got shocked themselves”

I  stay quiet, but talking about stupid, most people here are, and death like that is probably just a routine after all.

Maybe because of the cultural laziness of the Sundanese, maybe because education is not more important than looks and girls, maybe because of the economy, maybe because teachers here got paid so low that they succumb to corruption and care more of seeking additional sources of money than making better generation, discussing about whys can go on forever, but the sad fact is, despite living in a beautiful and fertile terrain labeled as “Paris Van Java” (yep, including the pretty and easily-taken girls), people’s live here is not as pretty as it is said in the tourism brochures or government’s websites.

If you got chance to come and visit Bandung one day, you will see people hanging on electricity pole only with rubber boots, if not rubber sandals that you would wear to the beach. You will see young guys mending air conditioner with shorts and tee, as if you would go surfing. You will see people digging holes on the street using helmet, but with bare foot and most of the time, bare chest.

I  don’t know if they do it so they would look sexy in the eyes of the girls, just like some of those perfume advertisement, but sometimes they just don’t wear protection because they think it hinders them from performing their task at best. Sometimes they think fixing electricity is as easy as pie, hence bare-handedly climb a bamboo ladder onto their roof and bravely peel off those big cables and stole electricity for their houses or hijack their richer neighbor’s satellite TV in the hope they can peek on some of those HBOs without pay.

I  don’t know if they just don’t care, but people here go to Senior High School to laid or got laid by the first attractive opposite sex and those who got more money done that on college, drop school, got married, and have their parents pay for their household, and think of landing on any pitiful job only when they got babies and their parents had no more means to support them financially. That is, if one of the couple hadn’t run away already.

I don’t know if they realized that they would left their widow and children begging on the street if they died, because woman here is just like queen bee. They only want to stay at home, sleep, and bare children because being a career woman is a very tough thing to do.

But people do lost their lives doing those stupid things, and what I just saw is just a number among continuous column in a local newspaper that got skipped and especially skipped when Manchester United is playing because they (and most of them are young and poor and want easy and fast cash) bet on the match.

When I sneaked out of the hospital, I saw a rich lady coming toward them with worry hanging on her face, and I immediately feel pity on her, because I can imagine she would have to bare the loathing and swearing of the new widow and the family of the dead man, sometimes even people that has nothing to do with the case or the victim.

It’s automatic. Here in Bandung, rich people are almost always the villain, because they are richer, they got better education, they get better means of life, and therefore, bear the biggest responsibility of everything.

It’s probably never occurred that those richer people got their riches because they go to school and finish it, they done their homework, and they refuse to surrender to their lazier self, and therefore, it is not their fault that they got better off than their peers.

It’s probably never occurred that those richer people didn’t get to their millions like dry leaves fall down from a tree, and it’s probably never occurred that richer people do advices, teaches, and equips, but regarded only as a passing wind by their workers.

What people know is pointing finger to those that are more able, without any inquisitiveness to look further.

And what men do to their own kind, they do it worse to the (said) lesser creatures.

So when a tree got tampered by the wind and fall down and create a traffic jam, other trees along the road will be cut down, while the actual cause is people burning their trash under the tree and kill its root. When little kids throw rocks to a dog, and the dog bites, people will bring their whatever weapon to the house of the dog, and demand that the owner kill the dog or the entire household will be executed, regardless of how mean kids can be. When crazy teens took small kittens from their mother and put them on the road to be crushed by passing vehicles they are forgiven because it is the obligation of the vehicle owner (who is richer than those kids, who went to places on foot) to care where they are going. When a horse carriage was overloaded and the horse could not carry it as fast as the owner wanted it, the horse was repeatedly hit by the back of a sword until it died miserably at the side of the street, and when I prevent anyone to be cruel to animals, it is my fault (who has a job, more money, and better social status than those abusers) and therefore they are justified to try to gang-rape or at least beat me up and teach me some lesson to first pay regard to the poorer side of humanity than the animals.

They should have learned that I am a Wushu world champion, though only the second runner up, but that ability to pay them back and beat them up instead is my fault too.

I don’t know if this city is a true Paris Van Java, a tropical paradise as they say, but I know that there is always another side of the coin, and it is not always as pretty.

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