He wants to live, despite a broken jaw

We were all set. It’s two in the morning and it’s quiet as the grave; but ten minutes drive and life will be happening at the market. Farmers hauling their vegetables, chattering with others who will take their baton, and sell their produce in that market. Some have no care and park their trucks somewhere in the middle of the street, and the dawn will heat up with incidental name calling. The truck moved, the world is a better place, and life goes on.

Five cats are sitting right under me; their heads straight up, not to look lovingly toward the person who has been caring for them, off their injuries/hunger/sickness, and make them chubby fat as they are currently known, and cuddled (by everyone) but at my hand. Hand with three big and long strips of steamed tuna.

It’s their privilege. While their fellow mobsters inside the house eats only a maximum three times a day to prevent obesity (they are all sterilized and they are all fully indoor), our gang of indoor-outdoor cats can mob us every single time they saw the lunch bag. If we changed the bag, they smell the fish, anyway.

At the last chunk of fish, I squatted nearby to wash my hand with a garden hose and strategically placed sanitary hand soap that I have been providing free flow for everyone – especially those who will enter my house – Sheilla took sanitary wipes just to be sure we’re all set to see the world, now riddled with Covid.

This guy just run toward us, out of nowhere, screaming with a roasted voice, as if all hell broke lose behind him, and burns his tail.

“Who’s there?” I was far enough from the fence but Sheilla was just one step away so she opened our tiny gate and he burst like hell itself no less. He’s running around, he rammed on Sheilla’s leg, he rushed toward me with all his screaming croaks, and he scattered everyone’s much loved fish, as he runs around and bumps everything.

He must have had a death wish. No one trampled food all over, especially for the outdoor mobs, and not get at least a few fierce hisses.

I grab hold of him so he can stop making me dizzy with all his panic. Then we got a pretty good look on his face. We have questions and we have rolled eyes, we have so many of these boys coming into our property with every story in the whole world but his obviously comes from the worst of doom.

He has greenish pus running from his nose, he has saliva all over his whiskers, he smelled like oh-my-God, his eyes had sores and dirt.

He has his jaw broken in two. No literally, jaw split in two, one half of it snapped off from its joint, and all of the mess hold together by the grace of his thin skin that’s full of scratches, sores, and crusts of dry blood.

I took him inside. We have the whole town of colonies and feral waiting for us, bracing the cold and the drizzle, so I put him in Deliso’s pen (he’s out there somewhere in the backyard), gave him baby food, and get life going.

At dawn when we arrived back home, two hours later at dawn, he was charming everyone with his croaks and sore voice. Kittens lined up in front of his pen, looking in awe. The older ones wandered around trying to look ignorant, but their ears are set on the new wanderer, and we can only shake our heads as he gawks his welcome home.

We won’t be wearing our PJs that day. We wore our PJs at dawn until we wake back up at seven yesterday and the day before and hopefully the day after, but not that day. We cleaned him up, we checked for other wounds, we gave him warm fluid, and we helped holding his jaw while he gobbled down two egg yolks and a can of kitten food, like those handsome guys and fresh girls with their supposedly sexy sweats under the sun gulping Coca Cola on TV.

Our vets wondered why we would show up just a few hours after we left their clinic with Deliso the evening before, but they are not surprised. We always come up with something.

It’s just that this time, they do not have the equipment and tools to fix a broken heart, and dangling jaw for that matter. They gave us three other vets who we can choose for them to write a referral, and we should go see them asap.

None of them will cost us less than USD 750 and we don’t even have USD 75. So we go home. We keep him warm, we keep him hydrated, we give him antibiotics for his Respiratory infection, we gave him eye ointment, we keep him as comfortable as humanly possible.

The next step will be smothering him to rid him of his pain, or we sell our kidney in the black market and rid him of his pain.

No kidding. We always have a way out before, but this time all roads are cul de sacs. We live day by day scraping every penny and hope for miracle that we know will never come. Miracle only happens to evil people, corrupt officials, and devilish megarich. For them God exists, but small people like us can just go to hell.

We took two glasses of warm water. Maybe odd, but we don’t have coffee, or tea, or chocolate. If we are cold in the rainy, breezy days and nights like this week, we put on extra T shirt and a jacket, and drink warm water. Plus, we work.

Written on the gates of Auschwitz “Arbeit Macht Frei” – Work makes free. So work we do, and we smile and whistle to our doom still, because we are doing the work we most love.

And see if among those toils and efforts: an answer.

One of the referral vets we can choose is our kitty ambulance vet. It’s been what it feels a very long time, and we avoid going to her place until we can pay all our debts; but I took my chances, nothing to lose anyway, and ask if there is something other than at least USD 750 surgery to give this guy a chance.

She texted me back right away. “Hold yourself together, Josie. It is indeed a hard time, but think of the cat, we’ll talk about money later”

“I still have USD 300 debt to your clinic and I don’t know where to get the next bowl of food for tomorrow”

Sheilla called me from the other side of the door and when I peeked from within, she hold the guy in her arm, wrapped in a blanket.

“He wanted food, he finished two cans of Hill’s a/d, he purred, and then he can finally sleep in peace. Then he had a seizure”

Oh well.

There are these dozen of litter boxes needs cleaning and 160 bowls to wash. Floor to mop and cat beds to make; but we set up the heater for babies, make sure they are safe in their cribs and their mothers well attended, and drove forty five minutes to the border of town.

Veins in his front legs had collapsed due to severe undernourishment. The young first responder vet opened maybe half a dozen IV cathether until one in his back leg opened up and fluid can go in. A cat his age should be at least eight pounds (4 kilograms) but he is just a wee bit over four (2 kgs). There’s only a little blood can be drawn for tests and it shows nothing but virus and lack of this lack of that, but for further consultation we have to wait for our vet, who is still attending another patient.

There will be this procedure, like sedating him with a new technique called ISO something, and then put his jaw back together with wire. If he survives the surgery there will be feeding tube protruding from his neck all the way to his head where we will have to pump food, and he will eat that way until his jaw as good as new.

And all that cost us USD 850. “What do you think?” asked the vet. Down there in heating pad the guy had woken up from his seizure, is purring, and basking in pure love.

“He wants to live”

The vet looked at me. I know she is smiling behind that thick mask.

“He ate like a glutton, he took medicine without complains, he drank vitamins and supplements as if it’s a treat, and he chased us up and down the house if we gone out of sight”

My vet nods her head.

“And he uses litter box since minute one and never fails”

“Let us all see what we can do then. We will find something to pay him off. You have gone so far, Josie. Anyone with three big surgeries in a week would have been flat on the floor and beg for mercy but you get up there and keep walking. You never say “can’t” So I guess as long as we do not quit we’ll get to where we supposed to be, one way or another”

Just like this cat who came bursting out of nowhere in the dead of the night, I guess. Heaven knows how many closed doors he passed, but he kept going until he finds one open door. I hope that one opened door wouldn’t have to close.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

DEATH TRAP

I swear I’d call it quits. I am done with everything. It’s just getting harder and harder no matter what I tried, and that particular moment in life, it’s me against the world, and I was never so much convinced that nobody cares. By the way people were insulting me for what I do, by the way people demean me for doing what I believe, how I was belittled and cast out because I am different. By the way of their treatment, by the way they do things around me, I was never more convinced that I don’t worth anything more than my pennies, and I didn’t have any penny then.

Came a letter from a long time acquaintance, and its opening sentences are like thunder: ‘So now our story comes to a close. It is with extreme sadness that, when we shut off our lights tonight, they will not be turned back on tomorrow to the sounds of dogs barking or cats scratching doors. And, even though I feel a sense of personal failure that I could not keep the sanctuary going in perpetuity, I rejoice in the fact that Angel’s Rest saved over 500 animals that were facing euthanasia over our 12 years in existence.’

One more of my compatriots had sheathed her sword, and walked away from war.

I was the youngest of them all, those I know who fight (almost) single-handedly, saving hundreds of animals under constant ridicule, pressure, and deprivation; so I can truly understand how their age fast forwards in double speed. I know it first hand, how even the most youthful spring of energy can burn out so fast, how the confidence built around “You are not alone” notion goes back from dust to dust because every single second what we see is “I don’t care”. I know first hand how we almost always have to turn ourselves numb – only to receive more judgement from society – while our perceived lack of emotion did not mean we loved our animals any less. Releasing them from pain was all that mattered to us, no matter what the way – even death, ultimately – at the time and, subconsciously, self-preservation was what our mind and heart needed to keep on going.

When another chain of event went south for me that afternoon, left alone while everyone was busy entertaining themselves, I put down my phone, stood up, and walked to the hills. I know a cliff so remote and so high where I can disappear, and then the world will be a better place.

Just a few steps away from that edge in that quiet, green mountain, I walked past a small instant noodle box that cried just a wee bit.

I knew that cry. I knew it because I have been fighting for those cries over the past twelve years; but this time, I swear I’d call it quits.

But my hand somehow reached down to hold those four cold babies.

I know the world is an evil place, but evil wouldn’t go so far as to tear newborn kittens from their mother, and leave them in the quietest part of the mountain.

I looked up to the sky, with cloudy eyes filled with tears that has been running along the way.

I took the box in my arms, and looked at the clear blue sky below me. One of those friends who left the battle before me once said that I was the strongest among them all. They said I will stand far longer than they can ever be, and that my resolve is the purest they ever see.

Just a second before I passed the box, I was resolute to end this all and be done with life, and now it all crumbled at the face of one faint cry of discarded newborn kittens.

They were so tiny. They were so cold. They were so new to the world they haven’t even learned to suckle. We had to teach them to suck a cotton bud soaked with baby milk, and it took us two days until they learned that if they sucked, they live.

And my journey have not yet allowed to come to an end.

~Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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