A couple of months ago I wrote that I was thinking of changing my weekly posts from Mondays. After trying things out on other days, I have to say that I like my old pattern best which is to try for Mondays and if other days arise, then post then instead or additionally. So it’s Monday. And I’m posting.
I want to tell you about my darling Perry (in the photo he’s nestling up against Kana). It’s been years now since he first showed up in our backyard and we trapped him, got him neutered, took him to the shelter where he was all but kicked out. They thought he was feral because he was completely shut down emotionally. I ended up bringing him home and earning his trust over weeks and weeks. I read poetry and stories to him, sang to him, and held his food bowl while he ate. Then one day when I stuck my hand under the bed, he came toward me and started to touch my hand with his paw. That was the moment when I knew he wasn’t feral and was going to be a big sweetheart. Video of Perry Hiding Under the Bed Touching my Hand
Perry has been a member of our family for 5.5 years now, and he’s the King of the Castle. He’s been the babysitter of cats and kittens. He is in charge of it all. I have expected to have him around until I was really old. Imagine my shock to realize something is wrong with his health. He’s got weird poos that have gotten increasingly soft, light-colored, and smelly. He’s lost weight–down a couple of pounds in the last two years. He feels skinny. And yet he’s a picky eater which gives me anxiety as it reminds me of Felix and Tiger when they got sick. On top of the GI symptoms, he suddenly has a level 3 heart murmur. This isn’t a terrible one, but it’s significant and especially for a seven-year-old cat. So he needs medical tests. The GI troubles could be Irritable Bowel Disease–or they could be lymphoma. The vet want to start with an abdominal ultrasound. Perry’s going to get an echocardiogram to examine the heart murmur. Please send all your prayers, vibes, and general good wishes for my dear darling special boy. The ultrasound is Friday, and the echo is in a month (they are hard to schedule).
As you may realize, we took in my son’s two cats six months ago. Two older cats who have their own ingrained habits and don’t get along that well to begin with is a pretty big thing to bring into a household with three older cats (two seniors plus Perry). It has not been a smooth six months. Not. smooth. at. all.
The gardener and I are over our Covid (we hope). It wasn’t fun, but it sure wasn’t anything like Valley Fever (I’m only speaking for myself here).
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Rooted and Winged, please consider it as a way to support the poetry community :).
If you have one and haven’t posted a review at Amazon (and maybe Goodreads, too), I’d sure appreciate it.
If you would like to review it for your blog or a lit journal, please email me at luanne[dot]castle[at]gmail[dot]com and ask for an ARC.
And if you have already bought a copy and reviewed the book, a million thank yous!!!!
For the past 75 days I have been participating in a class, taught by Kasia Avery, through Everyday Art called 100 Small Steps. The course was designed a couple of years ago which is when others took it. But it’s still up at their site and the price is minimal. So I am taking this class all by my lonesome. The structure is that of a daily prompt, a guideline, and a bonus life enrichment prompt and is meant to “force” one to do something creative every day. There is a Facebook page related to the course, and I am posting a photo every day of that day’s work. Of course, I am the only one doing so. And there are people who took this course in the past who are kind enough to give me regular encouragement although they are long past this experience.
At this point, I am 3/4 of the way through the program. Even when I had to go out of town for work or had distressing life events, I still made sure to do something in my art journal. There’s a lot of crap, but every day taught me something. And there are a few pages that make me very happy. One important thing about pushing myself through the 100 days is that I keep going. It would be easy to miss some days, but then it will be even easier to miss a few more. And time spent with my art journal is my zen time.
For the first 25 days I used a zippered binder and its “cardstock” dividers. This binder had been left at my house by a previous boyfriend of daughter. For the second 25 days I used an address book. 26 letters of the alphabet is pretty close to 25 days! Then I started a journal that Kasia had recommended as an inexpensive type she likes. It’s a Decomposition Book (hahaha), made of 100% post-consumer-waste recycle pages and printed with soy ink. This one has a topographic map on the cover and graph paper inside. The pages are a bit thin, so sometimes I glue two together. And the gesso helps strengthen them, as well. My big dilemma now is whether I continue in this book or switch to a fourth book. I think I’ll switch because the journal is already getting pretty thick with gesso, paint, collage, fabric scraps, safety pins, and the like.
The kitties are a lot of work because of integrating all these various personalities. But they sure are cute. I discovered that Meesker is talented at catch. We bat one of his toy mice back and forth. He catches with his claws extended and then smacks it right back at me. Lily is a talented eater and excellent lovebug.
I had a couple of poems from my Red Riding Hood project accepted at a wonderful journal (I’ll share when they are published) and have one of my Rooted and Winged Grandma poems accepted at another. I want to start a writing project before too long. Maybe when 100 Small Steps is completed. Go have a great week!
On Tuesday, June 28, 2022, Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi Josefina Castle tiptoed across the rainbow bridge while her Mommy and Daddy cried and her doctor gave Mommy a big hug. She met her feline sister and brothers Pear Blossom, Macavity, and Felix, her canine brother Sandy, and her feline niece Isabella Rose at the rainbow bridge. Tiger Queenie had the biggest catitude in the littlest body. Her beautiful tabico coat inspired one of her names, Josefina, as it was the coat of many colors. We loved her so much.
The day before she had to be put down for a probable brain tumor (her deterioriation by the day was marked), I learned that our dear Kana is in renal insufficiency and needs testing. Last July was Izzie, August was Felix, and September was Pear Blossom. This past year needs a re-do. Suffice it to say for now that Tiger Queen Princess Mimi Josefina was a very special kitty. She was the gardener’s favorite cat of all. And we both loved her universes-full.
Yes, I’ve been up to my kitty ears with kittens and cats this week. Eight of them. Yesterday, the two smart little hamsters kittens went home with their fully vacationed parents. The two senior cats will be living with us indefinitely. More on those two later. For now, I am exhauserbated.
Some of my biggest heroes are people who work in animal rescue. Those who provide sanctuaries or care of cat colonies might be my favorites. Ruth Rawls, who I met years ago when we were both blog posting regularly about genealogy, founded and operates a sanctuary for cats in Georgia. I think you might want to hear about it, so I interviewed Ruth to find out what it’s like taking care of the cats. Listen to how Ruth did what a lot of people say they would like to do if “only” . . . .
Ruth, can you describe the environment and lives of the cats on your property?
The environment is lovely. It’s an acre and a half of mature trees. There are climbing platforms and shelters and feeding stations. The cats spend their days lounging and waiting on the next meal.
What do you know about the backgrounds of the cats?
Originally, I released two cats there in 2007 to start the colony. Those two cats came from a McDonald’s restaurant about 13 miles away, and they and other cats were depending on food from the dumpster. A friend of mine who is also an animal rescuer/rehabilitator delivered newspapers, so she was always out in the wee hours of the night and would stop for coffee. She noticed the cats, called me, she set traps, I transported to the spay/neuter clinic, and then released at the new colony. I named them Catkin and Catnip. They were truly wild, and I rarely saw them again. At the time I also had another cat that I had trapped and named Sylvia because she was going to be sylvan, even though I trapped her at a convenience store. Sylvia was semi-feral, in that you could pet her, but when she was finished with pats, she would grab your arm with all claws extended and hold on, never breaking the skin. Sylvia was heavily pregnant when I trapped her, and after her kittens were old enough, I vetted them and found homes.
Other cats have come and gone in the almost 15 years of the colony, which I named Catcatcher Corner.
There are 8 cats living there now, and the group dynamics have changed from a feral colony to a more domesticated group.
Currently, the oldest cat and oldest resident is Georgia, who came from upstate New York when her owners moved to South Carolina in 2008. They were cat lovers whose income didn’t match their desire to help cats. They moved south with approximately 12 cats, and most of them weren’t spayed or neutered. I took 4 of her female cats, had them vetted, and found homes for the two kittens and kept Georgia and her sister Cali. I estimate Georgia is about 15 years old.
Next we have Jersey and Joey, littermates who came from a litter of six that were left in a cardboard box on a local walking trail in 2012. They were so newly born that their umbilical cords were still attached.
Sue’s mother brought her litter here about 8 years ago. There were 6 in that group. I had to trap them all with the exception of Richard Parker, who seemed to be the runt of the group and could be scooped up. Richard Parker and several of the kittens were rehomed. Sue is the remaining member of that group.
Pop-Up was a stray at a friend’s house. He’s probably about 4 years old.He was friendly but was having trouble integrating with that group, so we brought him here. He is super-friendly, but has issues with social cues, and he offends the other cats by ignoring the social greetings and being over-friendly. He currently lives in an outdoor condo with Tortie, a long-haired tortoiseshell, probably about 3 years old, who came from my place of work. She showed up there about two years ago, very semi-feral, but the vet discovered that she was already spayed. She and Pop get along really well. She’s still semi-feral, so the outdoor condo is the best for her with that long coat. She needs regular brushing, and there’s no way I could keep the mats at bay unless she’s confined.
The last two are The Butter and Basil Cowper. The Butter, maybe 6 years old, showed up at the same friend’s house about 2 years before Pop-Up. Butter also has issues with social greetings. He has a head-tilt and a concentrated state, and, although he’s friendly, he doesn’t send that message to other cats. Basil came to live here in the woods about the same time as Pop-Up. I set the trap for two years before he finally went in. I can’t know how old he is, but he seems to be geriatric. My friend named Butterscotch but called him The Butter. I named Basil Cowper for a historical figure during the revolution who actually owned property about 20 minutes away, but it was confiscated after the revolution because he was a British subject. He was from Scotland, so let’s guess he was a redhead, and Basil the Cat is also a ginger.
How did you come to provide this space for the cats?
In 2002, I started working part-time for a luxury boarding kennel. I worked all the positions, including the front desk. I met so many people who would moan that they loved animals so much, and they wanted to have a farm or a bit of land in the country where the animals could run and play. So I would reply, “Then you should do that.” They would respond with something like, “Oh I can’t”, or “My husband is allergic”, or “I’d have to sell my house”. So I’d pop off back to them something like “Why not?” or “Your husband can take allergy shots” or “So sell the house if that’s your dream to help animals.” You can imagine that this didn’t sit well with some people.
In 2006, my father died, and I got a little inheritance. I thought I should put my money where my mouth was, and buy a bit of property with that money. I didn’t want to spend that money on bills or a vacation because that money was the result of a lifetime of my dad’s work. I wanted to honor him and that money. I looked for a bit of property for months, not a house lot in a subdivision, with specific wants, like trees, few neighbors, in the country, with room to start small and develop if possible. I found 1.52 acres facing south, all wooded, in a rectangular shape with road frontage on east, south, and west. The south and west frontage is a dead-end road about a mile long with maybe 7 little houses. The east frontage is also a two-lane with a little more traffic but not much.
Another concern in this area is hurricane evacuation. The money went towards the down-payment on the property, five-foot-high chain-link fencing for the eastern ½ acre, septic tank, well, electric connection, and a 25-year-old RV to use for evacuations if needed. I also had a large, house-like 12’x18’ shed built for storage.
What is their routine like?
They live their best life. They are fed twice a day. Early on, I fed them dry like Friskies or Nine-Lives, and wet like canned Friskies pate. As they got older, I was able to upgrade their food to ProPlan, both canned and dry, but occasionally I use Merrick or another mid-range food.
They do cat stuff, like lounge around and wait for meals. The cat condo with Pop and Tortie have lots of climbing shelves so they have vertical space, plus outdoor furniture.
Georgia, Sue, Joey, and Jersey eat at the picnic table inside the fence. There’s a mid-size dog crate there with the food bowl inside to protect the food from the elements. The picnic table is near the well and water connection, so I wash their dishes there and store them in a dish drainer.
The Butter and Basil basically live at The Treehouse, which is a platform with a roof over it between two mature pine trees outside the fence. Their platform has water and food bowls, and a smallish dog house with hay. They can climb up to the roof, which is nothing more than a sheet of metal roofing, and lounge up there.
Who else lives on the property and how did that happen?
Right now, only the cats and any wild animals like raccoons, opossums, and birds live there. There was a flock of chickens that moved through here almost every day, eating all the food in The Treehouse. They couldn’t be touched, and I don’t know where they came from, but we started buying chicken scratch and chicken feed to put out. They are voracious feeders, and the cats stay out of their way.
Also, randomly, a lone black hen moved in inside the fence last year. I named her Robirda. She started laying eggs, and we learned a lot about hens and egg production.
Last year, I was diagnosed with DCIS, a form of breast cancer, and I moved in with a friend to help take care of me. After a lot of treatment, I’ve just had my first annual post-op checkup, and things look fine. The cats have managed really well, doing what cats do best, and I’m planning on staying with my friend.
What is the funniest thing the animals have done?
The Butter and Basil are the funniest without even trying. Their platform is like a little stage where they have “conversations”. Admittedly, the conversations are created in my head based on photos that I take of them. Sometimes, The Butter lies on the platform and hangs his head over the side like he’s recovering from too much catnip. One time The Butter and Basil were on the roof of The Treehouse looking over the edge, like they were getting ready to water-balloon the chicken gang.
What is the most surprising?
The most surprising and interesting thing is how they separate themselves into groups. The Butter and Basil took over The Treehouse, which was started as just a safe place for cats to go if they ventured outside the fence. Pop-Up and Tortie live in the condo because that’s where they need to be for their own safety. The last four, Georgia, Sue, Joey, and Jersey, live in the general area of the picnic table. There are multiple places for them to sleep, inside and outside the fence. We made what I call the Dormitory outside the fence in the woods about 15 years ago. Sometimes the wild animals sleep there, but the kids here now don’t use it any more.
I take those large Rubbermaid totes, cut a hole in the end, and stuff them with hay or straw for sleeping quarters, so of course they like to lounge on the tops of those. There’s also nesting boxes in the shed, and they have access to the old RV.
Sometimes Jersey, Joey, Sue, and Georgia come outside the fence to visit The Treehouse, but that’s usually just at feeding time because I tend to feed The Treehouse first, and they try to snag a bite and encourage me to hurry to the picnic table to feed them. I have a car trunk full of dry and canned food, and other supplies.
What about your background prepared you for all this?
I’ve always been interested in animals. When I was in 4th grade, I wanted to be a veterinarian. That was not to be in my future, but I have had vet tech training and worked for several vet practices.
Working at the luxury boarding kennel showed me that some animals get better treatment than others. I’m interested in group health and shelter environments and creating a place where animals can exist.
I have a degree in business management, and I hope to create a non-profit status in order to help more cats/dogs/people.
Ruth will stop by here in case you have any comments or questions for her. I’ll be here, too. Right now I have eight cats in the house, but it’s just temporary because I’m babysitting the feline grandkids.