Mothers’ Day Special: The Best Mother Tortie In The World

As appeared on Animal Rescue Chase

Featured on Care2 Causes: Animal Welfare

There’s this beautiful monastery by the hills of a conservatory forest in West Java, and I had an opportunity to stay there during a religious outing last December.

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A square in the middle of camping ground

What I love the most from the camp is the way the Carmelite sisters and brothers in the convent left the nature undisturbed, believing that nature, in itself, is God’s grace.

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A beehive on the statue of St. Therese of Avilla is left undisturbed

The best part, is, of course: dinner, because at that time, various indigenous animals from nearby conservatory would go down to the smell of our food and peer to us. Two wild dogs even gone round the camp fire and naturally, got a fair share of healthy meal.

But my attention is rather drawn into a quiet, almost invisible presence near my group; a tortoise-shell cat who sit silently as she stares toward us. Whenever someone is leaving the circle one of the dogs would follow, and the cat would run away, so I think she must have been afraid of the dog. However, that night I put a plate of rice, chicken (from my group mate) and scrambled egg just outside my room, where she previously sat, and go to sleep.

The next day I wake up rather early, wondering how she is doing, and whether she ate the food I left for her, but I don’t need to wonder for long. There she is, curling up at the corner of my bed, peacefully asleep. For the next few days I keep putting a plate of rice and meat, but she only took the scrambled egg.

At the last night of the outing, I saw her strolled leisurely into my tent even before dinner, and curl up on my bed, so I skip dinner and follow her. She purrs when I stroke her. I figured she is familiar enough with me, so I put her plate inside the tent and watch her eat, as I say my good bye and offer her my apologies. Tomorrow we will see each other no more, and she will lose a warm and comfortable bed, but again, she only ate the egg.

Out of curiosity I tried to checked out her teeth, and only then found out that she doesn’t have teeth. None at all except for her lower left fang.

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Toothless Tortie

No wonder she is so thin. I cannot imagine how hard her life must be without ability to hunt or eat properly. So I decided that night that I would bring her home, and the next day, smuggle her in my knapsack so no one know that I’m carrying a cat back to town. Luckily all of my group is animal friendly so they just shrugged when they saw me empty my knapsack and roll all my things in newspaper. Josie’s antics strike again. Well, at least they don’t tell anyone.

Tortie is the kindest, gentlest, and most understanding cat I have ever known. She hardly move on our way home, so the bus driver didn’t know he had extra passenger.

It wasn’t easy for the both of us in the beginning. Tortie, knowing that she is defenseless, barely move from the corner of my bed. She just go down for a drink, when the other cats were not around, she ate long after the other finished, and went to the litter box in wee hour in the morning when everyone else is asleep. She stays as far away as possible from the other. Even when I tried to socialize her with the other cats, she prefer to stay in a small cage where I usually keep new kittens, and stay there the rest of the day.

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Tortie’s sanctuary

Even when I took her for spaying she just remain quiet that the vet marvel at her “sweetness”, more so because the vet is four hours drive from Bandung to the other end of Jakarta. She is amazed at how “calm” Tortie was during the journey, and she was sorry that despite all my effort to bring her to see the vet, a more senior vet than those in Bandung, she can’t explain how, and why Tortie lost all her teeth. She just told me that Tortie is probably little more than one year old, and that she is a smart and quiet in the forest, that she survived until she was found, and can’t imagine how she took care of her kittens, because without teeth, she won’t be able to carry them, nor defend them from predators.

And there were dogs in the camping ground….

I just don’t want to imagine. Tortie is with me now, and I am going to give her better days than a scary forest. With me her food is finely ground chicken meat, no bones or hard part, cat’s milk and her favorite egg, but without teeth, she practically lick and swallow whatever food that comes into her mouth. The lack of proper chewing probably contribute to her difficulties with stool (she litters one every two days) and her stomach bloat easily. She has to depend on digestive aid to properly digest her food. Anyhow, a month after she first arrive in our house, she finally have normal weight, and I arrange for a special consultation with a senior vet because she has “special need”.

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Tortie on my lap, sedated for spaying. The curious brown dog belongs to the vet, and he thought every animals are his friend.

I can call it God’s grace, or fate’s play that one day I came to rescue a twin kitten I called “Tacos” and “Nachos”. I accidentally hit Tortie’s soft spot. Tortie reached out; she voluntarily adopt two kittens that I recently rescue, to the point of willingly nurse them despite her dried out breasts. She diligently groom the kittens and never left their side.

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Tortie nursing one of the twin kitten. If you look closely, you can see her only fang stuck out

With or without teeth, Tortie is a mother. She couldn’t carry Tacos or Nachos, but when she wants to move them, she will wait until the other cats were out for playing, or sleeping, and will call them to follow her. When she teach them how to jump, she will jump to the place she wanted them to be, and call and call and call pitifully until the kittens jump high enough to reach her, and then she will lick them, perhaps saying “good boys!”

If the kittens can’t do it even after hours of trying? That’s all right too. Tortie is still a mother, so she will jump down and lick the kitttens “That’s all right, we’ll try again tomorrow” and stroll back to the cage.

If the other cats got curious and got closer, she will growl, and slap them. Her nail grows in an alarming speed, despite regular clipping. Perhaps her bodily response for lack of defense in her other part.

With courage and great motherly nature, Tortie brought up Tacos and Nachos until they are old enough to be weaned, and finally got adopted.

Tortie, however, stays. No one would want to adopt a special need cat whose food cost more than her master, much less when the potential master also need to pay for a more expensive vet charges.

Even so, I am not burdened. I am happy to be with the sweetest cat in the world, the calmest and most courageous woman of all time, and most of all, the best mother imaginable.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Tortie. And to all mothers in the world.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Threading Through The Red Sea part 4: An Open Letter from A Hoarder

Last February, there was a cat sanctuary named Caboodle Ranch, home to a couple of hundred (some say a thousand) of cats. The sanctuary was raided after an “undercover” videotaping of sick cats in deplorable condition by none other than PeTA. ASPCA is said to be involved in the raid.

The raid raise global controversy unlike any other, and in the middle of the cloudy water, a fellow crafter for animal wrote a blog she said is “inspired” by the Caboodle Ranch case.

She said blatantly in her blog post that, despite has nothing to do with Caboodle Ranch, or PeTA, or ASPCA, and that she even didn’t know what exactly going on, she still think that the owner of Caboodle Ranch had passed the thin line between rescuing and hoarding, and that according to herself, the raid somewhat dwindled the public trust on rescuers. Moreover, she said that as a rescuer herself, much more further, she said that she feel betrayed and hurt by what Caboodle Ranch had done.

By the way, she also said along the line of, if we rescuer has common sense, we’d know our limit, and once we reach our limit, stop taking in more animals.

Deep in my heart, I know where she was going, and what she was trying to do with the post. A short while prior to that post, we all have a newsletter from a craft selling portal about the importance of social networking to our sales, and blogging, aside from the infamous Facebook and Twitter, is one of the best sales booster. And if you search the internet how to begin blogging, you will find that most advices say that you should start by hitting the heating topic, and go from there.

Combined by a sudden “boost” of enthusiasm (if I can’t say rather aggressive ambitiousness) that she had never shown before (e.g: by jumping into any volunteer vacancy in our crafter group) I think I got the big idea. She is trying to boost sales, and she was trying to ride the heat of Caboodle Ranch case. But I also think that, with all due respect, writing about heated topic without sound knowledge of the fact is killing herself, especially because here, in the animal welfare war, there are no lukewarm party, much less neutral one. Unless you are ready to swallow the flame, you’d better play it safe. Besides, playing sides and angered the other is definitely not going to boost any sales.

As a friend I was trying to warn her that it’s not good to judge without knowing all the fact, but she told me that she read enough from all the comments in Facebooks and websites (one of them are PeTA’s) and that gave her enough basics to write.

Since she didn’t seem to bother seeing what I was really trying to say at the bottom line, and the hint of “whatever you say folks, keep it for yourself, I am moving on” I just stay quiet instead of wasting my time by trying to go further.

Four days later, I got a notification that a reader (who are a complete stranger) put on a comment on her blog. She got her first flame.

Needless to say, she brush that off too, and after the same “I read enough” rebuttal, that was met with an even fiercer reply, she told her reader “I am so done with this topic, have a good day!”

Yaay…. (in an undertone)

Unfortunately, although I remained quiet during the short ‘flaming’ session, what she wrote in her blog about “stop taking in another animal when we reach our limit” disturbed me; because honestly, I don’t think it’s all that’s easy, even in a sovereign countries like USA or UK or even Switzerland (that as the strictest animal welfare law in the world) and much more in Indonesia, that has no animal welfare law.

I mean, if you were strolling on a park one day and found a skin-and-bone cat, so hungry that he meows weakly to anyone that passed, even if he’s been kicked around as result, and your house is full, would you walk away? If you walked your way to the office and found a tiny kitten that has been dumped on the road, and your house is overcrowded, would you turn your head the other way? If you see a cat with very ugly sinus that can’t even walk properly, would you close your eyes and just pass? If you just, by any chance, sit around and saw someone coming to you with a box of teeny weeny baby cats and dump them on you, and your house is full, would you just stand up and show your “attitude” on them? “Hey mister, my house is full, go find somewhere else, I am so done with cats, have a nice day!”?

This morning, as I cycle to the office, I saw a 6 months old cat, skin and bone and literally sun-dried (yeah, like chappy, flaky paint under scorching sun), so weak that she crinkled like raisin and can only lay by the road, waiting for his heart to stop.

So?

Before we get to the answer to that, here is a copy and paste of how my associate define hoarder:

I consider myself a No Kill rescuer. […] The difference between someone like myself (for instance) and a hoarder is that the hoarder does not know his or her limits or chooses to ignore them.  This individual will become hyper-focused on the animals and will withdraw, rather than engage with anyone, let alone the rescue community.  The person will become isolated and may not let anyone onto their property.  A major clue to someone who may be a hoarder posing as a rescue is that they will not make efforts to–or even be open to–rehome animals.  That person is not a rescue.  That person is a hoarder.

We all know that my house is full, hence, I reached my limits. And there’s this cat on the road. So, I walked away? Sorry little cat, my house is full, and you are lying on the wrong road. Try another house….

But I picked that cat up, get back home, and put him on a cool compress, give him electrolyte, and offer him a small plate of soft food, and of course, late for work.

This is Indonesia. People are lynched because they are different, at least verbally abused for the rest of their life, and isolation is only small part of how people here treated those who are different, in any part. So, I am isolated because while people here treat animals like “thing” (of no value) I choose to treat animals like “one” (with all values attached) and I am not ashamed to show it.

But looking at the definition above, now I am a hoarder too?

Then come here and flame me. Come here and spat on me, call me a rescuers’ traitor, a disgusting piece of thing, bad mouth on me as you like, then, go inside my over crowded house, and meet the Whiskers’ Syndicate.

I have all the misfits in place: A cat with hernia (Renoir, he is now healed), a castaway Persian (Boo), a cat with twisted leg (Jan), another cat with no teeth whatsoever (Tortie), a cat that once walk by dragging his lower limb (Rexie II, he is now healed), a cat that’s so traumatic she will push herself under the pillow when she sees the stranger (Harley), a victim of vet malpractice (Sports), a cat that only meows once a year (Bobtail), or a black cat that’s blind (Braille), then meet Friskies, Tiger Lily, Blossom, Mini…

But hey, like many other who peeked in and surprised, I promise I won’t say anything when you mimic them saying “It’s not what I think it would be! They are healthy, clean, fat….”

Labeling people is as easy as categorizing fruits. Judging them from your personal perspective is as simple as pointing fingers, but I wish this fellow crafter, and to whom it may concern, understand that, deciding on something by regards of an individual definition is like looking onto the whole earth from a tiny speck of dew in the twilight.

And if you have that much sparks in your soul that you can define someone in such “robust” way, remember that rescuers are human beings like you, they just live in another bucket, one that might not be as sparkling as your metropolitan city, or as large as your grand house, nor as stern as your judging definition. Somewhere out there in Rwanda, someone is abandoning their family and become isolated because she is trying to save Gorillas from being victim of two extremist political parties at war. Somewhere out there Vietnam a group of young men and women are trying to help bears from being tortured to death for their bile and by that risking their lives. Somewhere out there in the jungles of India, fresh graduates abandons their bright future and roam through the forest  trying to save the tigers. Somewhere in the open sea, a boat-full of people are abandoning their land to guard the whales. Somewhere out there in Iceland or Japan, someone is filming like crazy to reach out on behalf of the dolphins. Somewhere in the most remote part of Borneo, strangers are trying to save the Lorises and orangutans from being poached to extinction in the name of Palm Oil. Somewhere here, in Bandung, a capital breeder city of Indonesia, a small pair of hand is trying to at least ease the lives of 400 thousand stray cats that otherwise will never know what it means to be alive. (Don’t eyeball on that 400 thousand. That’s statistical data obtained on February 2010).

We are lonely, we are isolated, alone, oppressed, in fear and worry. We are in permanent financial recession, we are far from our families and the luxury of your safe, green-grassed yard. We are tired, but we can’t just stop and go on a vacation. Our house, or facilities, are full, but unfortunately we do not share your cold heart to just walk away and stop rescuing just because our facilities are full. We have all of your indication of a hoarder. We, human beings just like you, are longing for affection and understanding, but we cast our own need away because there are these animals who need those compassion and understanding more than we do, and while we still can write websites, blogs, take photos and reach out to the world, the animals that represent our cause might not have any chance even for one second.

We will be happy for you if you get your happiness on that boost of sales, or by labeling us, but before you shut us down and tell us to have a nice day, let us say that our happiness does not come from an empty house. Our happiness comes from being able to save lives, even if it is only one more.

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Threading Through The Red Sea Part 3: The Incredibles

Just as Easter blends death and suffering with healing and resurrection, the Syndicate had met their share of loss and victory.

Learning from prior experiences with Calici, most cats that can hold on to, or stop sneezing after 10 days more likely to survive. I have eight kittens with Calici and although they all hold on until the tenth day, four of them can’t make it back to their better side.

This is the story of the other four who stays:

Fantastic Four 2
From left to right: Friskies, Blossom, Tiger Lily, Mini

Some elder told me that it is the last drop that turns the cup over. In my case, it’s Friskies.

I call him that way because when I found him inside a deep gutter (it’s 2 meters or 6 feet 65 inches deep, I have to borrow a ladder to pick him up), he looks exactly like that yellow kitten in Friskies Cat Food bag. He was the smallest in the Syndicate and so I don’t put much hope when his symptoms start showing (see the black crust under his eyes and on his jaw).

The one who turned the table is Friskies, the weakest of the whole batch of sick kittens whom I took in. He was already sick when I met him on the street (see that black crusty residue under his eyes and mouth), and I took him in only so I can comfort him through the darkest hours of his short life.

I had forgotten that God works mysterious ways, and that’s not limited to human only. By the time I lost Patch, Friskies can no longer swallow anything. He was severely dehydrated and fully dependent on his iv to live on. On wee hours in the morning he often wake me up with his cries, asking to be comforted from his fevers. I haven’t got proper rest for the whole week now, and that took toll on my strength, as well as my spirit. Though I hate to admit it, at that time, I kind of rather let him go than watch him suffer longer.

Just when I was completely ready to let him go, I notice that he had stopped sneezing. His nose no longer runny. He still got watery eyes, but they are a lot sharper now than the first time I met him. It seems like he got over his critical period and get a grip on life.

He started to grow stronger, and soon enough, learned to sit instead of laying down on his side, and along with his slow recovery, he brought my morale back up.

I might not lose after all.

Unfortunately, however, I ran out of money, and the healthy ones need food too. So I called one of the vets on the clinic and asked if I can get some more antibiotics on credit. I told my vet that Friskies had just turned for the better, and I don’t want to give up now, despite the grim chance.

She laughed and tell me to come after her practice is over.

What awaits me is a box full of antibiotics, iv needles, Ringer Lactate and cans of Royal Canin Recovery. An invoice in an envelope too, actually, but I figured she can wait for another week with that big grin.

“How’s your score?” she asked “four to none” I said, sourly.

“Chin up. I’ve got more than twenty coming up here with the same infection, but none of them came back alive”

I can understand why. Here in Indonesia, vet is only useful when people want to know when to mate their “pet”, how much litter their “pet” is going to have, when their “pet” is having trouble laboring, while they want all the litter alive so they don’t have to score a “loss”, when they need vaccination before selling their puppies/kittens, and when their animals are old and need “sleeping”

With daily agenda like this, it’s no wonder that veterinary science in Indonesia has not gone far from 1950s curriculum, and that most new vets in this country is more adept in “breeding science” than healing science. Come right here to Bandung and I can show you that most of the vet here is either a licensed breeder or an animal show enthusiast.

While countries like Europe developed a more advanced way in handling Calici, most of the vets relies only on one shot of antibiotics and vitamins and leave the rest to God.

Surely, I will rely on God, but that doesn’t mean I will just sit there watching the cats die doing nothing. This Calici has to learn by now that I am no Rapunzel who sits forlornly inside her tower waiting for Knight in shining armor. More so because 2 months old Tiger Lily fought her hardest, clinging to life.

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And at the same time, Blossom is getting better as well. Mini is catching up a few days later.

Like an hour of sunrise throws eight hours of night, one after another, the sick cats are getting better. They stop sneezing, and their eyes started to dry and come alive. They are still week and have to rely on tube feeding, but I can see that the antibiotics and immune booster start to work faster and better.

The night is over, but I can’t be happy yet. I still need to stay vigil to their condition until they completely stabilize.

Truly, like many articles and scientific journals, what truly heals cats with Calici is total care, even when the cat seems to stop living (can’t eat, can’t drink, can’t breath, can’t move), the readiness of their patron to become their second life is what turns the table. In my case, it’s my willingness, and the vets, and the Syndicate’s supporter to keep on living in their sake. I keep feeding them, re-hydrating them, keeping them warm, keeping their nose clean. I am ready to be late to work, and lie about my tardiness. I am ready to give anything, and not stop even though all hope seems to be gone. The vet keep pushing me to give them antibiotics, advising me on yet another method whenever new symptom came up, and the readers, my friends, the Syndicate’s supporter keep watching out for another ways to handle Calici. All this is what kept them alive until today.

The Incredibles, as the title said, is not only the cats, but also all of you.

With this post I wanted to say that, no matter what kind of disease, whether it is a small scab, a deadly virus, or a lurking cancer, whether you are in the best part of the world that has the best veterinary technology, or in the most remote of Africa, Amazon, or deep in the forests of Asia, when your animal is sick, and the avant garde treatment is far away, the first, and foremost healing that you can offer your animal is commitment. Commitment to become their shadow, commitment to become their life, commitment to hold on till the end, whatever the result is.

Because back then, when these cats said “I do” to go home with you, they gave you their nine lives, and have been living up to it; but now, when they are sick, or old, or weak, the only thing they need is one life. Just one.

So, like Moses raise his voice in gratitude when God guide them through the red sea, and away from Egypt, I too, raise my voice, in the name of The Whiskers’ Syndicate to you all for your support, your information, your input, your donation, prayers, good thoughts, and most importantly, not giving up on us, a bunch of castaways and useless, unimportant existence.

Here is the four champions taken today: Saturday, April 28, 2012, 10 days after their last sneeze.

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Tiger lily
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Mini
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Blossom
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Friskies

Happy Easter 2012

Note:

In reference of my statement about how vets in Indonesia lacks knowledge and training about wildlife conservancy and healing science, below is a link to a testimony by Dr. Liang Kaspe. She has been successful in breeding endangered animals in Surabaya zoo, her last successful story is assisting comodo dragon and her baby. The story is in Indonesian, but it is easily read with google translate or babelfish.

Dr. Liang Kaspe: Surabaya Zoo’s favorite Midwife

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

Threading Through The Red Sea Part 2: The Fantastic Four

Easter in pagan perspective has been associated with spring: a month full of heavenly showers that brings earth back to life from its deep sleep in winter.

In Indonesia, a tropical country right on top of equator, Easter will mark the shift from rainy season (October – March) that pours rain every day, to dry season (April – September) that never rains.

Bandung, however, is a little bit different.

Geographically speaking, Bandung is located in an ancient crater that was once a Jurassic lake between three giant volcanoes. This will mean water does not evaporate that fast, and it makes this town damp all day long. For people who lived in 4 season countries, Bandung will be in eternal spring.

Demographically speaking, Bandung is a small town, with lower level of education, slower economic growth, and as result, prehistoric attitude. Bandung’s state of mentality is like USA or Europe at the start of 20th century. If that doesn’t seems too far behind, we are now in the first quarter of the 21st.

But what is heaven for humans, is hell for the animals. The endless showers, the dampness, the constant cold is a killer combination for cats, especially those who doesn’t have a roof to hide from the rain, ones who can’t find a warm attic to run from the cold temperature, and for all that roam on the merciless streets in the breeder capital of Indonesia, where approximately one thousand of unwanted animals were dumped in landfills and abandoned in traditional markets, cemeteries, and the streets to fend off for themselves.

May I remind everyone once more that Indonesia doesn’t have animal welfare law?

Enough for the academic lecture, because what I saw year after year as a rescue in Bandung is no more than feral (automatic) genocide. Bandung is in perpetual kitty season, and every month of two my house will be flooded with sick and hopeless kittens, or weak and helpless seniors.

Due to limited space that I have (again) I have to choose which one is coming with me, and which one has to live communally in abandoned lots or cemeteries, with rations of food that I regularly distribute. Whiskers’ Syndicate does not have volunteers, we do not have people, much less communities like those boasted by the “sanctuary” or “shelter” or “rescue” organization over the internet in USA or Europe, or wherever. Whiskers’ Syndicate is a tiny, rented studio filled with hopeless cats (and occasionally dogs – horses goes somewhere else) undergoing their green mile while they are queuing to climb the rainbow bridge. I am the only man power behind the “rescue” though for long, I consider myself a competitor of the animals’ undertaker who tries to give them comfortable last mile in life.

One of the most common undertaker that I encounter is called Feline Calicivirus, which is:

virus of the family Caliciviridae that causes disease in cats. It is one of the two important viral causes of respiratory infection in cats, the other being feline herpesvirus. can cause a rapid epidemic, with a mortality rate of up to 67%. Initial symptoms include discharge from the eyes and nose, ulceration in the mouth, anorexia, and lethargy, and occur in the first one to five days. Later symptoms include fever, edema of the limbs and face, jaundice, and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.

Diagnosis of FCV is difficult without specific tests, because the symptoms are similar to other feline respiratory diseases.

It has a beautiful nickname too around vets: Calici. It sounds more like the name of a pretty woman than a microscopic grim reaper don’t you think?

Let me translate to English: cats infected with Calici will not develop severesymptoms. It will start with sneezing and watery eyes. They they will grow ulcers on their tongue, which grows in number and the sneezing will block their ability to smell food. When this happened, the cat will lose their ability to eat (naturally because it is painful to chew or swallow). Since they aren’t eating, they got dehydrated, and finally, meeting death in a slow process in which their body will convulse for hours, depending on their physical strength, as they scream in pain due to the endless spasms until their last breaths.

Kittens without adequate motherly nutrition is better in this case, because death come quicker, and therefore, less painful.

Calici has a very simple body structure, so they are easy to duplicate. It can disperse through air, water, even simple touch, which is why it is highly epidemic in cats, because they groom each other, the sniff each other, and often share food and water bowls.

This is our version.

Easter week this year started with Sue and Tykes, whose stories I shared in another post. Tykes had moved on sooner, but Sue lived on for another month when I brought Spring home.

I met Spring near a monumental park, five minutes bike ride from my rent. She was sitting helplessly by a deep gutter under torrential rain, because some maniac put mud on her eyes and cut all of her whiskers.  I think I don’t have to explain why people done that.  Some do it to pass their already useless time, and because it’s “cute” (yeah? in which part?).

As soon as I dried Spring up and lay her down in a warm pillow at home, I set out to buy some medicine, and on my way home, was almost made stumbled when a rabbit jumped across the street under the heavy rain.

Or I thought it was a rabbit. The white fluff shiver under some neighbor’s doorstep and I don’t have a heart to just pass, because whomever rabbit it is, it must be cold and scared. So I pull aside and bent down, and met Tutti Cutie in the eye.

Now scroll the screen back up, and look at those round, hopeless eyes, and you will see why I can’t turn him down.

So I come home with medicine, and another soaked up kitten.

Two days later I saw Sue stared outside through the gap of the fence for the whole hour and when I peeked out of curiosity, I found Patch, not much better from the other kittens: shivering, sneezing, and starving.

With that condition I was bound to have a showdown with pretty Calici again and so I geared myself up, just enough when Sue started to refuse her food, and grow a white speckle on her lips. The grim reaper is coming.

Handling Calici is generally symptomatic. For those who really love and care (and pay attention) to their cat(s) it’s not that hard, as long as you keep an eye on your kitten and detect it on the first symptom appearance, be it lethargy, or mouth ulcer, continuous sneezing, or even food refusal. Keep your kitten warm all the time, continue to rehydrate her, never stop the antibiotics, extra dose of vitamins and immune boosters, and if he or she can hold on over a week or until his/her sinuses dried up, there are good chances that they are going to make it.

However, that also means you will have to monitor your cat practically 24/7. My rescue years had given me a solid training in giving intra venous re-hydration so that I can handle the initial stage without having to go back and forth with a sick cat and expose them to the elements and instead, keep them in the warmth of their isolation basket. I made myself a night lamp with 15 Watts bulb to keep the kittens warmer, and if necessary, add a bottle of warm water inside their cage.

The challenge will escalate when they got into the next stage, because you will have to force feed them. None of them would want to eat because their tongue and lips are full with ulcers, hence it’s painful to even swallow. In some cases, they can have cramps on their jaws that they can’t open their mouth at all.  I am sure you know how much patience and skill is needed to tube feed a sick cat.

If nothing can go in, you will have to leave your cat at the vet’s because he/she will need iv, which is yet another challenge.

Working with feverish cats means they will be trashing around due to the uncomfortable heat and pain in their muscle, and if you cannot keep them calm and still, the iv needle can’t go in, much less help them.

Sometimes, instead of appreciating what you are trying to do to save their lives, cats in pain will bite you.

So here comes my dire warning: if you are not tough enough to master your temper, don’t touch your sick cat. Bring them to the vet, and let them handle it, with the risk of ripping your wallet or draining your pet insurance. Trust me, it is still better than killing your beloved pet with your own hand in a fist of anger.

Handling Calici, in short, require patience, and high quality care. Your cat will need your totality, and if one cat need you that much, I have eight.

It is impossible to hold three side jobs in a week and still spend sufficient time to attend the sick properly, So I took my leap of faith, and gave up all my side job. I left our food solely to the strength of my salary, and a lot of prayers that one of God’s angel, or God Himself, will drop His wallet somewhere around my account.

Luckily, He did. Otherwise I would have been hitting the headlines when my starved body, along with twenty cats, were found inside a small rent in a beautiful resort city of Bandung. He sent a few of His angels to drop extra money so I can buy cat food and stock up on rapidly-decreasing medical stock.

And then, there is some quote saying that you a ray of light, no matter how small, is the brightest when you are in the darkness. Of all eight, four shone out brightly.

Fantastic Four 1
From left to right: Sue, Spring, Tutti Cutie, Patch

While other kittens come and go like the swift breeze, these four: Sue, Spring, Tutti Cutie (spell it like you want to spell Tutti Frutti ice cream) and Patch fought harder. They do not refuse their iv, they embrace the warm bottle, they stay still when the iv needle puncture their emaciated body, and they tried their hardest to eat, though only one lick and leave everything else to the tube.

Sue fought a good ten days before she gave up and went over the bridge on Holy Thursday, just when I read the bible on Last Supper as my atonement for not being able to attend mass. Early in Good Friday, Spring moved over, and in the evening my Tutti Cutie call it quits on my laps. She is the youngest of the four, and the only one to develop jaundice.

Patch went on in early Saturday.

I hate myself for losing, but one of the two vets to whom I am a regular warned me that Calici is not every cat’s fight. Here in Indonesia, in damp, damned Bandung, Calici is certain death. For those orphaned cats who has no guarantee of immune system to hold on over a week are magnificent, and I should never forget that I still have another four that I need to defend. Not to mention the other twenty that I manage to keep healthy.

My brother’s text is even more cruel. Here is a copy paste:

Not everyone can stay. Noah’s ark can only hold a pair of each animals, and you’ve only got two hands. You’ve got four more to fight with, so better keep that chin up and those eyes open rather than crumbling for the dead.

It is the most cruel comment, but probably the truest.

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Threading Through The Red Sea part I: A Mi Manera

Most of baby boomers like me possibly don’t know Frank Sinatra, though he is one of my favorite singers.

Not because of his voice, nor his look, but for the invaluable lyric in each of his songs.

One on my top list is “My Way” that talks about a performer (my mother said it’s about a runner, but I don’t know, Frank Sinatra’s already dead before I got to learn about that song so I can’t ask about it via his twitter), who, tells his journey of life: the ups and down, his rights and wrong, and the best of it: his pride in questing through life. This song is re-formatted and sung in Spanish by Simon Cowell’s Il Divo around year 2k and I love this Spanish version better because it actually empowers the original lyric.

Last week, however, I found an even more powerful version of that song through the life journey of a small kitten, namely, Frank, of course.

I met Frank sitting forlornly on a sidewalk by the puddle near my office, where I stop to pat him on the head and share the ferals along my path. He was a little bit dirty, but otherwise seemed all right, and even have full stomach, so I intended to leave him after feeding but feel uneasy because he was, after all, too quiet for a kitten. He didn’t meow, he didn’t jump, or run, or head butt, he just sit there, looking at me, with blank expression.

So here is the plan: my boss is not around that day, and other staffs won’t care, so I can sneak him into the office, bring him to the vet, and when he was declared OK, I’ll put him back.

Part one initiated immediately. I can easily found an empty space in my bag, push him in, and walk by as if nothing happened. Nothing, but a little note in my head: his belly was darn hard.

For the rest of the working hours he stay inside my workstation, sitting by the fireplace (well, actually it’s my computer CPU). He ate more fish, drink the whole bowl of water (trust me, he drank a lot!) but still quiet.

Hence, part two initiated. I bought him home, put him inside a basket along with Mama-san (she has an appointment for spay surgery, but that’s another story) and brought both to the vet.

The examination is pretty quick: he has mega-colon, and the vet told me he is a SHE, though she (the vet) knows that I address any cat with “he”, it’s my trademark quirk.

Mega colon is:

a term used to describe a very dilated, flabby, incompetent colon.  This usually occurs secondary to chronic constipation and retention of feces, but may be a congenital dysfunction.  Megacolon itself is not a specific disease entity, but it will usually result in obstipation (inability to defecate), since feces is retained in the colon in a larger diameter than is able to pass through the pelvis.  This feces also becomes very dry and hard, as water is absorbed by the colon.  Surgery may be required to treat this condition if medical management has been exhausted.

~American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Mega colon  usually happened to senior cats between 5-9 years old, but here in Indonesia, anything can happen, especially to ferals. My newly-found, three months old companion probably had severe, prolonged dehydration on the street before I found him. His feces were too hard so he has to get a C section, which for a kitten his age, is a very risky procedure.

The other option? Leave him be, and he’d be dead after a few days, because his hardened feces will obstruct the intestine, and whenever she eats, or drink, his intestine will grow bigger, and finally burst.

I took the risk, and the vet start operating him right away, despite the clinic was fully packed that day.

We started at around 8 pm, and finish at 10 pm, extracting around 100 grams (that’s an ounce) of hard-rock feces from his colon and a cup full of urine. The surgery itself shouldn’t be that long, but the expanded colon had already obstructed his urinary tract. He can’t pee, and all his urine was kept inside his small kidney that it was swollen and when the vet cut him open, some of its smaller blood vessel already started to burst. His kidney was bleeding and the surgery became more complicated.

What amazed the whole clinic was the small kitten’s resilience. With extended surgery time, no one had high hope, but he made it past the surgery and woke up with a loud meow. He came home with two iv pipes on his small body, but the vet said his vital sign is good.

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Hi there! got a nice dream back then?
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The vet was shaking her head when she put on the iv, Frank’s leg is as big as the catheter head

Tell me about vital sign. This little kitten is such a devil, even a few hours after the surgery (that got to be wee hours in the morning right? The surgery finished in 10 pm) he already tried to jump out of his basket, and therefore, prevent me to get any sleep at all.

This made me worried because he was supposed to stay put (remember the iv), so my only option is to bring him along to the office to make sure she won’t  drag his iv bottles all over places. Unfortunately my boss is coming, so I can’t possibly smuggle him inside without being noticed. The only thing I can do is to make him as comfortable as possible that he can sleep the whole day like other cats do when I am working. Then, for the whole day I worked with worry inside my head.

Canceling all my after-hour jobs that day, I went straight home, only to see what I feared the most. There he is, sitting by the door, dragging an empty iv bottle behind him. When I gasped in terror he instead pranced and jumped and run to welcome me, still with that iv bottle behind him. So, I called the vet and tell her what happened as well as informing her that I am going to get the iv needle off Frank so he won’t stuck his extra tail somewhere and hurt himself. The vet laughed, and I remembered her telling me I got myself a tough little lady, but that means the kitten’s going to be all right. It was Wednesday.

For the next two days Frank took part in toppling my kettle off the counter (don’t know how he done that, I just saw the kettle tumbled), running all over places and rammed into the adults, got bathed by Peta (my ultimate, supper nanny cat – you won’t believe he’s male), climb on my bed, play hide and seek in the cardboard castle, catch four roaches and killed them all by himself, and eat like an elephant. He climbed all the way to the top of my head whenever I sit on the floor to put my shoes on, climbed on my legs asking for my food, and get Sue out of her shell and made her a ‘normal’ kitten instead of an outcast.

The next Saturday, four days after, no one would believe he’s been sick, though I’m worn out for not sleeping for four nights watching him and prevent him from jumping all over places too much and tell him to sleep instead. I have cancelled all my side jobs and lost good amount of money that I need to keep the Syndicate operating, but for a life, it’s worth it. I brought my feisty little friend to the vet clinic early that day, before its open hour because I know the staffs and vet would want to play with him a little bit, and everyone is happy to pet him and call him “good girl” until the vet said “Josie, this time you are right, your kitten is a boy, not a girl” Obviously his enlarged colon had suppressed his tiny testicles that he looked like a girl.

A ha; and I bet Sue is not going to be happy about it. Sue, my pocket monster, jacket camper kitten was kind of shy and a loner, and no kitten, much less adult cat can go near her without making her hiss or yowl. This tough kid, however, can do that with no problem.

Since then, his name is Frank (you know where that name came from right?) and I happily book an appointment in Tuesday to remove his sutures.

At Monday, however, I found him sitting powerlessly by the door, among everyone else, when I came home from work.

All right, kittens are known to drop their stamina suddenly, only to bounce back a moment later, but this is worrying, so I called the vet again, ask her to stay longer (it was 9 pm) because Frank is deteriorating at an alarming state.

I arrived at the clinic fifteen minutes later, and both vets at the clinic were ready for lifesaving procedures. Frank is still sliding down, and within the next hour almost every pipes and cables in the surgery room were attached to him. They gave him warmed up iv, oxygen, heart monitor and then performed CPR when he slide down further, and they didn’t stop trying until midnight.

Frank was gone.

It’s not the first time the two vet ladies came to me withholding their tears. In this breeder capital city the most complicated thing a vet can perform is a C section for a female animal in labor (the breeder gave them too much hormones and vitamins they have too many or too big children that they can’t come out naturally), but for them, the real challenge always come from me, with my street picked animals, and though neither of them wish for such challenge, it gave their four years of bachelor degree education more meaning.

I shrugged. “Hey, Frank was hopeless, but you ladies gave him a chance to be a real kitten for the whole week. Don’t say that doesn’t count”

“But he was the bravest, strongest kitten I have ever met”, said one nurse, “I think he is a miracle”

“Then let’s keep it that way, won’t we? He did it his own way. He broke all of our forecasts”

I mean, we would never know why he slides down that fast, but he was a street cat  kitten. It has been a harsh weather, and we wouldn’t ever know what he’s been eating before we met, how he lived and how hard the elements had beaten him in his street life.

But just in case any of you are curious. Just in case, below is the real song, so you know what Frank is like:

And now, the end is near;

And so I face the final curtain.

My friend, I’ll say it clear,

I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.

I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;

But then again, too few to mention.

I did what I had to do

And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;

Each careful step along the byway,

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew.

But through it all, when there was doubt,

I ate it up and spit it out.

I faced it all and I stood tall;

And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.

I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.

And now, as tears subside,

I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;

And may I say – not in a shy way,

“No, oh no not me,

I did it my way”.

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught.

To say the things he truly feels;

And not the words of one who kneels.

The record shows I took the blows –

And did it my way!

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Three Different Stories

Every day on my way home from the office I will drop by a small supermarket just 5 minutes away from my rent to buy ground chicken or beef for the kittens.

The road in front of the supermarket is not big, just enough for two cars passing each other at the same time, and around one and a half meter of sandy sidewalk at both sides.

One particular thing about that road is that although it is small, vehicles that passed over that road was never slow. Public transport, cars, and especially (and of course!) the nasty motorcycles swooshed speedily. I have heard thousands of stories of hit and run over there, and yet, no police, no law enforcement; but I guess by my past post anyone can figure out what country we lived in.

I am trying to stroll by quietly along the sandy area, when I heard mews of a kitten from my right, and turn to a house nearby in reflex. I saw a yellow kitten sitting on a plant pot, shivering under the wet and windy night.

As I leaned over at the house’s fence to see if the kitten has a mother nearby, I heard another mew a few steps ahead.

“Oh gee, some litters had learn to walk and play too far”, I said to myself as I stand up, heading to the second mew.

Unfortunately my eyes has never been too good, especially at dark nights like this. The streets has no lamps so I have to count on the almost scarce lighting from the houses.

A few seconds later some car zoomed pass me and from the flash of it headlamp I spotted a silhouette of a teeny tiny kitten, right at the rim of the road, mewing in fear.

I started to run toward the silhouette, and after a few steps, hear yet another mew. There’s another teeny tiny kitten between me and the silhouette, right at the edge of a full gutter.

All right: one girl, two hands, three kittens; and zooming vehicles at unpredictable interval.

Feels like a sudden death rugby.

So here is the plan, I don’t have anything with me, but I wear an over-sized raincoat, with two, deep, side pocket that are big enough for the two kitten. I shall walk toward the silhouette, sweep the one by the gutter along the way, and came back for the first kitten afterwards and carry it with my hand.

I took a deep breath and start walking. One two three steps and quickly sweep the kitten by the gutter.

Then I hear a car horn and zooming machine. The light had touched the edge of my eyes so I’d better be hurry.

The kitten I was holding is struggling to break free, and it hinder me from keeping in focus as I run toward the other, but I still run. On the slippery road and with poor vision I still run, focusing on my ear and the voice of the growing frantic mew before me.

I was only two steps away from the fearful kitten when the car finally

zoomed pass me and squash the kitten.

Suddenly it went quiet. After the car squeaked at the corner and vanish in its speed the world is quiet. The road is quiet, the wind died down, the rain started to shower, the kitten in my arms turned silent. I can’t even hear my breath, nor the pounding beats of my own heart.

Right there, at the place where the silhouette of a hopeful cat once stand, a dark lump now replace it, with dark, round shadow on the street surrounding it.

I don’t know how long I stand there, petrified, but a train of laughter from some men behind me tug me back to real time.

“What’s up girl? Don’t know what to do? Guess you know, come here to us”

I turned around and stare at them straight in the eye. I must look scary because they lose all their smile and leave me at once.

When I looked down, the kitten I have been holding on curled up inside my palm, staring at me with his round eyes.

“Let’s pick up the other one” I whispered. I push him into my pocket and he didn’t resist.

And we walk back to the house, where I saw the first kitten. She was sitting there, under the gate pole, staring at me as if she was looking at a devil.

I reached out to her and she jumped back, so I squatted and wait.

It took her a long time before she moved forward to sniff on my finger, and let me touch her head.

I don’t wait too long, I grab her on the back of her head and lift her swiftly and my sudden move scare her. On my chest she hissed and yowl and bite, but I don’t care. I pushed her Into my other pocket, and wait until she is calmer before I start walking back.

The Syndicate is unusually quiet when they saw me walked in silently, without ground meat in my hand. They only watch when they saw me pulled out the smaller kitten, the one by the gutter, and start drying him up. He was only as big as my palm of hand, probably even less than one month old.

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I thought I had just rescued a piece of Lego

The little girl from the house refused to leave my jacket, and since it’s almost midnight I don’t want to make too much noises, so I leave her there. What I mean by noise is not her, it’s me. She puncture quite a number of holes on my hand.

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Pocket Monster

Within two days the two kittens are getting better, though the smaller one, the one I come to call Tykes (don’t ask, it’s just bubbled up in my mind) got URI (Upper Respiratory Infection), and scabies all over his body (literally everywhere!) while the girl (came to be known as “Sue” because she wears white shoes on all four) are going well.

On the third day after our meeting Sue is getting even better, starting to play with other kittens, though whenever she hear loud meow or noises, she will still jump onto my jacket and is angry when I tried to take it away (it’s full with mud when the car zoomed pass me and splattered rain water, I need to wash it as soon as possible because it’s white).

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Jacket Camper

Tykes is sliding down. He only cry when I left him too long, and when he begged to be put back onto my bed, so he can curl up on my sleeping pillow all day and all night (if not otherwise picked up by me to be fed).

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Tiny Tykes

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He gave up two days later despite my efforts to bring him back to his health.

It’s ten days after the incident today, but it is still fresh in my mind, sometimes wake me up with nightmare at night. I believe that part of me are still feeling guilty for not being able to save Tyke’s litter mate, though other part remains realistic that street kittens has slim chance of life especially on bad weather and bad living condition, and that Tykes was indeed too young, too tiny.

I am still ever grateful that Sue survives, though, despite a bad infection on her back toes. She is a chubby yellow tabby who loves to climb and run.

This is our lives: one day, three different stories.

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