Friday, November 19, 2010

A bloody mystery

Last Saturday was another slightly warmer than usual day for November, even for Bakersfield where the heat seems to fight against the approaching winter months far harder than is necessary. Though some of my friends love the heat and greet the late fall with a sigh of resignation, I love the days when one needs an extra blanket on the bed and warm comfort foods find their way back into the menu rotation.

I was hanging out in the backyard watching Darby do his favorite Darby backyard thing --- run from one end of the yard to the other, stopping briefly to let out a few of his singularly Darby-like combo bark/howl sounds, tail raised so high on his back that it seems nearly impossible to believe that it is still connected to the rest of his spinal cord. He loves his territorial outbursts far more than our neighbors do, but in the middle of the afternoon there’s little effort made by us to stop him from indulging. Honestly, if a dog can’t rip a few out in the middle of Saturday afternoon, when can he?

I hear the thump of the fence and look to see Bad Kitty Bo coming over the top. At nearly fourteen, I’d much prefer that he stay in his own yard, but the house behind us is the only place he really goes, generally two or three times a day. It was vacant for nearly the first year that we lived here so it became the de facto hangout for the area cats, pet and stray alike. The family who recently moved in have small children but no apparent pets of their own, and don’t seem to mind much that their yard is part of the feline superhighway, connecting one dead-end street to another. The cats who use their yard as a combination pass-through/lounge don’t much cotton to the humans living there, so when someone threatens to walk outside they scatter pretty quickly to less inhabited digs.

Bo usually walks the length of the fence line until he’s over our compost bin, where he will drop down with a thud before the final hop back to the ground, but not this time. For this reentry he comes over the fence, scrambles his way to the second half-fence wall about foot further in from the property’s edge and drops down to the ground. It’s an indelicate reentry, not typical of his usual graceful style.

A few seconds later Brindle appears on the fence ledge. We don’t know his actual name, but my husband starting calling him “Brindle” due to his striking classic tabby pattern and it’s stuck with us to the point that Darby will react if you use while outdoors. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a true feral in the area since we moved here a little over a year ago. He is uninterested in our attention or affection, but is secure enough that he will skirt along the edge of the backyard while we are outside, making his way from one street to another. He seems to enjoy Bo’s company and will rest in our yard near Bo if Darby is safely indoors. Like Bo, he seems stressed, as though they were the recipients of an unwelcome surprise. Brindle quickly makes his way down the fence ledge and disappears into the yard of another neighbor.

I head in with Darby, ready to get back to a pet-related blog-a-thon that is taking place over the weekend. I’m not a participant, but I’m not sure the average houseguest would have known that, given my attention to it. After giving the doodlebug his treat for coming inside, I cross the living room to get back to my laptop. I glance out the back door at Bo, who is now sitting on the patio.

The first thing I notice are the weeds wrapped in his fur. After six-plus years of him hunting along the bank of the American River in Sacramento I thought I had seen every possible type of weed that can get stuck in the longish fur of a Maine Coon, but I was mistaken. The house behind us offers a new variety for my fur-picking pleasure. Turns out it is a variant of the foxtail family (naturally), only instead of having barbed seed pods these pesty plants have heads on them that can wind their way into fur like thread on a bobbin. Fortunately, Bad Kitty Bo knows when we are trying to help ease his discomfort and generally keeps his meathooks to himself while we are relieving him of his unwanted riders. I sigh, knowing this will further keep me from blog-a-thon lurking, and head out back to start picking him clean.

That’s when I see it.

A bright red splotch of fresh blood about the size of a quarter mars the soft white beauty of his chest.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Damn the world that he is wounded and damn that the hurt happened on a Saturday afternoon, the time when veterinary bills magically triple.

Of all the things Bad Kitty Bo does well, one the things he is the very best at is being hurt. Bo becomes the nicest, most compliant cat in the world when he doesn’t feel well. I pick him up gingerly, trying to avoid the wound area, and carry him into the house, calling for my husband to help me out as I get him to his table in the kitchen. Yeah, you read that part right. He has his own table in the kitchen. Technically it’s for all the cats, but being Bad Kitty Bo means it’s mostly his.

John grabs some paper towels, gets them wet and brings them to me, then holds and soothes Bo as I begin picking the weeds out of his fur, trying to get him as clean as possible before we begin the part that will hurt. I get the weeds as fast as possible and grab the first towel, still wondering who hurt him. There weren’t any sounds to indicate a cat fight, nor did I see him get hung up on anything coming over the fence but there’s no doubt that something bad went down.

But not to him.

It wasn’t until I was on paper towel number two before my brain caught up with my eyes. Yes, there was blood, and no small amount of it, but it didn’t belong to Bo. The bright sticky mass coated the first quarter inch of the fur on his chest, but his skin remained white as snow.

We checked, then rechecked him. We checked his chest, his neck, his jaw, his mouth. Nothing. Not even a scratch.

Bo, weed-free and tired of the inordinate amount of now unnecessary attention he was receiving, struggled to get free. His needs having been met, he loped off to a quiet sunny spot to relax.

We spent the next half hour watching him as he cleaned up behind our cleaning job, looking for signs that might indicate what might have taken place during his sojourn to account for his “injury”. No matter what theories we come up with, the only one who knows for sure is Bo.

And he ain’t talkin’.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I learned from the Blog-a-thon

Last Saturday an impressive group of people held a 24-hour blog-a-thon (or in BZTAT’s case, a paint-a-thon) to raise fund for various pet-related causes. The blog-a-thon idea is the brainchild of Dr. V at Pawcurious. She held one last year, which I didn’t see any part of, and decided that it was worthwhile enough to go forward with again this year.

After seeing Blog-a-thon 2010, I wish that I had seen the 2009 event because I think I would have begged to be part of this incredibly cool weekend. Instead, I had to be content with sending comments to three of the participants (Pawcurious, BZTAT and About Vet Med) while hoping they didn’t write me off as some crazed weirdo. I was that enchanted.

I also managed to learn a lot in the process.

  • There are a number of really thoughtful, caring people in the world who will put aside a weekend (not to mention a whole night’s sleep) to help someone else in need. Although this isn’t exactly a revelation, it helps in these cynical days to be reminded of that as often as possible.
  • Doing anything for 24-hours is harder than it sounds. If you’re going to try it, you should have a pretty good plan in place for your success. Fortunately, all of the participants I saw seemed more than prepared for their commitment.
  • There are plenty of angles to explore in the world of pet-human relationships and an event such as this provides an opportunity to showcase so many of them that even the casual pet lover could find something to touch their heart.
  • There’s a lot more to a blog-a-thon than simply blogging (not that blogging in and of itself is a simple process). These folks were blogging (or painting) while also posting on Facebook and Twitter, responding to comments, encouraging each other and, in one case, cooking and putting together a video of the cooking segment while keeping the hourly posts flowing and notifying prize winners. And they pulled it off with aplomb.

Watching these folks (I’d love to say “women”, but sure as I do, someone will pop up and declare their dudeness and I’ll feel bad, so better safe than sorry) at work, I felt like I found “my people”. The ones who talk about pets because they feel a profound connection between themselves and their four-legged companions and aren’t afraid to share tales of that connection with others. The ones who will not only listen to your poop stories, but will have one of their own to add to the mix. The ones who are as disgusted with slobber and hairballs as I am, but deal with it daily (like I do) because it comes with the territory.

If you’d like to take a peek at what you missed, head over to these websites. There’s enough to read to keep you busy for days.

Fingers crossed, maybe nexy year I'll be on the inside, looking out.

P.S. Special thanks to BZTAT for the Darby painting seen above :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Operation Fuzzy Mice

Check out this blog I just came across, Operation Fuzzy Mice. Their goal is to keep Bakersfield cats with their families by providing support and referrals. They also work to TNR cats in Oildale.

Pretty good stuff.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Being the change...

Pawcurious is holding a 24-Hour blogathon to raise funds for a service dog for a young boy with epilepsy. Simultaneously, BZTAT Studios is holding a 24-Hour Paintathon today with proceeds from the items created going to a pet therapy program and A New Leash on Life charity.

Do yourself a favor and check out both of these websites. They are engaging, beautiful and their hosts are donating this weekend to help make someone's world a little better.

If you'd like to donate to help Bradyn Ferguson get a service dog, just click below and follow the easy steps!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanks for the question…

Last Sunday I spent a bit of my down time wandering along on Facebook. I spend a fair amount of time doing so on the weekend because it is one of the few times I have to play on the site with impunity.

A friend of mine put up what I thought was a pretty innocuous post about his desire to increase penalties for animal abusers should he ever be in a position to do so. Seems innocent enough, right? However, as can happen when folks bring up the subject of animal welfare, one of the first responses posted was from someone questioning why, with all of myriad of human suffering issues going on, would someone choose to focus on animal issues?


Not knowing the commenter, I tried to take a diplomatic tone as I responded, noting that there are a lot of issues to be worked on and that people should find the ones that speak to them and work on those. I actually believe that. You don’t have to dig “my thing”--- you can find your own thing to get excited over. Just do me the courtesy of not disrespecting my choice of issues and I’ll do the same in return.

No such luck.

A bit later, a comment from the same person was addressed to me. It began with the usual, “some people think animals are more important than people…”, followed by a proposition I’ve (unfortunately) heard before: If there’s an injured and dying person and an injured and dying animal, who do you save first? 

Oh, snap! Look at that big ol’ trump card played in my direction. There it is, neatly wrapped in one sentence, right? Only a complete societal loser wouldn’t agree about the answer to the critter equivalent of the “would you torture someone to prevent a nuclear weapon from going off in your home town” question. Game. Set. Match.

Except it isn’t.

I didn’t go back to the thread to reply for a couple of reasons. First, the overall tone in his response to my comment flat-out annoyed the hell out of me, and one of my very favorite things about Facebook that I can play there without arguing with people. If I’m looking for a fight I can go to news articles, internet sites, blog sites, talk radio or my family. On Facebook I want to share ideas and articles that I find interesting, important or enlightening with folks who might be interested. If folks aren’t interested they can bounce right past them and wait for the next post, but I have no intention of spending my time there defending who I am or what I believe.

Second, it was my friend’s post and I don’t feel right about sitting on their post to argue with another of their friends. I consider it poor manners (for lack of a better expression), akin to going to someone’s house for dinner and then starting a dust-up with another invited guest. But I still want to address the question, because it’s a question that deserves a response.

My answer is: It depends.

If the imaginary-improbable-scenario is that both a child and dog are drowning in the middle of a lake, clearly just about everyone is going to reach for the child first, me included.

But let’s say that the injured/dying person is some lowlife who just broke into my home to do dog-knows-what, and the injured/dying animal is my dog, hurt while trying to protect his family. Or maybe the injured/dying person just beat down an elderly person for their money and the dog in question is a police dog, injured while bringing the guy down. Who do you help first?

Under those circumstances, I know which victim is getting my time and attention and I can guarantee you that I won’t lose an ounce of sleep over my choice.

That’s the problem with ridiculous propositions like the one that was posed. It takes an issue and tries to frame it as a throw down where, at first glance, it would seem that there really is only one correct choice. But real life has many, many more variables than that and I believe the exploration of those variables help me refine the values that guide my life, including the part of my life that I give over to animal causes and concerns.

Feel free to use my reasoning to determine the quality of my character and compassion for my fellow humans, and I’ll try to reserve judgment on your compassion for your fellow earthlings.

At least until I come up with a great ‘gotcha’ question…

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