Sunday, December 28, 2008

Snowbound – A glimpse into the life of a shelter animal

I know it’s not a perfect analogy. Being snowbound in a nice warm home, with my critters all around me, plenty of food and a roaring fire doesn’t sound like a bad life, much less like the life of a shelter animal.

But after being stuck at home for ten days (not including the 5 days the week before) I realized something was beginning to happen inside my head…and my heart.

I knew that many neighbors down the hill were getting out – some from day one, others after several days - but my circumstances pretty much corralled me back at the old homestead. My plan was to use this time to catch up on some reading, but I was so restless I’d pick up books and put them down again. Then I thought I’d try to do all those little end-of-the-year organizing projects, but I simply couldn’t stay focused.

So I moved to the window and began watching the snow fall…and fall and fall and fall. I’d look for signs of life...not that plentiful on my dead end street.

When something happened that engaged me – a telephone call or a knock on the door – my spirits would rise and suddenly I didn’t feel so imprisoned. But shortly thereafter I’d remember I was alone and I’d sense the fingers of hopelessness trying to reach out and touch me. I was trapped, and there was no way anyone could come and bust me out of the joint!

I’m not a party animal, but I’m not a recluse either – I probably fall somewhere in the middle. Toward the end of my forced confinement I had passed my ability to cope with the solitude. I knew it was temporary, and I WOULD get out, I just didn’t know when – and the not knowing made it easy to slip into despair.

One day I said out loud “I wonder if this is how the critters feel at the shelter.”

I thought about that for awhile. Anyone who has ever walked past the dog kennels or cat cages at a shelter has seen the sweet furry faces standing at the gate, hoping for a little recognition. But there are always some critters who stay back in the corner, eyes closed, not even bothering to get up any longer. They know, as I knew, that somewhere down the road other creatures ARE getting out – that something good is happening, it’s just not happening for them.

No animal lover can walk through a shelter and not feel their heart torn into pieces. You want to save them all…and it’s just not possible. But I think after this experience of being housebound I will better understand the look in the eyes of every shelter critter who is desperately waiting for his kennel door to be flung open wide so he can be free at last...and then he can go home.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Joyful Furry Faces

I have kept this picture of Trooper on my desktop since it was first sent to me a month or so ago. I fell in love with his face – doesn’t he look like one of the Whos from Whoville?

His past was a very sad story indeed, but despite how terribly he was treated this sweet dog could still look you in the eye and smile that beautiful smile. Trooper, who luckily found his way to the Good Samaritan Pet Center in Denver, was adopted by the people who were fostering him. They just couldn’t give him up – can you blame them?

May you live many happy years, Trooper, in the loving care of your new forever family.

Then there is Suki, the beautiful Labradoodle who shares her life with my friend Debbie Knitz. I took one look at Suki’s face and couldn’t stop smiling. I understand why Debbie loves her so.

I was so inspired by these photos I decided to create a HO HO HO picture of my own special kitties. They all put their tails in the air and walked away.

“OK,” I said, “what if we put a fuzzy Santa hat on your furry little heads? Would that perk up your interest?”

This is Molly…enough said.

To all the animal lovers out there – a very joyous and happy holiday to you and your critters!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can we go outside and play

…asked my 4 kitties this morning. They love to be in their outside enclosure, which was written up in the March 2008 issue of Cat Fancy Magazine. As you can see, on a sunny day the enclosure is a great place to be!

We haven't seen much sun lately. It's rare for Oregon weather to force the cats to stay inside, but our snow storm - the worst in 40 years - has done just that.

I've been stranded in my home for most of the last 9 days. I feel like I'm 10 years old, but my Mom isn't around for me to pester. The cats sit by the sliding doors and claw at the glass...I'm thinking of joining them.

I'm running out of ideas for keeping us all entertained. Board games aren’t an option - can you imagine 4 cats and all those Monopoly pieces? They refuse to watch any more Christmas movies, whether from MGM, Disney or Hallmark.
I'm even starting to cry when I hear the song White Christmas - and not the happy kind of tears.

Today I was so desperate I did something practically unheard of for me – I cooked! Turns out the kitchen isn’t just a place for microwaving myself tasty meals and dishing out critter food – what a surprise.

Please let the snow melt soon – I can’t let this cooking thing become a habit.

Ho Ho Ho!

(To see more pictures and a video of the Cat Enclosure visit Lighthearted Press.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Don't Forget the Birds!

We are getting another major snow storm here in Portland, OR. Heavy snow and ongoing temps in the teens and 20s are not the norm for us, but we are doing our best to keep going.

I can't even imagine how hard it is for the outside critters! I usually only see the starlings in the spring, when they show up with their young and attack the suet feeders. I took this picture through a window, but I think you can see it is STANDING ROOM ONLY for the suet and the seed.

Right now it's 24 degrees - must be the perfect temperature for a bath or a dip in the pond. Perhaps they think they are penguins!
The Bluejays, Juncos, Thrushes, Sparrows, Flickers, Towhees and Nuthatches are all getting their fair share, too, as are the squirrels and chipmunks.

If you are fortunate enough to be visited by outside critters, keep them in mind during this cold spell. I know they will appreciate it!
Stay warm,

Friday, December 19, 2008

Willie and the Magic Bed

Several weeks ago I wrote about The Grey Muzzle Organization, a group of volunteers who work to improve the lives of older dogs who have been abandoned or left homeless. I just love their Donate a Bed program. If you’re looking for a last-minute gift for the dog lover on your holiday list, why not donate an orthopedic bed to an older shelter dog in their name?

With their permission, I would like to share the following uplifting story that appears in the current Grey Muzzle newsletter:

Grey Muzzle provides funding for orthopedic beds and Kuranda cots for the senior dogs at Washington State's Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County. Last week, the Humane Society sent us this story. We were amazed. And so glad that we could play even a small part. We'll let the Humane Society tell the story in their words:

Willie came to us as a miserable, crippled up old shepherd mix who had a badly healed pelvic fracture, terrible skin, fungal ears, tumors, etcetera. He was going to be euthanized but we were holding him for a few days in case an owner claimed him. We actually held him two days beyond because he was doing well on pain medicine and was starting to rally. He just had such a great spirit, and something made us put it off just one more day. I think having a comfy bed, off the floor made him much happier than wherever he’d been sleeping!

Willie was scheduled to be euthanized after we closed Friday night (at 6:00), and around 5:00 a woman came in and identified him – an old neighbor had seen Willie when he came in looking for his dog, and called her to say he was sure he saw her Mom’s dog at the shelter. She came down, and sure enough, it was Willie. The strange thing was, her Mom died 2 ½ years ago, and the dog ran away during the memorial service. She has always felt so guilty about it.
Then, here he is nearly three years later, looking awful! He had probably been hit by a car and not treated for the pelvic injury, and he was at least six or seven when he disappeared. She couldn’t stop crying. We transferred him out to her van and she took him right to her vet. (The great thing about the beds is you can pick them up like a stretcher and carry the dog without moving him off of it.) He is under her vet's care, and we don't know how long he'll be with us, but he will have at least a few days at home to be loved.

I'd say Willie's bed had a lot of love tucked into it...and perhaps a little Christmas Magic!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Bucket Brigade

According to my dictionary, the definition for Bucket Brigade is:

-A line of persons formed to extinguish a fire by passing on buckets of water quickly from a distant source

- Any group of persons who cooperate to help cope with an emergency

Portland, OR has been hit with snow, ice and very cold temperatures. Mother Nature seems to be having so much fun she hasn’t put an end date on the bitter cold weather. The icy roads have left me, and many of my neighbors, stranded up here on our hill. Those lucky enough to own chains have been able to creep down the roads and make it into town. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

I am stuck on a dead-end road in the woods, which has made it impossible for me to fill the holiday orders for the animal lovers who purchase my books. The mail truck hasn’t made it up our hill all week. Needless to say, I've been feeling very alone.

I'm not very good at asking for help, unless it's a real emergency. This will come as a surprise to a few of my neighbors, who seem to always be helping me with one thing or another (Paula & Don – you know who I’m talking about!) But I sent out an email to my neighborhood watch group to see if anyone could help me get my packages out.

That's when I realized how NOT ALONE I was! Several neighbors offered to help in any way that they could...and we put together a plan.

I trudged down the icy hill in my clogs (I keep meaning to get boots) carrying my bag of parcels and using my walking stick. The first neighbors took me to the post office and to the market for supplies. That’s where I ran into the second neighbors, who took me into their truck for the ride back up the hill. OK - I took one look at that icy hill and I bailed...but their intentions were good!

It was then that I thought of the bucket brigade. At first I thought I was the only recipient of all the kindness that was flowing around me.

But then I remembered that I have been on outside critter patrol this week, for when the cold weather arrives there are many things that have to be done. The hummingbird food has to be defrosted and replaced every two hours. The bird suet has to be broken into pieces the birdies can eat – the large blocks freeze. The seed has to be replenished often, for falling snow quickly covers it.

And then there is Sammy. He is the outdoor cat I’ve been feeding for 5 ½ years, since he showed up as a kitten in my yard. Were it not for my four inside kitties Sammy would have come into my home a long time ago.
Sammy gets top notch food that I buy from the veterinarian. When I look out and see him waiting in the little “house” we built for him my heart is full of love that is hard to put into words. He trusts me, and knows he can rely on me to take care of him. However, I get so much joy out of watching over him I'm sure I am getting the better part of the bargain.

Sammy is part of the Bucket Brigade. Only a few people in the neighborhood know about him, but those neighbors who have helped me, and are watching out for me, are therefore watching over Sammy, too…once removed.

I am filled with gratitude for being blessed with such great neighbors. If any of you are feeling alone, or stranded, as I was feeling, look around for your own bucket brigade. There may very well be a group of friends, or neighbors, waiting to tuck you securely into a safety net you didn’t even know was there.

That's what I discovered...right in my own backyard!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

D-boy, The Pitbull Hero

There's been way too many stories in the news lately about Pitbull attacks - especially here in Portland, Oregon. So you can imagine how delighted I was to hear the story about D-boy, the Pitbull hero.

D-boy is the Oklahoma dog who came to the rescue of his family when a man burst through their front door. D-boy ran in from another room, but the intruder shot the dog twice in the head before he could get to the man.

D-boy kept going, but he was shot a third time.

The intruder, apparently spooked by the dog, ran out the front door.

The good news is that D-boy survived - the veterinarian said it was his hard head that saved him! The family is safe,too, but now they are left with a large medical bill for D-boy. Visit this website to learn more about this wonderful dog.

Good boy, D-boy!


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Do cats enjoy music?

For over 20 years the same wonderful man has come to my home to tune my piano. Chris was here the other day, and, as always, when he finished tuning he played a song or two for me. I LOVE to watch Chris play the piano, because I can tell he loves to play as much as I do!

For the first time in all these years I played a recording for Chris of some Christmas songs I sent to my Mom, back in 1983. The highlight of this recording was the duet of me and my dog, Martha. Martha was an amazing singer – whenever she heard the first note on the piano she’d come running from wherever she was in the house to join me in song.

Martha’s been gone for 13 years, and for the first time in my life I am living with four very special kitties…but no dog. I haven’t played the piano as much as I used to because somehow without a dog curled up under the piano bench it just doesn't feel quite the same.

But I sat down the other day to play and to my surprise Pippen, one of my magical cats, came over and joined me on the bench. She sat there while I played and sang, and seemed to be mesmerized by the keys, the music, my singing - it was such a lovely and unexpected gift!

So, here’s my question to other cat people – do your felines enjoy music?