I only have one hour, but the boy stopped me dead in my tracks.

Under the blistering wrath of the sun that noon, he walked past like a zombie in the dusk. His face shriveled, his mouth open. His face darkened unevenly though it glisten with lingering sweat.

He is tired, he is hungry. Every once in a while his head would swing and he’d be looking at the dusty road, maybe looking for bits of reasons, things, any, that will give him some power so he can walk a little bit further. In front of him, his mother walked silently, sight to the ground, with a sack full of rubbish she collected for a wee bit of life.

His cat behind him, however, looked straight to me, at least for a minute; a few seconds with curiosity, maybe a glint of hope, then he turned away. He knew man, woman, girls. Some of them will smile at the sight of him, some with coo, none will change.

I ran back to the bank. I still have 20 Dollars left there. Not enough for anything.
But really?

They are still there, mother and son, sitting on the edge of the pedestrian by the corner. The sun was unforgiving, the trees not much helping, the wind was ignoring. The boy took his kitten off his bag and the mother cradled him like a baby, then put him on her lap.
“Ma’am, do you have a minute?”

They looked up and find my eyes. The rest of my face was hiding behind the blessed mandatory mask.
“There is an empty building, just a few steps away over the corner, if you have a minute I would love to share these with you”.

There was that empty building, the office of a printed newspaper rolled to die by technology. Part of the terrace are covered, but while there is no seat, the sun aren’t that burning.
I laid in front of them, two bags of rice and some dishes. Two bottles of cooled water. A can of biscuit and two more bottles of water I tucked away to their side.
While they eat still with their eyes widened, I feed and play with the kitten.

After Covid, the boy and his mother have become the new normal. People lost their jobs, people lost their homes, people lost their family. Life goes on, but it will never be the same again.
Here and there people are helping, but two years and counting, there are those who went deeper into the crevice, and many more eyes who can only look away, or want only the sight of better days.

While The Whiskers’ Syndicate already has a bag full of things to do helping street cats around town, it has silently put one more in its sack: helping those run over by the wheel of fortune who keep their pets.

Last Christmas a dear friend asked me the best way of helping, and our fellows from Rikki’s Refuge have generously donated USD 1,000 toward the street cats.
With that grant, I have spayed and neutered 25 stray cats, brought previously inaccessible vet treatment for cats whose parents lost their income, medicine, make a safe space for about eight pregnant cats dumped by their owners and keep them safe until their babies can be weaned (and fix the mother), and help buy cat food and supplies for those displaced by the pandemic, like this boy and his mother.

Indeed a thousand Dollars goes a long way, especially in countries like Indonesia, for a town like Bandung, but as far as it may go, it can only do so much. By the beginning of February most of them but USD 15 was gone.

I turned to the boy by my side. That sun-burned face won’t heal that much, but there is a little smile now, on his then pale lips.
His kitten had came back to his big brother.

I gave him two bags of cat food, wet and dry, a bottle of water and two small bowls.
His smile only grew, and he bid me his farewell with footsteps brand new.

We can’t save them all, sadly.
I turned away and go home. I only have one hour, and I am already twenty minutes late.
I can’t save them all.
But I can save one more.

~ Josie

help me help people like this boy and his mother keep their kitten, and help me help other cats like this kitten, who does not even have the boy and his mother.
We cannot save them all, but we can save one more.

Life-saving gifts

Cats exploring boxes containing gifts to help keep them well.

I can’t believe it was me writing this note below just a year ago. COVID had started and it brought a tsunami of hurt and pain everywhere, not only on our economy, but also in my personal being. As the rut and rot that the pandemic keep beating us – me – up with, I become darker and darker. I no longer cared about pleasantries, the way people around me (here in Bandung, Indonesia) lost their kindness toward others. I am more uptight, the way people around me (here in Bandung, Indonesia) turned into savages that look toward others with prejudice and hateful eyes. Two years of pandemic had turned this country and it’s people into medieval poorlings that were ready to jump, lunge, and rip others in the Colosseum, cheered by onlooking strangers, hoping that those audiences whose faces they would never know would throw gold coins to their bloody hands.

But a package like the one in the picture arrived last week, and then I re-read this past version of myself, shared by my most wonderful, caring, loving mother hen. One of the first people who became my friend as I explored the internet to seek salvation for the cats in this bloody hell Bandung, Indonesia, and never left my side throughout the light and night of The Whiskers’ Syndicate, 12 years straight and counting.

These touches of kindness, of love, of care, somehow reminds me of things I used to believe with all my heart: that friendship exists, that kindness prevails, that love triumphs. That even if I cannot see the moon, there are friends, followers, supporters, donors, administrators, family on and offline, who turn into stars across the sky that light my darkening way.

Each of these small bottles of vitamins, supplements, immune boosters, kitty formula, sweater, bag, scarf, donated by many different persons, feels so warm to my touch. And when I open it, I can hear the whispers of love and messages of hope from many miles across the ocean. Thank you everyone. I said this quite literally: without you I wouldn’t still be standing today.

Thank you for reminding me of the person I used to be, of the person I want to be, and the person that I really am.

Thank you for the kitties who continue to live to brighten every day.
~ Josie

PS: Do read the little piece below. It’s is very relevant, especially today.

8 February 2021

Though Bandung has been raining for three days straight, our little cat house by the hills is brimming with warmth and joy.
Coming through our door was a large box filled with supplies, medicines, toys and blankets. Food supplements that are essential for the cats but are either not available in Indonesia, or financially restrictive to obtain locally have been made possible through your donations.
Most of our kindest supporters usually donates USD 10, but those who cannot afford to give the whole 10 donates 5, and those who are in trouble but do care donates 2. Those who cannot donate money donate their Amazon credits, gift cards, or shop points. They purchase one bottle of supplement or vitamins, or medicines, and pool it at our friend Christine Stewart who then sends them off to Bandung. Those who do not shop online crochet blankets, knit cat sweaters or sew toys.

Since the start of Covid, salvation packages like this have become few and far between; but it is in such scarcity that these packages becomes more important, more valuable. At this moment we are housing 160 cats and kittens and newborns. More than half of this 160 cats are disabled. They either have lost a limb, organ impairment, genetical defect, incurable disease, or either too old or too young to survive. We took the sickest, the oldest, the youngest, the poorest, in short: the hopeless; the least of the least of our brethren.
Just when we finish opening this box, the pack of insurgent flooded our tiny living room, so we humans have to run for our lives.

Are you smiling? This picture is our way of saying thanks. This picture is the mobsters’ way of sending gratitude. This frozen moment in time meant to transcend through time and space of the hope and life that you all have helped to happen. The miracle that you all have made real.
This picture is undisputable evidence that no matter how small, no act of kindness is ever wasted.
May God returns your compassion in abundance.
~ Josie


As result of a fierce hailstorm and two days rain three weeks ago, our shelter is in need of immediate repair; so we set out to find a recommended, yet affordable repairman. We took all of our savings, and for the first few days, all was good.

Near the end of the contract, we had a rainstorm. A rainstorm with an ugly truth: all of the places we told him to fix were still leaking. Nothing had been done, just a few cheap tricks and shortcuts that will not withstand another day

By the way, we have a lot of rainstorms.

In exercising my right to an explanation and responsibility, I received the very common reply I received from Bandung men: That he has 15 years of experience, that he had build over twenty five houses on his own, aside of countless repairs, that he knows what he was doing, and whatever the heck he was about to do.

And that I am a woman, a younger, so I should shut my mouth and accept the end result.

Perhaps he lost his mind, if he had one in the first place, but for sure I lost my temper.

For the next few days since, we were on the roof every morning, for as long as we can before our duty calls or the rain comes.

Duty calls, as in caring for the cats. We have several that have lived past their prime. Just like humans, some age gracefully, some went through the road a little bit bumpy.

I lost Kinta, picked up from the dumpster dirty, hungry and sick as two months old, and grow up to be seven. In more sickness than health, he was a big brother to many kittens, some see their adulthood and look up to him until his passing.

I lost Freed about a week later. I went under a parking car to get him out of the engine compartment before he become minced meat. He fit the palm of my hand then, he outgrew my arms six years later. He got chronic respiratory problem, but he lived free and crossed the rainbow in his own term.

There were also several babies that we took from the street, and we kept them despite their incurable illnesses. If we cannot give them their entire lives, we can give them as long as they want. If we cannot give them prosperity, we can give them all we have, that instead of dying an orphan among the garbage of men, the rain that made their rainbow bridge were love, joy, acceptance, and security.

Drowning slowly in the quicksand of grief, I withdrew deliberately from the world to catch a breath or two. It’s a risky decision. I know that if I stop showing up for just one day the rest of the world except a handful will abandon our page; but I also know that if I just keep going without a mend, I will continue shedding a part of me until there is none, while there are still so many waiting for the touch of love they probably denied for life.

Or is there really any such thing called hope after all?

One cloudy afternoon a man walking down the street, oblivious of the four little feet trying to keep up behind him. That tiny kitten lost her liege, eventually, but there was another man with a basket full of tofu that he wants to sell for a living.

So there she went, chasing and chasing, until her two pairs of tiny legs lost all their power, and she stumbled on the road.

When she stood back up, there was none.

It took me a while to cross that dense road, because none of the passing vehicles gave me way; but when she saw me walking toward, her eyes set alight and blaze with the only one thing she remembers: hope.

Maybe, this time, if she tries hard enough, she will follow me home and hopefully find her mother, or at least someone to watch over her.

She tried to eat and she learns to drink. She sees others jump and found herself up high. She waited too long for someone to copy climbing down that she falls asleep on the kitchen counter, among dirty laundry, under a box, in a basket.

But this time, when she stands back up, she is never alone.

As I tucked her to sleep tonight, I remembered Moses. He was walking alone and he stumbled, but he stood back up and keep walking, so God opens the Red Sea just for him.

I remembered Jesus. Though He was the crown prince of the kingdom of heaven He walked alone and stumbled, but He stood back up and carried His cross, and God has given him the best of places where He rules alongside his Father.

I remember Miso. She is just six weeks old. She only has four tiny fangs; others have not grow. She didn’t know hunting, she did not know scavenging. She did not know where to get some drink, she does not know where to find her mother. She walked alone and stumbled, but she stood back up, and keep on trying, as much as she can, as long as she can. Now she lives among others, with food available as soon as she needs one, with fresh water all day long, with roof to protect her from rain and sun, with love showered upon her every day, every way.

I look to myself at the mirror. I came to this town with nothing but my person. I went to hell where people are ignorant and animals suffers through one end of life to the other. I cannot save everyone, but I can save one, then the next. I cannot make them live long and prosper, but I can give them the chance. I walked alone and stumbled, but if Moses stood back up, if Jesus stood back up, if Miso stand back up,

I should stand back up myself and keep fighting.

~ Josie



Down by a corner of the gas station, he sat on his side, waiting.

Waiting for the mother whose face he would never recognize, waiting for the touch of love he had never come to feel.

George Braille, second in his name, is six weeks old and is blind. We would never know whether he was born that way, or whether a bacterial infection, which so commonly attacks street cats in this town, damaged them beyond repair, or whether the darkness that befell him was a misfortune out of foul play.

What we knew is that he would never have survived too long out in the open, at the leg of that gas pump.

What he knew is that he had the touch of a foreign cat; though it must be not the smell he knows.

What he knew is that he had the bosom of a loving mother, though it was not the warmth he knows.

But if a kitten had a wish, he would want to wish his own mother. If a kitten had a way, he would cry day and night, calling and calling, waiting and waiting. He would stop and eat, he would fall asleep, he would try his best to follow too many different steps going all directions at the same time; and if one stops right before him, he would ask for the life he should have.

He would learn, eventually, that he will never have the life he should have. He would accept that his world is totally different, and it’s not just because it’s all dark. He would grow along many that have similar smell and one day, brave enough to mingle.

He would learn, eventually, that instead of a pinch on his neck, he has cradle and kisses.

He already learned that if he sit by our foot long enough, we’d give him a lift and carry him. He learned that although he loves fish, chicken can be nice at times. He learned that a fresh water is always ready, just a few steps to the north east.

He already learned which arms gives him a lift and carry him on her shoulder, and which other hands who hold him, carried him to a place called “studio” and let him draped over her thigh as the constant clacking sound would drift him to sleep.

He will learn, eventually, that love can come in many different vibes; and as long as he wants to see through it, his life will never feel dark.

~ Josie



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

She was only ten, but those ten are exceptional.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was the sickliest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ainu, this is your permanent home”

She held her head high.

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

She held her head high.

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

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

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

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

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

She held her head high.

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

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

She held her head high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She held her head high.

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

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

~ Josie

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

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

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

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


1001 NIGHTS (3)

Let me introduce you to Brigitta”, that whatsapp text read; “She is young and energetic, and have a heart as big as you are”

I wonder.

“And she also lives in Bandung, I think you will be great friends”

I haven’t really started to reply, because I was standing under bus shelter with the whole bags of minced meat for the cats.

Anyway, the contact number was sent in the next few seconds.

I left it as it was. I have guest coming in the next two weeks and my house looks more like a hoarder’s den than a house. It’s not arrogance, it’s urgency.

The same evening, that SJ dropout I came to know while helping our suffering tribes wrote again “She will have her back surgery tomorrow. I am sure she will appreciate if someone send well wishes”

We don’t know each other at all. Maybe he will be happy about it, but everyone is different. I, for one, won’t be all so happy if any stranger pop their smiley face on mine even though it’s just for well wishing. They will have my gratitude, but further step needs time.

The next day, another whatsapp message “Josie. please be sure to message Brigitta. She needs a lift”

Oh jeez, I am a blogger, not socialite, but if it will really make someone’s day, fine.

I sent a message to the supplied number, tell Brigitta who I am, and how I come to get her number, wish her well, and go on flushing cat craps down the drain.

The minute I myself got flushed down by the storm and ran to the next available lodging, I got a phone call from unknown number.

Not quite; it’s Brigitta.

She said she was having an issue with her private nurse, and that the nurse ran away, and that she will have surgery the next day and she has no one. She lives alone and her family members are all far away.

She was embarrassed to call just anyone she knows asking for help, but she desperately need to have a new nurse by the time she is strolled out of the surgery room.

That’s why I was up the whole night trying to help this stranger, otherwise I won’t hear the mama cat crying for shelter in the middle of the storm, nor would I had that chance to climb the roof and blew my adrenaline off to the moon to help a little kitten whose both eyes glued shut by pus.

Through the night she just called me over and over, apparently because no one else responded to her mayday. Throughout the night she tried to give me a crash course on how to be her nurse, although I told her over and over to just leave it to me, concentrate on getting herself some rest and be fit enough for surgery. I don’t feel like bragging about who I am, but I did send her in one of our chats that I am a psychologist and a paramedic (hence please know that I know what I am doing)

Instead of just going on with my heaps of things and bad weather and cats getting sick and need to be fed, I took some time to come to the hospital and meet her. I thought it will be a small gesture to make her feel better.

She asked me to do this and that, each one with an apology because we just knew each other and she already treat me like her nurse.

I told her it’s OK.

Then somewhere around afternoon she told me I can go home for about 3 hours, and then come back to the hospital to help her.


I told her I have work to do and that I will do my best.

I went home, which took about 2 hours drive (traffic), get myself something to eat, and take care of the cats. I went to the colony, and straight back home because the little kitten is getting worse and I want to be by his side.

The next day she whatsapp me, but I was scrubbing litter boxes and left my cellphone on the table.

I found gazillion of miss calls when I picked it up.

I called Brigitta and asked her what she needs.

She asked about the nurse and I told her I already made an appointment with several providers to meet at the hospital in the afternoon when I can spend a little time there but she can choose one that suit her needs herself.

She asked if I am going to go there in the morning and I told her I have jobs and chores and if she needs anything, she can just call for hospital nurse.

She insisted that I would stay by her side because she cannot move so much and it hurts et cetera and that she needs someone to help her.

I said I would when I am done and hung up.

I need to go to the other side of town to pick up medicine and supplies before the rain fall so I did just that.

I showed up in designated time for her nurse interview and she was not so happy about it.

I know that back surgery (lumbar) not suppose to move that much but that doesn’t mean she has to stay still like a mannequin. That’s OK though, I understand. It must be excruciating to be all of a sudden tied to the bed, with pain, and no one around and all the people you can call is just teen nurses who are more busy with their own cellphone than attending to the patients who pays their salary.

She interviewed a bit and rejected everyone.

And then with a soft warning tone, “Josie, all the nurses you call were professional with experience. That’s good, but I don’t want too professional nurse because professional nurse means they will be boss. No, I hire them, the algorithm is with me and what I want them to do or not do is up to me”

I start to have a feeling that she really needs a maid, not nurse. I shrugged.

She told me to do this and that for a bit, then I noticed it’s 5 pm, so I’d better go home and prepare dinner for the cats.

She told me not to because she wants me to call several more people, but I smiled, apologized, and walked out.

She sent me messages about this provider and that provider while I was on my way home, with motorcycle, under the rain.

When I unlocked my front door she called. I picked up.

“Can’t you hear my message? Can’t you reply? Answer me when I call!”


“I don’t have car, lady. I took motorcycle, it’s raining, and I will reply to your message when I am free to do so. What do you want?”

“There are these providers I sent you messages, and I already called, but I want you to call them again and re-confirm because I want them to come tomorrow and they all said they will work on it but most likely Monday. I want them to come tomorrow”

Of course not.

“Tomorrow is Sunday, Brigitta”

But I just keep stretching my patience and run two rescues at one time. One at home, the others are at hospital.

Every single time she is stressing about “The algorithm is with me”

Why don’t she go and ask Facebook already then? Or Google? They are expert in algorithm.

The next Wednesday I stood by her bed, watching her rejecting all other dozen of candidates, and when she looked at me I said “You need a maid, not nurse. You don’t talk to nurses like that, they have degrees like you and I, they have education, they have profession, and they have oath to stand by”

Her face changed. She opened her mouth, but mine was faster.

“I have spent half week with you and nothing is done. It is apparent to me that you just want to run people around despite me telling you that I have schedules, jobs, chores, and businesses that I want to attend. I allow you to intrude to the middle of it all, and cause me stress, and I have been stretching my patience with you because I am trying to be kind”

“We are strangers, technically and practically, and despite your thank yous and apologizes you just come right back again two minutes later with your orders and I have been kind enough to be your maid free of charge just because I happen to understand perfectly what you want and what you need and give it to you before you ask for it. I want to end it before I gained confidence that you are actually trying to just keep me by your side because you can command me around without pay”

“I am not saying this because I want money, I say this so you understand that it is inappropriate and impudent to abuse the kindness and generosity of others”

“I have life to keep running, Brigitta; MY life.The “algorithm” of that life is not and will never be yours under any circumstances”

If she does not have that pride she’d cry. I know it from the look on her face.

“I have time for one more interview, and then I will hands off”

She interviewed three more and pick one.

She still messaged me wanting to change my transport and my food and whatever bread and diapers and vitamins she asked me to buy, but I never replied. She called me but I never picked it up. I have sick kittens, the weather is getting worse, my house needs to be done, and I only have literally 5 days 17 hours to do so.

For a moment I was a celebrity. Everyone was fighting to have Josie including Josie.

I know it then why celebrities, despite the fame, and all the money, and the glitter, and all, still hang themselves out of depression.

And I haven’t been posting for days because I just keep running and trying to get everything done before that plane landed Monday afternoon and my life would probably never be the same.

Nellie slipped into the bathroom when I was doing a little business and sat beside me.

She used to have my shoulder. She used to have my hi-s and pats. She used to tap my arms and get a lift. For a few days she has been trying to do just that but I just run past her with apologies with food, or whiskas, or garbage, or mop, or working bag, or talking on the phone.

When she followed me out of that bathroom she has my shoulder and I was never happier. When I scooped that litter box Sam keeps bumping on me and I was never more glad.

When I lift those little snorting and coughing babies and when they peed or diarrhea at me I have never felt more at home.

I fit in that hospital, by the bed, understanding, listening, helping.

But here is where I belong: around the litter boxes, hauling smelly poos, and runny noses, and hungry meows.

We don’t need algorithm.

We have each other.

~ Josie