Late night picnic

(with mothers of Pet Park Bandung)

Our previous Mayor (now governor) built the park for us for pet lovers to gather and have fun with their fur families. Some of the Bandung people do. More of them use the park for illegal activities, plotting crimes, and obviously as a dumping ground for animals.
By far the colonies (yes, plural) we care for in this park number more than any we care for all over the rest of Bandung.

We do our best to TNR them, but it is financially impossible for us to have everyone neutered in time without help. Send us message for local bank transfer or use the PayPal link:  https://www.paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate .

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A Lady

Imagine her, with her glorious, white fur. So fluffy, so smooth, so soft. A little dirty, perhaps; with speckles of stain here and there. She lives on the street, so there’s no helping it, but see the way she sits, under that chair on the balcony, eyes closed, chin up, ray of sun straight on her face.

I see a lady, no, a princess, heck, maybe a Goddess. A white Bast? May our Lady forgive us.

For a little while, and then she shifted, slowly; moved a little bit to the right. Not long after, a little bit to the left.

Something was off, though she did try her best to adjust. It’s her home; she lives there by the day and through the night, she stayed there through the sun and under the rain. Under a porch table with large umbrella, on a balcony of Kentucky Fried Chicken, just few steps away across the street where Mama Cherish resides.

From behind the clear glass on the other side, I saw those hints of anguish, almost unseen under her attempted elegance. I saw what went wrong.

The name is Covid. Covid-19. It just dropped by in March and turned her world upside down when all of a sudden that branch of KFC closed down. When all of a sudden rolls of plastic five times her size was there no longer. When all of a sudden even the putrid smell of the rubbish pile she would call diner evaporated. There was nothing there but barren concrete stained with rotten splats of dirt and filth.

Still she stayed. One day, two days. She can still manage to scrape off small stalls that practice ninjutsu and open in secret; rolling their tents and stack their stools pretending to be closed whenever the police would run.

Four days, one week, two weeks. One day, her humble heaven will return.

But I lost my imagination on what might be through the last three months. I just knew it must be horrible that she was so thin, there was nothing left of her but her grayish fur and that third eyelid half closed, no matter how much she tried to look ahead.

She stood, I stood; but barely one step. She just sat there slowly, because it hurts just to lay there on barren floor.

One minute, darling. One minute. I am waiting for my take-away and then it will be your turn.

I sling an empty fabric shopping bag on my shoulder and walked casually around the place to the door that brought me to her plain. I kneel in front of her and touch her paw.

She looked at me. Those darn third eyelids just won’t go down.

She tried to answer my greetings. Slowly, gently, like a queen greeting her subject kneeling before her, but those small, coarse voice was of the real her: mere stray cat killed slowly by hunger.

I lay my shopping bag in front of her, and then I lifted her, as slowly as I could, fearing I would break her in two, or tear her apart, because there was only that fur keeps her depleted structure together.

She can barely move. She can’t even meow. She just used the last voice she has when she greeted me. I took her shipping orders. Five minutes later and the road will be hell as people that survived the pandemic rushed into ‘new normal’ to regain their lives. My bet was right: people didn’t even notice.

The towel just a little bit under my dining table was a little bit dirty. Kids; they just can’t leave anything unturned; and I have dozens of them ready to wreck havoc until they are no longer kittens and become cats. No guarantee, though.

I lay her there and put shreds of fish in front of her. She was eager. She wants to eat, but she cannot even lift herself. I shredded the fish smaller, and give her the liberty. She took forty five minutes just to finish chewing a few.

I gave her nutritious gel, I put water and pedyalite into a syringe and dripped it into her mouth. I put a blanket over her. She slept through the rest of the day.

When I finished working, thirty minutes toward dusk, I found her by the water bowl. When I finished one more chore, I found her somewhere else.

When I prepared dinner for all the house to enjoy, I found her in the kitchen, still sitting like a lady, but way, way to the back, with doubt over her eyes, and worried peeking behind her third eyelids, now a wee bit down.

I kneel again, in front of her regal seating; and this time she greets me like the Elven Queen from Lothl√≥rien clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad. I remembered the next part of the tale. It will say “‘I pass the test’, she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel'”

But she will not diminish. Not yet. She will not go to the west nor to the south. She will stay in our home, as humble and unacceptable as it is for a fair lady that she is, and flourish.

She will find again the strength that lifts her chin and close her eyes, a ray of sun on her face, but then that face will not be pale, it will be gleaming.

She will find again the dignity of her ancestors, that was passed down to her but robbed by ignorance of humanity. She will find again, the power and tact of a huntress.

She will find again, her dominion among us.

And just like that small passage of books of legends and tales:

Even among the Eldar she was accounted beautiful, and her hair is held a marvel unmatched. It is golden like the hair of her father and of her foremother Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold is touched by some memory of the starlike silver of her mother; and the Eldar say that the light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, has been snared in her tresses.

~ Josie

Should I call the lady Galadriel? But first and foremost, would you help me secure her chance to recover?
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Trust

Then, when I was a child, a pastor told me: “Trust is not gained, trust is given.”

I wondered, but I keep it to myself and move on.

When I was a little bit older, a teacher told me: “Trust is never given, it has to be gained.”

I have my own experience by then; so I wondered, but I keep it to myself, and move on.

Three months ago, at the beginning of pandemic lock down, Sheilla and I peeked into a closed sports center; under abandoned food carts that usually brimmed with sportsmen’s stories, cheers and exclamation. There should be the customary one or two strays with every food stall on the streets of Bandung, and we found three.

They all look the same. Same colour, same tail. Two females, one male. She has the saddest eyes among the three, and the shyest of them all. Though each has their own quarters, they always wait for us together. She always sat at the back, and took her share the last, after we walked back to our motorcycle and watched from afar.

At one point, lost in the jungle of my memories, she stopped coming. One day, two days, three days. We thought she probably got herself pregnant that season and was giving birth somewhere away from the chaos of the world, trying to raise her family in relative peace.

But then just when I started sending prayers for her supposed little family, I saw her. I saw her putting her whole life trying to keep standing, keep walking, closer and closer.

From the darkest of the night, I can see the glint of her eyes. They stare straight at me, but those was not fierceness, those were not hunger, those were not shyness. Those were pain, and fear, and desperation.

I came running at her. It never occurred to me that she might be running away, the blood that rushed into my brain was that something really bad was happening, and that she needed help. She trusts no one, but at the back of her voiceless mind she knew that if she wants to live, she will beat herself up and come.

She was either slammed by a vehicle, beaten with brute force, or crushed over, and half of her face were as good as destroyed. Blood dripping over dried streaks of red, from her crushed jaw, down to her neck, to her chest, and matted everywhere.

I didn’t know how she survived without a touch of healing, and still find strength to come to the place where she will hopefully find help.

If was freezing; and the wind was strong, but I took off my jacket and wrapped her stiffened body, frail and frozen, and Sheilla rode us like Hades in his chariot.

She crumpled under our sink. Day and night, and wouldn’t come out. She cannot swallow, and the only thing we can get into her is subcutaneous fluid, antibiotic shot, pain killer, and booster, booster, booster.

Three days, and her blood stopped, though it cost her all her weight. She was skin and bone then, but she can swallow, though only liquid. I mix honey and spirulina with warm water, and sat with her every drip of the way as much as she can bare.

Only one cc, no problem. Two days later, three cc, that’s wonderful, five days: ten cc.

At the start of a new week, I mixed baby food with broth and she started to stand.

Another week, I blendered chicken and broth, and she can walk. She start to resist her medicine.

At the end of the month, she ran away whenever she see me with medicine or subcutaneous fluid.

Sunday morning at 2 am, when I call it the end of my Saturday, I saw her walking slowly to the mat by my bedroom door. She laid down, her rear full of blood.

I thought something bad was happening, but Sheilla beat me into the answer: she had a miscarriage. She lost two babies. They were still just blobs of blood and tissue, but we took the two anyway, wrapped them in front of her, and buried them in the front yard, while she was watching on the shelf by the window.

It was unfortunate, but it is better that she lost her babies and has chance to recover without the burden of a pregnancy, than gave birth to two babies doomed with misfortune even before they were born.

She turns her head whenever we called her. I can almost see her sigh whenever she saw me with a cup of liquid food and syringe, but she wants to live.

She will not get better. Since she did not get the surgery she needs to correct her crushed jaw due to the lockdown ,and especially the lack of veterinary technology, her face will be crooked forever, and she won’t chew the way she used to, nor will she eat the way a cat should.

But why didn’t I take her to see the vet? Those who spend a lifetime rescuing will figure it out even before I wrote down the answer: she would be put down. Everyone will raise their hands, throw in the towel, then peer at the needle and that bright green liquid in the bottle at the back on the corner of the cabinet.

Most of the time, trust needs to be gained. Through candor and through time.

At a certain time, trust is given; which makes it more special, because giving trust is surrendering one’s life in the hand of a stranger. This cat, full of fear and pain, put the last of her life in my hand, so I will hold it in full honour and fight in her behalf with all my might until there is no more.

Will you join me and back her up?

~ Josie
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At sea

As part of the world is getting ready to call it a day, half of the other part welcomes the sunrise.

I cannot be more glad to do both.

For the whole week, when Sheilla has been taken off the bridge by Chikungunya fever; from captain to sailor, to navigator to deck soldier, I have been up, down and back again to keep the entire ship floating. Bonus challenge: on the days when wind is a wee bit kinder, I need to keep the whole thing cruisin’.

Now that my mate is out of danger and is recuperating, I cannot be more glad to call it the week. Sheilla will need several more days, or week, until the bad aftertaste of her virus has completely waned off, but it also means that today and forward, every day will be better than the last, and I cannot be more glad to welcome the new hope that comes with the next sunrise.

I am sending you all my apology for my sparse existence, for withholding the stories that have kept each and everyone of us on the edge of our seat, and for delaying the sigh of relief with every victory we made on behalf of abandoned, neglected, and abused cats on the streets of the hillside.

But far more than that, I would extend my gratitude even further, for you all who stand by in your faith and support, though I am almost nowhere to be seen. Trust me, I have been around (literally), just on different plains.

Though the waters have not yet become clear and calm, we won’t have the luxury of docking anchor any longer. With the hopes and chances for 160 cats at our shelter and many more on the streets, we will embark this new week with what force we have left and faith that out there, in the open sea, you will be our guiding light and guardian angels who will lend us the strength and perseverance to deliver these cats into better days.

~ Josie

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HAKUNA MATATA, GARBY!

Yet Garby made it a point to never lose anymore a beat of his life.

Nobody knows when he started to exist. What everyone knows was that he had always been around that landfill. Climbing left, scraping right, sleep at the corner, playing on the heap, missing one inch off the wheel of garbage truck that often put his peers to end.

It just so happened that he chose to lay and enjoy the sun in relatively cleaner place (well, there was no heap of rubbish) when he was spotted, taken, and found himself in a setting he never knew in his whole 15 weeks of life on earth.

Surely what was life for him then – dirty fur, filthy face, horrible smell, fleas of the whole universe, worms of entire planet- become unacceptable.

While he usually ate off the garbage bag, he now has to use a plate. While he usually ate what he wanted, he can now only have rations.

But what he used to know as “food” then, was completely different, and he likes his new place’s rations a lot better. Fresh fish, minced beef, ground chicken, scrambled egg. Kibbles ina large bowl he can swim in, and milk is just one heck of a terrorizing meow away. So “excessive” cleaning (as in bath) and “disinfecting” (as in deworming and flea medication) is acceptable, though never understandable.

He fits in just fine…

Not.

He climbs the kitchen counter, he charged on a full running grinder, he licks on the blades of the chopper. He spilt the whole bowl of (kitty) milk when he push one off the table because he cannot resist the wonderful smell. He tried to swim into a pot of hot home-made food, he walked through a hot stove (with effort). He swatted the little ones and took their food, he scratches the back of old ladies (and gentlemen) also to steal their food, and even though he was deep in the other side of universe during his sleep, as soon as he heard the spoon, or the knife, or the plate, or the cutting board, or whatever he knows associated with food, we can bet at the count of three he’d be right on the back of our hand.

Have anyone seen a cat fly? I mean, fly, like Superman off the edge of a tall building and up up and away? Garby climbed the kitchen cabinet and jump right down head first into the pot of food as it boiled!

I was too far away but there was a ladle in my had so I batted him off. He crash landed on a pile of plates, but at least he’s not dead. Me? Close!

This cat house on the hills become the cat horror house on the hills with screams from cats and human alike whenever Garby was on site with his eyes set on food.

That was the last straw that broke my back (we have no camel here, just me and Sheilla), so Garby stays locked in the bathroom until everything is safe to be trotted on or swum in.

I asked him how hungry he had been anyway, that he become so fearsome in his pursuit of happiness? He just looked at me with lips filled with cream cheese and I knew I’d never know.

It will just be a tug of war in patience; a level up challenge in anger management, or a life exercise in handling temper. Garby is a cat. A three and a half months old cat with no experience of good life, at least until he found us.

Just like what I thought would happen, one day he woke up with very bad indigestion that lasts for two days and cost him whatever food he gobbled down to the T.

Then, he changed. A little.

When I sat down on the floor, he sat with me. Quietly, neatly, with manners. No meowing, no hissing, no swatting, nothing. When I hold him he doesn’t squirm. He stays put and enjoy the view. When it’s time for him to go into quarantine, he walks into the bathroom and stays on the mat, right through the end.

If anyone was asking whether we tried leaving him around when we cook after his changes, we did. His demon came back to possess him and we’d scream our way in horror throughout the night, trying to keep him from killing himself and blow the entire house to ashes along the way.

Hence, until we find proper exorcism for his possession, he stays in the bathroom whenever we hold cooking utensils.

Hopefully someday he will realize that he is not going anywhere; and that he will find security in knowing (and remembering long enough) that he can eat whenever he likes, whatever he likes, and never to worry of hunger haunting him ever again. Hopefully someday he will realize that he has friends, not competitors. Hopefully someday he will realize that he has life, not struggle; he has family, not frenemy.

Hopefully, as fast as he learns his name (within 24 hours), he will learn that life is not always the hunger game, or catching fire.

Life can be Hakuna Matata.

What a wonderful day.

~ Josie

https://www.paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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Where we were, where we are, and our thanks to you

How long has it been, since the good old days? Covid 19 did not only bring change. It uprooted the lives we all know, and replanted it upside down somewhere else we barely recognize.

Through the entrance of the shutdown, early in March, toward the end of this June, I have barely known my home. At opening my eyes the first, after a glass of water, is bagging up as much cat food as I can possibly carry, the front door, and alley after alley, rows after rows of closed down restaurants – big or small, markets, hypermarts. From the outskirts of town, to the hall of the governor, the house of the mayor, to the end of castle like elites throughout the hillside.

Even if I still recognize the little faces who lined up behind my door as I go back home, either for just a sip of tea and reload my supplies, or to dole rations for my own, it was still seeing the world in a completely different lens.

Now that Bandung finally started to embrace the new normal: people peeking out, and lives gradually restarted, I am looking through the window of my bedroom to the whole hillside that still looks the way it was before everything, yet so different.

There was a sense of longing seeping in; of the days long gone before we know death were so close, but alongside it, a burst of gratitude.

Appreciation of the things that we all – I for one – used to take for granted. Fresh air in a bright Sunday morning. Peeking like little thieves out of my bed so I won’t interrupt the calming sound of cats purring in choir, the bubbles in boiling water, the stain of tea as it brews, just like the cloud moving across the sky.

How many have we lost through the pandemic? The lives that don’t matter to anyone. The lives that everyone so easily forgot; the lives who came to life as they heard the sound of my steps, our motorcycle, the clapping of Sheilla’s hands, or the chiming of her keys. The little feet who came running, so that they don’t run out of life, the rubs on our legs and arms before we stand back up, as tired and bedraggled as we might be, to wage the next war nobody would see.

But, how many walk through with us and live to see the new moonlight, and enjoy that same sunlight that now kisess my cheek? Mothers, kittens, teens, cast away. Those who started three months old and now reach adulthood. Those who just delivered a litter of babies now manage a ‘kittengarten’, those who timidly hide behind the furthest trash bin have now become a hunter. Those at the end of the queue to safety, now a survivor. Those who used to be clean, fragrant, friendly, now dirty, smelly, and alert; but strong and tough as their ancestors have always been.

Some days it is bitter, even in our own home. A small place by the hillside made for only 80 cats, forced to host 160 (real data, we do have 160 now). Some days a little bit sweet, but we hope the rest will be victorious.

Just a short while before the whole mess with SARS-COV2 began, Wei Ling was a 3 months old kitten, locked in a wooden box without an air hole, wailing for her life. This morning, when the last piece of strawberry landed on my pancake, she jumps like a heroine in the Marvel universe, with the permanent wink she attained in her early days after joining us.

I pick up the same cellphone that has been taking moments throughout my journey as a rescuer, and snap a picture.

I upload it now, pancake still on the kitchen counter – waiting for my crime partner to wake up – to share my gratitude with you; my gratitude for you.

Thank you for waging their unsung war with us; in every struggle, in every loss, in every gain, in all the wins. Thank you for your unwavering courage that gave us bravery, thank you for your never ending prayers, thank you for all your support, which have been the rock and mountains that kept us standing.

Some of these survivors will slowly regain the lives they almost lost. Some will stay with us until their turn comes, or grow old with us through the new normal until the next wage of war.

As we walk, hopefully still together, to the new world the Covid 19 carved for us, I am placing my hand on my beating chest, and bow to you all my respect.

And then, invite you to still walk with us, as we answer the pleas and prayers of many others still waiting in the dark.

Josie
paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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