To Infinity and Beyond

I have lost one of my best friend today, and her passing left me blank for a couple of hours, though the moment of loss happened only for a few minutes.

Such is her impact in my life.

Her name is Dr. Who; after a TV show in Europe that I never see. But people and especially young women and moms’ club are fawning over him, or the show, whichever comes first, so I read about it and kind of figured out what the show is about.

Such is how I come to remember that name when I meet her: in a phone booth; it’s just that I found her among the rubble of an abandoned phone booth. Playing. Alone.

It was just beginning to rain and I want to board the next transport home so I won’t be late for the mobsters, but I can’t help it when I saw two pairs of white, furry, tiny legs tiptoed criss cross among the pile of stone and steel.

For some reason, I tiptoed closer myself (I can be ridiculously silly at times) – though she couldn’t have seen me even if I walk or run toward her place anyway – then squatted at the side, peeked, and meet her straight in the eye.

“Mew”, she said, inquisitive, but daring. “Meeew”

I stretched out my hand and she put one of her front paw on it. “Hello, little baby, would you like to come home with me?”

She came forward; such is our first meeting.

Looking back at the moment now, it seems like she is using a weapon called “guilt trip” to make me pick her up; or rather, I use it on myself. She is just two months old, probably. The age of Torbie, and Sunny II, and Little Tortie (abbreviated Leeto, out of respect to the older one), and Neo (after Matrix Reloaded. All black, jumps from top to top and crashes onto things). Except that they were born in the safety of my house. With clean bed, safe and warm room for their own, and their mom, plenty of food, enough water, cleaning service and customer care round the clock.

Such is my reasoning; but she was already in my bag when my mind start working and I don’t want to leave her alone even if if I can.

During our two and a half hour commute she already make herself at home. She meows for food from inside the bag, and I can’t help it but slightly tear a pouch of Whiskas and have her suck all the water from the piece of food that poked out of the pouch. I looked at the marking.

Ocean fish. After this my whole back pack will smell like a fish, but such is the risk if you are an animal rescuer who caught teeny orphan kitten on the road without livelihood on site.

When all the water was finally sucked out of the food, I felt like something is gnawing my thumb. It was her, trying to lick away any excess water from the food, and after that, start munching on the solids.

Such is how she puncture a hole in my heart and fill it in with abundant explosion of giddy-ish cutesy tootsy, itsy bitsy, teeny weenie yellow tabby kitty.

People come and go aboard the car along the way. Most are ignorant, a family had difference opinion (son: I want to keep a cat. Look, how cute. Sister: but you will get bored and I will do the job. Mom: No, they stink like garbage).

I lift my head and turn around, because my neck started to go stiff, and the mom squirm away thinking that I am offended by her blatant remarks. When our eye meet, she smiled, rather sheepishly, but without remorse.

Heck; go to hell.

Another passenger secretly took photo when she poked her head out of my bag and scan around with her super cute, binocular eyes. I can read lips. Hers said “So cute”, in English.

This time, I have to struggle not to smile too pompously.

Such is how she brought good tiding into my household.

She did not need quarantine. She rammed into the flock of Torbie and her siblings and take over their snack. She took over their toy, she acted like she belongs with them.

And they don’t mind.

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With Sunny II on top of my sleeping pillow. Won’t cure my insomnia.

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With Torbie’s bone.

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And leave Torbie alone.

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Earth to Control, earth to control, do you copy?

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And then she send a one (megabyte) report from earth to control, wherever that is.

Such is her way of blending in.

Well, if I may admit, I’d probably joined the fawning young women and the moms’ club; but I’d be fawning over her instead of an unreal hero. She is a million times better. She is witty, like the hero, she has her brain set in the right place, like the hero, she has the penchant of fixing things in her own way, like the hero, and she filled in my otherwise bland days (wake up, scoop the boxes, clean the house, feed the cat, scoop the boxes…) with colors of her wind.

 

Such is how she taught me not to take life too seriously. Eat, play, love, sleep, purr.

And catch her mid air if she attempted to jump from the top of the door, to the swimming pool of water bowl down under.

She is not afraid to ask, definitely not afraid to jump forward, and play hard.

Such is how she strike instant camaraderie with Torbie. Torbie has different chipset. Her sibling is Intel dual core; Torbie is Quad Core with 9900mAh lithium battery that can stand by without charging for eighteen hours; more if you feed her right.  Dr. Who is apparently carry the same type of power bank.

Look at the video: BEFORE Torbie and felt

Heard the meow? That’s Dr Who.

And here is AFTER: Torbie vs. Dr. Who

They are never sick, they are always happy, they always keep me on my toes, even in my sleep. They are ever helpful by making sure I wake up to a tidily crumpled blanket (mine) on the corner.

Sealed with a piss.

They eat anything. They are always hungry. They broke everything. They squashed everyone who stands on their way as they roll everywhere around the house wrestling.

Maybe they have nuclear power inside them instead of the usual Lithium Ion.

But such is how I slipped into complacency, and then negligence over their health.

The punishment for being a moronic cat mom is a bad monsoon. Extreme weather, extreme temperature, extreme trial on even the toughest immune system in town.

But even when they are both sick they still destroy the last three of my cups (the only one left is plastic) My pan and pot is not round anymore because they kill them too many times by pushing them off the counter, like Pirates of The Carribean.

Such is how my neighbor asked me if I am OK one day, if I am mad or everything, or if I have boyfriend, because they never heard me throwing pans and pots so many times before.

“Oh, that must be Dr. Who”, I replied, dismissively, and walk inside,

I can care less they knit their eyebrow thinking who the heck is Dr. Ho (not typo).

So, such is monsoon. Cats got sick. I got sick, but after a few days, all of them bounced back, and so is Dr. Who. She got cold again a few days later,when the weather got so cold, we can see our own breath; but no matter how bad it is, she always bounced back.

In the past few days, she got sick again, and this time it’s worse than any other time. She got dehydrated, she lost weight, she can’t smell her food because of all those crusts blocking her nose, but she rallies back. She got over her sneezing, she eats again, she swallow everything just fine, she is happy to take her medicine. She follows me everywhere for extra food (she always get it!) She rallies to the point of near recovery.

And as such, I was about to start breathing again.

But this morning she takes turn to the worse. All of a sudden, she lost energy, she coughed, she vomits. Trying to protect her against further dehydration, I gave her subcutaneous fluid, and she bounced back, but rolled back down a few hours later. She wanted to eat, and I gladly help her with syringe, which she swallowed. She bounced back, but rolled down again few hours later. Her vital sign deteriorate rapidly.

“What happened?” I ask her, desperate, “You are still playing soccer with the spoon yesterday night!”

Torbie was bereft the whole day. She sits by her partner in crime rather impatiently, if I can perceive those looks in her eyes, but this time, Dr. Who won’t wake up.

Such is how I knew the time is near.

I still don’t understand. I am still half mad she give me the burst of business at the time when I was occupied with my sneezes and coughs.

But I stopped Torbie from pawing her and sent her to the backyard, where she played with soap foam from the washing machine, though I think she swatted those foam in a sulking spirit.

Immediately Dr. Who flipped and sit on her tummy, meowing weakly.

Maybe she doesn’t want Torbie to see.

I looked at her eyes; round like usual, though no longer bright. “Are you sure? Well then, don’t blame me if I cry but if you gotta go, you gotta go”

She tried to crawl. I sat on the floor, pick her up and lay her down on my lap.

She start purring.

And slowly drifted away.

Sunny II came over, at one point, and jumped on my lap, pawing her, and when she didn’t respond, bite her shoulder, asking in kind to play.

I stroke the loose hay. His long hair seems to always standing to every direction, no matter how much I comb it tidy. He looked at me. I shake my head.

A small dollop of water fell down my face. Oops.

“Go play with Neo, or chase Soot Ball. Do you want to go out? There’s sun”

Sunny II jumped down and go away, but not before turning back one more time and bite her shoulder again. Perhaps to make a statement that he doesn’t approve of her journey.

Such is how much they love her.

It was past afternoon when she finally crossed over in her sleep. Just one, single cough; and then she was in peace.

Meanwhile I still can’t figure out why. Even hundreds after hundreds of crossing cats over I still can’t figure out why.

Maybe because God loves them so much, He doesn’t want them to suffer too long, albeit at my expense.

Maybe because God needs some entertainment that he no longer get from human, who themselves busy making war after war.

Maybe He just want some of His sense of humor back so He won’t lose His temper and make Armageddon comes tomorrow, and Dr. Who has a lot of sense of humor.

Maybe, as simple as the TV show, her mission accomplished, and it’s time to jump to another time, another day, another task.

Who knows.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 

 

The First Noel: Mama Cat

There’s a clinic; at the end of the street that stretches from the town below, to the tip of the mountain above. A small, decrepit house, packed with people, mostly females in their night gown, completely ignorant of their personal hygiene; maybe because they are too sick to bother, or they don’t bother at all.

Around the kids are screaming, crying, yelling, swearing, jumping, running, tantrum throwing, either in choir with or in competition against each other. Maybe both.

Some of those females just can’t handle it, and hand her kids some money, of which they spend on the numerous gawkers right outside its corrosion stained fence.

And then they will come back inside, quiet for a moment as they stuff their mouth with junk food and then throw the wrap care-freely. Some other can’t handle the junk and threw up on the floor, babies had urinary tract accident, and someone step on those and tread it everywhere, but there’s no cleaning service.

A typical third world clinic you will find in this country, this town, in particular.

Somewhere around the corner of its cemented front yard, that suppose to be a parking lot, there’s a row of suffering withered plants, lack of water, lack of proper care in general, a quiet presence tries to enjoy the small peace out of the sickening riot inside.

I thought she was pregnant. She has very big belly, and her tummy seems to be so heavy, she can only walked a few steps before sitting down and try to catch some breath.

If I come toward her and offer her some food I would have drawn unnecessary attention. Something she won’t need because kids tend to have craziest ideas.

Especially to a street cat.

But I feel sorry for her. Her green eyes are telling me without words that her world is heavy, and I don’t doubt her. However, to carry a pregnant cat all the way uphill? It’s just a mile and a half though.

And it’s so happened that I was carrying big bags of fabric for Whiscraft back then. I wouldn’t want her to fall from the transport if she squirms.

So I promised myself to come back the next day, though my heart and thoughts are heavy thinking about how am I suppose to support more lives with my strained budget. With a belly that big, I should expect say, four? five?

I came back anyway, and found the clinic overflowing with people, packed into the small waiting room, chattering, handling kids, moaning, perspiring.

I can’t find her.

I peeked to the row of withered plants but I can’t find her. I look around the corners but I can’t find her. So I went home thinking that she might be walking around somewhere in the labyrinth like slums behind the clinic and promise myself to come back the next day.

A few steps away, the corner of my eye caught her sitting in the next building. Alone in the shade, tired, desolate.

I walked as slowly and as calmly as I can, but she didn’t seem to bother. She just looked at me wondering what am I going to do with her.

I opened a pouch of Whiskas and offer it on a paper plate I always been carrying.

She smelled it, lick it, and eat it, though she didn’t stand.

Her belly is so big.

I try touching her. She twitched, but she didn’t run away. So I waited until she finish her meal, and try to lift her up. Wrap her in a blanket, and start walking away.

She just stay still.

At home, one and a half miles later, I put her down in my living room. She looks around, gingerly, and gnarled at the kittens that comes out bursting like bubbles as they see us.

Then she drink, and after that, just sitting there, forlornly, with the kittens staying as far away as possible while sending their long distance sniffs.

It was the ugliest sight I ever seen. Half of her face is swollen. Her body is so thin, her belly is so big. The fur along her back is thinning, exposing a half length tail with a a little curve at the tip.

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I didn’t have the heart to start poking on her to find out what she has, but I do notice that she was dripping greenish yellow liquid as she eats.

It was a leaking pus from a bite on her cheek. Maybe souvenir of a fight.  A little squeeze produces a handful of rotten ooze, so I spend the next few hours trying to clean her up.

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I thought at first, since I did not find any other hole other than those two, a good quality food and proper medication suffice. I was very reluctant to employ antibiotics because she was pregnant. So I only administer some Chinese herbal ointment on the wounds, and keep it clean and dry.

What suppose to heal in few days in other cats, takes few weeks. This mama cat’s body is just too frail. Eat something wrong, diarrhea. Do not drink much for one day, constipation. Too much fish, scratching, too much egg, gassing. And her wound just keep welling up. I don’t know how bad her condition was, but I know it’s just worse compared to other rescues

At roughly the same time, Torbie and her siblings are old enough to get out from the security of my bedroom and live rather communally with Hanshin, Florence and Baroness in the living room. Mama Cat, with her big belly, immediately call them like her own, and they listen to her. She naturally lay down and let the kittens nurse from her, and since I thought she is pregnant, I just let them.

Problem arise when some self-addressed rescuer and cat lover who is also a donor to The Whiskers’ Syndicate (though a bad one) made me accept a feral cat that she recently TNR-ed.  (the whole story here). The feral female was trying to make her personal space, and Mama Cat try to defend her (and her adopted kittens’ territory). What happened in the next three days were bloodshed.

And a major headache for me, because I have to help the feral cat heal as fast as she can (so she can be returned) while at the same time take care of a pregnant Mama Cat with four baby kittens.

Mama Cat ended up got bullied when I am not around to intervene; and she can’t fight with belly as tight and big as a basketball. She just sit there, tucking her ears, with kittens scattered all over places watching their “mom” in terror.

It wasn’t until well into the next month (after the feral cat was picked up by her rescuer) when her wounds start healing.

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But she is still pregnant. Her belly was bigger and bigger and bigger, I am afraid it will burst, or worse, like the previous Mama Cat.

I called a vet and after some examination she think that it might be Pyometra. So we agreed on a date and put her on the operating table before it’s too late.

Turned out it’s not Pyometra. Well, not Pyometra only. One of her bladder sticks to the wall of her stomach. Her intestine are all twisted, unlike normal intestine, and her blood is not red. It was bluish as if it is a blood of a carcass just came out of a long freezer nap.

One of her ovaries was tucked below one kidney, and the other were buried among the intestines. We have to pull all her gut out to de-tangle all sort of organs and put them back in proper order.

We had to remove the entire ovary because it’s in such bad shape due too much breeding. Later on the vet told me that she must have sustained an internal injury at one time in her life, but it went untreated, though somehow she survives.

It was like a horror movie; but we’re not the bad guys. We’re the clueless ones desperately trying to understand the forensics of what the heck was happening to this cat and what made her survive, and how we can help her.

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While Mama Cat herself seems to endure the entire procedure quite well, we are the ones who ended up with tremors after all those suspense with her messed up gut. It was the first time the vet ever asked “Do you have some coffee?”

As we cleaned up half in trance, the vet and I agreed that after this, Mama Cat will be able to live in peace, away from complications.

Maybe not.

Evidently, she won’t stop nursing; even with all those sutures and post op pain and bandages. Her adopted kittens didn’t help at all

I was in a cross road. Is it all right for her to nurse, since it seems to come naturally for her and the kittens are not made sick because of it?  Wouldn’t it be dangerous if her mammary glands were stimulated after she has Pyometra and whatever internal injuries? Would it turn into a mammary tumor?

I choose safety over sorry, and so I  put her in the cage. She was angry that I cut her maternal period off, but I continue to convince myself that I am doing the right thing, though cruel.

She still try. All day long, I heard her cooing and calling and purring from inside her jail, probably instructing her kids what to do and what not to do. Once every so often, I would hear the cooing turned into the real meow, when her kittens did something bad or running far enough into the kitchen and off her sight.

I am humbled by her resilience and I turned my admiration into motivation to do better for her. My budget was way too strained, with her unsuspected long and complicated surgery, but I still buy her the best food I can afford, give her immune boosters, give her vitamins, probiotic, and keep her environment as clean as  possible so that her wrecked immune system doesn’t have to work as hard, but still has chance to grow.

The vet, who usually prefer to avoid antibiotics, told me that since her condition was so bad, she will make an exception and prescribe me some strong antibiotics.

I tucked it away, and continue giving my best. Mama Cat has been through so many things and she survives until today, it means her regeneration ability is at least above average. I believe in her. I know she will survive, so I listen to my heart and tucked the prescription away.

Two month later she heals completely without antibiotics.

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Whiskers Syndicate Mama cat

She has normal belly, she has a good appetite, she is never sick, and definitely look like a cat.

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It was Mama Cat herself who asked to go to the backyard, although I give her the privilege to stay inside the house, and she walked into the Syndicate like a true conqueror. She has no problem smacking even the biggest mobster cat on the face if they are snooping on her too much, and soon the other cats learn to avoid her for the love of their lives.

She walks like nothing happened, she lives like nothing happened. In fact, it seems like she gladly embrace her second chance in life and enjoy it to the fullest.

To go through all sort of those bad things and still keep on going is inspiring.

Every time I passed that clinic, my spirit is renewed. If Mama Cat can do it, I can do it. Whatever hell life throws at me, I will just keep trying. I have a mentor now, and though her shape does not convey her wisdom, I am happy to follow her lead.

Who knows, maybe she was once one of those three wise men, led by Christmas star to guide a spoiled brat like me to grow up and keep moving.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

 

 

The First Noel: Samson

It’s been a year.

No, I can’t believe it either, but it’s been a year.

Maybe because I pass that place every day, sometimes several times a day, in broad daylight or glittering evening or even in the darkness of the night when I rushed home from a long work or lengthy chores.

Still, everytime I passed that spot, I would turn my head and see; the same spot where I met Samson.

I had mistaken him for an “ordinary street cat” who always squat there, under a fried chicken stall, waiting for falling mercy. Since he was always there I thought he got some share, but one night instead of some fresh bones the cellphone-fixated seller accidentally step on him and kicked and swear to him mercilessly for being there.

I was suddenly bursted with anger, forget that my sanctuary was full and torn apart by flood from Typhoon, and took that cat home.

Turned out he was not just “ordinary street cat” He was skin and bone and was sick, dehydrated, potbellied, and all crusty. He was so bad I thought he won’t make it very long, but I was wrong. It took me months, but he finally made it through. Read his journey home here.

His healing journey coincides with three of the most important events in our sanctuary last year: Typhoon Haiyan wreck our place into pieces, the heatwave and ash rain from Mount Kelud explosion, and the start of the rebuilding of Whiskers’ Syndicate. All happened within one month.

But that old cat blend seamlessly well. The existing residents don’t spend too much time fighting him; in fact they just sniff him around and go away. Maybe because he is too old to be of some threat, but it helped ease my mind that was too full of things as I have to manage the repairwork alone.

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Unfortunately, being a street cat for life, is a lifestyle uneasy to change. Whenever the door was left open for the materials to come in, he will casually stroll out of the house for some hot sun and got into trouble.

One of those is when he curled up in the yard of my neighbor across the street. That loud woman, seeing how ugly he is (still deformed though he grew some hair already) hit him and pushed him with a broomstick while repeatedly wondered out loud whether that cat was dead or sick.

Yeah well, idiots are never out of stock here and they are always in season.

What amazed me is that cat’s, if not sheer ignorance. He just sleep there undisturbed, despite all the hitting and poking. I, in the other hand, immediately went into adrenaline rush, and like deja vu, walked over, swept the cat, and carry him back inside, with neighbor mumbling behind my back.

She’s lucky I am not a witch.

And that’s how I named him Samson.

He had some hard time accepting he is now a house cat, but I am no Delilah. I am an iron lady who doesn’t take no for an answer, even from an old cat. he kept trying to get out of the house for some times, but I give him a collar with a bell (the others don’t have collars or have collar without bell) so I know where he is. He is not happy at the beginning, but I insisted that I know what is best for him, and I intend to enforce it. I made it a point to return him into being cat again.

Like this, for example:

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The black cat behind him is Licorice, by the way, just so you have a comparison how big he has become.

And so Samson changed his mind. He no longer try to go out of the house, nor climb the roof. He spends his days Hakuna Matata like a king he used to be, and while he is here he used his age and grumpiness for extra benefit, like treats for seniors.

This Christmas will be the first he will celebrate in a home, on top of a fluffy blanket, with tummy full, and kick free. This Christmas will be the first time he doesn’t have to squat under some gawker or bare some idiot woman’s broomstick.

This Christmas will be the first when every person who meets him in the eyes will call him with a name.

Samson

 

Samson is the mascot of The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s holiday campaign. He attempts to pass on every social media and emails to go round the world telling his story to show everyone what a rescue can do even to an old cat that was deemed hopeless and often on the first list to die. He is telling his story to tell everyone that miracle can happen if everyone hold hands together, and that it’s everyone’s victory against cruelty, complacency, and ignorance.

If you haven’t seen him around your inbox, see here; and then join him in his campaign so that all of us: you and me, can help more cats like Samson.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Inglorious Bastards

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor; she is a Canadian working in Bandung as an English teacher in a well known Christian School. She came to contact us around the time we are renovating the cattery, and she visited us every so often.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor; she has a peculiarly unique cell phone that conveniently and effectively screen messages for her that all sort of information and useful tips, suggestion etc etc are not received, while rubbish and thank you note on her supposed to be donation are received immediately.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor; she gave a lot. and I mean a lot, like around USD 60 – USD 90 every time she visits. That amount is the average donation we earn in two days through facebook.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor, however, use her own currency exchange that is lower than the actually currency exchange.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor, however, after she donates, she always ask me for information regarding something like deworming, or calming a stressed cat, or whatever, and she always want to see the product, and “buy” mine with her lower currency exchange, or ask me to do whatever, the total value of my effort or the items she asked for is larger than the value of her donation.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor; text me often asking about “a cat with this” or “a cat with that” or “do you know special food for hypothyroidism?” I asked her “who got hypothyroidism?” she said “oh, just asking”; but later on, when she visited she told me that she has been reading things on the internet and she think her cat has hypothyroidism. I asked her again if she confirm her diagnosis with a vet, because last time I accompany her taking that cat to the vet, the vet declared her healthy. The cat’s fur is soft and shiny, she is slightly overweight, and albeit our donor insisted that the vet check on her lung because there are “sounds” coming out of it (gee, she told me it was ear mites), the vet dismissed our donor and refuse to give her cat medicine because the cat is healthy.

When the next day I visited the vet again alone (with my own cat) I asked her what’s that “sounds in the lung” that our donor was complaining about.

The vet smiled and said “the cat’s purring”

About that hypothyroidism cat, turned out she has been feeding her salted fish instead of the brand cat food she told me over and over.

And so my life day in and day out were be-speckled with her asking me this and that and I refuse to give any diagnosis, or any food, any brand, anything, because I don’t want her to use my information and knowledge to treat whatever sickness she thinks her cats has. Most of the time I ask her to contact a vet. I know veterinary service in Bandung is not sophisticated, but compared to self diagnose and self treatment that can make a healthy cat gone worse, I would rather ask not-so-sophisticated vet.

At the beginning of October, I launched Catoberfest to celebrate the launching of The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s new website, and National Feral Cat Day. My day is longer and my night is busier because in between the cattery business and the cat management, I also walk to feed the ferals.

During those early October days, Constantine has already waning. His age clearly shows and his many, many days on the street eats him alive. He has difficulties walking. He can no longer chew dry food, he was always under the weather, he was always cold, he has problem with his bowel and overall digestion, he grew considerably weak and unmotivated and he was clingy.

His clingy part is a warning to me to the end of his days. I don’t wish him to die too soon, because he’s been only with us for three years, but I also have to take into account all the suffering that he must endure in his old days if I try to prolong his life more than he should.

I spend as much time as I can with him. Giving him extra treats (Pet Natural Vermont Daily Best Senior) that he loves, play with him although he can only sit on my lap trying to catch some toy, I keep him warmer by adding extra fleece blanket on his fluffy bed, and during his final days, change his food to the brand he likes the most.

During these days, our donor keep contacting me about a feral mother cat in her school. She was afraid that the cat got pregnant because her kittens started to be weaned. I suggested that if the cat is friendly, she trap the cat and spay her. Then she contacted me because she is afraid that the cat will be in pain due to the spaying surgery. Then she contacted me because she is afraid that when the cat recovered, something happened to the kittens. Then she contacted me because she…

The last time she contacted me, she said she already trap the cat and she wants the cat to stay at my place while she recovers.

I thought the deal was the cat stays with her. Why all of a sudden? I told her I am full. I have a dozen of kittens still need attention. I have just rescued another mama cat with internal injuries, I have to walk for the ferals, I have to prepare for the next events on Catoberfest. I said no.

Then she contacted me saying that she will bring the cat to the vet the same day and again, wants the cat to stay with me.

Though half angrily, I managed I politely ask her what the heck is going on, and she laments that her own cat was having seizures (all of a sudden?) and that she was stressed (again?) and whatever and that she wants to be with her cat.

“I would have, it’s just that [name of cat] is having her moments”

Her cat is having her moments? What about my kittens? What about mama cat? What about Constantine? Wait a second, did she even ask? did she even care if something maybe going on at the sanctuary that I refuse to home a feral cat?

I was still wondering how to respond her the best, because I want to respect her as donor (money is always tight around here) but before I even figure out half of it, she already showed up on my fence, with swollen eyes and red nose, with a carrier and a drunk cat inside.

I let her in, of course, and she acted like nothing happened. I am sure she noticed the anger I was trying to hold. I refuse to even touch the carrier, but she casually open it, pull the cat out  and place the cat inside an empty cage in the living room.

Just outside the cage, dying Constantine was looking at me wondering what was that taking over his bed.

I didn’t know how to answer him.

She noticed that I was cold and that I keep my distant. So she sob and ooooh and aaaah crying over the pain that cat must have gone through. When the cat was finally out of her sedation and cry, she rolled on the floor sobbing louder and oooh aahh even more and lamented how poor is the cat to be in pain.

Such softie! maybe a little bit over reacting?

I kept my calm long enough until she went home and on her way out, she pointed her index finger to me and say “I’ll be checking with you, Josie”

Oh my…

Constantine died the day after (his story: Brave). There was never any regret in my life greater than the loss of my warrior, especially because even when he told me his days are short, I still dare to split the little time he asked with a foreign cat.

The cat flourished by the way. I didn’t know what our donor give her, but I give her the same food I gave the mobsters. She got grain free, gluten free food, special vitamins, and she recovered without a single piece of antibiotics.

Our donor still texted us every single day asking how she is doing, but I can see it in her face how shocked she is to see “her baby” came out even better than when she trap her.

Two days later I came to meet Liam (his stories: Someday It’ll be Saturday night and It’s Kinda Cool)

On my birthday she sent me a happy birthday message through The Whiskers’ Syndicate facebook page, and then she text me asking if she can come for visit.

I was in the middle of cleaning ten litter boxes and feeding 75 cats so I thought I’d finish my work first and then I replied to her text.

After 75 cats comes a dozen of kittens waiting for their turn and she called. She sang me happy birthday, and asked me to open the door because she is already in front of my house.

I let her in.

She gave me her birthday present, and then she asked me how the cats are doing, and how mama cat was doing (she convinced me that mama cat is either pregnant or have dead fetus inside, I told her it was internal injuries, and when I spay her it was internal injuries plus early sign of pyometra. No babies)

And then she keeps changing topics while shifting deeper into the house, until finally she said she need to use the bathroom and since she’s been in my house before, she knows where it is and take the liberty of using it.

Across the bathroom is the kitchen. I have pulled out can food and Liam’s special food from the fridge and was ready to mix when she came. She continue talking, but I can barely listen, much less pay attention because below me a dozen of kittens were screaming and running around, scratching my legs asking for their food. And yet she doesn’t seems to be fazed.

When a kitten tried to jump to the top of the fridge (seriously) and fall, I was about to turn around when she stop right there in the middle of her sentence (she didn’t even finish the word she was saying) and extend her hear trying to see what’s on the fridge.

“What’s that? What are you feeding the cats?” she asked, not even watching me, “Friskas [sic] and?” She kept trying to elongate her neck to see everything but she can’t come near because I was standing between her and the fridge, and that part of my body covered her sight.

I was too shocked to answer.  I couldn’t believe that someone can just stop dead in the middle of her sentence and drop everything just because she wants to sneak on what I was doing.

Since I stop answering her, she finally said good bye and moved on, but that was half an hour later.

Yesterday she texted me again, asking about 4 weeks old kitten with “a loose stool” that she tried to feed egg yolk and Promina. Promina is a cheap baby porridge that contains milk.

I figured right away that it was probably the harsh lactose of Promina that cause the diarhea so I recommend becarbon (the black pills) as first aid, and I reminded her that Promina contains milk that cause diarrhea.

Remember that she has this peculiarly weird cell phone that censor messages and only display what she wants to know?

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And then I lamented how her cell phone effectively blocks important contents, twice, just to make sure she receive it.

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She is cool about it.

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This afternoon she is using Facebook page messenger.

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So my first aid suggestion of giving the kitten becarbon does work, but the diarrhea is worse because she still feeding the kitten that Promina thing. For some worm to go out with the stool while alive is a bad sign. It means the walls of the intestine was so weak or the kitten doesn’t have anything else in the intestine to flush out.

If I asked yet again, as with previous cases, she will just said that she didn’t receive the message, which is a lie, but I was finally fed up with her antics. I might be wrong, of course, but I was guessing she was trying to do what I did with Friskies Tuna that she sneaked on when she visited on my birthday.

That Friskies Tuna was for Liam. He loves tuna so very much he’d gobble everything that smells like tuna. I use that tuna to mix his supplements, vitamins, and essence of chicken because the cordyceps are a little bit bitter; but that is not Liam’s main food. Liam has Taste of The Wild or Instict and Royal Canin Recovery.

But Friskies can is too harsh for 4 weeks old kitten, and if you keep giving the kitten harsh porridge with processed milk on it (and who knows what other chemicals) it’s no wonder the kitten will die slowly out of diarhea.

The Whiskers’ Syndicate’s donor; she is rich woman who lives in the most elite part of town. Her house, which she called “located on a slum” cost billions of Rupiah. She can have three or four vacation in a year, and the last time she went out, she and her friend chartered a plane to fly to Timor Leste.  She lives alone and she has a mad and an errand man at her disposal. She has the membership of the elite runner’s club.

Ten minutes drive from her house there’s a sophisticated pet shop that sells KMR, or Royal Canin or other brand milk replacer for kittens. That pet shop sells good kitten food; science diet i/d for diarrhea perhaps, if anything? Next to that pet shop, side to side, is a vet practice. That vet is the same vet who handles Charlie when I rescue him, it is also the vet that my vet clinic recommends because he is experienced in handling tumor, and the vet successfully save Sporty and Peta’s lives.

Ten minutes drive, if only she is willing, she is within reach of the best veterinary resources in town, and yet she choose the convenience of spamming me. I don’t mind giving her an advice for first aid, but I am not a vet. I don’t see the animals, I don’t know the history, I don’t touch the animals and I do not have sufficient education, experience, equipments, nor authority to diagnose and prescribe some cure. And she choses Promina over sacrificing a little bit of her huge pile of money and a tiny bit of her time if the kitten’s life is truly important to her and if she really is a cat lover.

And she probably choose to send her question through facebook because she knows The Whiskers’ Syndicate has several admins and she probably hope that I would fear enough for my reputation to bow to her cheap measure.

I am taking my chances instead. All of the admins of The Whiskers’ Syndicate knows me in and out. They have been with me long before she popped up in our lives and I can count on them to at least give me the chance to tell my side of the story.

So here it goes:

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Her response?

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That said, ladies and gentlemen,

You don’t get 500 million friends, without making a few enemies

~ Mark Zuckenberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

It’s Kinda Cool

It’s kinda cool outside. The wind’s been blowing the whole day. The wind chimes haven’t stop singing their choir since the morning. The sun isn’t as bright as it used to.

Where I am, in my part of the world, the season start changing. Sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s windy, sometimes it’s just darn cold, like these past few days.

As the year creeps to near end, the rain start to come.

Soon it’s going to be the season to give. Give more blankets, more vitamins, more medicine. Give more place for the new kittens strewn across the street to die, or the dying old cats and young ones alike that can no longer stand the harshness of this cursed town that is uncaring inside, though full of smile outside.

But it’s kinda cool because I think Liam will need less.

Last month when I found him on the street, his head is as big as a grapefruit, containing a cup of pus and rotten blood. Draining all of those necrosis was such a great job that we both flopped in exhaustion afterwards. Liam because he has to hold all the pain, me because I have to hold all my heart. No, no tears, or at least I didn’t have the chance to think about crying. He has too many bite marks that turns his head into a volcano full of craters that I am sure will kill him when it burst, so I want to be sure I drain every single one.

It’s not pretty, but it’s kinda cool that he survived. (his story here: Someday it’ll be Saturday night)

Due to his long sustained injuries, he seems to be in perpetual disorientation. He is wobbly. He can’t stand straight, much less walk. His head is bobbing all the time like some car ornament, and where the most bite marks were located, one of his eyes squinted and it give him the crooked face of a pirate; though not for too long.

I have to hold his head when he eats, or he will slam his face nose first into the bowl because of his bobbing head. And he can only lick, with much, much effort.  I gave him Royal Canin Recovery, mixed with super food donated by our fans in Sacramento, and some essence of Chicken and pro-biotic. I have never thrown so many into the mix before, and I bet it is maybe the most expensive food I ever give to a cat, even more expensive than my own, but I am not complaining. I figured early on that I owe him that much to bring him as closest as he can to recovery, whether or not he eventually make it.

I mean, with wounds like that and no flesh left on his head, in a place where quality vet service is non existent, future won’t be looking so good.

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Even Mars looks better than this.

But it’s kinda cool that he made amazing progress, one after another. His wounds are healing fast, his eyes no longer squinted, he looks much, much fresher than when he first come.

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look at my punk haircut!

He still can’t walk, and he spend the whole day laying around on my bed (put him outside and the kittens will stomp all over him), so that’s where I got that light bulb saying that a diaper will come in handy. But pet diaper is expensive, so I have to be happy with baby diapers.

It’s kinda not so cool, seriously. I never touch a diaper before. I never have kids, and I never want to, but if I am to save both of us cat and human the jeopardy of perpetual litter accidents on my bed, I’d better learn fast.

I am not sure if he is happy with it, what do you think?

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Look messy? well, at least everybody’s happy.

The next step is get him to learn to eat solid food. So I try mixing a kibble or two into his slurry food, and he munches them right on.

Hey it’s kinda cool! And so Liam learn to eat solids.

And after he learns to eat solids, he learns to drink. It’s a mess because he keep diving his nose into the bowl and get water into his nose. I don’t want liquid get into his lungs, so I started him off with a saucer and a little water, and I still have to hold his head from slamming onto it, but we survived, and now Liam can drink on his own.

Then he started to perk around, and even learn to walk, though just a few steps before he tumbles, but yeah, i am learning to be a good momma so I am not complaining and keep cheering him on.

I start to grow hope that one day he is going to be cat again.

Soon, he walked out of my bedroom, though he walks like a drunk. He lay down and stretch and behave like a cat should be, he plays with  but he never goes further than being a spectator, or a single player.

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Whiskerssyndicate – Liam is playing with catnip mouse 

Of course, it is because of his condition (you must see the video to see how bad his bobbing head hinders his movements), and it’s not cool either, but maybe – I think – he needs more time to be himself again.

Day in, day out. The rain keeps coming more often, and the sun shines shorter every day. I prepared myself for the next batch of kitty season in the wet and the swamp of Chlamydia, parvo, distemper, and the dry freeze of donation because holiday season is the time people start thinking about themselves and give to whoever they see fit, and it’s most likely their own.

I am worried about the two colonies that are now in my full responsibility. Their supposed caretaker, taking the most of my generous feeding (in preparation of colder months, actually) stop feeding them.

I forgot about me, and allow myself to drift away into the swamp of things that I have to waddle out every day to live to the next, and fell into the trap of depraved health.

It was kinda cool that day when it happened. We have 60 mph wind the whole day and the weather alternated between sunny and cloudy and drizzle of rain every half an hour since the day before. I can feel that my body is not fit, but tackling one chore after another distract me. I eat late like usual (like breakfast at 3pm?), drink only a little, and sleep only a little.

I had fever fifteen minutes later, and the heat is just getting crazier until I can no longer stand. My eyes are watery and my bones breaks like popcorn, but there is no one to care for the cats but me, so I go on.  I decided I will just finish things up very quickly and lay down.

I can’t remember the rest but pain, my room, Liam sat on my legs, and finally darkness.

I woke up a couple of hours later. My fever recedes, though my body is still aching and my head still feels like it’s about to explode.

I take time to return to my full senses, and when I did, I clearly feel it’s kinda cool outside. The rain had stopped, but I can still hear water dripping onto the concrete; the cats had fallen asleep so soundly.

Liam curled up right next to my face. It seemed to me that he figured out something was wrong, and so he tried to make me feel better. I didn’t know how, but the effort he put to move from my leg to my face must be great.

Liam is kinda cool.

He suffered, he was beaten up, but he came back every single time, and when he come back, he come back stronger. That’s cool!

And to those who think he might lose his IQ with all those injuries and his current handicap, you should see this video. Liam is trading his toy for a head rub.

Oh yes, it’s kinda cool.

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~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Broken Promises

There is some point where this hill I call home broke in two. Ten minutes walk uphill from my house, the road forked. One sinks into the valley, and the other climbed up to the peak of the mountain.

If you go up, at some point, you will see a giant rock where you can see the whole valley. Bamboo bushes sprouts up from the bottom of the road below, and giant wildflower reaching up to the sun, carpeting your feet.

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On that place two years ago, I took my mother for a walk to show her what kind of place I now live in. While she did admire the view and the sky, she also figured that we might be standing on someone else’s home, pointing out toward a feral cat at the other side of the rock, watching us.

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For the next two week afterwards, I walked uphill every morning before I go downtown to work, doling food and water for the colony. It’s a tough job, when you used to be a city person, but I didn’t mind, especially after I noticed that one member of the colony is lame.

She was still a teenager – in human years –  She can’t stand straight and it gave me goosebumps watching her scaling the upright rock between the towering wildflowers that shelter them.

They were all dirty and sick, but it’s no wonder seeing what they eat and where they live.

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One day when I watch them eat, I saw the lame one watching me from inside the front garden of a house across the street; and when I  tried to bring some food her way, she ran into the house.

A woman came out and greeted me with a big smile. She invited me inside, treat me cordially like an old friend, and chatted like we know each other forever.

She told me how happy she is that someone is paying attention to the ferals. She told me that she always give her family’s table scrap to them, and allow them to take cover in her porch if they need some shade. She told me that her father was a farmer and that she grew up with barn cats around her. And she told me she is curious because lately the cats don’t hang out on her yard anymore after breakfast, and instead running across the street and wait in line on the rocks.

I told her I lived nearby and how I found them. I told her what I am doing, and that I intended to spay and neuter the whole colony. I told her a little bit about my animal loving family. I tried my best to dispel her antiquarian belief that cats will go crazy and even die if they are fixed (the lie invented by a local veterinarian); as well as her notion that fixing street cats will make her sin against her Allah because it takes away the animal’s right to breed.

When she told me that she was annoyed that the cats breed so quickly and yet most of them died during childhood, is sick all the time, and that she feels helpless about it, I jumped at the opportunity to convince her about TNR, and she told me she is willing to do it on condition that I adopted the lame one instead of returning her to an unsafe place, and since she has a sister who always watch over her I should adopt her sister as well.

I agreed, and the twin cats become the first refugee of our new home.

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After the twin were fixed, a few days after she told me that she is going on hajj and that she would love if I come by and watch the cats in her place. She promised to keep the cats sheltered, she promised to keep feeding the cats (though table scrap), she promised to fix them, one after another, the best she can.

In a semi rural place like Bandung, someone taking a hajj trip is a big thing. It’s a show of sophistication, and increase in social status. In a very short general, a hajj is a better person than laymen like me.

I took her words, watched over the cats when she was away and after she came back home, gradually left the colony so I can allocate my limited resources to the other.

Last month when I come and visit that place again after so long, however, the rock was a different place. The whole cliff had been razed clean and soon will be a new residential cluster for the emerging “new money” of Indonesia.

The colony had lost its home.

But the woman’s house is still there. So I ran across the street in exasperation and peeked into her side yard.

I saw them. The matriarch of the colony who is now a grandma cat, the twin’s junior who now must have been a mom, and several other teens whom I never saw before. They huddled together on top of a barren soil, bracing the wind. Their faces were dirty, their eyes told the story of the loss of life, and the fear of the living.

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The side yard has fence, but it’s always open, a typical semi rural places in Bandung. I walked in and try to go near them, but they didn’t recognize me anymore. The grandma hissed, and two kittens darted off as far as they can. Their gestures speak aloud about the atrocities of life that befell them, and I was ridden with such guilt because I was not there for them when they need me. I feel guilty because I dropped the ball and walked away.

I walk toward them very carefully, with an opened Whiskas pouch. I want them to know with my every breath that I am a cavalry instead of a gladiator. I put several paper plates on the ground and emptied some pouches, then backed off one step after another, until they are willing to come toward my offering.

They ate like they never seen food for the rest of their lives; and from the way the kittens stick to the young female cat, I knew that they are not fixed. None of them.

I looked around. There’s no shelter, even for the chickens. When I came back that night I saw the chickens huddled together against the wall across the cats. The wooden box on the ground were closed from all side, and the hanging root that provide some shade will not shelter them from rain.

I took a big breath and swallow my own anger.  I figured then that even if I asked I’d be met with all sort of excuses. I was slapped back to reality that if I want to do something right, I have to do it myself because this place is cursed. There’s no right in it, and I shouldn’t hope for some love that extend beyond love=food. Cats are animals, they are lower than human, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So every evening, after the mobsters’ dinner, I walked up hill with food for them. I am alternating vitamins and immune boosters in their food, I mix in dewormer and repeat the next week because I can’t check on them.  I do what I can to restore them while waiting for some fund available when I can fix them.

My joy expanded because along the way from my house to their yard, I had the chance to pick up another colony. I thought at first it’s only two yellow tabbies, but as of late I saw four.

It’s not easy to feed an additional soccer club of cats into my strained budget, but I don’t have any other choice, and basically I don’t mind. I don’t mind scraping a little bit more off my own allowance for some extra food and supplements. I don’t mind living a little bit more frugal if it means saving more lives. I owe those ferals that much for complacently neglecting them all this time.

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Taking the economical advantage that I provide by feeding the cats with “gourmet food” as they call it, the woman stopped feeding them. She gives when there’s something left; if not, then no food for the cats.

As days past both colonies grow friendly, especially the ones at the side yard. They recognized the range of times I am there so I don’t have to wait on the street and draw anymore attention.

People start talking. Although I live in the area and some people do know me as resident, I am a stranger to the neighborhood. Whenever I come by I can see them peeking from behind their potted plants. Men chatted around with their neighbor on the porch but their eyes are set on my features. Although everybody said loudly that they don’t really care about the racial differences anymore, here in Bandung, people are still left behind in their last-regime racial prejudice on the yellow skin and the small eyes. The curiosity is peaked by my unusual activities. So much so that some woman walked by my side on my way home for a little interview (from what she asked, it’s for their gossip tea party).

I tried to ignore the attention, but their antics scared the cats away. I do not want all my effort go to waste just because some lout decided to make my business theirs.

I attempted to dodge them by going later. And when they found out and a pair of men deliberately sit close by, light some cigarette and chat aloud, I  go even later. I want to take photos but I can’t. At the depth of the night my china brand cell phone camera won’t work, and if I use my camera I must use flash, and flash draw even more attention.

I know I am doing a good thing; and the good thing I do doesn’t cost them a thing, it doesn’t even touch any aspect of their lives, and yet I come and go and feel like a thief.

And then there are the kids. First they just wander back and forth and watch from across the street, then they make themselves at home and watch closer, then they decided they’d join the fun and throw stones at the cats.

When I tried to warn them off, their mothers gleefully jumped out of their hiding. What best opportunity to meddle with a stranger’s business! So they walked up to me and remorselessly defend their kids.

But unlike a savage country in the west where citizens entertain themselves by calling names and being mean to their own president, we in Asia do it discreetly. Mothers came over and ask “What happened? I saw everything but I might not be clear. Is this kid bad?” and after that “Is this kid yours?”

We do it with smile on our faces, we ask questions with polite tone and friendly gesture, we bow to each other, but among ourselves, the thread is bare. Hands off, this is my neighborhood and the kid is not yours so you have no right to tell him what can or can’t be done.

Pumped up by their mothers’ blatant defense, their number grow. First one, then two, then four, six afterwards. What started as some “just harmless kids being kids” turned into a stoning event.

Their parents just look from afar and then turn away when I meet them in the eye.

Sure, I am different, and I do things differently. I am not homogeneous, so it’s my own fault that people treat me like a freak show.

Don’t even ask me why some fifth grader are allowed to roam the street screaming and trashing around at 11 pm at night during school days.

Again, I was left with no other choice but to hang in there, and keep changing my schedule. The cats are smarter, of course, and they are built to fit into more hideout than I am.

When I took below picture last week, the side yard colony no longer hiss. They are waiting for me and run toward me like a hero come home from a battle. They greet me with their coarse meows and head bunt. They allow me to touch them and pick them up. They mind their surrounding, but there are no longer a distant between us.

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When I finally sell enough on Etsy to fix the side yard colony, I am halfway late. The kitty season started, and two of the cats are pregnant.

Still, with a song in my heart I prepare everything. I schedule the cat food, litter sand to be delivered at the same time. I bumped up their vitamins so they are good enough to have a surgery, I even scheduled paying my bills beforehand so I don’t have to worry about overspending and not being able to pay the bill, especially the mortgage. There are barely enough for everything but I still do it because this rainy season those cats don’t have to worry about keeping themselves dry and warm and full and still have to nurse some kittens. They can stay on the woman’s porch, if anything, or go somewhere else.

Talking about mortgage, two days before it’s due, the bank told me, not by letter, by mouth, when I come visit, that there is a USD 100 increase on my mortgage due to the recent credit interest adjustment by the central bank.

And the great expectation broke apart.

I have arranged that USD 450 is available for me every end of the month. USD 350 for the mortgage, and the next USD 100 for my personal expenditure as well as some cat necessities because we do not always raise enough.

The mortgage increase robbed me my entire monthly allowance, and I was left there empty handed, feeling dumb and even more angry. That point in life, it is never clearer for me the reason why people choose to abandon their God and become an atheist. My God is so difficult to love, even more difficult to please.

That same night when I go up to feed the cats, I stay near them too long because the money issue keep distracting me, and when I finally realized what other dumb thing I am doing, I rushed up and get going.

The grandma and one of the young cat were trailing behind me, trying to follow me home.

I don’t have anymore food left, so I can’t distract them and run away. I paced up but they keep going, calling me from behind. I shoo them but they just sit there, waiting, and when I start walking they too, start following.

I was saved when a motorcycle passed with such a noise they both freaked out and run back home.

I run back home like a loser; the biggest coward in the world. It was me who sought out their trust in the first place, and when those cats had finally entrusted their lives into my hand, I abandoned them. I ran away.

Not that I don’t want to take them home, really, but my place is full. I have managed to cram more cats than it should by spaying and neutering them all, but I do not have anymore space to add a dozen more cats without bloodshed.

I still go out and feed them, and I will keep my promise; there are already too many broken promises. I can always wait for another fortune, who knows when it comes, but if the colony exploded with kittens after this, It will just be as hard for me to feed them.

My only hope now is only the promise God make that if I ask, I will be answered. He hasn’t broke any promises yet, though He always push me to the end of my limit.

I just hope that this time is not going to be the first.

~Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate