Friday, November 18, 2005

The Supporting Cast of Characters - Ginger

Ginger came to our household the first summer Farmer Jeff and I lived together. I was working on my writing at the time and Farmer Jeff was working every day for 6 weeks straight…and I needed someone to snuggle with of the feline persuasion. We had a cat, but he was a very independent GUY cat who wouldn’t be caught dead in daylight snuggling with his Mama.

One of our local businesses in town would post pictures of kittens and puppies in need of adoption, so there I went to look for my new companion. I was lucky enough to have lived with an affectionate, sweet and mischievous orange cat and am still convinced that orange cats just have an outgoing personality. The window display showed several orange kittens, so off to the cat house we went.

Since Farmer Jeff is much more of a dog person, I had him select the kitten. When we went to pick out a dog, I selected the puppy since I am more of a cat person. I spotted several different kitties I would have been perfectly happy with…but he saw this little teeny kitten with ginormous ears that just cried when awakened. Farmer Jeff picked up the little mewing kitten and said…THIS ONE. Okay…even if she has huge ears? Yep.

I went over to the cat foster home over the next two weeks until the kitten was old enough to come home with us. I would pick her up, settle on to the couch, and let her sleep on my chest, or wherever she wanted to sleep on me. I was in heaven.

We brought her home and her big brother, Callebaut, just couldn’t stop licking her. I thought he was going to eat her, but they would just end up licking each other. Callebaut would lick her belly, and she would bite, lick and scratch his nose. It was pretty cute.

Over the 5 ½ years she has been with us, she has slept 90% of the time in my arms at night…yes, under the covers and her head on the pillow. She loves to snuggle at night and she really keeps me warm!

She spends most of her life sleeping, as do most cats. Her preferred perch is a rattan shelving unit that has a perfect view of the front porch, where she can keep an eye on the kittens, and keep out of harms way on the ground. She really is quite the princess.

Ginger is a very prissy little cat that loves to be adored, which she is! When she strolls through the house on her long legs and tiptoes she reminds me of a little girl in mommie’s high heals and pearls.

Thank you, Uncle Joey, for your sweet illustration of our little princess, Ginger!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Waging War on the Norwegians

We are not talking of the folks that hail from Norway. We are talking about our new enemy, the Norwegian Brown Rat. Seems that chickens and rats go together like hand in glove. These critters adapt so well to their environment and now their natural habitat includes a giant buffet!

We first discovered we had rats about a week ago, around the time we put a bowl of feed into the guest quarters of the chicken coop for Napolean Dynamite and his two girls, Josephine and Elba. It was raining and we don’t yet have a cover over their area to keep their food dry. When we entered the actual chicken house/palazzo to do our nightly check on the girls and collect eggs, we discovered a rat. YUK. A big ol’nasty rat. Double YUK.

The next night I went out to the chicken yard and saw not one, not two, but THREE of the little buggers running for their life. The next day I went to the store and bought three RAT TRAPS. You could have filmed a screwball comedy watching us try to put peanut butter on the traps and then Farmer Jeff attempting to “set” the traps, only to have them snap and fling peanut butter ala catapult around the kitchen! Our dog, Callebaut, was quite happy to help by licking the Jackson Pollack splatters of peanut butter off the cupboards and floor!

We have set out the traps and NOTHING has happened. Then Farmer Jeff hands me a book he has just finished reading, Rats : Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants -- by Robert Sullivan. Well, I started reading it because I figured that it is best to Know thine enemy. This is where I learn that rats, unlike mice, are very wary of new things in their environment. It is best to set out the traps with out triggering them so the rats become accustomed to eating the bait and then when they least expect it…WHOMP

We briefly considered poison, but can’t take the chance of the dogs or the feral kitties catching the poisoned rats. Then we wondered if we should get a .22 rifle but ruled that out because, although we live in the country and outside of city limits, it would just make too much noise and MIGHT hit someone or something we hadn’t intended to hit. THEN we talked about getting a pump pellet gun. Quieter, and just as lethal/effective as the .22.

So far we are sticking with the peanut butter laden traps, filling up the holes as fast as I can and moving in the food containers every night. What a pain. These little rats are so smart. I am afraid we will always have them as long as we have the chicken food and water buffet open.

We will continue to wage war on the Norwegian Brown Rats…and I promise to report on the progress of each side!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Our beloved go softly into the night

If you keep your heart open, you can experience a great joy that would otherwise be missed. If you keep your heart open you can fall in love with all that the world has to offer. If you keep your heart open, you can fall in love and then be shattered when the object of your love is no longer there. If you keep your heart open, you can heal and love a thousand more times.

We fell in love with a little kitten that showed up on our doorstep over 2 months ago. I started feeding him right away and 3 days later his teenaged mother showed up. We noticed that although the mother had very long hair, the little black fellow had mostly long hair but some really wild long hair that stuck out above. We named him Porky…short for porcupine. His mama we named Joleen. She just looks like a slightly wild, teenaged girl that escaped from life in the trailers.

After about 7 weeks, Mama Joleen showed up with 5 more little tiny kittens. We figured that she had Porky and right away had another litter. Oh well..more cute little kittens to watch and feed.

During this time I consulted with a friend that worked for Forgotten Felines, an organization that helps to trap the cats and arranges for low cost vet visits which included spaying or neutering and basic distemper, vaccinations, etc. for feral cats.

Porky has gotten bolder, as has his little brothers and sisters. After really watching them for a time we realized that Porky DID have a litter mate, that there was a much larger kitten but along the same size as Porky. Her name is Jo Jo. She has a little sister named Billie Jo and then there are Tiger (self-explanatory), Thunder (a little rolly polly kitten with chocolate brown fur) and then Porky Jr. or PJ.

The kittens come when we call them, but don’t get too close. Just in the last few days I have been able to get close enough to touch Porky’s tail, then stroke his side a couple of times. He just about jumped out of his skin but didn’t run.

Tonight was the night of the trapping. Right off the bat we trapped 2 of the little kittens, but one got away as we transferred them to a smaller cage. Then right away we caught 2 more for a total of 3.

Then I heard a woman’s voice calling to me. I live out in the middle of nowhere, but on a hellishly busy road and a woman was calling to me…asking if I had a black cat. The cat had run out if front of her car and she had hit it. It was Porky. He was not moving when I picked him up and never moved again.

I ran with him into the house and laid him down on the table so I could examine him. He was dead. He was also soft as a bunny. So soft and so sweet. This was the first time I ever got to hold him and pet him. I told him that I loved him, that I always wanted a better and safer life for him and was so sorry that he wasn’t going to have it. Maybe we can with one of his siblings.

Porky gave me such joy…his little meows in the morning, playing footsie under the door, sitting on the window ledge looking in and being a big brother to his little brothers and sisters.

My heart has broken into a thousand pieces with your passing, Porky. I’ll never forget you and promise to take care of all of the kitties that pass our way.