Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Submission Hold

I received some exciting emails from several of my VOKRA friends earlier in the week. It seems that the Animal Rescue Site has a story contest running now, and a number of them suggested that I submit my blog post about Kenny Pawgers to be published on their page.

If there is enough positive response, the story could win VOKRA a grant of as much as five thousand dollars. It seemed like an easy task. I'd already written the piece, after all. It would simply be a matter of cut, paste and publish.

Nothing at all to it...right?

I followed their links to the entry page, read through the rules and stopped cold when I got to the part that said:  

"We recommend that you write and save your story of up to 300 words in a document on your own computer before copying and pasting it onto our site."

Those of you who have visited here before already know that I'm sometimes profligate with my words. I doubt that I could put three hundred or fewer onto a Post-It Note. Kenny's story weighed in at a respectable five hundred and eighty-four words - and, no, it's not fat, it's just big-boned!

Another thing that you may have noticed is this - I HATE EDITING! - and I do it badly. Editing has no flow, no essence, no soul. You simply chop, count, chop, count, chop, count, until finally, all of your feckin' adjectives have disappeared, like the Anasazi or corporate responsibility, and your beloved piece reads like Fun With Dick and Jane.

Notwithstanding this, I had made the pact, and was prepared to do the bloody deed. The first thing to go was the paragraph I had lifted from Maria's FaceBook posts, heartbreaking really. She had given me some fine material to work with, and I loved the flow of her narrative. After that, I found places where I thought that my prose sagged, so I spent some time tightening it up and trimming my excesses away. Fine, but still too long. I was into the muscle now, but surely a little of that could be spared. Fortunately, the edit was finished before I had to justify amputating appendages.

I was done in the wee hours of the morning, the Tall Lady and the cats long since abed. I pasted my story into the text field, chose my photo and submitted the whole lot to the contest. The site sent me a link, which I shared with my friends on FaceBook, and in two days we had scored over a hundred "likes".

On the third day, however, the story had vanished. It seems that I had left in a plea for the reader to donate to the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, and this was a clear violation of the rules which I thought I'd read. In my defense, it was two o'clock in the morning when I finished.

So, back to the heavy hand and the bloody broad-axe. I submitted the new post today, and I'm delighted to say that it hasn't been pulled yet. Forty-three people have "liked" it so far, including Karen Duncan, Maria Soroski and me. Of course, I'm biased, and they might be lying to spare my feelings.

Kenny himself remains silent on the issue, accepting this too, with his usual serenity. He seems well, happy and unspoiled by his sudden celebrity. Perhaps his is the best perspective at all. In a world of chicken breast, goat's milk and wet, sloppy kisses, what could possibly be amiss?


Ah well, goodnight, all.

To "Like" Kenny's Story

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fostering Community

There is a morning ritual among the bipedal hominids in our house that we refer to as making the bed. Our cats are of two opinions regarding this practice, and the schools of thought on the matter seem evenly divided.

On the one hand, there are those who see the exercise as an interruption of their morning routine; even vandalism of a sort. They have just settled into the warm, comfortable nest of bedding that their silly humans have vacated, and now those same foolish creatures return to rearrange the comfortable jumble which they themselves were no longer enjoying. In the process of doing so, they disturb the tranquility of any and all felines invested therein. This is the assessment of the older cats, who abhor the making of the bed.
On the other side of the argument are the kittens, who have infiltrated the same tangled pile of linen, but do not sleep. Bright-eyed and quivering, like children on Christmas Morning, fur bristling and tails a-wag, they slip crazily into the hollows and out of the caverns formed of the sheets, throws and comforters. Their excitement and anticipation are electric. They are waiting for the Blanket Ride.

Cats are not pack animals like dogs, but neither are they solitary, hermetic creatures. When food, safety and reproduction are not in dispute, they are quite sociable, and they will form into colonies. In a territory as small and crowded as our two-bedroom apartment, they have no choice. Here, community is imposed upon them.

Of course, there is the matter of hierarchy. When kittens are born, their mother's will is their law. As they grow, they play and squabble until they have established their own proper stations. So it is in the homes that they will come to share with us monkeys. We too have rules, doctrines and practices that the sensible cat or kitten must learn to respect, or, at least, to violate surreptitiously.

The Tall Lady and I would like to believe that the hierarchy in our home issues from us, but in point of fact, it begins with our four year-old adopted cats, the Flying Fellini Sisters. Xena is our big, perfect cat and her sister Gabrielle is the little, odd one. They accept the burden of foster kittens under the strongest of protests, and have become notorious as the kittens' grumpy aunties. They have despised and terrorized every kitten we have brought into our home. Surprisingly enough, all of the kittens love Brie - she of the snarl, the hiss and the heavy paw - but they worship Xena. They will follow her everywhere, braving her haughty disdain and trying to prove themselves worthy to learn her secrets.

This time, though, the balance is shifted. Our new foster cats do not live merely in the terrible shadow of Aunt Nasty and Auntie Grouchy. Sumi and her babies are learning about community under the gentle, kind and patient tutelage of seven month-old Bianca. All four have come to love and trust her, and she adores all of them. She is Sumi's little sister, and the smaller kittens' other mother.

Still, the kittens are little, and mistakes are made. After she had enjoyed the Blanket Ride yesterday morning, Bianca settled down at the foot of our newly-made bed for her early nap. Little, sleepy Sachi, with eyes hardly open yet, stumbled down to join her and nuzzled into the long, silky fur of the bigger kitten's neck.

As I left the bedroom, there was a loud, surprised squawk behind me. I turned to see poor, shocked Bianca struggling to pry loose the four month-old foster sister, who had latched on to one of her nipples, and was trying in vain to pull a pint.

Another lesson learned, I suppose. You get to choose your friends, but with family, y'gotta take what you're given.

To donate to
the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fostering Satisfaction

Saturday, June 5, 2010
There is a loud, resounding crash from the living room. The Flying Fellini Sisters growl, spit and snarl as they try, in vain, to avoid the amiable calamity that is thudding toward our bedroom, cutting its wide, misguided swath down the hallway.  I hear a ripping sound, as long, thick, razor claws struggle to pull a small, muscular body up the Tall Lady's tattered handmade quilt to the top of our bed. Closing my eyes tighter, feigning a sound sleep, I ask myself "heads or tails?".

If it's tails, my eyes will open to a long, striped bottle-brush tail swishing back and forth across my face, accompanied by a thunderous, triumphant purr. Heads is a different matter altogether. I feel a small, heavy burden on my chest, and I look up to see the handsome, smiling, yellow kitten teetering unsteadily on top of me. Heads it is then, I think, as the hard, little skull smashes between my eyes like a small, orange rock.

A few seconds after I have been awakened by this unpremeditated Glasgow Kiss, the bedside alarm also informs me that it is six o'clock in the morning, and time for Lemon's breakfast. Whatever other problems our boy may have, there is nothing wrong with his internal clock.

Lemon has cerebellar hypoplasia; he is a wobbler, and he is our tenth foster kitten. People have come to meet him, but when they see how severe his condition is, and hear about his occasional litter-box miscalculations, they decide that he will be too much trouble for them to adopt. I'm beginning to think that he will live with us forever, and that's very much all right with me. He is one of the nicest kittens who's ever stayed with us.

The first three kittens VOKRA placed with us in October 2009 were a perfect delight; pretty, friendly, well-mannered. Mickey Carrington told me later that she had selected the fun kittens for our first batch so that we wouldn't be frightened off by a litter of their ferocious ferals.  We have had the ferals since then; we have had the kitten with a physical disability, we have had the mom with the four new babies - we have had a blast.

There is a great satisfaction to this fostering thing. Either your home is graced with an abundance of tame, good-natured kittens, who bring nothing but their trust and curiosity with them, or you are given frightened, savage, manic little balls of claw and fang, and you get to watch them turn into pets.

Our friends ask us if it's hard giving them up to strangers, after having them live with us for so many months. The answer is always yes - tears fall every single time. But it's always worth it. The strangers are always decent and loving, and, the kittens, like my buddy Lemon, leave a great, warm spot in our home long after they've gone.

If you have the time and the space, please consider fostering for VOKRA. We have a great many cats and kittens, and all of our homes are starting to feel pretty small these days. You might get the fun kittens, you might get the new moms and babies, you might get the kitten who needs a bit of special attention - or you may get the poor, sad, old-timer who wasn't allowed to come along when his mom and dad had to move.

Who knows - if you're really lucky, you might just get a Lemon!

To donate to
the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association