ETERNAL FLAME

The day we’re knocking on heaven’s door for Grey; Bara was downstairs, getting ready for his own battle.

In so much extent, his situation is better, though the risk of the surgery is just as great. The guilt from failing to bring Grey back is still an overwhelming pressure. Though cats are said to have nine lives, we would never know which life Bara is on now and we would rather be safe than sorry – life is life, and each one, whether it’s the first or the fourth, is just as precious.

Quoting one of our most respected allies, however: the surgery was always going to be risky, but it was also necessary. And even if it ended badly, we owed it to Bara (and other cats the same) to try. Bara, as with the ones before him, and many more after him, only have us. We are their chance, their voice, their hopes, their lives. They put all nine lives on the line trying to find better days, so if those nine is all they have, we will be their tenth life, or the eleventh, or the twelfth, or the thousandth.

I kneel on the floor so I can see my guy in the eye, and be burned with that flame one more time. The flame that gave me confidence, the flame that emboldened me, the flame that gave Bara his name.

I patted his head, and off he went to the surgery, and I sat there, in the same seat where I spent seven hours sending our best wishes when Grey had his, just ten days ago.

It was not a great sight, when he went back out. There were sutures jutting out and pipes in and out of him, bottles dangling on top; but just one and a half hour it seemed like Bara has done wandering around the after life and thought he’d rather go home to us.

He was grouchy as hell. He was unpleasant to be with and was irritatingly demanding; but that’s what tenth life is supposed to be, so we put up with it.

Few days later, when he insisted he no longer wants his iv, we put up with it. Yet another few days and he thinks he can stand (yeah right), we put up with it. We have our hands full, no really. We have twenty four babies, 4 weeks and younger; they all need mama and there are only two of us, not to mention the blind, the sick, the half dead… But we put up with it.

Of course if Bara is super duper mega ultimate annoying, he’ll get the look that can freeze the flame of hell.

Bara takes his revenge by taking things in his own paw. He stood up, he dragged, he limped, and he walked outside to the hallway all by himself.

He will scream his lungs out whenever someone even sniffs him, but eventually we learn to ignore him. A sniff or two won’t kill anyone, and he was the one who insisted on going to the hallway and join others in the first place.

Bara learned to climb, as of yesterday. He didn’t even make it to the bottom of the shelves that we call Catpartements, but life did not hinder him before, it won’t hinder him today, nor it will hinder him tomorrow. That flame is the one thing that kept him alive with a rotting, twisted leg in that back alley for God knows how long. That flame is the one thing that carried him through the surgery. That flame is the one thing that gives him power to stand up, and live again.

That flame will be the one thing that will keep him going.

~ Josie

It cost us USD 600 for Bara’s amputation, further treatment (medicine, physiotherapy) will cost us another USD 300 for two months. It’s a humongous amount, especially at this time. Fortunately we have two kind donors who offered USD 500 matching challenge that will end on Easter, so we can pay Bara’s medical cost with half the effort!

Please do not let this chance pass us by. Help Bara walk into the better future he has been fiercely fighting for. Link below will take you to the right place:

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

I AM THE STORM

The storm is raging behind me; as I stood there in darkness like a stone pillar challenging the sky. It’s so riotous one cannot hear anything but the fight between thunder and water falling. It’s so fierce there are no place left to dry. But at the tip of my fingers, there is peace. The chain of breaths, the solemn heartbeat, that almost invisible smile, that can be seen only when lightning struck.

The past two weeks is like The Battle on Helm’s Deep; and Mr. Grey at the center of it all. All forces of men, all kind. The long and arduous journey toward the fort, just like how the world is rooting for him to be better, so that he can have his jaw refurbished. The silent worry that creeps to the depth of the soul, the hope that leaks in every step, the deep breath as the sun falls, and that long, never ending night with cold, damp, suffocating wait at the top of the hill: for the break of dawn, or the break of war.

The story predates that battle, with an unnamed blue cat running toward us, as if he can ram through our fence; his cry seared the sky. The untold story of how he lives among princes, when he was still belonging to someone. The crashing of the world when a vehicle hit him on the face and broke his jaw in two. Whether those who call themselves his owner simply showed their true colors; or whether it is Mr. Grey himself who choose to run away in his terror, and found himself lost, there will always be stories left untold. That grey cat was like a sage? mage? hermit? He was like a wizard who kept so many secrets, sweet and sour, as he walked through the world emanating only his wisdom, his youthful smile, his unwavering heart. He is like Gandalf the Grey that comes to see the hobbits at the break of the dawn. He is like the old man the Fellowship look up to, until he fell to his perceived death, when he fought the beast that needed to be beaten for the better future to happen.

Playing that prelude in my head, I no longer see Grey as the victim of the savages of men, I see a hero who stands his ground and fight to the end. Grey is not the smallest of brethren who cower and whimper under the storm. He is the storm.

As the next thunder blares as if to break the earth in two, the power went out. Soon there is that long beep and one red dot in that dark room beamed like a little eye watching. That red eye has been keeping Grey alive in his long slumber, but no matter what reasons, hopes, “what ifs” I piled up, the truth deep down cannot be unheard: I cannot keep that red eye open for too much longer. First thing in the morning I will call my partner and we will be there to see the end.

The lightning that comes next, blasted so bright the rest of that room went bright. From the shade of the corner of the room, it must have looked like my face was split in two, because the vet tech who has been standing there widen her eyes watching me.

I kneel down on one knee and kiss Grey goodbye for that night. I rub my thumb on his forehead between his closed eyes. I let his now clean, soft fur touch the depth of my soul as it brushes through my palm.

I walked silently toward the door, look at my vet, and nod my head: in respect, in gratitude, in admiration. She has been the general who stand in front of everyone, leading the war between life and death for Mr. Grey; for all of us.

I walk to the door and heard one of the vet techs whispers. “She is so heartless. She can stand there with stiff face and sharp eyes and still walk into the storm firm and tall. She made her decisions with straight face. She is like that storm. How unfortunate Mr. Grey to have walked across her”

No one will ever know whether the storm is raging, or playing, or crying or all.

I am the storm.

~ Josie

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS

When the vets emerged from surgery room, I was standing with my great expectation overhanging my shoulder. Cannot do anything but try to keep floating in the ocean of uncertainty, tugged between hope, and worry; it was suffocating.

I knew the surgery was a success; otherwise all those faces, framed by green caps, half cut by masks would have looked completely different.

There were three stitches. Stitches? The wires that connected one side of Grey’s jaw to the other were larger than staples. They looked like something out of a horror movie; something a completely twisted kind of psychopath will do.

Actually, those were to save his life; those were to give him the chance to be the cat he should be: the sunshine that always peek through his cloudy fur colour. The merry-making dude who burst out like firecracker and pranced like Quatorze Juillet.

However, the primary concern for the surgery – since the beginning – was not the wiring itself; it was everything surrounding the surgery. His health condition, with that lingering calicivirus that wouldn’t go away because of his depleted immune system, yet the immune system won’t go back up because that broken jaw hindered him from getting the nutrition he needs. The two seizures he had during his hospital stay. The vets suspected concussions that he obtained when he was hit by vehicle, the one event that destroy his jaw (and his future), but there was no way to be certain. There was no way to find out whether it was minor or major, whether it was reversible or the other, and there was no way to find out how it will affect the surgery. There was a way, though, but we would have to get Grey for a CT Scan, which no one has here or out of town, and even if we can get one out of town, even if we amass thousands of Dollars to bribe one or two officers so they will lend some human CT Scan, there is this ongoing pandemic that makes everything so God damned freaking difficult it’s as good as impossible.

So the most important part of the surgery was not the procedure itself, but waiting for Uncle Grey to come out of sedation.

To wake up.

Under normal circumstances it will take at least two hours (often less). Some take half a day; some cats will sleep the whole day out. Uncle Grey: stable, calm, and fixed, slept until today.

That suffocating feeling being tugged between hope and despair is creeping back. Like a psychological thriller. Like being stalked by something surreal, or sinister? Sinister is more like it. Some eerie feeling that haunted me all day long, even as I shake it off my head from time to time, running away by taking care of two other cats who themselves need surgery, plus one blind kitten, five babies Sheilla took from a box floating in the river, ten babies and two mothers stranded in the cemetery with nothing to anchor their lives onto.

We just keep running, keep stacking things, pushing questions away, just keep swimming, just keep working. We are like a maniac in a bout of madness, because being drowned slowly in despair is worse, because thinking about it out loud or in silence won’t produce anything other than more worry. Running away to other work at least brings good to the others.

In two days, we’ll be waiting three days too long; though in these three days too long, we see the vets try everything. In this three days too long we are giving our best, though giving our best is mostly just prayers. It will be ultimately annoying, tragic, unsatisfying, whatever the term available, to end Grey’s remarkable journey by pulling out the plug. He went so far. So far!

Still it will be cruelty to leave him longer than it should. It will be the ultimate crime to deny him his right for our own selfishness. It will be unforgivable to rob him of the bigger plan or the better place. If he wakes up, Grey will undeniably still have to endure a long and arduous recovery anyway.

So I will be rubbing him one more time, now, as I end this piece I have been writing by his side. I wish that by the time I am back on his side tonight, I will see him looking at me, or better, swatting me for ever thinking the worse.

Most of all, though, I wish him the very best.

~ Josie

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IF LOVE IS BLIND

Like a castle in the sky. The tall, white building with large entrances and lots of wide windows that spans two blocks, with the blue sky at the background. If the sun is out, the famous mountain that made the town will be visible behind a thin veil, like the great wall that reach the heavens.

Every day, expensive cars drive in and out, carrying men and women who call themselves “The Representative for The People”, “Spokesperson of the smallfolks”, “Messenger of the Commoners”, or “Watchmen of citizen’s mandate”.

But small as he is, none speaks for his right; even when he is bold enough to sit in the middle of the gateway. Once elected, the windows of those golden carriages, bought by the money from the people they should be representing, would stay black and shut.

A young girl once stood against the crowd and roared “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful”.

His world might be dark, his ears might be small, his voice unheard, but even the unheard voice vibrates so much, we small girls stopped our humble motorbike in front of the barricade, who call themselves “protect and serve”, throw their allegiance only to preserve the arrogance of those who are rich and powerful.

I stood tall in front of their hawk eyes; their stiff faces hidden behind masks. I walked straight toward their towering figures. I stopped right in front of him, down on my knee, and with all due respect, lifted him to rest on my bosom.

Some of those hawk eyes dimmed, as they fidgeted to hide their shame for throwing prejudice. Most just don’t care.

He wouldn’t know what’s going on. At the age where he should roam and wander to see the world, the vision that should build his future was robbed from him. The eyes that would equip him to hold onto hope were gone.

Still he knows how to climb. He knows how to hear, he knows how to love; more than those that called themselves the representatives of the people but never even look at those who gave them their mandates. Smiles, talks and promises are only for a campaign. When all is said and done, and they sat on their thrones in that white palace in the sky, it’s all dark around and they can’t see anything, they can’t see anyone. They have domination to all, but dominion with none.

He knows no sunrise, but he knows when one door is open, he can find a place where he can climb. When he climbs he can hear two voices, and when he hears two voices he will prance upon us.

He knows how many steps would it take to pat on our cheeks. He knows how many rounds of skipping back and forth to get his breakfast, and he knows which leg is whose, when to knead. Sometimes he will still be confused, but whichever leg he kneads, he knows he will have an audience, and his needs will be attended to.

He knows that even though he cannot see, his future is protected, his life is secured.

His hope shall not be lost.

~ Josie

Nachos is 10 weeks old without eyesight. He sat in the middle of the entrance gate of The Province of West Java House Of Representative at risk of being crushed by fancy cars of the senators, seeking someone to hear his voice, but no one cared even to move him to a safer location. He might not see your gesture, but he can feel your love. Let him feel the village that will lift up his voice and give him hope: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai. In her book: I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. ISBN 0316322407 (ISBN 13: 9780316322409) Hardcover, 327 pages. Published October 8th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company

BROKEN ESCAPE

Sometimes, you have to leave it all. Let it all drawn so you can touch rock at the bottom; find silence; get ‘me’ time; eat, pray, love; or whatever many ways to say it.

But my escape from all day at work and all night with Grey, is another guy who withstands the misery of living on a strip of a merciless street, with a twisted leg that hangs loosely on what used to be his knee. Long enough until he found us.

He’d look at me with his big round eyes. Eyes that know no pain and no despair. He’d meow at me with his loud voice; the voice that knows no hopelessness, and he’d do his best, limping with that dangling leg that started to rot, for a pat on the head, for a warm hello, for a smile, at least.

He doesn’t seem to care that I’d talk to him with my utmost regret that I haven’t got the means to help him. He doesn’t seem to care about the kick of guilt that kept thumping on my stomach, the sense of helplessness that punch me on the face.

He cared about getting that pat and hug and cuddle, and sniffs, and two cheeks to lick; and then he’d limp back to his empty bowl and look at me, this time with a silent, yet clear message that I’d need to start my next job.

Filling his plate with delicious food he’d never thought existed before, washing his water bowl and refilling it with fresh mountain water that’s heaven to earth different from the puddle that quenched his thirst all the time in the past.

And then either myself or my partner will keep him company until he had enough, drifted into slumber, so we can both take care of the shelter; sneaking back out of the house as soon as we’re done to deliver to those who hide under the shades around town; waiting for salvation.

Never will we hear the whole story about what happened. Never there will be Sherlock Holmes or the like, who will tell us who was the culprit. Never will there be an explanation, which is no longer necessary.

Because what matters is those two round eyes, loud welcome meow, and persistent demand for pats on the head, and cuddles, and sniffs, and kisses. What matters is accepting that unfortunate past, take the best out of it, and toward better days. Days when he no longer has to drag that dangling rotting leg. Days when his love is reciprocated, and his life reverberates, far, far into the future.

What matters is not a lost leg. What matters is his perseverance, tenacity, courage, and hope.

What matters is him: Bara (pronounced Bar-ah); and the soul that bursts with life and spirit, just like his name means in our language: Flame.

~ Josie

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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

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