BELLE

Little town, it’s a quiet village
Every day like the one before
Little town, full of little people
Waking up to say
Bonjour! Bonjour!

And here we are, a pair of little women, raising from our sleep, not too shallow, not so deep.
We have classes today, and a weekend market to bid, for life, of ours, of theirs, the cats, their mothers, and their kits.

There goes the baker with his tray, like always
The same old bread and rolls to sell
Every morning just the same
Since the morning that we came
To this poor, provincial town.

Instead of listening, to the urban farming graduates, teaching us to grow sorghum in the pot, that we can turn into cereal, and help to feed the cats (and cows, and chicken), we were busy whispering about that little cat.

She was so tiny, her waist is unseen. She was so light, we can lift her with three fingers. She was confused, she cannot walk straight, she bumps all over, and slam the concrete – where we put some food on – with her nose!

Soon there were those whispers. Women with their religious attires, pretty ladies, with lips red and pink and fused.

Look there she goes, that girl is strange, no question
Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell?
Never part of any crowd
‘Cause her head’s up on some cloud
No denying she’s a funny girl that Belle.

We were funny because we read the modules the night before the class, and everything the scholar said is in it. We were strange because we moved away from the crowd and do our own business, so everyone can do their own. We distract ourselves then and there, so when the question and answer session came, at least one of us can raise her hand, and posed all the wonder we wrote down before.

At the end, that’s what we do. My caretaker talked to the old farmer who first (and until now) cultivated sorghum in pots as if they are roses, while I waited by the parking lot, with Belle in my arm.

Then, another whisper, another giggle.

Look there she goes, the girl is so peculiar
I wonder if she’s feeling well
With a dreamy, far-off look
And her nose stuck in a book
What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle.

My nose is not stuck in a book, and I am not Belle.
This girl should not either.

Her eyes are crossed. One look down, and one look to the other direction; so she cannot walk straight.

She cannot perceive depth, she can only eat what we hold right under her mouth; but a stray as she is, who will give her food, let alone hold her food under her mouth?

Her teeth are not aligned. Her voice is coarse, and she can’t control her volume. She stayed by the window, and unless someone help her climb down from her perch, she will not be moving anywhere anytime soon.

But we doubt not, and she prove so, that she is loving and kind. She is generous and especially so with the kittens. She is patient, she is merciful. She sat by our feet and waited quietly until we are done with the other, so she can have her food.

She may have the ugliest of appearance, but she has the most beautiful manners.

It made her Belle to us, and she is why there are more than this provincial life, otherwise we’d both be gone.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Paragraphs in italics adapted from the song “Belle” performed by Emma Watson. Produced by Michael Kosarin, Matt Sullivan & Alan Menken
Album Beauty and the Beast: 2017 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Donations at a very low ebb – please step in and help now

Had help not come in time, Mika and all her kindness will be thrown back to the street.

ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN…

“I have this stray cat who always waited across the street”, my friend said. Then, she was still a volunteer. Now, she is my caretaker, and my flat mate.

“She is afraid of my cat, so she waited by the shade across the street. If by chance I got out from the house, she will run to me, and ask for a little food”

I had a feeling I knew where all this would end.

“I feel sorry to leave her by the road, because no one takes care of her. She is never mean to everyone, but many are cruel to her, and she never allows anybody to touch her but me”

There, see?

I jumped right into the end, head first.

“Can you trap her?” I replied, “You know we are full, but if you can trap her, we can spay her and I will find a safe space for her around the mountain. We can come visit everyday”

So, my caretaker trapped her.

Two days later, she delivered two babies, with much difficulties and pain; due to undernourishment and stress.

None share the greatest joy but us, despite knowing the challenges surmounting in raising this family. First to recover the mother, then to help her kittens grow.

But none has the biggest delight, if not us.

Despite all her troubles, all her challenges, all her pains, Mama Mika, willingly took charge of all the kittens who comes flooding into our shelter in the weeks to come.

No less than a dozen dumped on us every day. Some made it through, some were late, yet not a single one go without at least a single snuggle and a sip of nutrition.

Mika brought back our hope. In desperation amidst our struggle to keep the shelter alive after the rush of renovation and fatally infected kittens, who needs much energy and attention, she reminds us of the power of hope and faith.

Of loving each and everyone, one at a time, one after another.

Mika reminds us that angels do not always come by from heaven. It can come from the street, it can come from miles away across the ocean, it can come from a stranger. It can come in dribs and drabs, it can come in big chunks and heavy raining.

It can come from a stray cat.

And most of all from every one of us.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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I am calling you, to look into this mother’s eyes

If I am to start with how deep the rot in a human heart may go, we will all end up in hospital; maybe jail.

But I will be like this mother; standing guard in front of the box in which she was dumped in the corner of parking lot of nearby post office; although her babies were still wet and her body must have been all sore.

I will be standing firm and faithful in my calling and purpose to help animals, and especially so to those at the bottom of this all.

Our shelter is overly full, and we have cats with terminal illness. We have one awaiting labor, we have two awaiting spay, and twelve babies waiting for life to get started.

The parking men seemed to be kind gentlemen, though, at least not the common kind who will kick and abused animals just for machismo. In fulfilling their duties they have been give a small post that they abandon due to the lack of ventilation and too much glass, but enough air and is safe for a new mother with three babies.

I have offered to “rent” their post for a small sum of money, enough for extra one or two plates of dinner for each man, and they not only agreed, they helped me carry the mother inside near the door where she can go in and out with ease for all her life businesses.

Every day, I will take turn with my caretaker to visit and refresh the water, refill the food bowl, and give her the canned food she seems to really enjoy and treasure. We will bring a clean towel and exchange the soiled one.

And then, we will pray, and I hope you will pray with us, that she feels safe enough to stay there until she is strong and healthy enough to be spayed, and her kittens be weaned.

I am calling you, who can stand firm and faithful, in sharing your courage and willingness to help me help this little family grow. I am calling you, who has your compassion burning and your kindness broiling, to guard these precious lives that deserve better, but accept the currentsituation.

I am calling you, to look into this mother’s eyes, deep, and long, and tell her loud and clear:

Come to me, mother, weak and sore, tired and burdened, I will relieve you.

I will take care of you.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

BUT THEN, MOST OF ALL

… animals.

I’d go far for them, far and beyond.

There were incompetent and impotent workers who think sweet-talking a woman would persuade her away from demanding a decent quality of work, and accept the current (regional) standard that women know nothing, and therefore should do/hear/see/say/think nothing.

There were sellers who thinks there is no way a woman can see a difference between one type of wood and the other, and try to charge the price of good wood, for rotting lumber.

There were delays, and tiring back and forth, and arguments, and endless glares, and threats, and lots and lots and lots of money wasted on cellphone balance, just because no one else understands that, at least for me, animals are as precious as, if not more, than fellow humans.

Especially humans who think animals deserve nothing of all the best quality I demanded (and pay accordingly) and therefore add to all the brain sore and salt to the injury they try to inflict me.

There were also people who take my money as I showed them, and follow my requirements in knowledge that I am always true to my words, regardless of whom I given their end product. Their work is not perfect (see all those smearing paint? holes in that brand new fiberglass because they first install it upside down?), but it’s acceptable considering regional skill level.

That’s at least more professional. Why does one care, whom I give the items I bought from them, fair and square? Why does one feel offended, that their workmanship is to be used for animals, and more so, unfortunate animals?

But then, most of all…

Why do I care about them at all, while they don’t give a damn about me?

It cost me more because I have to hire a middleman, a supervisor (instead of me doing it myself), but if it gets the work done and keep the cats safe, let’s do it.

And here is the extension of our laundry room. It’s made of (middle up) quality wood instead of high quality iron, but the cats can’t climb them. It has fiberglass roof instead of glass, but cats can’t climb them. It’s still dark and plain and empty, but as soon as I get the money, I will install light and cat toys and hammocks and…

Of course, for the cats.

At the same time we also fix our studio window, from which some of the cats can slip in and jump out to the front yard (and be gone).

Then, if the cats can’t climb them, they won’t end up on our cat hating neighbor’s roof who betray the cat’s trust, sack them and dump them in the worst of places.

They won’t end up on the street in front of our house, or playing in our front yard (yes, INSIDE and OUR front yard) and offend some young thug who lives across the street (see that “Ceper Cell” thing?) and love to throw hot water on passing cats (owned or stray) and dump his dirty water on the road right by our fence. Like Sierra who always sits silently right under our gate waiting for us to arrive home, or Kaka who rolls and frolics next to our catnip IN our yard, or Rufus, who turn back his 15 years of age far enough to climb the roof, go to the front yard via the community garden, only to be sacked and dumped in the SOHO complex (I found him and kidnap him right back home, and even chat face to face with the lady in big grin who said she saw him around the corner, snatch him and throw him into her car baggage and release him in the complex).

But then, most of all…

Whether the cats like it or not (like there is any cat who likes to be told what to do?), the cats stay inside.

But then, most of all…

We are The Whiskers’ Syndicate. We safe lives today, and worry about changing the world tomorrow.

We are The Whiskers’ Syndicate; we are the first, and by far, the only cat sanctuary in this town by the hillside, in which 99% of its residents (including vets) are backyard breeders, or poachers, and the remaining can care less about them.

We are the Whiskers’ Syndicate, who dried ourselves up to the last penny and risk hunger if it keeps the cats alive and safe, and at the same time responded to pleas of help of animals who needs our love under the rubble of earthquake and wet out of tsunami.

Some do ask us why we go head over heels and back again for animals, while there are so many humans suffer.

Like… hey, everywhere we look everybody is plastering their fundraising account numbers to help those humans affected in Lombok and Sulawesi.

But then, most of all…

Because we are The Whiskers’ Syndicate. We heard the voices of those nobody cared to hear. We lend our hand to those nobody cared to touch, we love those nobody cared to love.

We are the Whiskers’ Syndicate; and we do unto the least of our God’s brethren (whichever God it is or no God at all), the way we do unto these Gods (or no God at all).

The most important,

Because every life matters, even if it’s not so for everyone else.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

EDEN IN THE CORNER, JUST ONCE MORE

At the end of that long winding road, finally, a truce. Forceful and enforced peace that comes on negotiation; or rather, political lobby.

It is the old man introduced by my tuna guy. He looked dignified in his well coiffed hair, clean shirt, and thick rimmed glasses; but like any other, it was dignified empty shell.

Down under, there is only weaseling the way to cheat more money out of supposedly plain and honest looking little girl; there was only slippery tricks of word play to allude alertness and let the corruption go smooth.

After all, he came with only a saw and a heart melting smile. One hour before a small truck had rattled my fence so loudly and roughly I had to scream to overcome the noise and made aware of my presence. I need to run one hundred meters from the other end of the house so please wait.

Only to come to six cheap, bent, rotting wood that will break under pressure of the mountainside rain within months, if not weeks.

Like any other, the builder thinks I am a woman hence I am meek, weak and stupid.

I asked my money back, and buy the wood myself, those sturdy and thick that made his face pale. He had to work on those logs, instead of just cutting here and there and nail everywhere; but if he is as good as he claimed he is when he made the deal, it still should be done in one day.

Instead, he worked so slow I am not sure if any of those logs will become smooth in three days, and the roof will be done probably next week, or ten days later.

And all that adds to his daily wage.

One way or the other.

Sometimes, there is only one small rock that hold a snowball from turning into avalanche; and my little rock is this little guy.

Just like my Eden, six years ago.

The only difference is that my current Eden is a girl, and that I found her hiding under a wooden stall so weighed down by the shoes it sells, that it slanted like tower of Pisa.

Alone, in the cold, under the heat, thirsty, hungry, scared and mangy.

When she was finally overcame by hunger and curiosity and peeked out, just with one leg on the roadside, I pick her up, and she stays with us since.

Even though, she is not quite a kitten any other should be.

She has FeLV.

Like the little rock that stopped a snowball from turning into avalanche, she will not last long.

But at the time being, she is standing strong; and so should I.

So should I, when I am facing the cheater with the face of an angel, with composure and courtesy, righting what is wrong.

When I am facing the lazy who thinks he can cut rotting wood and made fake canopy, with firmness and aloof assertiveness.

When I weighed in over my responsibility to my donors and the lives of all these cats who will stand and sleep under it and not my pity and overflowing mercy toward a poor guy who got his blessing indecently.

In the evening, after that busy dusk of supplements and boosters, and baby milk and manuka honey in the hope of making the most of her days that left, I slipped over the fence, looking at the half hearted work left on my front yard.

And then my legs swings easy five minutes uphill to the house of a retired supervisor who worked for the developer where I bought our home.

There I asked if he would once more get out of his retirement and call his people to work on my abode, the way they all went out of their retirement and help us rebuilt our shelter after the typhoon.

“I will come on Sunday”, he said.

It will be three days that the other worker asked to finish my roof, and since he does not stay true to any of his side of the contract, I obtained the right to terminate according to mine. I had the right, I had pity, I had mercy, I had responsibility.

Just like little Eden and I had a deal,

That each of us will try our best every bit of the way, no matter how long we have by each other side.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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