Thursday, December 30, 2010

All Thumbs

My learned friend Sharon posted this on her Facebook wall yesterday:
It takes seven seconds for food to pass from mouth to stomach. A human hair can hold three kilograms. The length of a man's penis is three times the length of his thumb. Your femur is as hard as concrete. A woman's heart beats faster than a man's. Women blink twice as much as men. We use three hundred muscles just to keep our balance when we stand. The woman has read this entire text. The man is still looking at his thumb...
Now that we're agreed that this is all Sharon's fault, let's continue.
According to Wikipedia, the thumb is the first digit of the hand. When a person is standing in the medical anatomical position (where the palm is stretched forward), the thumb is the lateral-most digit. The opposable thumb has helped the human species develop more accurate fine motor skills. It is also thought to have directly led to the development of tools...the opposable thumb ensured that important human functions such as writing were possible. The thumb, in conjunction with the other fingers, makes human hands...some of the most dexterous in the world.
We homo sapiens believe that our apposable thumb is as much responsible for our evolution as was our intellectual capacity, but most higher primates' thumbs are opposable to a certain degree. Other species (frogs, lizards, pandas, opossums and some polydactyl cats) developed a similar digit for their own shrewd purposes (as did shrews). 
Like most parts of our anatomy, we can use our thumbs metaphorically. They have become a device to express our feelings and opinions. When everything is going as we planned, or shows some indication of doing so, we hold our thumbs up. If we disagree with someone else's decisions or conclusions, we will turn our thumbs down. We may thumb our noses at convention, or give tradition a thumb in the eye. 
 In Romeo and Juliet, Old Capulet's supporter, Samson, threatens Verona's fragile peace when he bites his thumb in the direction of a group of Monatgue partisans. One of MacBeth's three witches divines the approach of evil by the sensations in hers - "By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes."
If an accurate measurement is not critically important, we may choose to estimate. Sometimes we call this the Rule of Thumb. The origin of the term has been much debated, and was often thought to apply to the thickness of the stick that a husband was allowed to use when reproving his wife. More likely, it refers to the woodworker's estimate that the width of his thumb is roughly the same as an inch, or to the farmer's guess that the length of his thumb is about the right depth to plant his seeds.
When we provide a small picture, or give a brief description, we call that a thumbnail - good luck finding one of those here. If one person in a relationship submits to the will of another without hesitation or thought, we say that he is under the thumb of the other. Our thumbs can be used to deceive or influence others - or ourselves. "Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales" says Byron J. Langenfeld. On the days when our dexterity is limited, and things don't come together as we'd intended, it's because we're all thumbs.
Some of us have used our thumbs to describe our whole influence on the world surrounding us. In his weblog, Standing Room Only, Hugh Elliot writes, "..even if we never meet or ever see each other, we have left our thumbprints in the thick, moist clay of each other's lives." 
It sounds a bit messy, but thumbtimthes relationships can be like that.
* * *
On Christmas Day, Limited Vision passed a couple of milestones. Since I'd begun this blog last October, it had registered fifteen hundred page views, many of which weren't even mine. While I was savouring the taste of that candied conceit, I noticed that it had a new follower, whose name I didn't recognise. After three months of bullying and blackmailing my family and friends into joining our little group, it seems that the blog may have an actual fan.
Welcome - thanks for stopping by. As I hope I've said before, you've all been my best editors and my fairest critics. Please keep your comments coming. If you haven't commented yet (you know who you are), please try - it's lonely out here!
This is probably going to be my last posting of 2010. I'm sure that all of us had hoped for something of more pith and importance; more meat and merit to finish the year... but this is what I have today.
Have a wonderful New Year - I hope that 2011 will be your best year ever, and that they just get better after that.  
Happy New Year from the Tall Lady, the Lion Pride and me.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Too Many Chairs

Empty chairs disturb me. They represent a loss, a void, a break in what was believed unbreakable, an uncomfortable interruption in the flow of the conversation. Some families will set an empty chair at their table this Christmas.

It will be set there for someone who will be notable for their absence.

Empty chairs disturb me, and I don't know why. Maybe they're all just waiting for somebody to sit in them.

First thing tomorrow morning, my dad, Alex, will be downstairs in his basement workshop with a brand new Skil Saw, preparing to make a complete bollocks of yet another bit of home improvement. His motto is measure once, cut incessantly. He's the worst handyman in the world, and I hope that he'll teach me everything that he knows one day.

My mom, Freddie, will be in the kitchen, and as usual, she'll be cooking too much food for the number of people she expects. At the end of the day, when all have gone home with their cumbersome, unwieldy parcels of leftovers, there will be enough still for turkey pies, soups and sandwiches until the Crack of Doom. In time, all of us will tire of that particular bounty.

Sport, my eldest brother's gentle, old dog, will haunt the kitchen too, hoping that time will come soon.

My second brother, Jim, will stay in his room most of the day, listening to Elvis' new Christmas album, wondering whether it has too many gospel songs and not enough Christmas tunes. Before too long, he'll decide that it has. Elvis will be back in his album sleeve, and Roy Orbison or Marty Robbins will be spinning on the turntable instead.

Time passes, circumstances change, friends fall or friendships fade. If we're lucky, we're enriched by their remembrance more than we are diminished by their absence. But the people and the things that we love are never really gone. They have their place in our hearts, our thoughts and our memories. They'll be in that place tomorrow, and they'll return whenever we invite them back.

All of the people I love will be too busy to occupy my empty chair tomorrow, but empty chairs still disturb me.

By all means, keep an empty chair at your table, but save it for someone who's left the room, for someone who'll be arriving late or for someone you have yet to meet.

This chair is yours - be welcome and celebrate the day.

Merry Christmas,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Burn After Reading

First of all, there is an itch behind my eyes and a squeezing sensation at the tops of my cheekbones. My body makes a violent jack-knife, and the climactic, thunderous explosion that comes next is followed by the chaos of five shrieking cats fleeing in five different directions for their forty-five lives. The exception is tiny, fragile Sidney, who is still sitting in the same place, but who is now staring at me with her best, wide-eyed WTF expression.

I am fighting the winter cold, and the winter cold is winning. My nose is running, my head is stuffed, I am cold and shivering, and every part of my body is aching - even the bits that I seldom use anymore. For the past thirty-six hours, I have been curled into a whining, whimpering knot of undefined tissue, which is incapable of leaving the apartment, answering the door, checking its e-mail or or even turning its smartphone back on.

Some people will just tough it out; get up, get out and get on with their day. They'll suck it up, go to work, and infect everyone that they meet with the Black Death. I can't even play the shoelace game with my buddy Cole.  

Turner Classic Movies has been running a marathon of John Wayne westerns today, and I've been lying on the couch with my mug of (tasteless) dark-roast coffee, watching valiantly (Brie, Cole and Sid like to try to catch the little horses). But to be honest, I couldn't say for certain which films were shown. Maybe all of my friends are right, and he did only make one movie.

I'd really like to pin this all on the manky, old nylon Santa beard that I was wearing on Sunday, but I suspect that the timeline is wrong. My body has probably been tinkering with this particular biological bomb for a week or so now, and soon all of the people who know me will start to drop like autumn leaves. The Tall Lady is already a little hoarse (neeeiiiigh).

What would the Duke do?

Thanks again for dropping by and don't forget to wash your hands when you leave.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa Flaws

For the past few Christmases, Petsmart has hosted a fundraising event at its North Vancouver and Grandview Highway stores. It is called "Photos With Santa", and for ten or eleven dollars, customers can purchase a framed Christmas photo of Fluffy or Fido sitting on Pere Noel's lap (or, if they'd rather, they can buy a picture of their dog or cat with the Big Guy). This year, some of the funds raised will go to VOKRA, the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association.

On the Sunday before last, the Tall Lady and I went to the North Van store to be Photo Elves, and I got to take a picture of Santa Bruce with five very patient and well-behaved cats on his lap. Let's see the United Nations top that one!

Last Sunday, we volunteered at the Grandview store, where one of us would take the pictures, while the other wore the Red Suit. In answer to the question, which was done by whom, I will only say that Santa required no additional padding on Sunday afternoon.

Now, Karen Duncan takes VOKRA's fundraising events very, very seriously, and the volunteer she puts in charge of them is always one of her bravest and mightiest warriors. On Sunday, we had two (Shelley and Paula), and we also had Karen herself nearby in case either of them faltered or fell. With all of the other elves who turned up for the shift, there were times when the VOKRA volunteers outnumbered the customers.

Our shift began at 1:30 pm, and at 1:31, the Tall Lady discovered that her camera's white balance refused to be set for the store's fluorescent lights. At 1:32, the memory cards that had been provided by Petsmart decided that they didn't like her snooty digital SLR. It was around 2:15 that both printers began running out of ink, and by the time that the cartridges were replaced at 2:45, we'd also run out of picture frames. The prices for the photos were lowered to five dollars, and that's when the lineup really started!

Most of the dogs and all of the puppies loved the white pompom on Santa's cap, so Karen, Shelley, Paula and the Tall Elf's other helpers spent the better part of the afternoon rescuing, repairing and replacing that particular bit of the costume.

Our friend Norma, who got to play Santa at a similar event a few years ago, still wakes up screaming when she recalls the taste and smell of the manky, old nylon beard in her nightmares. It is the same beard, Norma, it is the same beard...

All of the costumes are beginning to show their age, and the one that our Santa wore had one particular tired trouser seam, which threatened to earn this year's fundraiser a PG rating, and Santa a place on the VPD Naughty List for 2010.

When we finished at four o'clock, I saw someone I recognised leaving the store, and I followed him across the parking lot to his vehicle to say hello. My friend Lawrence is a tough, level-headed realist, who has no time for any sort of nonsensical whimsy. If he ever had a fanciful bone in his body, he's probably broken it. People who know him would have paid a high premium to have seen the expression on Lawrence's face when Santa Claus knocked on the driver's side window of his red pickup truck.

Thanks to all of the cats and dogs, their people, the Petsmart staff and the VOKRA volunteers for making this event work. While we had long lineups, hitches, glitches and nearly catastrophic costume failure, we also had wonderful poses, cold, wet noses, wagging tails and big, sloppy puppy kisses. Everyone is going on the Nice List this year.

Nobody growled, snapped, snarled, piddled on Santa's lap or tried to bite the Photo Elves. As a matter of fact, Karen has been a good girl all year.

Let's do it again next Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brave New World

One day, technology is going to make all of our lives so much simpler. I, for one, can hardly wait.

The first camera that I ever used was my sister Xandy's Brownie Starmite, probably without her knowledge or permission.

It was a small, plastic box with a mediocre lens, a moderate shutter speed and a little reflector about the size and shape of a espresso cup into which you could insert tiny, blue one shot flashbulbs. There were a few other cameras in our house, and I think that they all used the same 127mm (2"x 2") roll film.

Brownie Starmite
I can remember my mom complaining to her brother George, the newspaper photographer, about the ridiculously little pictures that those cameras all took, and poor Uncle George trying, as patiently as he was able, to explain the concept of contact prints to his big sister.

* * *

When the operator made her polite request, "number, please?", I only had to remember a word and five digits. Our home telephone number was ALpine 5-1881. The phone that I recall was a heavy, shiny, black instrument with a rotary dial. The thing I remember best about it is that the receiver always felt cold against my ear.

There was never any question of using it outside of the house - our only telephone was attached to one wall of a single room of our house on Salisbury Drive (the kitchen, I think). If you were near enough to pick up the receiver before the phone's sixth ring, you got your call.

There was no voice-mail, but there was a notepad and stubby pencil on a little shelf near the telephone. If the relative who answered the phone could reach the pad and pencil, and had already learned how to print, it was remotely possible that you would get your message.

* * *

Commodore 64
I enjoy lying to younger people (almost everyone these days) about my own deprived, spartan adolescence. One of my most cherished mendacities is that my first computer was a flat rock and a burnt stick. In point of fact, it was a Commodore 64 (almost as bad).

It was a slow, awkward noisy clunker that might still be adequate to my skills and needs, if I'm perfectly honest.

* * *

LG Optimus 1
Two weeks ago, the Tall Lady and I renewed our cell phone contracts. Because the price was right, and because, like most higher primates, I like shiny, bright things, I persuaded her that we should adopt a pair of pretty, little android smartphones.

Not only is mine smart, at times it can be condescending, arrogant and derisive! It is a good telephone, an acceptable camera and a better computer than the poor, ol' Commodore ever was. It is also a jukebox, an address book, an appointment calendar, and could be used as an alarm clock, if our six cats ever sleep in.

It can connect to the Internet through our provider's network, or through other wireless networks, including the one the Tall Lady and I have at home. Personally, I think that it's conspiring about something with all of those other smartphones, but I can never catch them at it.

Winnie, the nice Telus lady who introduced us to our new phones, informed us that we can enrol in a part-time university course to learn how to use them more effectively.

I miss my burnt stick!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Roxanne (Sapphire) the Birthday Girl

(I found a very pleasant greeting from my new friend, Laura, in my gmail inbox one morning last year, and I'd like to share it with all of you...again.)

Sleeping Roxy
 Hi Lee:

What a great and happy surprise to get your email! Lamin and I would be happy to give some information about Sapphire, now named Roxanne, for her and Lemon's first birthday!

Rubin and Roxanne
When we adopted Roxanne, she was the cutest little ball of fur. She bounced off the walls, constantly playing with her new buddy Rubin, (formerly named Mika) who was also adopted through the VOKRA program three years ago. 

When Roxanne came into our house, she was immediately curious and friendly. She was and still is a terrific snuggler when she's not playing with toys or Rubin. Roxy loves to pounce on Rubin and she races him up the stairs every night when we get ready for bed - first one on the bed every night, she always wins her favourite spot!

Roxanne is full of personality, and she constantly brings smiles to our faces when we see whatever she has gotten herself into or up to. She has brought so much joy to our lives and she has really helped to bring Rubin out of his shell. Our shy guy just loves his little sister's antics and the doting affection she gives him.

Thanks so much for requesting this information from us. We truly appreciate the work VOKRA does and the support your volunteers have given us through our two adoptions.

Laura and Lamin

Sleeping Beauties

(She sounds a lot like her other brother. Happy Second Birthday, Roxanne and Lemon.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Twenty-One and Counting (Little King Cole and the Chinatown Children)

Over the course of a few nights last August, our friend Maria went hunting for kittens in the Downtown Eastside. She'd been watching this particular litter for sometime. There were three kittens around four months old in the family, and they lived behind a store in an alley near Keefer Street. Because the owner of the store had put up a chain-link fence, the kittens had no choice about their place of residence.

Their mother had been gone for quite awhile then, and as far as we know, the kittens were surviving on what they could catch for themselves. Rodents are abundant anywhere that people live, and East Vancouver is no exception to that rule. While they were probably good little hunters, they would always have been hungry. Some of the rats that they caught were likely as big as they were, and the hazards to their health and safety were horrendous.

I'm pretty sure that the storekeeper wasn't just some heartless villain who didn't have any regard for small, vulnerable things. He probably thought that these wild, homeless little cats enjoyed living rough and eating what they could forage or kill. He might even have convinced himself that his fence gave them a degree of protection.

Whatever the case, when Maria approached him about surrendering the kittens, he gave her a very definite NO.

I suspect that their rescue involved a pair of pretty good wire cutters and a black balaclava, and I'd like to believe that Monty Norman's James Bond Theme was playing in the background. In any case, when Maria left Chinatown on August 5th, her extended family had been further extended by two boys and a little girl, all of whom Maria declared to be semi-tame. They still are.

When they came to live with the Tall Lady and me around the second week in September, they still had no names, so we got to choose some for them.

Naming the guy with the white mark on his nose was easy - we called him Blaze. His brother, a big, handsome smylodon of a kitten, was named Wee Geordie, after an old Bill Travers movie that I've always liked. We played it safe with the smallest kitten, whom we called Sidney, because it was a nice androgynous name, and she wasn't about to let us check her credentials.

When they arrived, they came with a timorous little black kitten, about a month younger than they were, who had been abandoned at the SPCA. He had been scared and lonely, and Maria thought that he needed a family. She is a pretty good matchmaker. All three of the Chinatown Children love him, and he is Geordie's very best buddy. We call him Cole.

They were still wild and frightened for the first while that we had them. Sid curled into a small quivering ball whenever she was cornered, and she was as hard and as cold as stone when she was touched. She and Cole are our lapcats now.  

Geordie fell from our balcony on Hallowe'en and shattered his right femur. Two days later, his leg was amputated. Two weeks after that, he was climbing to the top of our big cat tree, running wild in the hallway, leaping over small buildings and wrestling with his brothers and Sidney. I suspect that he's feeling better.

Blaze is a scoundrel and a bully some of the time. The only living thing that he fears in the apartment is Xena, who will knock him on his skinny little cat butt if he annoys her. But, when he chooses to be good (and it's not often), Blaze is very good.

They were put on the VOKRA adoption page a couple of weeks ago, and Geordie had his first suitors on Sunday morning. He gave them his best sales pitch. He was friendly, he was polite, he was good-natured and attentive. Now that I think of it, the whole family was. Even the Tall Lady and I were on our best behavior.

On Monday morning, our visitors adopted a cute little kitten with four legs. I guess there's just no accounting for taste.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Twenty-One and Counting (The Russian Invasion)

At one time, the Russian Mob had individual URL's instead of names. Each began and the extensions were as follows: 52-and-elliot-black-kitten, 52-and-elliot-bw-kitten, 52-and-elliot-tab-kitten, and 52-and-elliot-not-caught-yet-kitten. (Don't worry, there's not a test at the end of the posting, and even if there were, you guys would ace it!)

When Maria finally trapped not-caught-yet in June, she had the four kittens living with her for a time. Then they went to stay with Karen Duncan for a little bit while they were getting ready for their new foster home. The young woman who took them in next also gave them their names. She called them Natalia, Anastasia, Rasputin and Vladimir. The Tall Lady is undecided but I'm fairly sure that Heidi hates kittens.

After their stay with her, these four little beauties came to live with us. Natalia (Miu Miu) was our little shy girl with her silky black coat and huge yellow eyes. Fostering her was like having Taylor back with us. The Tall Lady and I spent hours looking for the poor little fraidy cat, and still more hours trying to convince her that we didn't really believe that the best thing about kittens is the white meat. Eventually, Talia came out for meals, then for treats, next to play with the feather wand or the laser pointer, and she finally rewarded us by coming out just because we asked her to.

Anastasia (Ada) is one of those strange-looking kittens who will grow up to be an amazing beauty. Her black fur isn't exactly black, her white fur not really white and her whiskers kink and spiral off in all directions, as if they were embarrassed to be seen together. Ana was an instant lap cat, with a soft, wet nose and a purr like thunder. A few minutes after we went to bed every night, Ana would land as light as a feather on the Tall Lady's handmade quilt, and would snuggle down between the two of us to sing us to sleep.

If Talia reminded us of Taylor, Rasputin (Check) was another Tabor. He was a gentle, easy-going diplomat whose main concern seemed to be everyone else's contentment. Even Brie liked him. He was a hauntingly beautiful kitten with huge paws and a tiny, polite voice. From the moment we met him, we knew that Ras would be the first of the Russians to be adopted, and we hoped that his new family could make him as happy as he would try to make them.

He was adopted by a perfect family and had a nice dad, a kind mom and a beautiful eleven year-old human sister who were ready to love him forever. When Rasputin died on September 23, we were as devastated as they were.

52-and-elliot-not-caught-yet-kitten is Vladimir. I can't honestly say that I'm surprised that he was the last to be trapped - Vlad was our James Cagney kitten. He had the strut, the swagger, the timing and the attitude. Like Cagney, what he lacked was size - like Cagney, he didn't give it much thought.

We think that the other three kittens have some Maine Coon in their background - obviously, Vlad had a different daddy. In spite of being the smallest of the four kittens, his was the biggest personality, and his the most voracious appetite. When he found out that he liked Rice Krispees, the breakfast table became a battleground and I was usually on the losing side.

When Vlad's adoptors came a-courtin', he knocked them down and twisted their arms until they agreed to take him home with them.

Talia was the last of the kittens to be adopted. Since October of 2009, we'd fostered fourteen kittens, and counting our three big girls, we'd had seventeen cats in four years. Our co-op's eight paw policy has never presented any problem. Our neighbours are among our most dedicated fans. The ones with allergies just take their meds before dropping by, and they remain until their sneezing and scratching begins to upset the cats.

Yup - seventeen cats in four years, and now our friends at VOKRA had decided that it was time for a bit of Chinese... 

Chaos Looming

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Twenty-One and Counting (The Amazing Aquacat)

Aquacat II
 Two years ago some VOKRA volunteers trapped a pregnant cat whom they named Maddy. She had six kittens on December 10, 2009, but Maddy had a horrible case of coccidia, and four of them died very soon after they were born.

The two survivors were a little girl, who was named Sapphire, and a boy with pale, yellow fur who was called Lemon.

Now, Sapphire seemed just fine as the kittens were growing up, but little Lemon wasn't learning how to walk properly. He used his front legs like crutches, and he dragged his back legs along behind himself. He kept falling over, but he kept right on trying. Finally, he learned to put his back feet down on their heels, and he turned his toes out so that he had training wheels (of a sort). Lemon still fell, but now he could go further and faster than he could before.

We think that Maddy had distemper when she was pregnant, and that Lemon's cerebellar hypoplasia was the result. That meant that the part of his brain that controls his motor skills was underdeveloped - or if you like, he had problems with his drive train. There is nothing wrong with his higher brain - Lemon might not pass his university entrance exams on the first try, but I bet a few of us didn't. 

When the Tall Lady and I met him, his name had been changed to Lennon. Some of the people at VOKRA felt that the name Lemon implied that the kitten was a lemon, and that it would compromise his chances for adoption. But he was Lemon when we first heard about him, and that's what we kept right on calling him, much to Karen Duncan's frustration.

Lemon the Conqueror
Because Lemon was a kitten, Xena and Brie hated him. Because he moved differently, and was as likely as not to trip and fall on them, they hated him even more. He stumbled and fumbled, he rolled and he tumbled, but eventually he got where he'd planned to go - though sometimes not in a timely fashion. We learned pretty quickly that it was a good idea to pick him up and put him in his litterbox if he was headed that way. Sometimes he appreciated the assistance, other times he resented the interference. He missed the mark occasionally, but he always gave it his best effort.

Every day he was with us, he worked and played hard, and he got stronger and steadier. He also just kept on getting nicer. In time, Karen negotiated a course of physiotherapy for him. A young woman named Jacqueline Gibson had volunteered her time, talent and facilities to VOKRA. She has had wonderful success with a good number of injured and otherwise disabled dogs, but Lemon would be her first feline client. Jacqueline's company was called Aquapaws Hydrotherapy Inc, and thus was born the Amazing Aquacat.

The Amazing Aquacat
Lemon and Jacqueline had four sessions together. He loved her, but he hated the big swimming pool in her basement. Every Tuesday afternoon, she would put on her wetsuit, and she and our pleasant, even-tempered hero would have a half hour swim. Every Tuesday, Lemon would paddle and kick for a few minutes longer with Jacqueline's supporting hand under his chest, until he was eventually swimming like an otter as well as howling like a banshee. But every Tuesday after we left her, poor Jacqueline would rub her swollen eyes and scratch at the welts on her arms where her skin had been exposed to his fur.

You see, Jacqueline was allergic to cats, so four sessions were all that she could handle. That was quite all right with our boy - he'd already decided that he was allergic to hydrotherapy.

Lemon had a couple of people who were interested in adopting him, but when they saw him, they decided quite fairly that he'd be more than they could handle. When Mary and Percy met him, though, it was love at first sight.

Lemon is now spoiled, pampered, cosseted and adored - everything that he deserves. My friend Margo asked me the other day if Lemon was my favourite. A good foster parent doesn't have favourite children, I told her. All of them are equally loved and treated fairly and impartially.

I think Margo can tell when I'm lying.

Happy Birthday, Lemon,
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Twenty-One and Counting (Charlie and the Angel/Return of the Tiger)

In February of this year, Brie and Xena had very nearly recovered their tenuous grip on sanity, and the Tall Lady and I were going through a severe case of kitten withdrawal. I attended a VOKRA meeting at Karen Duncan's house, and it was there that I heard about Charlie's Angels.

Four kittens had been trapped in Surrey and had been named Drew (as in Barrymore), Diaz (like Cameron), Lucy (Liu) and, of course, Charlie. Drew and Diaz had already been adopted, but Lucy and Charlie, who were living at Karen's, needed a foster home. They were both ready for their family planning options to be exercised. In fact, Lucy was putting on a bit of girth, and Karen was concerned that there had an excess of familial familiarity.

Our friend Kim drove the three of us to the Killarney Veterinary Clinic, where the kittens were rushed off into their kennels to get ready for their surgeries. The Tall Lady and I were to pick them up when they had recovered. When we called the next morning, we were pleased to find out that not only had Lucy not been pregnant, but that Charlie was a little girl as well.

Charlie is a cheeky little medium-haired tabby and Lucy was a beautiful silver-grey and tortoiseshell with perhaps a touch of the exotic orient in her pedigree. I can't say that either of them was especially shy or scared, but they were distant and guarded with us.

Shortly after they arrived, we got a tearful phone call from the lady in North Van who had adopted Raja and Darcy. Both were terrified of the boys and she was afraid that the adoption wasn't working. She tried for a couple of days more, and then called us again to ask if she could bring them back to us.

Raja (aka Darwin, aka Rufus) came back first and as soon as he was gone, Darcy became the family lapwarmer. It seems that he was the shy one, and as soon as she was by herself, Darcy was just fine. When we got our tiny, terrified tiger back to the ol' homestead, it took about ten minutes for him to climb back up on our laps. After that, he was ready to meet the new girls.

Cat Nap

Charlie and Lucy already loved Xena and Brie, just like all of the other kittens had, so it was no surprise when they fell in love with Raja too. They had a great deal to do with calming him down, and we hoped that he'd have a positive influence on them as well, but no such luck. When Raja was adopted for the second time, they were still no closer to being ready for their adoption.

Sure, they loved the big girls, and they even liked us well enough, but we still could not touch them, and we began to wonder if they might not do better in another foster home - maybe one with just their foster parent and them.

Lucy was our first tragedy - after she was moved, she fell from a seventh floor window, and was never found. Charlie has gone to live with our friend Maria in what is very likely Cat Paradise. When we last heard, she still wasn't ready for adoption...but we keep hoping.

Twenty-One and Counting (The Lepers, the Tiger and the Powderpuff)

Kimball and Cricket
Kimball and his sister Cricket arrived at our door on the 18th of November with two flats of food, a bag of stove pellets and their own little prison cell. Cricket had an infected eye and they were terrified of everyone and everything. Of course, they escaped from the cage (I think that they had a friend on the inside) and from the bathroom almost as soon as they arrived. All of us want to foster the cute, healthy kittens, and the Tall Lady and I were really no different. We hustled them back into solitary confinement, rubbed Cricket's ointment on her eye, and gave her her oral meds as often as she needed them. I have a small scar on the palm of my right hand shaped like the letter C where Cricket tried to sign her name.

When we found out that they both had ringworm, we asked if they could be moved somewhere else, and I've always felt badly about that. Fortunately, the somewhere else turned out to be a great foster home where these two tiny terrors became pets! They were adopted together and were thriving splendidly the last we heard.

We were given another chance, though. Our VOKRA mentor Mickey called us one Saturday morning to ask if we could drive down to the West End to rescue another foster parent from her two horrible kittens! The Tall Lady stayed in the aptly named Escape with the motor running while I went upstairs to see just how bad things were.

I found a small apartment where there was really no place for a kitten to hide, another cage and a handy cat carrier. The plan (such as it was) was to open the door of the kennel and herd the kittens into the carrier. The kittens had other plans however, and they slipped through two different gaps in our trap, and into the specious freedom of the little living room.

It took us a few minutes, but we caught the tiny, terrified tiger by the scruff of his handsome neck and dropped him into the oubliette, where his pretty little powderpuff of a sister soon followed.

Raja (later Darwin) and Darcy (Dempsey aka Squirrely) were our Christmas kittens. After the initial terror of the move, and braving Bedtroll Brie, they became gen-you-wine pettin' cats, but Raja was always a little more highly-strung and skittish than pretty little Darcy. She was the first to try out the laps, the first to sleep on the big bed, and the first to try to eat a seven-foot prelit Christmas tree.

They were the softest cats we had so far, and two of the prettiest, so it was really no surprise when the couple in North Vancouver with the three nice boys wanted to adopt them both. This time, the Tall Lady and I delivered the kittens to their new home, and it was magnificent! We wanted them to adopt us too.

Their house was everything two small, friendly cats could ever want, and this would be another happy ending - wouldn't it?

Twenty-One and Counting (Strange Invaders)

The Tall Lady and I followed the news on the Vancouver Orphan Kittens Rescue Association's website for a long time after we adopted the Flying Fellini Sisters. We kept noticing that there were recurring themes; VOKRA needed money (done), VOKRA had a lot of cats (agreed), VOKRA needed more foster homes (hmmm...).

So, there are we two in our comfortable little home with our two little furry paragons. We began to debate the reasons for fostering other kittens. Of course, there was never any question of housing more cats - we didn't have the room, we didn't have the time, our big girls would be upset, the place in which we live has an eight paw pet policy.

Nope, no chance, can't do it...

Tabor (now Cooper) arrived in the third week of October, and might have spent as much as fifteen minutes adjusting to his new surroundings. A strange home was just something new to explore, new people should be all right if he was careful about trusting them. As for the two hissing, spitting, growling harridans in the living room, well, that would be fine too. Why, he'd just go right up to them, shake a paw or two and introduce himself...

Big, brave Xena ran away from him, screaming in horror, while our sweet, gentle Brie thumped his little noggin until it rang like a gong! Tabor kept trying, Xena kept running, and Brie kept buffeting his little, flat cranium. Fortunately, he kept Aunt Fraidy and Aunt Grouchy from noticing that there were two other kittens in the house.

Taylor (Stella) left the dubious security of her cat carrier and took refuge behind the couch on one of the occasions when Brie was trying to knock the ambassador's head into touch. It wasn't her problem. If Tabor wanted to offer himself for sacrifice, well done and good on him, but Taylor had more sense. She wasn't going to accept this change at all, and she was determined to stay in her sanctuary until the horror was over.

The problem was, that Tall Lady kept kneeling down, looking under the couch and talking to her. Then, there was the other one, the big, fat bastard who moved the couch away from the wall, and actually tried to touch her! Taylor was certain that it was some sort of sinister conspiracy...but the talking was okay, and the petting really wasn't all that bad. All right, she'd come out, but there was no way that she was ever going to get up on either of those warm, comfortable laps...

Timber had security measures of his own in place. He had decided that the best thing he could do was to remain in the cat carrier and not to attract any attention to himself. All of the carriers stayed on the floor of our living room for about a week, becoming a kind of small trailer park, and Tim could travel from unit to unit in relative safety.

But those damn' people kept putting their hands inside his carrier and touching him too. Sometimes they brought him little treats called Temptations, and then his stronghold would be invaded by his brother and sister - or even by the big, grumpy cats.

Our VOKRA friend, Mickey told us that they'd given us the easy kittens for our first foster, and they had done. It was no time at all before all three had become professional lap cats. All of them loved Auntie Brie, in spite of her heavy fist, but they absolutely idolized Xena. Taylor, in particular, would follow her everywhere, trying to learn all of the magic and unlock the secrets. It wasn't long before they would be adopted to three different homes, where they were loved, pampered and spoiled, and our apartment would feel oversize and empty...for awhile.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Twenty-One and Counting (One, Two and Three)

The Tall Lady and I will probably not be putting our Christmas tree up this year. Last year, we found that it had a tendency to collect all sorts of strange, furry ornaments. The heaviest decorations, of course were always attracted to the top of the tree testing how quickly they could topple it, while the little, foolish ones stayed near the bottom where they could play with the power cords and chew on the pretty lights. Now that I think about it, our tree wasn't up for very long last Christmas either.

It's not like the good, old days, when our calm, gentle, well-behaved Pepper was still with us. In fact, I doubt that Pep would have approved of any of the strange invaders who have come into her home since she left it. When she died, we decided that we wouldn't get another pet, and we stuck to our decision for about a month. Then we found Xena and Gabrielle on VOKRA's adoption page.

Xena was eight months old when we adopted her, and she was a shy and terrified little girl. I remember the small, skinny kitten with the magnificent sword fern tail slinking down our long, strange hallway, stopping now and again to see if those people were still here, or if the nightmare was finally over, and she was back home with her good, kind foster parents. In the three years since, she has become a calm, confident adult. She is curious and playful, loving and graceful. Xena is our big, perfect cat.

Brie is our little, odd one. Gabrielle was far too formal an everyday name for this little nutcase, and Gabby just didn't suit her, so the Tall Lady cropped her name in the middle. Brie is a dribbler. When she is enjoying her laptime most particularly, you are very likely to be blessed with a little, clammy drop of catspit as well as a great huge smile. She and Xena were both spayed long before we met them, but with Brie, the vet missed a bit. As a result, she goes into false heat every twenty-one days or so, and for the next three days, she rolls and squirms and caterwauls, and makes ridiculous attempts to seduce her big sister. Xena has thus far been too polite to comment, but it's easy to tell that she is not amused!

In October of last year, their world went to hell. That was when the first wave of aliens landed.