Mobsters for Hire

Emergency surgery for Coraline

It’s not Coraline trying to be cute. It’s her trying to get some breathing space, and a way to ease the suffocating, often painful, weight of her belly off her crooked spine.

As Coraline’s situation is getting dangerous, our team of vets decided that they will not wait for Saturday. Coraline will have her surgery today.

Her S-shaped spine has pinched part of her intestine, so the opening on her colon is too small for a normal stool, even a soft one, to come out, while her X-shaped hind leg cannot support her when she is trying to use the litter box. All the good food that we gave her has piled up in her colon. Coraline’s filled colon is getting larger, and it blocks her urinary tract. For three days, Coraline cannot urinate, nor can she defecate.

She is in immediate danger of death by blood poisoning if her waste is not removed immediately.

Meanwhile, the weight of her belly (filled with all the urine and faeces) is a problem. We all know how painful it can be to have to lift a heavy object everywhere all the time. Coraline moves less, breathes shorter, and because she moves less and breathes shorter, she has lost appetite, and when she lost her appetite she lost weight. Losing weight immediately before surgery is not always bad, but she is a kitten, and she needs all the strength she can get to endure her long surgery.

It will not be as easy as cutting her open, get all the waste out of her, and sew her back shut, as if mending a broken rag doll, because she will get into the same danger again and again, because of her spine condition. Our vets will have to cut some of her intestines to make space in her abdomen, make a larger rectum, and move her kidneys a little bit to the side, so her urine can flow out better.

The surgery will also attempt to reduce weight on her spine, so Coraline can walk and move more easily. She will not be as tired, and there will be in no pain. Her deformed state aside, Coraline will be able to live normally.

It sounds much to me. Cut this and throw that away, but if it makes Coraline’s life a lot better, I will bare with it, and do my part as best as I can. If all of this means Coraline will finally have her chance in life, I will give that extra mile, and many more whenever, wherever it is needed.

Soon there will be a USD 600 surgery bill in my hand. More will come as I need to purchase her medicine, and more if she will need special food. With help of Kathie McMahon, June Madge, and Trish Geidel we raised USD 200 for the surgery. It will be a long USD 400+ to raise, but I am glad that my vets give me the whole weekend to manage.

If you haven’t already, please consider extending your helping hand now. Please consider a small amount of extra spending, as cost to alleviate lifetime pain for an otherwise helpless cat.

Please consider a giving Coraline a chance to live.



The day before the holiday: empty shops ready to close, lights in business offices gone out. The road jam-packed as people rush to go back to villages where they were born.
From 29th of April to the 9th of May Bandung will be dead.

But not everyone is going home.
Like years before, I said hi to the police officer stationed near the row of banks at the front of the complex, who will let me in to feed the stray cats waiting anxiously in their various hideouts. Though old and tired, his smile never fades, but that day he saw me rush back out as soon as I came in.

He can guess very well what I was up to, even when he cannot abandon his station to follow me. For years and years people in this town never change.

She is sick and she was pregnant. She was taken away from the place she called home, and abandoned in the back alley just before that SOHO complex closed.

She gave birth prematurely to two babies. One had dried and turned brown near her belly, the other made it; both his hind legs deformed, condemned to a hard life.

With every cry the baby tried to suckle, with every crawl the baby fought his hunger, the cold, the hard concrete, the hot asphalt, the scorching sun. She is a loving mother, but with her condition, she has little to give.

I know the baby tries to drink. I know it with every cry, but I don’t know why he can’t suckle. I don’t know why it’s hard for him to swallow. Every half an hour I drop one or two droplets of baby milk into his mouth, but that’s about all he can take. One whole week before the first vet clinic in town would open, but without veterinary intervention he wouldn’t last that long. This town does not have an animal hospital, we do not have an emergency facility.

In desperation I mixed baby formula with electrolyte, aside from giving the baby subcutaneous fluid.

As much as I can, I try to push the mother back up. While she tried, she cannot eat by herself. She can only take liquid food. I doubt giving her antibiotics because she is nursing, but without antibiotics her body wouldn’t fare well fighting disease, and even then she only has a few drops of milk that her baby must work so hard to get. Surely she gets supplements, including those people said to help mothers producing milk; but unlike a miracle, recovery does not happen overnight, even when I am more than eager and happy to rush her to the front of the line when the vets are back open next week.

Four days with us, day and night, every second, every minute, their hearts are still beating, the baby is still crying, their hearts are still beating.
They have not given up.

Every cry worth fighting for.

~ Josie


Imagine this: seven days before Christmas. The hectic day of going through traffic jam after traffic jam, here and there and everywhere, every time. But I need to buy extra stock so my shop can stay open through the holiday. The banks will be closed and I will have no access to donations until well after the new year.

Imagine this: six days before Christmas: the depressing traffic is just getting crazy, but I need to go to different parts of town. I need to buy extra cat food to last through the holiday, when everything will be closed. I need to buy extra medicine, extra supplements.

Imagine this: five days before Christmas: staying up all day, all night to keep up with Facebook and fundraising for the sanctuary. I need to raise USD 600 by Thursday to keep the mobsters of Whiskers’ Syndicate and their fellows on the street fed and vetted.

Four days before Christmas, I pass around that school one more time, and find her still sat by the gate, waiting. Waiting for the gate to be opened, waiting for the heart to be opened, waiting for the grace to be opened. I gave her food and picked her up, and a guard say “No, the kids are taking care of her” A bunch of elementary school kids who are not even at school every day, because we still alternate between online and off? Elementary school kids who can’t even spell “responsibility”? I put her back down, and go back in the evening. She is still there, by the gate, waiting.

I gave her fish, and put a cardboard box lined with rags and rugs. The kids are taking care of her? By leaving her by the gate the way they left her in the morning as they went into class? The security guard was watching me. I walked out of the property.

Three days before Christmas: she is still there, waiting. Waiting by the gate. Waiting for the gate to be opened, waiting for the heart to be opened, waiting for the love to be opened. I cradled her in my arms, and the security again said “No, the kids are taking care of her”
How exactly?
“Put her down because the kids are taking care of her”.

She has a bulging belly, and she looks OK. Some kittens are rambunctious and some other are calmer.
I put her down, I gave her fish, which she tried to swallow whole. Someone behind my ears whispered that it’s not right, but I have bills to pay and loans to settle, and I was two hours late because of all this traffic jam and people honking over the other.

Two days before Christmas, she was laying on her side. The same cat, yet completely different. She can no longer sit, she can no longer stand, she won’t even come closer for her fish.
Of course the security gave me his acidic face and venomous words of put-her-down-the-kids-are-taking-care-of-her.
“The kids can cry”, I said, with most mocking voice. I wrapped her with my jacket and tucked her in my backpack.

I called off all my schedules, and went to the vet.

Out of hunger, the girl swallowed something hard, like seed or twig or bark, and it got stuck in her colon. She cannot defecate, and even when she tried to push it out, nothing comes out but blood; fresh blood.
One week of hard work and fundraising, two choices: she dies, or the sanctuary dies.
It’s not a tough choice. We cannot save them all. One sacrifice should be made and is acceptable for the sake of the many.

I sat by my vet, took my deep breath, and she was cut open within half an hour. Four hard seeds (whatever seed were those), lots of bleeding, worms…

The kids are taking care of her? I want to punch myself on the face for believing in such bullshit and let her suffer so long.

It took her three hours to get out of sedation. It took her six hours to be fully conscious, it took less than three minutes for the EDC to wiped out everything from my debit card. We are on the verge of ten days public holiday and four seeds in a tummy of a starving baby left me with sixty seven dollars for 160 cats at home and more on the street.

Two days before Christmas, it’s just that it’s called Ramadhan and it’s an Islamic celebration instead of Christian.

Two days before Christmas; two days on the verge of at least ten days holiday and I am left with nothing to sustain the sanctuary. Why would I be so crazy?

See the picture below, and imagine this: she lays on her side by the gate of that school, in pain. No longer able to sit, no longer able to eat, no longer able to drink, waiting. Waiting for the gate to be opened, waiting for the heart to be opened, waiting for the love to be opened.

~ Josie


He was bright in that gloomy day, even between the hectic hurls of the traditional market. They started at 2 am, and must close by 7 the same morning. He was bright light yellow between the green veggies, the steel tables and all the garbage. He was bright as he begs from leg to leg, from the entrance of the hospital just behind the market, all the way to the door of the emergency unit. He was bright though his fur was dirty, he was bright though he is terribly skinny, he was bright even though his face told me he is tired, starving and lonely.

He was bright in his pleas for help, though the buzzing world around him had fallen deaf.

I turned back to offer him a piece of steamed fish, warm in my bag. Though we live hand to mouth every day, the cats in my care, in and out of the house, can have that piece of joy at least once a day.
He gulp it in two seconds and look at me. He was bright in his eyes and it’s loud enough to say. So I gave him a bigger piece, and walked away.
He followed me.

I brought him home.

He was bright as he found new friends. He was bright when he ran all over the house dragging things behind him. He was bright when he knocked things over and broke many. He was bright when he wrestled and bumped into the oldies. He was bright when he rolled over the babies. He was bright when he led his peers into mischief.

He was bright when he ran away to hide whenever his name sprang to the air: Captain!

He was bright when he followed the outdoor cats to the street around our home. He was bright when he roamed a little bit further, and further, and further. Bit by bit, he travelled further, met neighbor’s cats, met cat loving kids around the neighborhood.

He was bright when he started to refuse to go inside when the sky turned dark. He was bright when he made me chase him around the hillside, just to keep him safe. He was bright with his claw and teeth when I caught him. He was bright in his rebellious kicks. He was bright with those big eyes that snarl at me.

He was bright when he sneaked out of the house, and never came back home.

I left the house earlier in the morning to search for him. I was looked upon when I shouted his name over and over early in the morning. I go around the hill peeking into bushes and trees. I go around different places before I go to work and after I closed the business. I asked children whether they saw him. I stayed up late and go around once more, twice; third time before dawn. The shepherd abandoned his 99 lambs to find the one that’s lost. I abandoned 159 to find one that didn’t want to go home.

And far, far away down the hill, I saw a young cat sitting in the middle of the road; his head hanging low. He could no longer walk, not more than two or three steps. He can no longer meow. He was terribly skinny. He has eye infection, his mouth was full of sores. His ears dirty and smelly. He was so dehydrated his skin sticks to his bone.

He was no longer, no longer bright, when I brought him back home.

He has his blanket and even more. He ate the same food because it’s difficult for him to swallow. He has intravenous fluid, he has antibiotics for upper respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, lung infections, eye infections, so many infections. His ears cleaned with anti ear mite every other day, he was so thin he cannot get flea treatment nor deworming medication.

He has a slim chance to survive, but he is home now, so he can have the best care.

He was slowly bright again, after twenty two days when he started to sit by himself. He was slowly bright again when he started to drink. He was slowly bright again when he learned to stand.
He was bright again when he started to eat, when he started to gain weight, when he started to walk. He was bright when he roamed the house, when he joined others in their quest for a piece of steamed fish and chicken breast.

He is bright when he finally can run, when he can finally see again, when he can finally hear again. He is bright when he smells fresh air for the first time, after his homecoming the second time.

He is bright again when he takes his steps to the shop and meets the children who always cheer for him.
He is bright again when he sees the gate open, and sunlight rushed in.
He is bright again when he stepped out and felt the world.
He looks at me. He is free, he has the right to choose his way.
He looks at the sun, and the field across the street. He looks at the lush community garden where he used to hide. He looks at the waving trees.

He turned back to the stairs, curls up, and sleeps through the day.

~ Josie

Many of the cats like Captain do not have chance to find home and family, much less so the second time. While I might not offer them mine for the time being, help me give them comfort and care to ease their life.


A ray of sunlight fell upon her and on her alone. The one hallowed by heaven, though her road is dark, and her day never comes.

She listens and knows the river far behind is trickling far and deep, she listens and hears the bird chirping. She listens and finds the squirrels dashing, prancing from branch to branch. Their new day has come.
She smells and know that the fog has lifted. She smells and knows the rain has stopped. She smells the earth, damp from rain, she smells the leaves, she smells the dew ascend back to heaven.

Soon that one light that became her throne will rise, and all will be bright.
Though her road is dark, and her day will never come.

Today I sit by her throne. Not as her mage, not as her sage. Today I am no wise man, even as I come with offerings. First is a fragrant steamed fish on a silver platter; a platter made of paper.
Second is a robe for her holiness, red like wine, soft like velvet; the jacket that withholds cold and drizzle for me, all night long as I journeyed for her people, around and many miles over.
Third is a whisper; whisper of different commons.

She stands up, gazes upon me. She smells and take a bites of my offering, and accepts it gladly. She feels the robe and is not as happy. Perhaps the robe is too big, maybe it’s too heavy; but, she takes it to the least. She listens to the whispers and wonders.

Here or there and everywhere; what difference does it make? A new beginning? a better life? hope for deliverance?

Still she puts her one tiny paw on my hand, should she be able to feel my intentions, read my thoughts. Still she looks at me.
Though her road is dark, and her day will never come.

She listens and feels the morning breeze. She listens to my heart beat. She smells as we walk to the promised land.
Though her road is dark, and her day will never come.

A ray of sunlight fell upon her and her alone. The one hallowed by heaven.

It’s a different commons. Halls of many paces, children running across spaces. Mothers sat by, others walk by. Different kind of food, various kind of smell, all in different platters. Not paper, not glass. Fresh water, still and near, unlike the river.
She listens to the outpouring rain, but does not get wet. She listens to the many steps but does not get kicked. She listens to the wind, but does not get cold, she listens to cling and clank, and rises.
The time has come.

She smells her people gather, she listens to their footsteps, she finds her place. The warm ray of light that was her throne was no more, but the thick rug that is her new found throne is there.
Count to ten. Count to twenty, and then the noise. Everybody has their share, so will she.

A fresh steamed fish on a platter, warm chicken breast at time, no bones, juicy and tasty. Soft egg and milk scrambled with butter. She dislikes the beef.
Sometimes, it will be that liquid. The smell is sweet, yet the taste bitter. Sometimes she hates the rub on her nose, she hates those drops of a certain water. The smell is not nice. One time she tried to lick it, what was left that ran down the bridge of her nose, but it’s just as bad in its taste.

Maybe those are worth the new commons. Or is it not? She feels better, no more sneezes, no more cough, and no heavy burden as she took her breath, and throw it back out. She can smell better, she can sleep better, she can drink better.
No more pain on her tummy, or gasses and air that make her uneasy. No more itch and bites on her skin, and those prickly bushes where she sleeps. All at the cost of a few un-pleasantries. Though her road is dark, and her day never comes. Though her road is dark, and her day will never come.

A ray of sunlight fell upon her and her alone. Tonight I will sit by her throne. I am no wise man, but I will come with an offering. A few more days of bitter tasting, sweet smelling concoction for her pneumonia and bronchitis. Few more drops in the eye to rid her of an infection that ravaged both her eyes and banished her into eternal nightfall. That tingling drops between her shoulder blade is once for now. Two injections were done and they shall make her better.

She can live easy. She can be with her people, among soft furs of mothers of her choice, big brothers and little sisters. We should wait for a little while, until she gained weight, then not for long she will be free from all parasites, cured from diseases.

Then she will know the taste of many more foods, the fragrance of many more delicacies. If the floor is cold, or the windowsill where she loves to stay has turned windy, she can always find her way to the many beds across the hall of many paces.

She will always be my lady, even if she is only months old, and I am many years over.
Though her road is dark, and her day will never come.

~ Josie


I stood there in silence, trying to smile, courtesy.
And he looked at me, angry.

“She is my cat and I love her so!”
I walked away.

He chased me, screaming obscenities, telling everyone I am stealing his cat. People looked, but no one even cares, some look away, pretending to see nothing, hear nothing; hence, say nothing.
“She is my cat and I love her so!”

I climbed the motorcycle and rode away. He chased with his truck, still swearing, still screaming.
“She’s my cat! and I love her so!”

But that cat was thin, skin and bone. Her fur matted, covered in motor oil, covered in dirt. She is always drooling, and she cannot eat without meowing in pain.

She has sinus, and her thick phlegm turned green, sometimes with blood. She has a cough, she has asthma, she has parasites, and piles after piles after piles of fleas.
She is three or four years old but weighed only one pound and a tiny bit more.

It’s the gash in the middle of her tongue that will not heal after a week of treatment. It’s that gash that causes her pain every time she eats and drinks. She drools incessantly. She drools over her food, she drools over her drink. She clapped her mouth when she sits idly, and as much as she loves it, she cannot eat dry food, nor something harder than baby food.

My vet said, she ate something hard for a long time. Chicken bone, beef bone, goat’s bone, fish bone. She drank dirty water mixed with drops of motor oil. The damage might be permanent.

She chases food like a zombie. She jumped over the hot stove for a slice of meat. She hunted over scraps of food others left behind. She was mean to even the feeblest cat and youngest kittens.


But cats and kittens of all shapes keep coming to her, snuggles her, sleep around her. Some give her their food, some moved over and let her drink first.

Eventually, though very slowly, she gains weight, she sees better, way fresher, has energy.
Eventually she learns to let me clean her drool, clip her nails, change her bed. She learns to let me cut her matted fur, she learns to let the kittens play around her.
Eventually she learns to sit with others, groom the youngsters, snuggles with the terminally ill.
Eventually she will respond to one of the various names I tried to offer her. For the time being, she only responds to “Mama”
Eventually, she will learn to be a cat.

And we love her so.

~ Josie