Darlin’ Baby Rides Again

October 25, 2014

To the grocery store, that is.

Some people don’t believe we take the Darlin’ to the grocery store.  They think that I’m mispronouncing PetSmart when I say Publix.  Because a brain cannot hear what it cannot hear.

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And later he falls asleep on the coffee aisle.  Clearly he needs coffee.  Grocery shopping is boring, as boring as an afternoon math class.  My apologies to all you math teachers.

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Good parenting.  Teach them young.

Darlin’ Baby Learns to Eat Canned Food

October 24, 2014

I never, ever, EVER buy canned food for the cats.

NEVER.  It’s a sentence of doom.  Your cat will turn into a bigger, needier, demander.

*****

Jackie:  Where’s my #*!%^@!! canned food?

YoursTruly:  Just a minute, Jackie, I just walked in the door.

Jackie:  Canned food.  Canned Food.  CANNED FOOD, DAMMIT!

YoursTruly:  Now, Jackie, that’s a little greedy.  Please remove your claws from my shoulder, and stop looking me in the face.  You need to brush your teeth.

Jackie:  Aaaaaah!  I’m dying!  I haven’t eaten in one hour!

*****

Multiply that by a number larger than 5.  Granted, I’m not buying canned food still.  I got a huge food donation, and I heard that some cats don’t drink enough water and need the additional moisture in canned food.  Whatever.  Come and get your damn canned food.  I give in.

*****

Darlin’ Baby showed no interest in eating canned food at 4 and 5 weeks.  Then 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 weeks.  This was unheard of.  Cats are crazy for canned food and will start eating it when they are just kittens.

Apparently Darlin’ Baby didn’t get the memo.  Or the phone call.  Or the email.  Or the text or tweet.

I would push canned food into his mouth.  He pushed it back.

I put him on the picnic table at the feeding station with the others milling around eating canned food.  He walked on their plates.

Finally at approximately 12 weeks, he decided that it was time.

Nom.

Nom.

Nom Nom.

Nom Nom.

Nommy Nom Nom.

Nommy Nom Nom.

There.  Satisfied?

There. Satisfied?

Thank goodness.  He can’t leave here if he doesn’t learn to eat big kid food, and grow big enough to be able to handle anesthesia to get neutered.

‘Cause I highly recommend the neutering of all males.

Moving on now.

Darlin’ Baby Goes to the Grocery Store

October 23, 2014

I take Darlin’ Baby everywhere in a crate, even the Publix grocery store.

After we finish our shopping, we drive to a nearby shady area and have our lunch.  We let the darlin’ out of his crate so he can visit with us in the front seat.

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And the following week we do the same thing.

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People say to me, “You’re going to keep him, aren’t you?  How can you give him up?”  I reply that my job is to just get him through the rough start of his life, and that another kitten will come along that needs help, too, after the Darlin’ has moved on.

But don’t think that I don’t get a lot of pleasure out of it.

Back to the Basingers: Sugar Finds a Gold-Mine in a Closet

October 22, 2014

Sugar has a closet with odd, assorted items in it, all pertaining to his family.  It’s like a little time capsule.

He knew that he had some photos of when his parents would go to Edisto Island and stay with Chalmers and Faith Murray.  He’s not really sure how those four met up, and none of the photos actually had Chalmers in them.  He was a busy fellow.  Google him – you’ll see.  He was an attorney, an author, a writer, and editor, a speaker.

So the time machine was activated, and Sugar found photos of Edisto, but that wasn’t all.  He found photos of his mother as a little child, photos of his mother’s mother, and other family members, then he found a jaw-dropper.

*****

We went on a little history tour earlier this year in March.  He took some photos of the William Starr Basinger family to a local Staples to be copied so that he could present them to the historical society in Lumpkin County, Georgia.  You might remember reading about our follow-up visit in the historical society’s newsletter.  Good times.

He was pretty sure that he got the family photo from another cousin in Savannah, until he pulled out the original from the closet box, and O MY.  There is handwriting on the back that identifies the people.

But wait for it.  There’s ANOTHER photo of the same family with the parents and the children, also all identified.

Y’all, please.  Go get those photos out of the closet and scan them.  NOW.

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Dahlonega, Ga.

The Basinger family

Leslie, Tom, Auntie, Grandma

Walter, Mamma, Papa,

Maggie, Ate’

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J. N. Wilson, Savannah, Ga., 1885

The Basingers

Garnett, Mag, Will

Leslie, Maj. Basinger,

Walter, Mrs. Basinger,

Tom

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(I used an automatic adjustment feature on the computer program to alter the lightness/darkness of the back of the 2nd photo.  It made the handwriting more distinct, but also changed the color.)

Mother Cat Comes to Call

October 19, 2014

That’s a bit of a spoiler.  Prepare for a surprise ending.

*****

One Saturday summer evening, I was almost home from work.  It was a twilight time of day, a magical time of day, when the lightning bugs are out, and the warm summer smells of growing things are in the air.

I turned left onto my little road, and just ahead on the right, at the end of my driveway, I saw Jackie sitting, waiting for me to come home.

Or was it Jackie?  It looked like her in the dusk.  It had her markings, but when the beams of the headlamps shone on her, for a quick second, there was a reflection of both eyes before the cat ran back onto the driveway and climbed over my gate.  Where was Jackie going in such a hurry?  Why was she running from me?  And did my eyes deceive me, for Jackie only has one eye.

I parked at the gate, and when I went through it, Jackie was sitting on the other side, waiting for some canned food.

*****

The next morning was a bright Sunday.  I threw open the door, and in the clearing directly in front of the door, two small dark shapes scrambled away in a panic, in such a hurry that I couldn’t tell what they were.  What they left behind was clear enough.  He was a small orange fluffyish kitten.

He looked at me with one sad eye, and meowed a tiny squeak.

Good Lord.  What was happening here?  How had he gotten here?  He let me pick him up and put him on the picnic table where I feed the cats.

*****

I have a system for feeding the cats here.  I got a huge donation of dry and canned food earlier this year.  I shimmied the picnic table under the awning a bit so that half of the table was under the awning and half was out.  I caught Packett several times standing on the table eating cat food right out of the cat feeder, so I put a medium-sized crate on the table and put the gravity feeder inside the crate.  One or two cats could get in the crate at the same time to dine, and the crate protected the dry food from rain and falling leaves and pine needles, and Packett couldn’t get into the crate to get the food.  There was a problem when serving up the canned, though.

Too many dirty bowls.  I tried to put out enough bowls to hold enough canned food for all the cats.  The cats have a different opinion about how things play out, and sometimes they all crowd around one small bowl for no good reason.  Then there’s the flies.  They love canned food, too, so I had to learn about how many cans to open so there wasn’t a breeding ground with a food supply for insects.

The answer was a plastic chip-and-dip tray with divided sections.  Easy cleanup.  Shared portions.  They are cheap, and you can get them at the grocery store, and they come in fun colors.  ‘Cause cats love them some fun party trays.

*****

The little orange fluffy guy joined the other guys immediately.  He pushed his way to the food tray.  Later in the day I saw two more kittens in the undergrowth.  So there were three!

And later yet I saw another one.

Then during the evening, I went outside, and a large cat that looked JUST LIKE JACKIE flew off the picnic table, and dashed down the path to the shed, holding her left front leg out straight in front of her.

Apparently I have a mother who has brought her 4 babies right slap over the chain-link fence to safety and food.  Except that when I do a kitten headcount, I see one more unaccounted-for kitten.

Five.  FIVE.  Plus a mother.

The time is now officially TEN PAST CRAZY.

*****

Welcome to Catcatcher Corner.

Little Orange is a sweet boy, but everyone else is feral.  FE’ ReALz.

Little Orange goes to the vet to be seen for his problem eye.  I start a course of ointment and clavamox, but it’s hard to scoop him up and medicate him twice a day.  If you’ve ever tried to medicate a cat, you’ll understand, and even if you haven’t, you have an imagination.  You’re imagining the cursing I’m doing.

A few weeks of fattening up happens, and I leave town for 2 ½ days, and Sugar reports that the cats are gone.  When I return, they return, and they do this cycle one more time, minus one gray tabby kitten, before it seems they are settled here.

So now it’s time to trap.

The first baby goes to the vet, and she weighs about 2.8 pounds so she’s almost three months, and she is spayed.

Little Orange gets a home, along with Darlin’ Baby (sorry for the spoiler), with a SugarCousin.

Little Peachy gets neutered.

Little Torti gets spayed.

In between the trapping of Little Peachy and Little Torti, the Mama goes into the trap, so yay me!  And yay Mama!  No more babies to worry about.

*****

I put a towel down in the back of Old Yeller, set the covered trap with Mama in it, and head to the vet.

When we get there, and I unload the trap, I notice that there is bright blood on the towel, but not blood like she is in heat.  This was odd.  She is still protecting her left front paw, although I had seen her use it if she is walking carefully, but never when she is moving fast.

We get the trap on the table, and tip it slightly to one side, and that’s when we see it.  A growth, as large as a grape, on the base of her left front paw.  Keep in mind that she is an average-sized cat, and her paw is about the size of a grape.

The growth is infected, and smelly with rot, and bloody and oozing pus.

Even if I could handle her, which I cannot, I would have to medicate her BY MOUTH twice a day and clean her wound at least once a day.  And I would have to keep her confined for the duration, and I have no good solution for that.

She’s a wild cat.  The obstacles for me are technically insurmountable, and even if surgery is successful, if it’s cancer, she’ll lose her leg, and there’s a possibility that the cancer could be throughout her body.

Sorry as I am about all this, it seems that she has brought her family to me, to safety, and that it’s time to let her go.

She went to sleep peacefully, not rotting away in the wild.

Good night, Mama Cat.  You sacrificed what any mother would sacrifice.

 

Under the trees, she holds her left paw off the ground.  Now I know why.

Under the trees, she holds her left paw off the ground. Now I know why.

Darlin’ Baby Goes to Visit Sugar

October 12, 2014

So I’m carrying the Darlin’ around in a crate.  Sometimes I go see Sugar, and this means the Darlin’ must go, too, ’cause everybody loves Sugar.

Darlin’ Baby is still not eating canned food, and by this time he’s about 8 weeks old.  He should have started eating yummy soft food by 5 weeks, but he doesn’t know about that law of averages.  Clearly he’s not going to major in math.  He loves his ba-ba, and boy, am I going through some kitten formula.  (My formula of choice is KMR – Kitten Milk Replacer – thankyouforasking.)

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He still doesn’t know how to retract his claws.  He’s a slow learner, so he fits in well with me.  But he does know how to scream for his ba-ba.

Soon we’re off to the grocery store, all three of us.  Because he’s been carried around his whole life and spent a lot of time being handled, he’s *great* in a crate.  He walks in his crate like a little child loves a blanket fort.

He’s the baby-est baby.

Darlin’ Baby Goes to the Beach

October 10, 2014

Y’all already know that I bottlefeed kittens.  It seems like I’m one of two people in the area that does this for the shelter.

A lot of them don’t make it.  There’s a thing called Fading Kitten Syndrome, and they just slip away from you.  With me, they all get an equal chance to make it or not.  Without someone like me, they wouldn’t even have that chance.

So the problem becomes this:  what do you do when you need to go to the beach?

See, it’s hardly a problem.  The kittens are so tiny that they practically live in the crate.  This batch was a mixed bunch.  There was a litter of three.  One died in 24 hours.  When I’d get a random single, I just pop them into the batch.  Babies need tactile warmth.  This particular snapshot of time has the two remaining littermates and a slightly bigger single.

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I call this one Darlin’ Baby.  That’s not his name; that’s what I call him.  I don’t “name” any of them, because they either die or go back to the shelter where they are given a name.  I had gotten this darlin’ about 1 week earlier, and I estimated him and his siblings to be about 2 weeks old at the time.  In the background, you can see a little gray head of Darlin’s sibling, and another random bigger single who I kept for a short amount of time.  The bigger boy was ready to go from the bottle to canned food, which is the mile marker that I use to know when to return them to the shelter.

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Can you tell we’re at the beach?  It was a lovely May day, not too hot, and breezy.  Both my BabyGirl and my BabyBoy were there.  The BabyGirl brought her little doggie, and the BabyBoy brought a dog that he was taking care of (sorry for the prepositional ending).  BabyBoy also brought his handy tent/shelter which he got from Target for $30.  Best $30 he ever spent.

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There’s a blue and white cooler in the shelter with some cold drinks in it and of course the baby bottle.  The crate is stashed in the corner behind the cooler, so you can’t actually see the babies.

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Yes, these dogs have access to fresh water.

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Wow.  What a great day.  Look for further installments of the Darlin’ Baby’s adventures.

To Feed A Dog: Part Three

October 9, 2014

I sat on the  passenger’s side of the van, staring in disbelief as the door to the trailer opened slowly inwards, a pale hand clutching the knob.  A middle-aged woman appeared and leaned on the door frame. Her right foot was encased in a cast.

I hissed, “There’s somebody there!” to Sugar, and he looked up, one sole of his shoe still with dog poop on it.

Let me say here that Sugar is one of the shyest persons you could ever meet.  We were so busted, sitting right in this woman’s driveway, and rather than slamming the doors and speeding away, Sugar stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and hit a home run.

Sugar:  Oh, hello, maybe you can help me.

Woman:  Hello.

Sugar:  Does Mr. (insert random name from his mail route here) still live here?

Woman:  No, nobody by that name has ever lived here.  This is my place.

Sugar:  Oh, he used to live over there (waving his hand Miz-Florrie-style), but he told me he was moving over here.

Woman:  No, nobody lives here but me. Sometimes my nephew stays here.

Sugar:  Oh, okay, thanks.  By the way, is that your dog?  He’s a nice dog.

Woman:  No, that’s my nephew’s dog.  I can’t get around so I can’t take care of him.  Sometimes he needs food and water, but I can’t do anything about it.  My nephew comes and goes.

Sugar:  Okay.  Well, thank you.  Sorry to bother you.

*****

Well, this was awkward.  So apparently someone DOES live here, someone without a car who is unable to get the mail out of the box.  But she didn’t recognize Sugar as her mail carrier.

The next part of the plan became to visit the dog on Sunday mornings, and when Sugar was on his mail route, he thought he could stop perhaps on Thursday afternoon.  It was a long time for the dog to go without proper food and water, but it was the best we could figure out.

So on Sunday mornings, we went into stealth mode.  We drove slowly down the dirt road, so as not to stir up much dust, and we drove by the trailer to the next driveway, which was where this whole dog episode started.  We backed in the driveway of the abandoned trailer, which incidentally was now sporting a bright green notice that back taxes were due on the property, and slid open the back right door of the van. There at the ready were a container of water and an already-bagged-up bag of food.   Sugar would grab the food and water, walk across the yard, down into a drainage ditch, and back up the other side of the ditch to where the dog was tied.  If the food bowl was not there, he simply dumped food on the ground. We didn’t want it to look like someone had been there, because people don’t always take too kindly to others tending to their business, crappy as though it seemed.  I set the timer each time to see if he was shaving off any time during the process.

As time went by, he noticed the the blinds on that corner of the trailer were being left up.  If the blinds were up, he did not stop while on his route.  Sundays seemed safer because we were parked on the next driveway, and there were lots of trees between the vehicle and the trailer.

When Sugar would drive by on his mail route, the dog recognized his truck now, and would bark and prance happily when he drove by.  One day the dog broke loose somehow, and ran after his mail truck, barking and wagging to the end of the dirt road and back.  Sugar heard a man call after him in an effort to get the dog back, and he learned that the dog’s name was Bruiser.

At some point this has to come to an end.  I was driving my car, a bright yellow jot of color, like we had convinced ourselves that we didn’t need to be seen in the same vehicle all the time.  I had pulled into the driveway just past the trailer, and Sugar slipped through the trees with food and water.  He came hustling back in a panic and said that he’d been caught. He got as far down in the floor as he could get, and it looked like I was just out and about on a Sunday drive.

I started the car, and attempted to back up when the car died and I had to start it again.  Fortunately, the engine held that time, and I puttered on past Bruiser’s trailer, where two men in hunter’s garb stood on the front deck.  I looked at them, they looked at me, and I kept driving.  We were on solid pavement before Sugar crawled up out of the floorboards.

Not long after that, Sugar reported that Bruiser was gone.  We never saw where he was turned in to the shelter, so maybe the nephew moved away for good and took Bruiser with him.

And we hope that, if only for a brief moment in his shabby life, Bruiser knew that he was loved.

To Feed A Dog: Part Two

October 8, 2014

What were we supposed to do with all these dogs?  Should we just take the sick one?  And where would we take it?  The shelter was closed.  And even if the shelter was open, what would we say?  That we found the dog?  But then what would happen if a missing dog report turned up?  How do we explain that?

It seemed like the best thing to do was to report the entire situation to the animal control officer.  Me? I’m afraid of the ACO.  Once, I shared a situation on a social media site.  It was a situation of some puppies that had been abused, according to the report I saw.  The ACO came to my workplace and reprimanded me for sharing.  She said that no one knew anything about that situation, and where had I gotten my information?  She said that someone had contacted her department about my post – my shared post – and that it was making her look bad, and that I didn’t know how hard she had worked and that I had destroyed all her hard work.

So Sugar is going to have to make the call.

The following day was Monday, his day off.  He made the call to the ACO, who told him that she was going to be in court all day and could not investigate his claim until the following day.

Enter more weirdness.

She called him the following day to say that the property owners were friends of hers, and that she had called them to let them know she had a complaint about their property being abandoned, including the animals.  The property owners became agitated, and stated that the complaint was a lie, that they were at the property every day, and that they had complained to the ACO’s superiors, because clearly they were being targeted and harassed.  So by the time the ACO actually went to inspect the property, there were food and water dishes for each dog, and she could not determine who actually had cared for the dogs.  She told Sugar that he should have taken photos, and for him not to trespass again.

So I suppose we should have used a zoom lens in order not to trespass.

When Sugar asked the ACO what he should do when he sees a case where a dog has not been cared for in days, she said that he did the right thing, but not to trespass again.

The next day when he went back out on his route, the dogs were gone.

*****

About a month later, he had another issue with another dog on his route.  This particular dog was at the property NEXT DOOR to the one that had the four dogs.

This dog was also tied, and also had a shelter, although it was a dog house turned away from where the dog could actually get into it.  This dog had bowls lying round about, but none every appeared to have food or water in them.  There was a five-gallon bucket by the dog house, too far away for the dog to reach, and the problem with a deep bucket is that, if there is only a little water in the bottom, the dog cannot reach the water easily, and usually overturns the bucket.

The plan was the same.  We will go on a Sunday morning, and it will be a quick in-and-out.  Sugar watched the trailer to see if there were signs of life.  There were none, there were no cars there ever, and the mail was piling up in the mailbox.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Sugar became bold and inattentive to the time.  He was busy concentrating on the dog.  He had found two sawed-off buckets lying in the ditch that he used for food and water bowls, and he scooted the house around so the dog could get into it.  He checked the outside faucet for water, which worked, and he filled the water bowl.  He became even bolder and pounded on the front door, then went back over to where the dog was.

The clock was ticking, and I told him his 5 minutes was up.  I got back in the van on the passenger side, and started twitching.  He opened the driver’s door, and started cleaning his shoes, because of course there was poop all over the place from the dog.  That’s when I looked up, and saw the door of the trailer swinging inward…

To Feed A Dog: Part One

October 8, 2014

To trespass, or not to trespass?

Sugar used to deliver the mail on a rural route in little Hardlyville.  It’s hard to be a rural carrier.

It’s a stressful job.  There’s the stress associated with the job, then there’s the outside stress.  Cold, heat, dust, rain, bad roads, angry customers, crazy people, car trouble, flat tires, you name it.

Then there’s the animals.

Dead animals on the road, wounded wild animals, litters of kittens and puppies, dogs tied up as watchdogs, dogs penned up, starving strays, cat populations out of control.

And while he’s delivering the mail, his animals are at home on the furniture in a climate-controlled environment, waiting for their specialty dinners.

Once, a particular case was weighing heavy on his mind, and he told me about it.

There was a certain house, a ramshackle trailer set back under the trees, that had dogs tied in the yard. He hadn’t seen anyone at the house in several days, and he noted that the location of the overturned bowls had stayed the same.

So he made a plan.  We would go on a Sunday morning, when fewer people would be out and about, and feed and water these dogs.

*****

We pulled up mid-morning into the driveway.  I had never seen this place before, and I was disgusted and depressed at the appearance.  The house and grounds were surrounded by junk.  Not just trash, but junk. Old furniture, car parts, household items, wood and bits of lumber, boat parts, appliances, all ruined and decaying.  The smell of moldering metal, wood, and fabric hung in the air.

We were pretty nervous.  After all, we would be trespassing if we were caught, although it didn’t appear that anyone lived here.  But what if someone drove up?  We knew that animal control wouldn’t be out on the weekend, but could we still get in trouble for being good Samaritans?  Probably.  I said that I wouldn’t take any photos to document that we had been here.

There was a dog tied at each of the two front corners of the property.  A small, flimsy wood structure consisting of 4 thin posts and a little roof, lay overturned by one dog.  The 2nd dog had a 55 gallon barrel on its side.  The first dog was a sweet hound who let us pet her.  The second dog was an enthusiastic pit mix who leaped great bounds to try to get to us.  We had to be careful to put the food and water bowls just far enough for her to get to them; otherwise, she’d knock them about with all her leaping and dragging the chain.

There was a third dog at the back corner on the right.  He barked a bit, but was glad to get the food and water.

Sugar went on around the house to the far back left corner.  He hustled back to say that something was wrong with the dog, and I hurried back with him.

Imagine that you are tied by a heavy chain to an old boat anchor.  Now imagine that you have circled around and around that boat anchor until you have made a trench in the soft soil.  The chain has become twisted over and over, and so has shortened almost as short as it can go.  And imagine that you are having some kind of inexplicable neurological issue that causes you to lose control of your limbs in a loopy, slow-motion fashion, and you can begin to understand what was happening to this dog.

I’d never seen anything like it.  The dog would stand completely normally, and then slowly his eyes would widen in fear as he anticipated the next episode, and then he would begin another tumble, once even rolling backwards in a somersalt.

This was to only be the beginning.


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