LIKE A PROPHET

Like a prophet lays awaiting the saviour, she sat there, close to the wall and a little bit to the corner. Even though the sand and dirt where she sat smelled of urine from passersby to the market just across the street. Even though it’s dry and hot by the sun day and day.

Like a prophet lays await for the saviour she sat there, close to the wall and a little bit to the corner. The little nook that fits her slim figure so well. Hidden in plain sight, she bore the hunger and the pain that creeps deeper into her bone. She bares with the darkness that robbed her of security and confidence. She bares with the fate that ebb and flow, cutting through the rock of her hope.

One day, that hope will all turn to dust; carried away by the wind. When that time happens, she will bend her knee, lean on the wall, take a deep breath, and let the final pang of the desperation take her away to meet her freedom.

But like a prophet lays await for the saviour she felt the hand that touch her head, she heard the voice that called her name, she knows the time has come to see her fate.

So she sprang onto her skinny legs and pushed her cheek toward that hand, she gathered her fading strength and walked toward that voice, she followed the footsteps all the way.

She wouldn’t take any food, she clung to my legs, she rubbed on me all over, back and forth and she chased me when I tried to walk away. So I lifted her up, and found out why. She is blind, and she has a cold. She cannot see, and she cannot smell.

I took my jacket off and wrapped her close to my chest. My lady, how many times have you done this? Gathered all your courage and try to find some help, but help walked away from you? How many times have you cried in silence, when it’s hope that you ask for and disappointment is your answer? How many prayers have you chanted, but no one cared to listen?

Like a prophet lays await for her saviour she leaned on me, still, quiet, all the way through the hectic market and into busy roads, as we climbed to that hillside we would ask her to call home.
She has little left to gamble, though little left to lose.

And so like a prophet waiting for her saviour, she found her way to the side table just beside the kitchen counter and learned to sit at the corner.

Like a prophet waiting for her saviour she will sit upright, until we lift a plate to her nose, and nudge her front leg to tell her where to go.

Like a prophet waiting for her saviour, she will curl on the side, listening, listening. And when she hears our voice she will spring to her feet and welcome us with rubs and cheeks.

Like a prophet meets her savious, she can now let go of her longing days.

And weave new life where there is only peace.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

IN GOD’S NAME

Let us go on bravely!

I went to war and into the fiery battle. Not with swords, but with words, with clearest mind and most sincere intentions, all to find truth and seek peace.

Yes, it’s about the fundraiser.

I remembered how they went. The cheers and laughter, the heated discussion, their youth, their spirit. There was no evil in their voices, there was no harm ever felt. Our meetings, our plans, their power, the joy we shared in helping animals. It’s just too peculiar that despite everything the end result is always the opposite.

I heard the voices of my friends near and far; their dismay, their sorrow, their grief, their anger. I remembered how they reach deeper and further to hold me, far and away, so that although I fell and bled, I will not die. So that I can pull myself together, and walk with the world that goes on, whichever way I so prefer.

I have considered patience, friendship, forgiveness, and generosity. I have tried all sort of reasons to turn my back, accept these things that I cannot change, and move on. I did for a few days.

But late at night, when peace falls onto earth at last and everyone is silent, I heard my conscience loud and clear.

This war is not mine. It’s that of my beloved brethren who have been denied their voice, their rights, their hopes, their lives.

This war is about each and every heartbeat they have spent in the dark: hungry, abused, abandoned, neglected, harmed, tortured, diseased, killed. Each and every heartbeat they have given their best to keep until they found me.

And when they found me, they entrusted whatever was left in their lives in my hand to buy the rights that should be theirs to begin: to live and to love.

So when one of them, new to the firm, asked if he can come along riding across town feeding the strays and the colonies, I prepared twice as much ration with whatever money I have left, and took him twice as far and beyond until my energy dried and my legs gave up.

At the end of the journey, when I took him to that little tent where we used to have dinner, at 3 or 4 in the next morning. I told him my story. I told him what I would have done if I had the money they said they raised for me. None of those include my personal pleasure; because my personal pleasure is when these cats, my brothers and sisters and sons and daughters, and father and mother, be alleviated from all their suffering, and live as they should be to the end of their days, however long or short might those be.

I told him how their attitude did not add up, because every meeting all the programs are different.

And I mock him at the end of our meeting with an apology for holding him up listening to an old hag’s story, telling him to listen and be obedient to his superiors like all the others, and wish him luck for his new career.

Few days later he called me.

He said he sat by his leader telling my story, and call his friends out for their sidings.

Last Thursday I went to their office, meet everyone all the way up – by his invitation – to seek justice and to settle the case, and I went there one more time, one last time.

This time I made it clear that these cats who have found me and my home, these cats who sat in the cold of the night bearing rain and summer have bid – and they pay such bid with their lives – that my voice be theirs and those of their kind still fighting for a chance to live.

We listened to each other’s story, and found out what went wrong. Whiskers’ Syndicate was their first client for animal welfare. Prior to that they only ran fundraisers for the poor and natural disasters. So they took materials from our site, took pictures of our cats, and off they go. Thelma was the first story. I have nothing to lose, they have not much to hope. This is, after all, Indonesia: a country without animal welfare law.

When our fundraiser went boom, their leader saw how potential animal welfare actually is, and how far the young of the nations have gone, he asked for their own fundraiser, so they can help other rescues.

They took our fundraiser’s material, made a similar ad, and put it on their own page. Since they have more interactions as a general fundraiser than Whiskers’ Syndicate’s limited niche, Facebook and their friends took their ad and kill ours, as well as those of the other rescues that joined after us.

Young and inexperienced, they didn’t know better, and took everything as fate. They tried to share with us, knowing that they took our materials, but since the money does not belong to them, they need approval for everything, and all the programs they keep asking me (whether they can fund) went out in different direction.

Duh.

Indeed it’s out of their control, but Facebook algorithm were explained years ago and they are the fundraiser, not us. They are the ones who should master the game.

“Why didn’t you tell me what happened, so we can discuss what can be done that both fundraising can live, and no cats should die?”

The silence that ensued, told me volumes about their panic and hopelessness as a new player.

But it also showed me how much they were eager to learn, otherwise I wouldn’t sit in front of them, asking questions. Otherwise they wouldn’t sit there bearing the shame to seek resolution.

We decided to break it up. Whatever they made with our materials, belong to us. Starting the next day they will make a separate advertisement and cover stories for each fundraiser. Starting the next day, we will start a new ground and work as partners, each in their own way, to reach the same goal: helping suffering animals. I will still have to see if they stay true to the agreement, but this is what I get, this is the best I can do, this is how far I can go.

They can use my cats if they need, they can use my stories, but it will not be the same as those of Whiskers’ Syndicate; will run at different times than those of Whiskers’ Syndicate; and that credit will be given when and where credit is due. What I heard another (unregistered) rescue in other town did not give their permission, so that their cats brings money to them only, but I know that if I ask you, the shareholders of the Whiskers’ Syndicate, you would have done what I do. If I ask you, the co-owner of Whiskers’ Syndicate, you would agree that we do not live forever. One day, these boys and girls, will have our shields and swords and go to war for suffering animals. One day, these boys and girls will be the one continuing the path we have opened, and be the change we all want to see in this world.

I know you will agree that no matter how advanced or behind, animal welfare has long way to go, but we have gone too far and have too much at a stake to stop now.

I know you will agree that warriors are not born, they are made. These young spirits have come to us with all their good intentions, it is our opportunity to polish their imperfections so they can grow to be stronger and better than us. That way, more animals can be helped, because those that are made of pure evil will not stop with us.

At long last, here I am, bowing my apologies for my spotty presence at best, leaving all of you in the dark, while I am fighting my own demons, and my own fear. However, I am the cats’ guardian, so I will hold this responsibility with honor.

But here I am, now that I put things behind once and for all, with renewed spirit and smile, ready to take on the next challenge with you.

Thank you all who are still standing by with your unwavering trust and loyalty. Thank you all who take pride in what we do.

Thank you all.

Now, let’s go.

~ Josie
paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

HAPPY’S MOMENT

In that moment, a few ten steps feels like forever. Though I run, and run and run.

And from the other side a car came speeding, with its blinding light straight on me.

Can’t they see me? There must be a reason for someone to persistently stay on the road upon clear and present danger, or it’s just the matter of the law of the jungle in the heart of every animal?

Well, but I did get to her in time. I knew it in my heart. My mind faltered because it’s made from logic and calculation, but my heart runs by the stream of sheer will and livelihoods (plural) ten years and beyond.

She was not bigger than my fist, still is; and she used all the length and width of her two front legs to hold my two fingers. She was drowned in the cleavage of my breasts, as I walked back to where Sheilla held back the other cats from following me to the middle of that empty street, as the speeding car passed by as if a legion of satan were hanging on its back.

There was nothing from her all the way across town, as we finished our tour of duty, bringing hope and life in each of the pouches we poured down at the changing of the day: in the parks, along residentials, through the markets, and bare parking lots.

There were none of her but silence, so that we had to peek inside our jacket now and again, just to be sure she was still there.

And all we can find was two beads of round eyes looking back at us, sometimes sparkling by the moonlight.

At home she sat in the middle of the room, when swarms upon swarms of cats and kittens took turn with the sniffs and nudges. With little steps she walked around, to one nook and then another cranny; as if our house is hers all along, and she was only home from a long journey. She found the water bowl and the litter, she took a chunk larger than her jaw, but munch and tear like a grown lion.

She needs no hugs and childish voice. She took no cradle nor sweet lullaby. She chooses her own corner, and call one chapter of her life come to the end.

The next day she took her own food, slipping between the large and the chubby. Then she chose her litter box. She watched others play, she grooms herself and falls asleep swayed by the breeze through the day. When thirst comes by she walks her teeny weeny steps to the water bowl and quenches herself. In the silence of the shelter’s slumber she sat there, looking out the window, watching night birds and crickets and stars and the dark sky with two beads of round eye, sometimes glittering by the moonlight.

She is only eight weeks young, but she bays her life as if she was eight years old. She was too small for that park; that road, the fierceness in the world of strays, but she made her step, one after the other, all the way through the sidelines and pedestrian, until that fateful night when she tried to cross the street for a piece of hope and another day of life she could no longer get on her own side.

That such independence is now softened, that she now meows and complains a little, are ours to blame. We broke our heart and hold her often. We teach her to play with our fingers. We show her how to chase. We told her the joys of rolling on the sheets and made little tunnels warm and cozy to sleep.

That now she drapes herself on my neck or climbs my leg is mine to blame. I taught her the little things little cats do, I let her follow the footsteps of her peers, turning from little adult cat to little young cat that she should be.

That she now cuddles with the others when she sleeps and play pats and swats with the rest was ours to blame. That she now enjoys bigger cats grooming her was our undoing.

We broke our heart watching an eight weeks kitten forced to grow so fast she lives like eight years old, so we unbreak our heart sending her back to the world where she should be. Loved, protected, cherished.

That now she runs from one end to the other and trips over her own feet, that she chases the ball and tries to wreck her sheet. That she finds her own food but still asks to be fed, that she takes the best of both world where she has been are our undoing.

Our only virtue is that we gave her a name to tell her bidding day by day. The name she loves so much she ran toward us whenever we call it through the day.

Happy.

Tabby kitten on a keyboard

SHE WAS ACROSS ALFAMART SO WE CALL HER AVA

She stayed still on my chest, listening to my heart beat. Those bumping sounds must have been so muffled that she had to press her crusty ear even though it hurt so much.

She stayed still on my chest. If she could, she probably will fuse herself in, to be away from the streaming cold wind as we rode through the night, all the way home.

She stayed still on my chest, even when I told her “We’re home” When I put her on the floor she stayed still like a rock, when I tried to give her some water she stayed still like a rock.

When I tried to give her food she stayed still like a rock.

We turned on a heating pad and put her on top, wait a few minutes, and try again.

She sniffed and sniffed and sniffed but she cannot eat. She cannot see, she cannot move.

So it’s blendered fish with egg yolk coming in through a syringe.

She sat there the same way for two days; then a wind storm and she somehow followed us to the front of our room and cry all night long.

It’s time, then. We took her and start her on medication to stop all the mange that makes her look like a stone cat instead of a kitten. Ten weeks old kitten who has to bid her life on the hot asphalt every day and bare with the cold iron of drain grille every night. Ten weeks old kitten who had just learned how to eat, but then eaten by mange, and left to fend herself, if she ever know how.

Ten weeks old kitten with eyelids so crusty she cannot see anything, nose so blocked she cannot smell anything, and mouth stiffen by the flea and the pain as colonies upon colonies of mange drew blood from the mouth that not so long ago only knows the soft nipples of her mother and the fluffy fur of the only creature she knew loves her.

When we cleaned her eyes enough that she can see, it was some sort of surprise. We are not her kind, but the hands she knew cared for her were ours, the voices that she heard were ours. So she followed us, because now the only creatures she ever knew loves her are us.

If only there is a kind of medication that we can apply once and for all, that she does not have to endure the creeping pain all over her anytime longer; but she was underweight and she cannot even eat. So we can only use spot on; one week at a time.

If only there is a kind of treatment that will set her free to the spring of her youth. If only we can alleviate her curse with just another spell.

If only it’s so easy; like pulling those piled up mange that makes her fingers twice as long, and prevent her from walking properly. We took a risk with that. We cut as much mange crusts as we can with nail clipper, so even though she cannot run, at least she can walk around.

The first thing she done after her feet came back was jumping onto our toolbox in the laundry room and seek warmth under our sun roof.

The rest that we can do now, is spot on treatment, one week at a time, over and again until she is all cleared. The rest that we can do now is warm, nutritious food three times a day or anytime she needs, and fresh water to quench her thirst always. Those won’t ease her pain, but hopefully will soothe her heart. Those won’t heal her overnight, but hopefully strengthen her to hold on until the day of her freedom.

The rest that we can do now is to sustain her long enough until she can turn the tides on her favor with her own strength, and be a cat again. The rest we should do now is walking her through until she can grab her second chance and restart her own life, this time with joy, hope, love.

~ Josie
The rest that we must do now, is to ensure we all live long enough to see Ava through and be cat she should be. We need USD 600 to stay alive, but raised only USD 254 at the beginning of this weekend. Help us go USD 10 closer to our goal with your contribution. Go here to help: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

MONTH LONG CRUSADE

So it all boiled down to this day.

Three months ago a friend told me that his girlfriend is working for a non-profit company that fundraises for other charities. He told me that they are looking to represent an animal charity aside from human and social requests, so he introduced Whiskers’ Syndicate.

Within a week or so they contacted me, told me about their program and how they would love to help animals as well, and that they are seeking if they can fundraise for us.

It’s new. Animal welfare is not even a thing until the past few years; and I am glad my country is changing. I was excited about taking part in showing more about compassion to animals and the works it encompasses; I was excited about sharing my experiences and have the younger generation be better, I was excited about showing the countless things people can do, where to do it, and how.

So I let the fundraiser signed me up, and their first cover story was Thelma and her past life as a dog fighting bait. I wrote the story myself.
The story blew up, and Thelma raised USD 20,000.

Every weekend, they will come to our shelter and take photos, shoot videos, having me standing in front of the camera to have mini interviews about running a charity and sharing experiences in caring for special needs cats – Thank God for Covid, I can wear a mask in front of the camera!

In the middle of the next month, they sent us about USD 1,900 that we spent to keep as many street cats as possible to stay alive during 4 weeks of complete lockdown.

Then they asked me if I have some programs that they can help fundraise. I told them my priorities at that time was helping pet parents impacted by COVID 19 keep their pets, and a massive TNR effort to tackle all those cats dumped on the street during the heat of the pandemic, for whatever reasons, before they breed and sink this town to the sea.

I have never heard from them again, though they keep coming to the shelter to take pictures and shoot videos, asking about histories of this cat or that cat.

The next month, they sent me USD 2,000 that I have to use to buy cat food, make them into 200 packages, which they will distribute to people who feed stray cats. Still in the same month, they sent another sum of USD 340 to be used by the shelter.

It didn’t ring well for me. They fundraise on our behalf, we pay comission, and they get to tell us what to do with the money we raised?
But as long as it helps the cats, I don’t mind.

Yet another month, they sent us USD 150, and ask me for yet another story to boost. They came to the shelter, took photos, make videos.

And then, that’s it.

Soon enough, people start asking, what are we going to do with USD 20,000. Some other thought they can just be plain and ask us for money. When we said we don’t have any, they retorted with their fingers on our noses, because everyone can see USD 20,000 very clearly under our name in the fundraiser’s website.

Very often I just challenged them back and ask them to call the fundraiser and demand an explanation about the whereabouts of that USD 20,000, because I have valid evidence that I have never received any more than the fraction of that money that they sent us.

The air is getting sourer by the day, however, so before someone decided to blow us up as cheater and fakes all over social media, I told them what was going on, and ask them where is the money.

They told me they did fundraise that much money, but they keep it for their own programs, like street feeding (exposed by the media), TNR (they want to have it in a shopping mall for exposure), and many other thingss.

None of those things pertain to us.

They fundraise using our cats, our stories, our photos, and they are keeping the money for their programs.

The girl asked me why.

I told them I need money to spay and neuter my own cats before they multiply in number and kill the whole shelter. Our place is too full. So full that we, they, can barely walk, sit, or even stand still, because there are always at least four cats around each of us doing whatever they want. We are threading a very thin line because once someone catches a contagious disease, we put 160 cats’ lives in danger all at the same time. And even if only half of them got sick, who will take care of them? There are only two of us running the whole thing, and we still have to work to feed everyone.

I told them I need money to expand the shelter and make more space for the cats. USD 20,000 is enough to buy a new house and all I need is a second floor.

And they are keeping the money they make using our cats and our shelter for their programs?

It’s a tough struggle. Struggle to contain my anger, struggle to control my emotions, struggle to find the light among this pile of sh!t and find a solution.

I cannot stop. I have to keep working, I have to keep moving, because if I stop, this whole thing will coup my mind and I will either cry, mad, desperate, or depressed, each of them will only drag me further away from my focus. This is indeed, difficult times. I am very lucky I can find a job and got to keep my online shop running while others found themselves thrown out there jobless and homeless, so I better stick to it so I can bring the whole shelter out of this crisis in one piece.

When I eventually regain my footing, I came knocking at their door again, ready to negotiate. If they want to use the money they raised using our cats and shelter for mass spay and neuter cats like what they see in Animal Planet, or Discovery or Facebook, that’s fine, but include my cats. If they want to use the money they raised using my cats and their pain and our shelter to buy cat food and give them to individual rescuers (whether they actually rescue or not, as long as they feed the cats), that’s fine, but help me buy food for my cats as well. I don’t care anymore who has the money, as long as they use it to help the cats, that’s fine.

They want to spend USD 3,500 to subsidize a cat owner to spay/neuter their cats. I ask them, instead of helping a pet owner spay neutering their cats, why not mass spay strays who breed out of control?
They said “We will. We will spay and neuter 20 cats”

The street cats I feed in one area alone is already close to 100, and they want to spay 20 stray cats?

I called contractors and ask them how much would it take to build extra floor on our shelter, and gave the calculations to the girl. She glanced at it and ask “What if we cannot give you as much as you want?”

This is what I wrote to her:

It is my ultimate home that the renovation costs can be covered in full. Our cat: Thelma, has opened the way for your organization to get into animal welfare community and her story have led you all the way to your current success. Thelma is the cat we care for with all our heart, spending our own money and our own effort. She has been the icon of your organization. I find it tragic that at the time when we – Thelma’s caretaker and home – need it the most, you withheld the money she raised and put us in such position where we have to beg for the money that supposed to be ours.

Her answer:
I truly understand you need, but with utmost humility, I cannot promise anything. For the time being all I can do is to submit your renovation calculation to my superior for his approval. Please be understanding. If we cannot give you that much money, there is no need to be worried. I will make another fundraiser for the shelter renovations, but please co-operate. I am grateful for all your contribution to our organization.

If it’s me, personally I want to help you with the renovations, but all the decision is with the chairman. I will try my best for approval.

Sheilla said, “Just look, they will look as if they are helping us, but they are just stealing your ideas, your network. Once they have all the access, all the good reputations, all the network you have been working so hard to build over these past ten years, that chairman will throw you down the drain”

I don’t have to wait to see. First they steal the money, then they steal the ideas.

It’s truly annoying that I have to play their games just to get as much as I can for the money that should belong to us, but if it can still benefit even just twenty stray cats, I will play the game.

God sent me out like sheep among wolves. Therefore I will be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

There is this proverb in this country: “[God] never switch blessings, what is yours, is yours”

Since even with my most sincere intention, I still don’t get what should be mine, it means, it’s not mine, or not yet.

Maybe I am searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots.

So let’s close one more door, turn off one more hope, and start walking.

~ Josie
paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

LIFE TAKES TIME

So we have this appointment, and we ‘d better be downtown by 3 pm.

Thirty minutes left, then, and random roadblocks and detours put by township doesn’t help, but make people who had to find their living grit their teeth more than less a little bit.

Sure, we get it. Limiting people movement and making the road difficult discourages people to go out, hence help contain the virus; but here, we don’t have social security. Meaning during lockdown, everyone lost their income and is forced to eat from whatever is left in their homes. Now that we have this new life adaptation (wearing mask everywhere, washing our hands), people bear with Covid and go back to their job, if they still have one.

I’m lucky to have the best motorbike rider in the world. Even in a jammed packed road we slip between the cars, left and right like water flows through the rocks in the river.

Except when we swivel into that small alley to cut the way. We stopped almost abruptly at the roadside and suddenly forget about meetings.

Smart thinking people go to that alley. Bicycles, motorbikes, taxis, large cars, trucks, even, to cut a mere 15 minutes off their journey, that might mean the whole life for them.

The whole life for me is that cat. Crumpling under a parking car, like a thrown away rag and tatters. Bloody face, hole on the nose, filthy, fur covered with motor oil, bad eyes, waiting to die.

And it’s God damned difficult to cross the road a few steps wide, because everyone is in the rush, and no one gives way.

A parking lot guy blew his whistle and someone made way, eventually. I jumped twice and reached the other side of the road while Sheilla turned around with the motorcycle in a suddenly hectic alley.

I lay down on the road and start crawling under that car.

She peered and shifted further. I tried to catch up and she shifted further. If I keep trying, though, she will end up on the road.

So I backed off, ran back to the motorcycle, got myself some cat food and poured down what must be the only food she ever gets in who knows how long.

I waited long enough until she was completely absorbed by her food, grabbed her, and ran back to the motorcycle before her tantrums went out of control

Sheilla had emptied our backpack and there she went, angry and tossing.

We got to the meeting site half an hour late and my attire was nothing but dust and dirt, but I walked into the room with full confidence and extended my hand.

“Hi, we had a little bit of an accident so I am wearing the latest Prada instead of a plain old jacket and blouse, because I am Josie. How are you?”

And there she was, suddenly quiet, all the way through the meeting; all the way back home; all the way when we set her up to a comfortable corner, all the way when we clean her eyes, clean her bloody face, though we were still not allowed to touch that hole on her nose; though she still runs away and hides under the chair when we try to clean her.

Like life, things take time, I guess. Just like her taking her time trying her best to stay alive, even if it means walking though the sewer to avoid traffic, rummaging though small piles of garbage for a tidbit of food, and let bacteria eat her nose. She took time to hide as long as she needs, and even if that was not enough to avoid a broomstick hitting her back or kicking shoes into her face, she takes time to just sit in the corner, waiting for life to pass her by.

At least, after two days she let me call her name. There used to be a DA’s office there, so we call her Dea.
At least, after four days I can lift her swiftly and move her without incident when I clean her bed.
At least, by now she would sit near my feet when one of us prepared food.

At least she is home.

~ Josie
paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Do you see Dea’s eyes?
Help me light her stunning eyes with joy and love:
paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate