Of Cats and Coons

January 6, 2010

My two adopted kittens Ollie and Ginny have become my new obsession. I find myself thinking about them all the time. It’s mostly because they’re so small and I worry about them being prey to some other larger animal out there. Since I live “in the sticks,” we have a lot of wild animals out here, including, but not limited to, possums, foxes, coyotes, hawks and raccoons.

Two nights ago I put out some food for them, but it was pretty late and I didn’t really expect them to come out of hiding after dark. I’ve carefully watched their habits for the past week and after about 5:00 PM they disappear. I suspect they squeeze under the garage door gap and spend the night in there. When I first started feeding them, I could watch them go in the garage through the window in the door. They would wait in there until I went back inside, then I could watch them slowly creep back out to their food dishes. This time, though, since it was dark but the porch light was on, I kept going to the back door to check to see if their food was gone.

Two nights before I had fed them after dark and then an hour later noticed the food was gone. I’d assumed they’d eaten it and was surprised the next morning when they acted starved when I fed them. So I wasn’t extremely surprised when I went to the window two nights ago and saw one of the biggest raccoons I’ve ever seen cleaning up the last bit of cat food! I don’t think he saw me, but since he was finished, he rose up on his back legs, sniffed the air and sauntered off the porch. I know raccoons are opportunists, and I know they love a free meal, but it surprised me a little that he came so boldly onto the porch under the lights. I guess pickings are slim during the winter.

Of course I felt sorry for the raccoon, especially since I noticed that it looked like he’d been in a fight and had a deep wound on his left side. But he didn’t appear to be malnourished and he could get around fairly well, so I wasn’t overly concerned. Then I started thinking about Ollie and Ginny and how they could easily be hurt or killed by a big animal like that over their food. I think they’re pretty smart, though. They’re never far from the safety of the garage, and there aren’t many animals that could fit under that gap like they can. Although, lately their bellies have been getting bigger and it’s harder for them to fit🙂

Each day after their breakfast, I can go to the window and find them either playing and wrestling with each other or sunning themselves. Today was a tolerable day and they seemed to really enjoy the warmer temperatures. When I walk my dogs, I try to let them see the kittens so they’ll start getting used to the idea that they belong here. Snoopy is very curious and wants to smell them very badly. Bitsy acts as if there are more important things to do than care about insignificant felines. As we walk by the garage, Ollie and Ginny stand very still and watch cautiously until we get just a little too close. Then they squeeze their fat bellies under the door and poke their little heads back through and watch us pass with a cat’s curiosity.

I just came in from feeding them and they actually let me sit on the floor of the porch and watch them eat from only two feet away. They’re quickly getting used to me and the dogs, and they even watch the doorknob to see if I’m coming out with food. Yesterday Ginny got trapped in a corner trying to run from me, so I tried petting her. She meowed like she was scared, but after I petted her a few times, she stopped and let me pet her without protest. I’m optimistic that they’ll let me pet them freely in a few weeks. And if I can keep feeding them before dark, I’m optimistic that I won’t have any adopted pet raccoons in the near future.

Contemplating Compassion

December 30, 2009

I can now include myself among the millions of people who have had pity on stray animals and adopted them. Having all kinds of animals growing up made it easier for me to adopt two freezing, starving orphaned kittens on my back porch, but this is the first time I’ve actually fed and cared for “stray” animals.

All the animals my family and I have owned have come from people who were looking for a better home for their pets because they couldn’t take care of them. This includes dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rabbits, and yes, even leopard geckos and bearded dragons. But this is my first experience with actual strays whose mother has either died or she’d decided they were weaned and were ready to be independent. They’d been mewing on my porch for three days before I decided that their mother must be gone, and yesterday I was finally able to get a glimpse of them.

The largest kitten is mostly white with a few large gray/black mottled spots. The smaller one is solid black and has the most plaintive little cry. When I decided to feed them, all I had was some of Bitsy’s canned dog food which has gravy and chunks of meat, so I had to cut into tiny pieces for them. It was a very cold and windy day, and the wind must have blown the smell of the food right to them, because in only about one minute, I saw the white kitten poke its head around the corner of the garage and smell the air as I watched from the back door.

As it got closer and sniffed the little dish, it was suddenly like a switch was turned on and it started devouring the food as fast as it could. There’s no way of knowing how long they’d gone without eating. That could’ve been their very first meal of solid food as far as I know. After a few seconds, around the corner came the black kitten with its nose up in the air. It ran towards the dish and, to my surprise, the white kitten smacked at the black one so hard that it knocked it over! When the black one came back, the white one bit down hard on the plastic dish and put its ears down and its feet inside the dish.

The black one was so hungry that it didn’t give up, and as they scuffled around, making cute “fighting” noises, the food went everywhere, allowing them to eventually have some space to eat separately. They were a pitiful sight, trying to eat solid food and having a hard time. But it felt so good to know that they wouldn’t die of starvation. As their bellies got full, they slowed down and didn’t fight so hard over the scraps. When they cleaned up everything, they sunned themselves on the concrete despite the cold wind. After they disappeared, I took out some water in a small dish. An hour later I went out and the dish was almost empty! Later that day I took them some tuna and they scarfed it down too.

I’ve named them “Ollie and Ginny” in homage to the two stray cats found in the James Herriot book “Every Living Thing.” In the story, Herriot and his wife adopt two feral cats that never completely trust humans enough to be fully domesticated. But they do eventually allow themselves to be petted and they were even captured to be spayed and neutered. It’s one of my favorite Herriot stories, and I couldn’t help naming the kittens after them. Today I was able to catch Ginny, the little black kitten, and she let me pet her for a few seconds before squirming until I let her go. When they were fed, Ginny got to the dish first and employed the same tactic she’d see Ollie use on her the first day, biting down on the dish and laying back her ears. It was so funny to watch Ollie back down from Ginny who is about half his size!

I think as they get used to eating, they won’t be so territorial over the food. I’ve gotten some actual dry cat food, but they have a hard time chewing it, so I mix it with tuna or chicken until it’s soft and they really love it. They can go in and out of the garage to get out of the wind, but I’m going to try to fix a box with a blanket so they’ll have a warm place to sleep.

It feels good to be compassionate to these little creatures, even though I know they may not stick around. But when I asked myself,”What would Jesus do?” I knew what the answer would be.

You’ve heard of the Energizer Bunny. I have an Energizer Cocker Spaniel. My dog Bitsy turned 14 today and she’s still going strong! Today we went out into the yard and she chased her tennis ball, dug for worms and barked at cows. Aside from a little arthritis, some low light vision problems and the loss of most of her hearing, she acts the same as she did when she was a pup.

Bitsy was an experiment. She was the first dog that any of my family had ever raised as a house pet. This was long before Cesar Millan (whose methods I’ve wholeheartedly adopted since then) and all the dogs we’d had growing up were outside pets who were considered more “working” dogs than pets. They kept away all the vermin and wild animals that might venture into our yard and kill chickens or damage the garden or fields. Bitsy and her litter were the result of a full-breed Cocker Spaniel wandering into our yard one day and breeding with our Chow/German Shepherd named Chief. (This was also long before it was in vogue to spay and neuter your pets.) So the Cocker we named “Lady” gave birth to a litter of several adorable mixed breed pups, of which Bitsy was the runt.

As I mentioned on her last birthday in my post “The Blessing of Bitsy,” we’ve been through a lot together in her 14 years. This year we’ve moved into a new house along with my other dog Snoopy. The three of us have been learning how to carve out a new routine in our new environment and sometimes it’s challenging. They both like to lie on the couch beside me, but since Bitsy’s the old-timer, she obviously ranks higher in the pack than Snoopy and won’t allow him up there if she’s gotten there first. She’s also very territorial about her food dish and if Snoopy ever gets the idea that he can eat her leftovers when she’s not looking, she lets him know right away that, “I might be old, but you still can’t sneak something like that by me!”

The biggest challenge for me is that Bitsy is moving more slowly and she loves to stand right beside me and follow me everywhere in the house. The problem is that sometimes she stands right underfoot. I’m having to learn patience as I walk through the house and she walks in front trying to figure out where I’m going and looking behind her all the time to make sure I’m still there. On our walks outside with Snoopy she loves to stop and smell everything and it’s frustrating for me and Snoopy because we like to walk fast. But practicing patience has been good for me and it’s teaching me valuable lessons.

Next year I hope to report on a happy, healthy 15 year old “accident” who continues to love me and teach me lessons. Her batteries are still going strong and, with God’s help and some TLC, she’ll be around for several more years, teaching me lessons and keeping Snoopy on his toes.

You’ve heard of the Energizer Bunny. I have an Energizer Cocker Spaniel. My dog Bitsy turned 14 today and she’s still going strong! Today we went out into the yard and she chased her tennis ball, dug for worms and barked at cows. Aside from a little arthritis, some low light vision problems and the loss of most of her hearing, she acts the same as she did when she was a pup.

Bitsy was an experiment. She was the first dog that any of my family had ever raised as a house pet. This was long before Cesar Millan (whose methods I’ve wholeheartedly adopted since then) and all the dogs we’d had growing up were outside pets who were considered more “working” dogs than pets. They kept away all the vermin and wild animals that might venture into our yard and kill chickens or damage the garden or fields. Bitsy and her litter were the result of a full-breed Cocker Spaniel wandering into our yard one day and breeding with our Chow/German Shepherd named Chief. (This was also long before it was in vogue to spay and neuter your pets.) So the Cocker we named “Lady” gave birth to a litter of several adorable mixed breed pups, of which Bitsy was the runt.

As I mentioned on her last birthday in my post “The Blessing of Bitsy,” we’ve been through a lot together in her 14 years. This year we’ve moved into a new house along with my other dog Snoopy. The three of us have been learning how to carve out a new routine in our new environment and sometimes it’s challenging. They both like to lie on the couch beside me, but since Bitsy’s the old-timer, she obviously ranks higher in the pack than Snoopy and won’t allow him up there if she’s gotten there first. She’s also very territorial about her food dish and if Snoopy ever gets the idea that he can eat her leftovers when she’s not looking, she lets him know right away that, “I might be old, but you still can’t sneak something like that by me!”

The biggest challenge for me is that Bitsy is moving more slowly and she loves to stand right beside me and follow me everywhere in the house. The problem is that sometimes she stands right underfoot. I’m having to learn patience as I walk through the house and she walks in front trying to figure out where I’m going and looking behind her all the time to make sure I’m still there. On our walks outside with Snoopy she loves to stop and smell everything and it’s frustrating for me and Snoopy because we like to walk fast. But practicing patience has been good for me and it’s teaching me valuable lessons.

Next year I hope to report on a happy, healthy 15 year old “accident” who continues to love me and teach me lessons. Her batteries are still going strong and, with God’s help and some TLC, she’ll be around for several more years, teaching me lessons and keeping Snoopy on his toes.

Just Beneath the Surface

September 2, 2009

So much has happened since my last post and I apologize for taking so much time between then and now. It’s been a busy summer, including a trip to the Philippines and Phoenix, Arizona. Both trips were with the quartet and I had an amazing time in both places.

Our trip to the Philippines was another evangelistic outreach being held by the General Conference of SDA. The same pastor who traveled with us to Jakarta invited us to the Philippines. We were so blessed to be a part of a soul-winning venture and it was great to be exposed to another culture which has a long history of involvement with the United States.

We sang each night of the meetings and then had a mini-concert on the final Sabbath we were there. We were proud to be part of the 99 baptisms taking place that day. We met some incredibly talented people who also sang for the meetings and we made many, many lifelong friends.

One of the highlights of the trip was our scuba diving trip. None of us had ever been diving before and we were excited to be invited by one of the staff who is an experienced diver. After our crash course by the dive master, we dove in and I was completely surprised at the variety and abundance of aquatic life that was just a few feet below the surface.

As I swam around, the only sound was my own breathing and it made the sights I saw so much more focused. Fish swam inches from my mask and were surprisingly curious about me. I never expected to see so many different types of fish so close to the shore. There were uncountable types of corals as well, and they were every bit as interesting as the fish.

We were given some bread to feed the fish and they eagerly gobbled up every bite. Sometimes I felt a small nibble at the end of my fingers but it was never anything serious. In fact, it was fun to see them swarming around and trying to catch all the different species there were.

When we ran out of oxygen, we surfaced and I went back to the camp while the guys continued on snorkeling. I sat on a bench, drying off in the hot sun and reflected about how much beauty is oftentimes just below the surface. I know it’s an old cliché, but the same is true about people. As I sat there, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that we should take the time to look beneath the surface when we deal with people. So many people are labeled instantly (I’m guilty of it too) and then no one really cares to get to know them, simply based on their outward appearance.

That scuba diving trip taught me two important lessons. First, try to throw away your preconceived ideas when you deal with people. Second, take time to look beneath the surface when you talk to someone. It may mean looking them directly in the eyes a bit more than is comfortable. It might mean paying attention to body language more than you normally do. It might even mean doing more listening than talking.

Just Beneath the Surface

September 1, 2009

So much has happened since my last post and I apologize for taking so much time between then and now. It’s been a busy summer, including a trip to the Philippines and Phoenix, Arizona. Both trips were with the quartet and I had an amazing time in both places.

Our trip to the Philippines was another evangelistic outreach being held by the General Conference of SDA. The same pastor who traveled with us to Jakarta invited us to the Philippines. We were so blessed to be a part of a soul-winning venture and it was great to be exposed to another culture which has a long history of involvement with the United States.

We sang each night of the meetings and then had a mini-concert on the final Sabbath we were there. We were proud to be part of the 99 baptisms taking place that day. We met some incredibly talented people who also sang for the meetings and we made many, many lifelong friends.

One of the highlights of the trip was our scuba diving trip. None of us had ever been diving before and we were excited to be invited by one of the staff who is an experienced diver. After our crash course by the dive master, we dove in and I was completely surprised at the variety and abundance of aquatic life that was just a few feet below the surface.

As I swam around, the only sound was my own breathing and it made the sights I saw so much more focused. Fish swam inches from my mask and were surprisingly curious about me. I never expected to see so many different types of fish so close to the shore. There were uncountable types of corals as well, and they were every bit as interesting as the fish.

We were given some bread to feed the fish and they eagerly gobbled up every bite. Sometimes I felt a small nibble at the end of my fingers but it was never anything serious. In fact, it was fun to see them swarming around and trying to catch all the different species there were.

When we ran out of oxygen, we surfaced and I went back to the camp while the guys continued on snorkeling. I sat on a bench, drying off in the hot sun and reflected about how much beauty is oftentimes just below the surface. I know it’s an old cliché, but the same is true about people. As I sat there, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that we should take the time to look beneath the surface when we deal with people. So many people are labeled instantly (I’m guilty of it too) and then no one really cares to get to know them, simply based on their outward appearance.

That scuba diving trip taught me two important lessons. First, try to throw away your preconceived ideas when you deal with people. Second, take time to look beneath the surface when you talk to someone. It may mean looking them directly in the eyes a bit more than is comfortable. It might mean paying attention to body language more than you normally do. It might even mean doing more listening than talking.

Analog to Digital…

March 8, 2009

The year is 1982. I’m nine years old and I’m sitting down to read the novelization of the film “E.T.” I never got to see the movie as a kid, so I was happy when I found the novel on sale at a thrift store and successfully convinced my mom to buy it for me.

There’s a part in the movie where Elliott gets sick because he shares a psychic bond with E.T. who has recently decided to drink some beer that he found in the fridge. Elliott begins to act strangely and irrationally. The book expands on this more than the film and there’s one thing in the book that really stuck with me. At one point, Elliot is babbling meaningless phrases and he blurts out, “analog to digital…” Being a big fan of technology even at nine years old, I was fascinated by that phrase.

I had a couple of digital watches which I’d taken apart and I even had a “Lil’ Whiz” calculator which was all the rage. That early digital technology fascinated me and I latched on to the phrase Elliott said and didn’t let go for a long time. When my sister and I would play “spaceship” I would write in my “log” and it would inevitably include the phrase “analog to digital” somewhere in there.

The recent FCC switch of analog broadcasts to digital on February 17th made me think of that phrase in a whole new way. Since I live out in the country, I can’t get cable TV and although I’ve used satellite before, the trees made it so hard to get a signal that I just gave up on it. My rooftop antenna has a hard time when the wind blows and the signal is often garbled and jumbled, just like Elliott when he was connected to a drunken E.T.

I do like the new channels I get with my digital converter box, and the picture is sharp and clear. But it’s very frustrating when the channel cuts in and out and the sound drops off during the most critical point of a favorite show. I have to keep a set of “rabbit ears” handy to plug into the box when the wind is playing havoc with my signal. That way I can adjust the antenna inside instead of putting on my shoes to go move the outside antenna.

I can understand the need to update technology and to free up the old analog frequencies for emergency use. But it’s hard to be happy with the way things are when your new digital signal is weaker than before and you can’t see your shows. I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t watch that much TV. It really helps me break away from the “idiot box” and go do something more constructive. I just hope that if “E.T.” comes on I’ll be able to watch it.