Monday, September 28, 2020

The Castaway

Recently, a remarkable story of loss and recovery unfolded in my small world. I was able to participate in it, and even contribute in a small way to the happy outcome. It concerns a cat whom I will call Crusoe. It is not his real name. I probably don’t need to change it, or any of the other names, as I have done; permission was granted by those involved for the story to be published in the PAW Society newsletter. However, permission was not explicitly given for me to reproduce the story on my blog, so I have altered identities. The pictures are not of any actual participants.

Crusoe had been rescued as a kitten, became a PAW Society cat, and was soon available for adoption. But he had developed anterior uveitis in his left eye. It was severe enough to warrant the eye’s removal. He had recovered perfectly, however, and, with the exception of being one-eyed, has been in excellent health since. Louisa and Andy adopted him in late 2019. He lived happily with them and their big dog Salty.

In the first week of August, the family went to a near by town’s campground in their recreational vehicle. As soon as the door was opened, Crusoe bolted outside. Andy made a grab for him and managed to seize his collar - only for it to break off in his hand. Crusoe vanished into the trees and brush.

For the rest of the day, Louisa and Andy searched for him. They printed out posters and distributed them, and talked to people in the vicinity. At last, they had to go home. But they didn’t give up, and neither did the PAW Society. A ‘missing’ advertisement was placed on the Facebook page devoted to Nearby Town’s lost and found pets, describing where and when Crusoe vanished, and with pictures of his distinctive face and black and white body. Angela, a Society member resident in Nearby Town, followed leads that came in because of the ad. Contact was made with a campground employee who kept watch and helped the searchers learn of the topography of the vicinity. Traps were set amid the wilderness next the campground from which Crusoe ran.

Weeks passed. A cat who looked somewhat like Crusoe was found dead along the side of a road. Angela performed the sad duty of identifying the body, but it was not Crusoe’s. The traps produced raccoons, who were released. The Facebook ad was constantly renewed. But with autumn coming, fewer people camping and, considering the density of the woods shielding Crusoe, maintaining hope was becoming difficult.

Then, on September 22nd, just after the Facebook ad was renewed, a woman in Nearby Town posted an urgent request on the ad for the advertiser to contact her: the missing cat was at her house; he had been coming there for food for three weeks.

Things moved swiftly thereafter. I, who had been re-posting Crusoe’s ad, contacted my colleagues in the PAW Society, including Angela, who communicated with Tammy and Bill, the couple who had answered the ad. Angela put them in touch with Louisa and Andy. Tammy sent pictures to John, showing the cat, though not his face - he had been too shy for that. The pictures were sent to another PAW member, who had fostered Crusoe; she confirmed his identity, knowing the distinctive markings on his rear leg. Louisa drove out to Nearby Town within half an hour. Arriving at Tammy and Bill’s house, she didn’t see Crusoe initially, but then he came toward her. Shy at first, he recognized her at last, and was taken home.

This may be the end of the story, but what about the middle? It’s perhaps the most remarkable part of the tale. Tammy and Bill’s house was up a ravine, across a farm-field and through ten blocks of small town housing from the campground. Crusoe may have been stranded, but he didn’t sit still in his strange world. He wandered until he saw a dog, a friendly dog, it must have seemed, and a dog who came and went to his house through a little door of his own. Tammy and Bill saw Crusoe sitting on their front lawn; they had always fed strays - at one time, they had a collection of a dozen cats and several dogs, all rescues, but now had just the one senior canine. But a cat in need couldn’t be turned away.

Soon Crusoe was coming into the house whenever he wanted food - three or four times a day. He would yell at his benefactors, eat, then leave. But he wouldn’t go far; having found a life-line, this castaway was not going to let go of it. He slept on a swing on the property, then started coming into the house at night, as the evenings grew cool.

Crusoe could have gone to any house in the town, any on that street. Tammy and Bill stated that at some he would not have received the welcome he had had at theirs. They thought at first he was a neighbourhood cat; he looked in good shape and his missing eye was not a recent injury. Advertising his discovery did not bring results. But when a friend directed them to Crusoe’s ad on Facebook, they knew he had a home, and people were searching for him. They were happy to witness the reunion with his people.

The number of people involved in Crusoe’s rescue was both large and significant, each playing a part, some lesser, some greater; all important. The chance of going to a friendly house out of many that would not have proven so amenable to him bordered on the miraculous, as did Crusoe’s journey from the campground. That he remained to be collected so quickly and easily after his lengthy absence is also noteworthy. Few sailors marooned on a desert island and eventually saved by a passing ship could have counted on as much luck as finally brought Crusoe home.

But he was home again, safe with Salty the dog and his mum and dad. But for increased vigilance by his family, all was as he left it. Well, except for one thing. Among the raccoons reluctantly captured in the trap set in Nearby Town’s campground was another little creature. The searchers’ campground contact called Louisa and Andy one day to tell them that a kitten had been trapped. What should be done about it? It would have been cruel to let him go. So when Crusoe returned to his home, he found someone new: not a replacement, but an addition: his little brother, Friday.



Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Josie Report

Some have asked how Josie is doing. My Chubs is all right. I think it is a matter of her having bad days and good, and days that are in between. I can tell that sometimes she feels quite well: she eats, even indulges in a little soft-food, takes an interest in what’s going on outside the apartment and plays. At other times, she doesn’t eat much, is slower in movement and pauses in mid-action. I think, now, that this is less confusion than a reaction to the aches and pains due to her age.

I have stopped giving her the liquid joint-medicine, as it seemed to be troubling her: she would swallow continually for some time after I would give it to her. I had the feeling that it was causing some problems for her, perhaps more than it was solving.

But Josie’s movements up and down the bed and cat-trees are less abrupt since I put in a third set of stairs against the bed. I believe she is dropping less from the bed to the floor when she wants a drink of water. I think she had done this simply to save the time and effort of using some of the stairs that were farther away from where she wanted to go.

She is also enjoying the warmth generated in the heated cat-bed, now once more installed where Cammie used it. She doesn’t lie in it all the time, but probably will more, once the weather turns colder. I think it helps her, feeling the heat in her body. As well, it is near Cammie’s Bowl, which encourages her to drink.

While I would like my old lady to eat more, and consume more soft-food, her own plans are sufficient for the time being. I will forego a visit to the doctor for now. I find that trying to get cats to do or take things for their health is often a question of whether it will add to their well-being while also subtracting from it. At Josie’s age, I will err on the side of her comfort and ease, rather than her actual health. There is no advantage to facilitating a longer life if such facilitation diminishes enjoyment. Cats don’t know why they are being deprived of this, or being forced to take that. The very provision of some cure may obviate its benefits.

So Josie and I will work together on her future. She will tell me what she wants, and I will try to give it, slipping in what she needs, when I can. Perhaps between the two of us we will make her very senior years contented.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Old Guard

One of the readers of this blog, Lynn, commented last week about how young Josie looked in a 2012 entry she had read recently. Josie would have been eight years old then.

I started thinking about the changes through which my cats have gone in the interval, how they have aged, the health problems they have suffered and conquered. More than a few of my household have perished along the way. But the three I call the Old Guard remain. They all arrived in 2010 or prior to that, and all knew my first cat, Tungsten. This is Josie now.

Though she doesn’t look very old, she is nonetheless showing her age. She moves slower, she eats less, she plays almost not at all. But she is content. Her health is always a concern to me, and, though I’ve decided not to take her to the veterinary just yet in connection with current worries, she will most likely need to see her doctor again soon. This is Josie a few months ago.

I think you will note the slimness compared with her final photograph, which is from eight years ago. My Chubs is less chubby now.

Tucker, on the other hand, is still relatively active (relative to how he used to be) and alert. He is often on the move. He retains a youthful sweetness - and also a juvenile mischief. The greatest difference is that now he is more streamlined. There is less roly in his poly.

And lastly, my big boy Renn. He strikes me as the least changed. He eats little - and always has - yet is strong and active. His health is the least troublesome of all the cats’; paws crossed that it always will be. He is still young-looking in many ways. Renn remains my big boy.

Age slows us all down, re-shapes our bodies and sometimes re-arranges - even disorders - our minds. We can’t escape its effects, though we can mitigate them somewhat. Cats don’t worry about the effects of age. If they are happy or content; that is enough. And mine will never know the anxieties I feel trying to guard my Old Guard.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Comfy Nights for Me, Too

After writing yesterday about the heated pads in the cat-beds, I was reminded of my own heated mattress pad in my own bed. I bought a new pad recently, my previous one having ceased to work.

My old heated mattress pad had given me good service. It was very useful on nights when I needed extra warmth but felt that the comforter would have been too much or - as happened more often - I wanted to pull the comforter up in the middle of the night but there were cats weighing it down. And sometimes, of course, the night became so cold that even with the comforter, I wanted more warmth.

When that one failed, I decided to buy another. It is a costly purchase but worth it. Naturally, I could not find the brand that I priorly bought. That one had five settings and, until it died, I rarely needed to have it higher than the second setting. The new mattress pad has, instead of a button to press to increase the heat, a dial, numbered up to ten; testing it, I found that a setting between one and two is adequate for my needs.

It makes me wonder, though, what nova-like temperature would be generated by turning the settings to their maximum, if even setting number two is too hot. I hope I don’t accidentally switch it to a high setting some evening when I am too groggy to be exact; I may roast myself alive. The advantage to this is, however, that when I die, I can forego the expense of a funeral. I need merely be laid on the bed, and the heated mattress pad turned to number ten. All that will be needed afterward is a broom and a dustpan…

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Bit of Warmth as the Days Cool

When autumn comes – as it will this week – the cat-beds receive their heating pads. These old cat-beds are perfect for the pads, as they fit exactly, and the cushion can come out, so the pad can go underneath it, but still within the bed. The bottoms of the beds are wearing through, however, so I have placed them on folded towels for a few years now. I have other cat-beds, and they are very good – the cats like them – but they don’t have removable cushions.

Josie has discovered the one in the bedroom and, though it has been washed, still meets with her approval. She doesn’t use it all day or night, though, as the days are still only cooling, and not actually cool. (I will probably make a doctor’s appointment for my Chubs this week, though I will observe her some more first. Her eating has improved a little in the last day or two but that, of course, may be just a temporary change.)

In any case, she and the others will feel more comfortable in the heated cat-beds as the weather turns. I tend to leave my windows open, at least a little, into the autumn, and even into the winter, as I like fresh air, and a room can become stuffy and stale quickly when cut off from outside air. Besides, the cats enjoy sniffing the smells from the wide world. With the heated cat-beds, they can remain snug and warm, while still catching the scents in the drifting chill.