IT’S HARD FOR ME TO SAY I’M SORRY

The song said, everybody needs a little time away from each other. Even lovers need a holiday, far away from each other; but like the song said, it’s hard for me to say “I’m sorry” and walk away, even for one day.

This one in the picture is Rudolf. Someone kicked his face so hard it broke his nose and even put a dent on its bone. He will have a certain extent of difficulty breathing, if he has sinus problems, it will be hard to get it out, and he cannot smell his food. He will be deformed for the rest of his life, while he is only 4 months old. With pain and infection eating his wound and spreading death from the inside, he tried to survive, in a filthy and floody traditional market.

All alone.

He was only one and a half ounces when Sheilla turned back for him, cross the flood, go round people and carts that won’t care to give her way, and picked him up as he left himself to that merciless fate.

It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry, and just turn away.

For years after Trump became president and obliterated his own country, and more so after Covid has come to stay, our donation box has been empty. Trying to raise the same USD 600 per week for over 160 residents cats, and about the same amount fighting for their lives on the streets, parks, parking lots and colonies far away at the perimeter of town, there is only at most USD 60, at the end of the month, when most of our kind donors receive their salary. For the rest of the month, we are grateful for USD 40 and nothing more for the rest of the week.

But it’s hard for me to say I’m sorry.

So we took any job available. Be it on Sundays, dead hours, heavy lifting, anything. Anything that will make up for USD 600 per week plus USD 450 mortgage at the beginning of every month.

After last Christmas, we live off instant food for most of the week, just because USD 600 is further and harder to achieve.

But it’s hard to say I am sorry, and then walk away.

When people told me “You never write anymore!” and “You have to be on Facebook more regularly!”, I’d say, “I can write and hang around Facebook the whole day and nothing is coming, I left my phone in my pocket, go to grocery store or any office with any job openings and ask for a job and they give me salary (as meager as it might be)”. I cannot be at two places in one time.

As harsh and unkind my answer would be, there is the lives of 160 cats and more on my shoulders. There are already over a thousand of our followers saying “I’m sorry” and turning away. They have their own difficulties, their own priorities, so I’d better be tough, because it’s hard for me to say I’m sorry when I look at Rudolf, waiting right behind the door to say welcome home.

I’d rather hit the road and keep on trying than blaming people over lack of donations, because it’s hard for me to say I’m sorry. I’d rather be working and lose followers and friends on Facebook, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. The Whiskers’ Syndicate has a handful of these angels who come to this page and help whether I am there or not, because they share the same feelings. It’s hard for us to say I’m sorry, and then walk away. These individuals are the true Whiskers’ Syndicate, and I am grateful for them with all my heart.

A bunch of teens named themselves “Cute Cruelty” self asserted that they educate people to adopt don’t shop (they call themselves “rescue” group and call themselves Cute Cruelty?) published our names and contacts without permission and suddenly there are thousands of people flooding our messengers looking to dump their cats with whatever (usually ridiculous, ignorant, even downright outrageous) reasons. Some even threatening us to abandon their cats if we don’t take them. They blocked us when I tried to contact them for clarification of WTF is going on, so I wrote them an open letter that went viral on Instagram.

One teenage follower quoted my open letter in her story and said “This is not cute and it’s cruelty, but big sisters, you are doing a good job so keep doing what you are doing”.

A stranger reposted my letter and commented “Don’t give up! we are all choking to live at this time, but take pride in doing what is best”.

A local individual rescuer lost her job during the pandemic. She has a dozen of cats (it’s her Instagram handle) and has to go low selling fish pudding to keep her dozen cats (and two newborn kittens) alive. Though I told people this letter is individual and subjective (based on Whiskers’ Syndicate’s experience only) so we do not need comments, much less arguments, this lady took time to write. “Keep going. There are silver linings on every cloud and we will get there if we keep on trying”.

It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Kitten with a damaged nose

A TIME FOR US

“Hurry up, they are coming!”

It was close to a hiss, but such alarming tension with which the words were delivered was so out of character, the pure bliss that surrounded me evaporated faster than the thick fog by the dawn.

Okay, so we had a few times when scary strangers came toward us when we feed the strays at the park and ask for money. We always said we have none, and they never harm the cats, but safe is better than sorry, so as much as I wanted to stand my ground and make sure the cats are safe, I always walked back to the motorbike so Sheilla can drive us away.

Still it was unusual. It’s 2 am in the morning around dark park and the town is dead except for the strays and us. Two innocent girls are not supposed to be anywhere near any dark park nor hanging around slums, but most of the time, as soon as I see the cats running toward me with little arches on their upright tails, all is good in this world.

When they come surrounding me with purrs and little meows, all is good in this world. When they prance and dance upon strips of fish or pouches of cat food, all is good in this world. So I stood up in a snap and saw where Sheilla was staring. The fear in her tone is still in the air. Few ten feet away, three dark shadows of men are walking toward us. Not too fast, casually even, they seemed to chat among themselves. The wind carries their voices, on and off.

I looked at her, then I looked at a bunch of strays around my feet, happily chewing their steamed tuna; but one second and I got caught by the pressing distress that kept pumping from her gestures.

I rushed down the pedestrian way, not minding to put my ransom bag nor take off the gloves.

We should have driven past them, but then Sheilla make a big turn around in such a rush. The three shadows haven’t even come out to the light and they are not pacing.

We took a detour at the other end of the park, and proceed to our next destination by different route. The route we always avoid because it’s dark and it’s even quieter than the usual one. The corner of that road is famous for their sound system; such as, if one has a car and want the sound system customized, however it is, one goes to that corner where there are rows of stalls, and ask who has what they want.

A teak box with two holes lay around, almost blocking the pedestrian way. There must have been two speakers in those two holes, but that night, the one on the left has a brown tabby kitten, watching her sister wandering around just close by – she must be looking for food.

I pointed at the box and Sheilla stopped. She must feel safer about half kilometer away from those three shadows; besides we never abandon kittens, especially two months old kittens.

A gray tabby and white female was sitting around another corner, just ten steps away, but she did not care about the two kittens. She was busy courting a black cat our sights missed in the darkest before dawn.

One of the girls had a damaged eye. She must have broken that eye when she contracted URI, brought about by drenches of rain, and cold windy nights, away from their mother. We wouldn’t be able to do anything about that bad eye, and vets will definitely ask for it to be removed to prevent infection; but even with an eye like that, she still cheerfully explored her surroundings.

Her sister, in the other hand, was drop dead serious. She watched the other like the world is going to crumble when the other is lost, and she had no qualms growling, biting and scratching once she saw her sister picked up, put in my jacket, while she was in the other.

Even when we are all finally home, this girl never lost a beat taking care of her sister.

I wanted to ask Sheilla what caused her alarm that we have to be in such a thrilling runaway, but I felt tiny paws on my ankle and when I looked down the one eyed baby bent her neck backward ninety degree just to look at me straight in the eye.

She was hungry; her sister was hungry.

I took one breath and gave them soft food to eat. It seemed like they haven’t eaten for days.

Well, if we had not got caught up by the bad gust of air, if we didn’t listen to that voice in Sheilla’s heart calling, if we didn’t make a detour, if we didn’t take that road less travelled, the twins would probably be frozen by morning.

~ Josie

Can you guess their names? Anna and Elsa. Can you guess which one is which? They are both loved. They are both well cared for, but it takes a village to raise a child, and we have two. Perhaps you will lend your protective arm, and secure their chance for better future? paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Two little tabby kittens, rescued.

Raphael

I saw him curled up on a piece of corrugated board in that parking lot by the market, and feltl sorry for him. He was so small.

It was cold, it was pitch dark, it was damp and it was dirty with all the rubbish from the market. The smell around was horrible.

I touched his head and nudged him, trying to offer some food, and a little love. I have no space in my home, though plenty in my heart. He was so warm.

There are so many things that can give a kitten fever, especially those thrown away to fend for themselves in bad weather and a bad environment.

I lift him up and carry him, place him in my bag, and took him around, visiting the colonies; those who face the cold and the wind, the dangers of the night, laying low, hiding in despicable places none of men would want to be, waiting, listening for us in great expectation. Waiting for hope and a chance to live, just one more day.

There was bumps twice as big as my thumb on his back; soft and bouncy like water balloon under his skin. He’d be crying every time I tried to gather what might it be, he’d be biting if I tried to clean it. He is licking and gnawing and roll up whenever the bump seems to shoot him pains.

I cradle him in my arms, I told him happy stories I’ve had in the past, I’d comfort him as much as I can, while my partner was busy with a clipper and sterilized needle.

He was mad and he was wild. The bump had ruptured and it oozed rotten pus. The smell was horrible, the sight was terrible. He hold on to a roll of terry, and lashed out his blazing anger as we raced to clean his wound.

He was bitter. He was robbed from the care of his mother, and was left behind in a place he never knew. He was forced to grow beyond his age, he was beaten by people ignorant of his plea.

He was bitten. He never knew any better but run and hide in the corner. He has only a shred of corrugated paper.

A shred of corrugated paper, in exchange of a world robbed and torn, as his wound slowly rots and gives him burns.

I wrapped him in the softest blanket, I gave him his favourite food. I shared him warm milk, and he is purring his heart out.

I saw him curled up on a piece of corrugated board near our front door, and feel sorry for him. He was so small.

I touched his head and nudged him, trying to offer some food, and a little love. There is space in my house after all, and much more in my heart. He is no longer barely warm.

I lift him up and carry him, place him in my hoodies, and took him around. He jumped out and climbed down, and joined the others for breakfast, then he sat by my leg for a lift to the back.

There is a room that he likes. Where he can lunge on rugs and fight feathery toys. There are others like him he’d like to watch.

There is the whole new life in front of him. Unlike those he wished he had back, but those with hope and a chance for life.

~ Josie

Happy New Year!

Whiskers’ Syndicate is the only sanctuary in Bandung, where 98% of its residents are backyard breeders, even the vets! We do not have government support. Kittens like Raphael (featured in this story) can have a chance solely by the grace of donations from kind individuals like those who follow this link: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

…AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

And a happy new year home.

On one end of that straight, wide four lanes street stands a traditional market where its rotting pile of garbage become life for countless strays young and old dumped to fend for their own. On the other end are abandoned small business sites, forced to move to new industrial zone, away from the center of town.

At night many from that dead zone will follow the glowing promise of the future and cross that street, thinking they would live one more day, only to find themselves crushed, or injured and left alone to see their untimely death come slow and painful.

She found herself in the corner, with a rat as big as her sniffing; wondering whether it would bite and drag her for their feasting, or wait for fate to make up its mind. Whether she should cross that seemingly endless road, or whether she will wait for death to come, in hunger or as prey?

And a happy new year safe.

She took three steps down the road. Maybe if she waits long enough for that street to completely die down, she can find a chance to live. It must be what her mother would have thought, though she was not there to show her how, or to lead her the best way. But that coming, deafening sound. Things that spatter blood of many of her kind. As fast as lightning, as horrible as death.

And a happy new year loved.

That blinding light as well. When it flashes, the screech will comes next. Most of the time someone shouted, very often just a thump or a crushing sound as they blasted away, leaving lifeless corpses on the road, writhing, or none. This one it’s a little bit longer, and it follows where she tried to hide. Maybe the rats were not so bad? She stopped. She crumpled herself and folded her head down, pressing her nose as close as possible to her chest.

And then, it’s light, and warm. She felt like she was floating.

And a happy new year, full of hope.

It’s not heaven. She saw herself in the arms of a woman, holding her close to her bosom. Her jacket was so thick, but she can hear her heart beating. It was just like mum.The long journey that comes after brought her to a home full of light, and many more like her. She was still as stiff as rock when she felt the floor, but it was not the rough street that shred her paws, nor the sticky mud that drown her halfway down.She has warm food on a small plate. She has a tiny sweater made from socks. Two or three larger cats, just like her mum, put their paws on her head, and their warm wet tongue cleaning up.

And a happy new year, happy new life.

Full of recovery, full of discovery. Many toys to chase, many friends to play. Many places to seek and many more to see. She learned that she can run. She learned that she can climb. Most of all, she learned that if she calls, someone will answer her call. She learned that if she put her tiny paw on one of the women’s legs, she will go up to the sky, and travel the world from above. In their firm arms, close to their bosom, hear their heart beat, just like with mum.

~ Josie

A lucky penny for a happy new year? go here: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Rescued kitten

…AND THEY WILL CALL YOU IMMANUEL

Perfectly. Immanuel means “God with us” and you all have been the best representative of such statement through and through.

Each new rescue, whatever the case: from simple muscle sprain to malignant tumor. From mere parasite infestation to terminal injury. Young, old, female, male, when they come into our home; you: the whiskers’ syndicate delivers.

We have nothing but a manger. We have nothing but our little drums, we seldom – if ever – have gold, myrrh, and frankincense, but we mount our prayers, and efforts, and give all we have left even if it’s only for one more life; and from one cat, Whiskers’ Syndicate is now home to 175 cats, and over 150 more in colonies and groups all over town. From one cat, Whiskers’ Syndicate has spayed and neutered over 500 cats – a small number considering we are the only one doing massive TNR – but those 500 cats you help fix have in turn prevented millions of kittens to be born into poverty, sickness, suffering and horrible deaths.

Though just of a small number, you: Whiskers’ Syndicate, played God so miraculously that Bumpy: one with last stage malignant skin cancer is cancer free on the day he crossed over. Tito lived with FIP but is fluid free for the rest of 14 months of his stay with us. He lived normally till the end. Mama Grey even stayed with us for over 2 years, keeping her FIP at bay. She passed due to old age. Ditto, with growing tumor on his back that deformed him and was kept by neglectful mother and daughter who knows nothing but gain money from his situation was said to have only few days to live. Your magic heal his wounds, dried his tumor, so much so no one saw his hunch back when he passed away as his previous deplorable condition advanced his tumor near his heart. Though only for few weeks, Ditto slept away in peace in a form of a cat instead of bald bulging meat.

Patti, crushed by a car and left to die, broke her spine and cannot walk. Your outpouring support help her recover, and she has now learned to climb. Her records? 2 meters (6.5 feet)! She runs a bit funny, but she does so as fast as others, as good as others.

Noel is recovering. His medicine costs arms and legs, but if it is easier for a camel to enter a pin hole than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (it must be very difficult for them to give) you every people fit Noel into life and set him to the pathway of hope. We will not know what will happen, but we do it anyway. Unlike others who always want to change the world, this is what Whiskers’ Syndicate do: save life today. We can change the world tomorrow.

For the lack of better words: THANK YOU. For all the stories I have written that cost you your tears, this is the writing that make me shed mine; but tears of joy, tears of gratitude, tears of hope. For my two hands have received your blessings this past twelve years and hopefully beyond. My two hands that can only do so much have been multiplied by your enabling donation, enriching wisdom, lifted by your prayers and healed over and over, so that I can reach out on your behalf, and bring one more soul back to the life they deserve, the life that had been denied them, the chance that they all have as birth right.

THANK YOU. Tonight when I give our residents the food you have keep on their table under the roof your keep over their head, and spread treats in addition to nourishment to those living on roadsides and sewers, know this: they will call you Immanuel. As it is because of all of you, God is with us. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

NOEL, NOEL

I always find him waiting by my bedroom door, every morning. He looks upon me gently, but I feel strains of toughness in his stance. He knows he is living, he knows he wants to live.

Noel would not budge even then, when I closed my bedroom door behind me, tip toeing across rows of sleeping cats and kittens overtaking the bathroom mat by the bulk; but those demure eyes will spring to life when I come back out.

He follows me as fast as the others, though with only two front legs. He earns his place among others around the big plates; always the big plates. We gave him food separately in a smaller plate we thought would suit him more, and put him away so others won’t disturb him. He would just look at us, annoyed, turn his head away and drag himself back to the big plate with such a big grumpy look on his cutie pie face.

Noel wouldn’t take less than what a cat’s worth. He knows he is living, he knows he wants to live. He knows who to love, and he knows what love to ask in return. He learns to climb the side of our beds, he learns how to climb the cat tree by the window. He won’t go all the way to the top, but he knows the perfect spot where the first face we would see when we get to the front door is his. No treats waving from the other side of the window? Just door key in our hands? Big grumpy look so sadistic we would rather run back and come again with something he likes.

Noel wouldn’t squirm, nor bite, or claw, whenever we lift him up and put him in carrier. He would enjoy his trip, watching all the different cars and views every time. He would let our vets poke him and twist him, give him massage, scrape and swab wherever. He gave that big grumpy look when blood was drawn.

Noel has a very long list of health issues. First to take care of? Persistent and hell-full of tape worm in his weakened, underweight, malnourished body. Tape worms that suck all the life out of him, tape worm that probably suck all the life out of his mother and make him and his sister road side orphans.

It was not just Drontal or whatever the name like all those flyers said. Those dewormer has terms and conditions, and he missed more than one of those. In fact, we ought to be very careful. One wrong step and he’d be gone in a whiff. But Noel knows he is living, Noel knows he wants to live, so he puts up with it. First the super bitter dewormer, then something to help his intestines cope with all the scars left by those nasty worms’ claw and suckers, then supplements to strengthen his body, bland-smelling food that his two caretakers insist is good. How does a bland-smelling food be good? Chicken is good, beef is good, fish? even better. So he lets the two ladies know that he wouldn’t have any of those bland-smelling food unless they follow the annoying procedure with the tastiest broth and stew.

And then, nerve medicine. He wouldn’t walk again, at least not walk with paw facing down like the other. He will forever walk with his knee, while dragging the rest of his body with his front legs. But Noel knows he is living, Noel wants to live. So one week into his Neurobion and traditional herb and whatever it is, he can lift his hip, and sit like a “normal” cat. He runs – his way – faster. He climbs – his way – faster. He can feel that he is stronger so he lives stronger. He eats more, his stools improve, his stamina improves and so does his big grumpy look. He “walks” to his specially made, low wall litter box and finds out someone else had used it, and the two ladies neglected to scoop them out, and he gives his big grumpy look, sadistic enough one of them drops whatever she was doing and cleans the litter box for him. His litter box is special. It has special litter that doesn’t stick or track, 100% absorbent, and is always kept clean. Otherwise he will drag poo poo everywhere around the house, obviously with a big grumpy look.

Noel’s pee improves. He used to have tea-coloured urine with blood every now and then; it was painful and the two ladies went crazy as soon as they saw what he made. He just got home from the vet the previous day and they came back again just so the vet can add to the list of their missions and make his prescription longer.

But Noel knows he is living. Noel wants to live, so he puts up with it. Noel knows he is living. Noel knows he is home for Christmas, Noel knows it’s not only in his dreams. Noel wants to live, so Noel puts up with everything. Big, sadistic, grumpy look, yes, but otherwise no complaint, no squirms, no claws, no bites.

I know Noel is living. I can see it in his eyes, I can touch it in his fur, I can sense his weight when I lift him. I can hear it in his fur. He is much different than when I first picked him up.

I know Noel knows he is home for Christmas, not only for Christmas, not only in his dreams.

I know Noel wants to live; so I put up with it. No matter what strain I already have in my back providing the finances. No matter what trouble I have already in, no matter what more less I should have.

I know Noel wants to live, so even though people keeps blocking me I keep asking for help, I keep going, and going, and going. Even though I have to end up knocking on hell’s door, if hell can help me help Noel live I will forsake heaven.

I don’t need praises, I don’t need to be told my stories are beautiful, it’s their stories, not mine. I just translate those into human language.

Noel knows who he is and what he deserves, so he fights for it. I need Noel to know he will not fight in vain. I need Noel to know he will keep on living.

~ Josie

We have USD 1,000 matching challenge ongoing. I will set aside USD 500 from total fund so Noel can be sure he will have his treatments and that he can now have hope for a better future; but first, we need to match the challenge. Chip in below if you are interested:

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate