AN EYE FOR AN EYE

One mother, three kittens; hungry, cold, and sick. Though living at the curb of a traditional market, people who dump them there just repeat the gazilion others who think the same when they dump their own things. There is food at a traditional market, there are shops, and stalls, and garbage, and rats. They will live.

Maybe; but who cares if they don’t. God loves His creatures, and mother nature will take care of her kin.

We had to stop then because the mother was dragging herself from one stall to the next, begging, while all those people sitting there, cooking and eating and merry making are too busy minding their own chit chat and whatever shit of the world they are having.

She’d come back to her three babies, every few minutes. Grooming them while asking her questioning kittens for a little bit more patience.

Sheilla sat next to our motorbike with strip of steamed fish we procured across the street, and while she keeps them busy, I ran to the closest mini market buying a large shopping bag because we have bulk of things to carry, orders to drop at the post office, and keeping three restless baby and a mother is out of our acrobatic driving skill.

I thought it was unusual for Sheilla to look upset when I ran back with a large bag and went ahead with one kitten; but when I finished bagging all of them she whispered about how the girls who sell meatballs, where I picked those kittens, were laughing and making faces behind me, calling me a nutcase and a moron.

I took it as a complement. Three women were showing off their ugly rearing and I don’t even need to shed a single bead of sweat being a better person. An eye for an eye makes the world go blind, and the cats are more important than three little bitches.

All of these cats have a nasty virus. The whole galaxy of parasites inside and out, and we haven’t even started with malnourishment. We did our best with nutrition, with medicine, with a good, clean, warm home, even as we wonder where would we get extra four bowl of food and the next day for them to live.

First the weakest and the smallest passed over; then the other kitten, a little bit bigger. The mother was declining steadily, and whatever we do with whatever we have was not enough.

The shyest of them all has the worst of everything: the worse cold, the worse sinus, the worse parasite infestation, the worse malnourishment.

Yet she is the one who fights the hardest. She is the one who lives.

So we will fight our hardest too, by her side. We helped her take care of her fleas, we helped her with the worms. We helped restore her insides from a terrible gastrointestinal infection, we helped her cleared her sinus.

We couldn’t help her eyes, though. Infection went too far and too fast for our human powers. We can gamble with ointments and other eye medicines, but our best bet, according to the vet, is for them to remove that bulging eye.

Surgery for a kitten her age carries its own set of additional risks, and obviously its own extra charges; but our girl wouldn’t give up. Her spirit shines through even on the darkest days, when her head hurt so much she couldn’t stand. Her will is so great she keeps on living, keeps on eating, keeps on drinking, even though the pain will shoot at point blank she’d jump off from her sleep, crying and screaming.

Shall we not fight alongside her? Shall we surrender to our limitation and tell her she’d better off with her mother on the other side, instead of the new family she made in our home she now call hers?

Our choice then, is not whether we will get a surgery for her or not. Our choices will be paying our shelter’s mortgage due next week and risk her life, or pay her surgery and risk losing our home.

~ Josie

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Small kitten with a very bad eye.

HOME

She comes to us like an old friend; just like we stop short wherever we are going every time we see her.

Such a lovely sight; she always sits by the window of that tiny bridal boutique at the foot of the hill. Her long hair waves with the wind, white and gleaming under the sun.

Sometimes we saw the mistress of the house, sitting beside her, with food and treats, and we will pass by with a big smile on our faces, waving our love as we pass by. Sometimes we saw the master of the house, rising early before dawn with mop and broom, too busy to notice that she was watching every move, perhaps making sure the place is clean and tidy.

Then she had babies; four. We were so worried when we lost her for two months, but those tiny bundles of joy quenched our longing, and we were overjoyed to see her safe with the whole family.

Just next month after, she was alone. It was too early to see children off to adulthood, but she is not ours.

Not long after, another batch of babies. She still looks regal by that window, but her eyes are just tired. Of course, three months rearing babies and by the fourth she carries another batch.

Three months and her babies are gone. One month later go back to pregnancy.

Three other months of motherhood, and go back to pregnancy. When she greeted us late at night, quite unusually, we wondered what happened. She was thin and bedraggled and dirty and sickly. I opened my jacket and wrapped her. We told her we will see doctors and experts to help her at the change of the week, but at the end we took her against her will.

We thought she will understand, somehow. We’ve known each other for quite a while, but that Sunday when I went to work she somehow broke through her crate and run away.

We saw her the next few days by the same window of that tiny bridal boutique. Still dirty and bedraggled and skinny and sickly. She still welcomed us like an old friend, whenever we dropped by, but she made it clear she won’t come with us, even just for a while.

We no longer see the mistress of the house, sitting beside her with treats and food. Nor do we see the master of the house talking to her when he cleans his veranda. It’s always just her, and her alone. Alone through the day, alone at night. Under the heat of the sun, no warmth from the moon.

We saw her struggle to run, we saw her struggle to trot. We saw her scavenge for scraps and garbage, we saw her drink from the sewer. We saw her few last babies, who are still gone as soon as they can walk and and weaned.

We took her one more time, and she will ran back home, a few miles down the hill.

We saw her struggle to stand, eventually. We saw her struggle just to come to us, for what might be the only food she will have those days, then.

We did it three times, we knew she always went back. We knew she called that place home.

Even though that place no longer calls her home.

But we did it the fourth time; and the fourth time we made sure she would never come back. We locked her up and put her away in the quietest place in our forever lively home. We put up with her anger and complaints. We kept giving her food, we waited patiently. We will give her all our lives if all our lives is as long as it takes for her to understand we mean no harm and that we only try to help.

She has no teeth. Her white fur turn grey from all the bug dirt and she is white as a ghost lacking blood. She has mastitis on all her breasts, because of that her whole torso was swollen, red, and raw. It was painful when she sat, it was painful when she lay on her side, it was painful even when she walks.

Every morning I carry her to the side and give her steamed tuna, blendered into soft mousse. Every evening Sheilla hold her to one corner and gave her steamed chicken breast, pulverized into a congee. It made her mad when we tried to put a warm compress on her swollen chest; it made her upset when we gave her medicine.

We have to sneak in and out of our own house to prevent her from running away, we have to fight our way to get her to the vet; it was three full week in the ‘game of thrones’ until she finally understands we mean no harm.

So she takes our food a little bit more willingly. She endures treatment and medicine for her mastitis a little bit more calmly. She eats whatever we give her. She lets us brush her hair every day. She puts up with baths and hair dryers, she learns that whatever we do, we do it for her.

She learns that bitter medicines is not always evil.

She learns that injections is not always mean.

She learns that sometimes, home is not where her heart is. Home is where love is.

~ Josie

Help me keep the shelter open, so Michelle and other cats like her have a place to call home. We need USD 600 every week to feed everyone and give them necessary care, and we raised no more than USD 298 to date.

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DEA R

At the very first days, every time we got home from work we have to go down on our knee and kiss the floor to find her. Her bright jade green eyes.

At the very first month, we can see her peeking from under the chair. Those round, jade green eyes are getting brighter. She’d hiss when we try to go near, but even her fiercest casting off spell put the biggest smile on our face.

At the very first of the second month we saw her at the last row of cats, every time we stand by the pot with a large spoon and tray in our hands. Aren’t those round, jade green eyes beautiful? It shines brighter as her white fur is thicker, cleaner, fluffier. Patches of dilute colors made her bloom like spring.

At the very first time she slipped between our legs to get access to our bedroom, we were overjoyed. The hissy fitter, the shy and outcast. Well, living alone loveless along a strip of filthy slum at the back of Paris Van Java; fight alone, live alone, sleep alone, run alone. It must be overwhelming to all of a sudden be surrounded by other cats.

Creeping onto our bed is like sneaking into heaven. One paw, very slowly, very gingerly, ears flipped to the back, nose sniffs fast, eyes screening around, then curl as small as she can at the furthest corner.

We left her for a few hours and when we peeked through the window, she was right in the middle splaying as wide as she can, sleeping like she has never been safe before.

She has never been safe before indeed.

If nothing changed, it’s that wound on her nose. We have been treating the wound meticulously, at the cost of our hand, chewed finger, scratched arm, kicked torso, spats and quite few claws on our faces. The wound dried well, then a scab fell off, but then the wound will still be there. We ask vets, made some call, seek advice; all said, as long as Dea functions normally, it might just be some persistent bacteria.

But months? and it’s creeping larger and larger, just like every day, Dea’s bond with us is closer and closer.

So come the time when we pick up a small box at the corner of our studio, and see if there’s any left for us. With every last dime we drove Dea to see one of the most senior veterinarians in our town, with a network that spans through the country, with one question.

The answer came with a name: Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

That day forward we live in another world. Best food for Dea, best supplements, best shirt for rainy day, best bed in the coolest spot for the hell hot day. Playing in the park, see the castle of clouds in the sky, running like crazy with fish in our hand and the whole shelter after us. Splaying wide at the center of the bed, watching the rain drops on the tiny turtle pond and guess how many circles the rain makes before it breaks at the very end.

There was silence, then, when we sat by the vet and Dea sleeping in peace in my arms, wrapped in her favorite blanket. There was nothing left but a large, rotting hole on her face. Her nose long gone, her cheek raw, and her mouth sore. Her upper jaw was red and inflamed.

The glory that is left, are those round, jade green eyes, ever brighter, always alive, always eager. The glory that had seen days in the sewer, the glory that had seen rotting garbage as food, the glory that knows kicks and shoo as the only interaction, the glory that has seen fear, hunger, pain, disease, death.

The glory that with all our might came to see soft bed, good food, fresh water, best medication. The glory that learns arms that cradle and hugs and kisses. The glory that has seen life, love, chance and hope.

The glory that we will not allow to be taken by anything, especially cancer.

One rain drop. Then two, three, and all of a sudden, so much we couldn’t see more than few feet in front of us; but we didn’t stop, we didn’t pull over. We took the peace offered between blasting thunder. We took the light given with every lightning, we took those tiny pin sized fingers running through our faces, wiping off our tears.

At the end of this storm there will be a rainbow, so we keep on riding, with Dea sleeping in our arms under our raincoat. At the end of this storm there will be a fluffy cloud opening its way with a ray of sunlight.

We will stop then, and see Dea with her round, jade green eyes, joining the stars in the sky.

~ Josie

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THIN RED SPINE

The road was jam packed and we could be late; but I pointed my finger to the bottom of a filthy cart by the road side and made Sheilla stop in her speeding tracks and we pulled over.

I knew he was ready to die. I knew he burned all his hope out to dust, and that the fire had died inside, but red ashes that soon will turn cold and grey.

Whether he was born and raised on that very street, or was moved there by his mother so he can find his own future, or thrown away by a human to face his doom, will never be certain. But he tried his best to live, though this increasingly ignorant and merciless world eventually ate him, like the mange that sucks the life out of him slowly and painfully. Chews him alive, like the ear mites, fleas and parasites that plague him, and split him half dead in that dark, wasted corner, with a wound on his back, eaten by infection and an abscess that put a hole large and deep enough that I can see his spine while standing above him.

One life time under extreme weather gave him persistent cold, while severe and prolonged undernourishment killed his immune system; I found it difficult to find the start. Whether it’s the fleas first? parasites? sinus? His system wouldn’t stand another day if I bombed the whole thing all together.

Whenever I was in doubt and came to my late dad for a hint, he’d smile at me, tell me to start with whatever crossed my mind first, or whichever shouted to my gut the loudest.

I started with food. Steamed chicken fillet, blendered into congee. Egg yolk and goat’s milk, stewed chicken liver or white meat tuna. Meticulous shaving around his b(l)ack hole and silver gel before it sucked more of what was left of the shadow of his former self. I cannot bathe him because of that hole, though it annoyed me to see him so dirty, oily, and sandy; his fur is so full of flea poop it turn gray and coarse. I can see fleas wandering around like a walk in the park. He cannot hear properly with the whole colony of ear mites, and he cannot open his eyes because his eyelids are full of mange crusts.

He is only three months old, and he has to endure being eaten alive day in, day out.

The very first time he tried to look my way and meowed, croaky as it was, I did the happy dance. I haven’t rid him of the parasites and that hole in his back is gaping like an ozone hole over Antarctica. That ashes inside got its flame back, so all that mattered the most now is fanning that flame and turn it into fire, fire to bon fire, bon fire to hell; like eating more often, a larger portion, taking his medicine easier, accepting his vitamins, supplements, trusting me enough not to squirm and bite when I clean his wound and change his dressing. Going to the litter box, grooming himself and bite bits of those crusts off; one bit at a time. As long as he has that will, he has won half the battle.

The other half, he can leave it to me.

~ Josie

This little boy is unnamed. I was too busy trying to tackle his next issue whenever it popped up I haven’t had time to think of a proper name, though he is worth the best name ever. But what is the point of having a name, if it only for engraving on his tomb? Now that he has learned that he is not alone, that he can live, that he can love, help me fight his life back on his behalf, that one day he has no flea, no mites, no mange, no worm, and no hole in the back with spine and raw meat exposed. Help me help this boy heal. Help me help him regain his hope.

Help me help him win his war: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

QUITE SIMPLY

Living in a cemetery, hair scruffy; she would glare at people from afar, and disappear among the gravestones. One said she has many babies, but none lives long enough to see the day they walk on their own feet. Some would wonder, and try to find out; she’d driven them away with claw and hisses.

In the days of old, she’d be quite simply a witch. She’d be hunted, cornered, sacked, banished at best, or worse, burned at a stake. It’s not enough that people kick her around.

In modern days of technology and science, however, she’s quite simply: a carrier of a disease. Her blood test indicated that she passed Calicivirus to her babies, and so whatever she does, she’d never come to the day when she sees them stand on their own feet.

Once we see beyond the curse that haunts her, it’s easy to see that she is quite simply a loving, caring mother. She’d be watching day and night around her kittens, she never wandered far but only for food and water. She neglected herself so she can devote all of her being to her children, perhaps in the hope that if she tries harder, they will finally come to see better days, and those who exercise their curiosity beyond warning and measure, it will not only be cats that can be killed by curiosity.

Actually, the solution for her condition is quite simply sterilization, but for her last batch of kittens to live through their inherited curses and see the light of a better morning is not quite so simple. For one like her, with luxurious hair and beautiful bones to end up in cemetery, it must have started with a bitter story of abandonment, a bitter story of having to live alone in a merciless world, a bitter story of cruelty without cause, a bitter story of survival against even more bitter odds. How could she not lose her trust in the world, and belief only in her claws and hisses?

It took us ages and many degrading smirks of people around, an embodiment of evil who called themselves human; humans who laugh at other human who tried to do the right thing, who waited in hiding to run and kick her (and us) every time we tried to offer goodness. That those who call themselves human, a human who would deliberately spray her with sewer water just when she decided to open a crack in her heart for us to show, is of a different species to us.

When we took her home with a promise of a sweeter world and happier days, these are what said to us: She is just a cat, a stray cat, what a sore waste for you to be so kind, just throw her into the river and help us be rid one more bit of garbage that does not need to exist.

It was really quite simply for me to return the acid spray, that the one who should be ridden from the world is them and their kind: factory defect that escape paradise when the QC angel slept on duty. Or perhaps they are the other side? The one who looked like a snake that has nothing from their mouth but venom, which is why they are at the bottom of society, just like their ancestors cursed to slither on the floor of the earth for all eternity.

For her four babies, we quite simply can only try, giving additional nutrition as soon as they open their eyes. Additional supplements as soon as they can swallow something else other than their mother’s diminishing milk. Additional visit to the vet for boosters, closer watch and intensive monitoring. The real journey was a lot more than what quite simply can be said.

When one of the four fell, she followed us inside, watching us clean and wrap her baby, another she lost just like before. There was no words from her mouth, only a subtle saddened glare, but when we put her baby in the box, she lay vigil all night long beside her fallen angel until the next day, when her other babies called upon her.

How then is she called garbage that does not need to exist? She is quite simply a mother, just a different language, different world. The language that we understand, the world that we come to love.

Only one left from her four babies, when her breasts start to fail her, and she was forced to wean her last man standing early. We quite simply smile when she came to us to lead us to her hero, and took charge over him so that finally, her curse can be broken, and one child she so vigilantly cared for can live to see his happy days alongside her.

She quite simply has been through enough.

~ Josie

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THE LION ON THE FRONT DOOR

He lay there like a lion without a mane, still watching people come and go by at the doorstep of that small coffee shop. I can tell he is old, but those squinting eyes do not signify defeat, it roars wisdom.

The next time I am there for the supermarket across the street, I showed my partner about the watch cat of UNKL Tea and Coffee. He was looking great.

Third time I was there, I saw him curling asleep on the doormat, still. I cannot but marvel at him, at the same time gladdened that people who come there for coffee or tea, wouldn’t harm him. If there was any sign of dislike, they just go around him, and leave him in his heavenly peace.

Two days after, I saw him again, still sitting on that same doormat, in front of UNKL Tea and Coffee, looking around. There was something different, if not amiss, but I cannot quite say what.

I put on my helmet, ready to assist my partner parking the motorbike, when my hand moved voluntarily to touch her back. All of a sudden, I wanted to feed that cat. Even though he looks great, even though he doesn’t seem to be close to people, even though he looked sleepy that day. I told the parking lot guy, an old man, roughly 60s, who often helps us distribute cat food to cats around, that I wanted to check on the cat first.

He said, with rather saddened voice, that the cat had just been run over by a car. Two nights before, after the coffee shop closed, and he walked out of his post to find food. It was long weekend, and cars jam-packed the street. A particularly big car with a long nose crushed him.

He said, the cat seemed to be OK, though. He woke up, he walked away, a little bit limp, and he disappeared in the dark of the night.

He said, the cat was there the next morning, so he thought, all is good in this world.

I went across the street with a pack of food, and called him, as friendly as I can be. He doesn’t seem like a people’s cat.

He stood up, and limped with three legs to where I stood in the corner.

There was dry blood on his hind leg, there were traces of wounds that started to scab, there were hints of pain on the face that used to look like a lion.

But a lion is a lion none the less.

He walked as straight as he can, using the leg that hurt as much as he can, looking as good as he can.

When I turned around, my partner was already behind me. Looking at him intently, she said we are going to go back to that supermarket, and find a sturdy canvas bag to carry him.

We already have two cats needing surgery then, and one more would break our back, but it seemed like God want us to go further and shatter our skulls.

So we gave him food, told him to wait, ran away, and he came back with us, powerless in his inability to walk properly, much less run.

At least his situation is not as bad as the other two. His hip was dislocated, his pelvis cracked, but he won’t have to lose his leg. He will need to stay put after our vet puts his hip back and pins his pelvis, but then he’ll be as good as new.

He will still cost us a fortune, though, and we already dig deep for Mr. Grey and Bara. Reaching out a few times in social media didn’t quite see our expectation, and other bills and food need to be paid as well.

Yes, the vet gave us credit. Yes, we are allowed to pay later, and in installments, but yes, should urgencies come, we won’t have any spare left in our tab.

The other choice, however, is to let him go.

We went forward with nothing but hope. Hope that somehow we will find a way out of our seemingly impossible financial noose. Hope that help will come, hope that if we try in earnest, the universe will turn in our favor.

And then, hope that one time after all of these ordeal come to pass, he can go back and be that stature of a lion in front of UNKL Tea and Coffee.

Hope that he will get the life stolen from him back.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Unkl (pronounced “uncle”) is now fighting his upper respiratory infection at the sanctuary and is winning. He has one more week of antibiotics to be sure he is clean and clear, then he will have his leg fixed. The most recent Easter matching challenge paid the bill for Mr. Grey and Bara. If you haven’t already, or if you have spare mercy, help us raise USD 400 to pay for Unkl’s surgery.