Friday, September 21, 2012

Mail Call

For those of you who have yet to visit that dark and terrifying void, here is an example of the way that my mind works.

Last Monday, I was on my way to yet another of my workshop groups. On my way to our front door, I paused by our mailbox to see if there was anything lurking within that required my immediate attention.

When I opened the door, I found a flyer for a local pizza-by-the-slice store, a handbill from a realtor who wants to purchase our housing co-op unit for resale to overseas investors (who don't know any better either), and a large, grey business envelope marked with the return address of Vancouver Coastal Health.

Some of you will recall that I finished their Peer Support Workers' training program in February, and I have just completed my thirty hours of practicum at one of our just-outside-of-the-East-End health teams.

I was offered a single ten-hour per month contract by that same team, and I'm presently working with only one client. I've been applying to that and some of the other teams nearby for more clients and more hours. Things look very promising.

On September 7th, the Tall Lady and I attended my graduation ceremony in the Round Room in the cafeteria of the Jimmy Pattison Pavilion at Vancouver General Hospital, where my fellow graduates and I spent the afternoon competing to sit at one of the corner tables (badda-boom!).

Since my acceptance into the PSW training class last year, the only news I've received from Vancouver Coastal Health has been encouraging and gratifying, so it probably comes as no surprise to my habitual readers that my very first thought, as I held the envelope in my hands was: they want me to send my certificate back, and they have sent me a self-addressed, stamped envelope because they don't trust me to destroy it myself...

Apparently, we are never cured, although we do get better.

The envelope in question actually contained a lovely graduation card from our friend and teacher, Renea Mohammed, as well as a few photos she thought I'd like. As we walked to the middle of the room to accept our certificates, Renea had asked us to write a word or a phrase on a sheet of flip-chart paper at the front of the room. Later, she arranged our contributions into a Word Cloud, which is the picture in the top left corner of this post. I have also included the group photo of the grads with Renea, because I think we make such a fine-looking group.

To my classmates and to Renea, it has been a joy and a privilege to work with you, and I wish us every success.

To my patient readers, thanks for coming back again.

All of you, be extremely well.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Georgy Girl

Photo by Linda Sewell
A very good friend of ours died yesterday evening at about five o'clock. Although the event was planned, and the action was unavoidable, it was still a sad, sad day.

Our neighbour, Linda, who lives three blocks away from us, is also a foster parent for VOKRA. Because we live in such close proximity, and because Linda has no car, someone in our organization suggested that she call us one evening about two years ago when her foster cat was running low on litter.

When Sheral and I arrived with the goods about fifteen minutes later, we found Linda's apartment door standing open, and a beautiful, mature black cat, strutting down their hallway to greet us. If I remember correctly, the greeting was a great, ear-splitting "MAAAAAH-ROW-WOW". Georgy Girl, Linda explained to us, was twelve years old, and among her other endearing qualities, was as deaf as a post. Since she could no longer hear her indoor voice, she had elected to forsake its use entirely.

We three humans visited and talked for awhile, but the Tall Lady and I used much of that first visit trying to make our best impression on that pretty, black cat. She was petted, caressed and complimented by all in the room, including her proud foster mom. This is quite justifiable, I think. They're supposed to be spoiled; that's why we call them pets.

Over the course of the next two years, we got phone calls from Linda on a regular basis. "It's the pest again," she would begin before going on to tell us what she needed. Whether it was another bag of stove pellets, a few cans of food or a ride to the latest adoption event, we never minded. It gave us a chance to visit her and our friend Georgy.

Georgy was not always a spoiled pet. She was around eleven when she strayed from her home, and she lived on the street for about a year, cold, hungry and frightened. What should be the worst part of her story is that she was found only seven blocks from that home. What is the worst part is this: when she was rescued, the microchip in her ear was traced back to her owners, and they refused to take her back! The best part of all this is that she found Linda.

She's been on our adoption gallery for two years, and has even attended an adoption event or two, although she never seemed to care for them much. When Linda was able to foster other cats, Georgy would tend to bully them - just to remind them that they were just passing through. It was Georgy's home, after all, and Linda was Georgy's person! Because she was a black cat of a certain age, and because she had special needs, Georgy had few visitors, other than her VOKRA friends.

In addition to being deaf, she had an ongoing thyroid problem, which had been treated with both medication and radiation therapy. Recently, the ongoing thyroid problem turned into a cancer.

I think I've explained that she was a fighter, but over the past few days the fight has become overwhelming. She's had very bad days, interspersed with a few good moments. Yesterday it seemed that she was just too tired to try anymore.

Sheral and I were in New Westminster picking up five three-day-old kittens who were on their way to Maria Soroski's house. Maria couldn't pick them up herself because she'd already made arrangements to go to Linda's to assist her and the vet. Half an hour later, she came to our place to pick up the babies. I carried the kittens out to her van, and we talked for awhile about Georgy, Linda and the events of their last afternoon together.

While Maria got their bottles ready, I placed their carrier on the soft, clean, white towel that she had arranged carefully on her passenger seat. She took the little ones into her hands one by one, fed them their little bit of formula, wiped their chins and examined their credentials. It was only after she placed them all into the new clean carrier that she showed me what the soft, clean, white towel on her passenger seat contained.

So, I guess, in my own clumsy way, I did get to say goodbye to Georgy Girl after all. I'd like to think that she'd understand my distraction, and would excuse the indignity. I suspect though, that I may need to think of some appropriate penance. Cats can hold grudges forever, you know.

Georgy Girl was fourteen years old. She was loved, and she is missed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Connie's First Post

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Limited Vision has a guest contributor tonight. 0+ Tppppppppppppppppppppppppwelve week-old Dona Conchetta is posting her very first article. Be patient. She will get better. All of us do.

Thanks again.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Zebra Crossing

When educated people explain the application of Occam's Razor to the rest of us poor simpletons, the example that they might use is this: if he were to perceive a noise like approaching thunder across an open meadow under a clear blue sky, the sensible Saxon churl would expect to see horses and not zebras.

While it is meant to reduce complication, Occam's Razor does not exclude other possibilities than the obvious ones. It merely allows that, in most cases, the simplest explanation is the most probable. It does not imply that the invading Normans might not, in fact, have been mounted on bloodthirsty, carnivorous zebras.

To illustrate further, when we hear the same sort of rumble in our house, we find that, rather than expecting either horses or zebras, it is more reasonable for the Tall Lady and me to infer the proximity of a clowder of clog-dancing kittens. So it has ever been, and with any sort of luck, shall always be.

Our housing co-op has an eight-paw policy, and currently, including Sheral's and mine, we have thirty-nine paws in our two-bedroom unit. The others belong to our two Flying Fellini Sisters, la Bella Bianca, the Mighty Leonard, and our four eleven week-old foster cats, who are called "the Carport Kittens", or to be more familiar "the Littles".

The handsome, spotty lad in the photo at the left is named "Don Fabrizio", but because it is too much of a mouthful, it is usually shortened to "Fabio". We are so very proud of him, that on occasion, we call him "Fabulo". Because of his passing resemblance to our Big, Perfect Cat, this has been extended to "Fabulo, Son of Xena" - although never within shot of her sensitive ears.

The long, lean, black smile on the right belongs to "Don Ciccio". Cheech has become our Leonard's best little buddy, and the two of them will tear around the house in blatant disregard of innocent bystanders or their personal space. All four of the Littles are lap-cats, but Cheech has the least time to spare for that. He has too many things to do,

"Dona Conchetta" is still the biggest of the four. Connie's short, soft, wooly coat is Russian-blue in colour, but has faint tabby stripes. Her body type and her face have a British short-hair look about them, and she has a little, kinky manx-like tail which she twirls like a pinwheel. All of these things lead me to believe that their mom is a liberal democrat. Connie enjoys long, animated conversations, the National Geographic Channel and French kisses.

Finally, there is "Dona Carolina", the little cutie who settled, purring, onto Sheral's lap that Saturday at Karen Duncan's house, and sealed our doom. Her markings are a mix of tabby stripes and tabby rosettes. We were not aware until our friend Lilian spotted it in one of my photos that the pattern of her coat forms a little monogrammed "C" on her right side, but we always knew that she was cool. Cara is the smallest kitten at the moment, but she is fearless. Where the other seven cats will flee in terror from Our Friend the Vacuum Cleaner, little, fragile Cara can usually be found standing defiantly on the middle platform of our big cat tree, hurling insults on the poor Kenmore's ancestry and making rude gestures at it.

The Littles should be up on the VOKRA gallery pages soon. Today, I'm supposed to be writing biographies to include with their photos. I just hope that I can think of something interesting to say about them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Carport Kittens

When Bianca's adoption was rescinded on Saturday morning, I have to admit that the news wasn't entirely disappointing. For one thing, it meant that we get to keep our big, black beauty for awhile longer. For another, we could go out and do something fun that day.

VOKRA foster manager, Mickey Carrington, emailed us that morning to tell us that fifteen new kittens would be arriving at Karen Duncan's house in the afternoon. Karen is sick, and Mickey wanted to know if we would be willing to help with their intake. We have never helped with "intake" before, but we thought we had a hazy notion of what was involved, so we agreed.

I have several new distinctive scars on my hands today, the prettiest of which form a perfect little diamond shape, composed of four punctures from sharp, tiny teeth. They were impressed into my left index finger by an outraged little tuxedo kitten with a kinky manx tail, who had become quite upset with me when I proposed to examine his credentials. My win record with the black and white cats seems to be running around fifty/fifty. The first three of our "intake" clients had already left with their new foster parents by the time we'd finished with the last twelve and cleaned my forensic contributions from the walls of Karen's downstairs bathroom.

Before we left that afternoon, Karen told us about the little tenants in her main-floor bathroom. She had four seven week-old kittens who had been born in a nicely arranged East End carport, and who have been living with her since they were weaned. We were taken upstairs to meet them, and found four little balls of fluffy popcorn, bouncing across the linoleum, skittering in and out of the plumbing fixtures. When the pale, ghostly grey one settled, purring, into Sheral's lap, I knew we were doomed.

Leonard's isolation cell has been reassembled, and our four new guests have been invested therein. They still had no names on Sunday morning, but there was an idea rolling around inside of my head like a little marble racing about the rim of a great, big bowl. One of our new charges has beautiful spots like a leopard. A long time ago, I saw a film by Luchino Visconti about a Sicilian prince whose family emblem is just such a creature. Based on a 1958 novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, it was called Il Gattopardo, or The Leopard.

Ergo, I have proposed that our handsome, spotty, new friend shall be Don Fabrizio, after the princely main character in the story. His big, russian-blue sister with the splendid, stubby tail will be called Dona Concetta, and the spectral, grey tabby girl is going to be named Dona Carolina, after two of Fabrizio's daughters. The last little boy was the hardest, and I have named him after the organist who plays in the family church. The little, black male will be Don Ciccio, not least of all because he appears to be the pianist.

They are four beautiful, active, well-behaved little cats, and I suspect that they will be with us about as long as their cousin Schroeder was.

Of course, most of our other cats are outraged that the little ones have invaded their home.  Bianca is appalled, but it probably won't be of long duration. She warms to other cats pretty quickly. Xena gives them a wide berth and Brie visits often to teach them new dirty words. Leonard has built himself an unassailable fortress of the cushions at the top of the big bed, and will not be moved therefrom. Rena, being Rena, will make the best of what comes, and accepts this too with her usual good cheer.

It is KITTEN SEASON again, and again VOKRA is being swamped. If you have a space in your home or in your heart, please contact us about adopting one - or more - of these nice little cats, their cousins, or their aunts or uncles. If you have a bigger space, or a softer heart, you might consider fostering for us. If you don't think you're ready for either commitment, please follow the link below and contribute as generously as you can.

You've done so before, and I thank you again.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Naming Names

There is one lesser dividend of the Second World War that we frequently ignore, and we should not. We don't often recall that since 1945, few little boys have grown up encumbered by the name "Adolf".

Your name is one of the very first gifts that you received, and some of you, like me, might wish that your parents had kept the receipt.

My eldest brother is named Donald George, after my father's brother and my mother's. Our sister is called Xandra Fredress, in honour of both of our parents. Next on the list was James Edwin, after Mom's brother-in-law, and two of her uncles. I believe that John Alan was named for Dad's own father, but some of the family records are a bit spotty in places, and I've only ever seen our grandfather listed as "John".

I was the result of my parents' last erotic hiccup. Since it was middle of the nineteen-fifties, I suspect that one (or both) of them was drunk. Perhaps more than occasionally, destiny is that random. By the time that I arrived, our family had already fulfilled its obligations to all of our solvent male relatives, so our parents decided to name me after someone that they actually liked. My first name is Lee, and as an afterthought, they appended my father's given name of Alexander to it.

I've never found Shel Silverstein's song, A Boy Named Sue, particularly funny. Its premise hit too close to where I live. There was always some smart-mouth in school who was delighted to inform me that Lee was the name of his sister. Neither my uncle's bride, Rosalie, nor my sister-in-law, Leona liked their names, so they chose to abbreviate them...and guess what they were shortened to...

In a time when they might have pointed to examples like Lee Marvin or Lee J. Cobb as co-owners of my name, my classmates would generally remind me of Lee Harvey Oswald instead. Because it's difficult to shorten one-syllable names, mine has frequently been lengthened. It has been extended to Leo, Leon, Leonardo, Leroy and even Lee-man. I still wake up screaming...

A number of friends have tried to make me like my name better by telling me what it means; it is a protected shelter, the side turned away from the wind or the quarter to which the said wind blows. It is also the alternative spelling of lea, or meadow.

Somehow, I felt that that it would not be particularly useful to tell them that my brother Don's friend Lee (who my parents had actually liked) had been born in China, and his name means plum. Just keep that under your hats, okay?

Often, people will change names they don't like. I suppose it's a easy enough process. My Tall Lady, Sheral, was once a simple Susan, but apparently, the numbers didn't add up. I haven't considered it because I haven't ever found a name that I prefer. Also it's one of the more polite things that my siblings have called me. Finally, it's the name that my parents, in their folly, chose for me.

Besides, after all this time, maybe I'm getting used to it.

Good night, Marion Morrison, wherever you are.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I'm very pleased to be able to share Kass' progress reports on our pal Ronny:

Ronny aka "Raffles"  
April 24, 2012
Hello to both of you,

Elegant, Urbane Raffles
Just a progress report on the handsome cat.  He has absolutely blossomed in the last few days.  He is no longer bolting away when I come into the room, he actually leaves about half of his food for later consumption and is totally enamored of Mimi.  She is treating him like a pesty little brother, they do cuddle and the cat races commence around 5:30 am until 7:00 am and again at around 8:00 pm until bedtime.  He is just the most affectionate little guy and I am enjoying him very much.  He has amassed a healthy collection of tinfoil balls although I am not sure where he is stashing them, he has also realized that “they come from the kitchen” and if you sit and meow a new tinfoil ball is forthcoming from the magic drawer.  I have installed some sturdy netting around the patio so that he can’t wobble off the edge although he is not terribly interested in going outside, he has a quick look and comes right back in the house, perhaps over time he will relax a little and realize that no one will hurt him out there.  So, I hope that the girls are not missing him too much, I truly wish I could have taken all three of them together but Mimi just wouldn’t have made that big an adjustment, I am actually surprised at how far she has come in such a short time as she found the wobble a bit disconcerting at first but as she is also a very affectionate little being I am glad they are adjusting so well.

By the way, how is Leonard?  I also particularly enjoyed reading about “Lemon”!



Raffles, the Gentleman Cat
Raffles the Gentleman Cat
April 27, 2012 


I would post to your blog but I don't remember the login I set up.  A couple of pictures of the most handsome fellow and one of Mimi.   He has really settled in and he and Mimi are roaring around like maniacs!  The latest and best game is to hide under the couch and ambush whomever strolls by, Raffles (formerly Ronnie) has taken to peering under there every time he walks into the room, he is one smart boy but Mimi still gets him, she waits until he has looked, scoots under the other side and grabs him after he has confirmed a “no Mimi” sighting.  I thought they were going to bring the place down last night – downstairs neighbor is being very tolerant of thundering herds of cats hitting walls and knocking things over all at 130 MPH.  Raffles loves the footstool, he is particularly taken with the crystals as they make quite a good noise when you pull on them either one at a time or as a group (which you can do from the top or even better lying underneath, the fringe has the added benefit of being on all four sides so you can entertain yourself endlessly.  I can’t imagine life without him.

ps.  regards to Leonard


Beautiful Big Sister, Mimi   

 In the 1890's, author E.W. Hornung created the character of Arthur J. Raffles, as a response to the stories written by his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle about a consulting detective named Sherlock Holmes.

Raffles is a noted cricketer who has become popular in the higher circles of English society for his athletic prowess. This gains him many invitations to the homes and celebrations of the wealthy and important, who are unaware of Raffles' true sphere of interest - A.J. Raffles is also a cat burglar.

Clever, charming, quick of hand and sure of step, Raffles is an elegant rogue with his own peculiar code of ethics. He is an accomplished thief of hearts, loyalties and of other items of varying value. His stories were published in the collections, The Amateur Cracksman, The Black Mask, A Thief in the Night, and in the novel, Mr.Justice Raffles.

My buddy, Ronny the Rocket, has chosen "Raffles" as his new name. I think it suits him to a tee.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The New Ronny

Ronny has become a new cat in the last two months. He has been working out.

He and his sister Rena have discovered a new, favourite toy. It is a ball made of the foil lining from a package of cigarettes, and Ronny, in particular, will chase it until he is breathless and exhausted. I don't know when he started smoking.

When our friend Maria Soroski went out to Abbotsford to move him and his sisters, she complained about how much trouble it was catching the two fat ones. They had been habituating the parking lot of the McDonald's there, begging french fries from tender-hearted, soft-headed patrons of that franchise, and perhaps they were something other than svelte.

The best result of this new exercise programme is that they are no longer the fat ones. The meat on Rena's still slightly big bones has turned into hard, solid muscle, and Handsome Ronny has become a lean, mean, felleen machine. He is so pleased with himself that he has almost entirely forsaken wobbling in favour of a proud, leonine strut.

He will spend hours at a time, bounding down our long, carpeted hallway in pursuit of his magical, silver sphere. After each run, he will either return the ball to the person who threw it for him, or will carry it to Rena, so the two of them can enjoy a rousing game of Wobbly Cat Soccer together. When the game is finished, our good little lad always remembers to put their toy away in its traditional storage place...under the kitchen stove.

Their sister, Reba the Diva, was adopted last month by a very nice lady who has just emailed to inform us that her beautiful new cat has a bit of a hearing loss. In truth, we never noticed, but I'm pretty sure that Ronny's hearing is fine. It is certainly acute enough to summon him back from the parallel universe to which bored cats go whenever I creak and groan down onto the floor to peer under the stove with my flashlight.

My own hearing is acute enough to perceive his evil, little chuckle.

Ronny had his own date earlier this week. A lady named Kass came over to meet him to see if he would make a good companion for her eight year-old Mimi. I am protective of our foster cats, so I was determined to dislike her on first meeting. She stayed and she visited for about forty-five minutes. As much as I tried, and as critical as I wanted to be, I'm ashamed to say that I couldn't find anything wrong with her.

Kass has now paid the fee, signed the papers, and she will be coming to collect her big handsome kitten on Friday morning.

Ronny has been a joy to foster, and we will miss him. I think that Kass, and maybe even Mimi, will come to love the great, clumsy, good-hearted lug, and they will spoil him as rotten as he deserves. Kass is already telling her friends and neighbours about our beautiful Rena and la Bella Bianca, so they may follow him out our door soon.

Thank God we still have Leonard!

The Full Ronny

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Eight and Fifty

Time, as I have observed previously, is just one thing after another. So it is for all things, and so it has been with me.

I am a lad from the wilds of East Vancouver; I have never travelled very far away, and have always been impatient to return. I am fifty-eight years old today.

When I grow up, I would like to be taller.

Places, events and people have taken up space in the files of my memory that might be better used otherwise, but the honest fact is that I've chosen to save them there because of what they mean or have meant to me. I don't know for certain that I would change a single one of them - well perhaps one or two...

When I'm feeling particularly ancient and cranky I'll tell the younger among you that you are spoiled; that when I was your age we didn't have the things that you have now. When I was a boy, we had fire and stone tools - and we had to make them ourselves! Then, I will inform you that my first computer was a flat rock and a burnt stick. In my day, I might say, matters of the heart were determined with a club, and I still get headaches.

Another honest fact is that this trip has not been particularly strange, nor does it seem especially long. It always amazes me to wake in the morning and see somebody who looks like our friend in the top left corner laughing back at me from the bathroom mirror. Who in the hell invited him to this party?

You, however, were invited today, and I will ask that you bring me gifts.

I will post a link to my FaceBook wall below. You may leave my presents there. Among the acceptable offerings are photos, quotes, stories and music. If you see a picture that reminds you of me, know of some words that might brighten our day, a tale that might gladden our hearts, or a song that will bring a tear to our collective cheek, please share them there.

If you can think of something that you believe I need to know, or if you feel that my arrogant, intrusive, yet strangely handsome nose needs a bit of a tweak, go for it. If you feel the need to go for it more than once, kicking me after I'm already down is perfectly acceptable today.

What I would like most from you is a day filled with the music that you like and think that I would enjoy too. Remember, though, that I still haven't forgiven Carly Simon for writing that song about me...

Please be extremely well.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Big Stick Diplomacy

"Speak softly and carry a big stick;" advised Theodore Roosevelt, "you will go far."

Leonard has arrived. He is five months old, and he was trapped a few weeks ago at a Burnaby lumber yard. His left front paw had been injured, and was so badly damaged that it needed to be amputated. The amputation is pretty radical. His arm is gone from the mid-shaft of his humerus, and he holds his stump so tightly against his chest that it sometimes looks as if it is missing at the shoulder.

At the moment, he is living in a big cage on the floor of our living room, and he will remain there until he has grown a little more comfortable here. Leonard, you see, is frightened and angry. Mostly, I think, he is angry.

He's been through a great deal in his short, hard life, and he holds me personally responsible for all of the terrible things that have happened to him so far. I have given him my assurance that we are going to be best buddies one day, but he's not buying it yet. Leonard regards me as the face of his oppressor, and has given me fair warning that there's nothing that he would enjoy more than to tear that face away and feast upon the warm flesh beneath.

Although my proximity is not appreciated and my presence hasn't been invited, I am permitted to enter his room on occasion. I may straighten his bedding, police his litter box, and certainly, I am allowed to present his food four times a day.

Our five other cats get individual saucers overflowing with tinned cat food twice a day. Leonard gets tiny dollops of raw, ground meat for each of his four meals. Ronny and Bianca have noticed that he gets fed more frequently than they do, and have expressed their opinion that the system is flawed. While he accepts that it is not something that he can do for himself, Leonard comments on the quality of my service with hisses, spits and low, grownup growls.

I've been told that mealtimes are the best times to socialise feral cats...this is where the Big Stick comes in.

Over the years, the Tall Lady and I have bought numerous cat toys. Most of them are still in immaculate condition, since the cats prefer to play with empty cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes and Sheral's knitting. Some of those toys are attached to long, plastic wands. One morning, when Leonard was enjoying his breakfast of smashed beast, I tried to stroke him with one of those big sticks.

Quite understandably, Leonard was appalled, but he resumed his meal, underscoring his dinner music with throaty rumbles. I continued with this experiment for another couple of meals, until I thought it was safe to try something new.

Yesterday, I left the wand behind when I gave Leonard his dinner. When I thought he was settled and distracted enough, I reached in with my left hand, and began to pet him. At first, there was a loud, sharp report, like a kitten exploding. The angry growl came next, as the poor, startled, little cat tried to slap me with his missing left paw. Finally, he grabbed onto me with his right paw, and sank his sharp, little feline canines as deeply as they could go into my offending appendage, while calling me every dirty name he could remember, as well as a few that he'd just made up. He growled, he clawed, he scratched and he howled. While he never let down his defenses completely, he did relax a little, and he eventually returned to his meal, while I kept on stroking his back.

Note to the Tall Lady - we are going to need a new oven mitt...

Our friend Lilian has suggested that we change his menu to something a little less...macho. She has offered to make him little quiches, watercress sandwiches [without crusts], or fairy cakes with pink icing and candy sprinkles. I think it'll just take time for him to trust us.

Last night, my nephew Dave reminded me of the MacPherson Clan motto, which is this: "Touch Not the Cat Bot a Glove". "Bot" means "without". I've been getting the same message from our new foster kid.

Perhaps Leonard is already family.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Waiting for Leonard

Our apartment is in chaos tonight. The Flying Fellini Sisters, Bianca and the Weebles are racing in as many different directions as five cats can run, in a state of perfect terror...The Cage has returned!

Now, Ronny and Rena have never seen the cage before, but if it frightens Aunty Xena and Aunt Brie, that's enough to discourage them! And it does no good to explain to them that I'm just making up the spare room, because we are Waiting for Leonard.

The Tall Lady was busy packing for her trip to the Cabin when Mickey phoned us last night. Once again, Sheral tells us that she is going up to prune fruit trees and to check on the house, but the cats and I suspect that she's just going to eat quiche, drink zinfandel and watch chick flicks with her mom and sister.

Mickey is the foster manager for VOKRA, and she was calling to ask if we had room in the CatHouse for one more resident. We were, of course, perfectly free to say no. After two and a half years, Mickey has gotten to know us pretty well. WE DON'T SAY "NO"!

A few weeks ago, some of our volunteers trapped a very small black and white kitten at a Burnaby lumber yard. Because one of our old-timers, Leonard, had just died, the little fellow was named in his honour. The poor kitten is now known to all and sundry as "Baby Leonard"...uggh!. They noticed that one of his front paws was injured. In fact, it was so badly damaged, that it's had to be amputated. So, Baby...uggh!... Leonard has been living at Karen Duncan's House for the past month, wearing a lampshade, and getting analgesic injections in his skinny little cat butt.

Tonight, as if he hasn't been through enough already, he has returned to the vet, to have his stitches removed, and to be deprived of a couple of his other favourite body parts. Mickey tells us that he can be a little bit grumpy. If I'd gone through what he has, I think that I might tend to be a mite owly myself.

Leonard gets his parole at eight o'clock tomorrow morning, and will be moving into the halfway house soon afterwards. We'll have to keep him isolated until we've seen how the bigger cons treat him. Ronny is such a perfect gentleman, and Bianca has come to love every cat she's ever met. Rena is a wild card, and as for Xena and Brie - good luck, Leonard! I think that, once he learns to duck, he'll be fine.

After he's been with us for awhile, and before Sheral comes home, I was thinking that there should be some sort of a bonding ceremony in honour of ...uggh!...Baby Leonard. Maybe I'll put on some Pink Floyd, break out the catnip and a few cold ones, and all seven of us could get legless one evening.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


 Little Mister Perfect, Schroeder the Rafter Kitten, didn't stay at our house for very long. He was here for ten days, and generated a long lineup of interested adopters vying for his favours. The couple who came to see him first rushed over to VOKRA Command Central, also known as Karen Duncan's House, signed his papers and returned to pick him up in less than an hour. The carrier that the four of us loaded him into still had its price tag and manufacturer's stickers attached to it. Our little, delightful thirteen-ball cat left us with no trouble, no complaint, and without so much as a backward glance...ungrateful little troll...

Before he came to live with us, there had been talk of us fostering three kittens who had been trapped at a busy McDonald's parking lot in Abbotsford, where they had been hustling french fries.

The three kittens are wobblers. Their mother was sick while she was carrying them, and it caused a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia in the three little ones, which also goes by the distasteful, and politically incorrect name of spastic cat syndrome.

We hesitated about fostering them. For one thing, they were already seven months old when we met them, and kittens that age are frequently very timid and hard to tame. Also, there are three of them, and one wobbly kitten takes a lot of attention sometimes.

 So, when Schroeder abandoned us [the little stinker], the Tall Lady and I reconsidered the Fry Guys. Maybe we could handle just one of them. We had, after all, provided a foster home for a CH kitten once before, and as you have read here previously, we have a soft spot still for the Remarkable Lemon. Yup, one wobbly cat would probably be just fine.

When you come to think about it though, two cats aren't a lot more trouble than one. Kittens tend to be a bit less shy when they bring a buddy to their new home, and these poor little waifs probably had enough to deal with already. Dropping one of them alone into unfamiliar territory would just be mean. We thought that we could handle two.

Of course, it wasn't that long ago that we had eleven cats here in our two-bedroom apartment. Two wobbly kittens couldn't possibly be the logistical nightmare that turned into! Why, even if we decided to foster all three of them...well, you see where I'm going with this, don't you?

Sheral brought all of them home fifteen days ago. As soon as the kennel door was open, one long, black and white streak made for the safety of the hollow behind our sofa. Wobbler he may be, but Runaround Ronny is a credible sprinter when circumstances demand it.

Ronny is our shy boy. He spent his first three days here hiding in the closet in our office, phoning out once in awhile for room service. His walk is the most compromised of the three. He stumbles and he staggers when he's distracted, and he can still be startled when you reach for him suddenly. With his magnificent black sideburns, he looks like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but he walks like a Slinky Dog.

His sister, Radiant Rena [ren-nah] has the best co-ordination of the three. Her back left leg is weaker than her right, and sometimes she tends to drift in that direction. Usually, though, her walk resembles a cat in stealth mode, because she keeps her body close to the floor. She runs, jumps, climbs and plays with no greater hesitancy than any cat her age. Sometimes, we mistake her for la Bella Bianca, whom she very much resembles.

Their other sister is Reba the Diva. Reba has a walk that is like Mae West's exaggerated bustle swing, and because her right leg is weaker, she steers slightly to starboard. If we zap-strapped her and Rena together, they would walk in a straight line. Most days, both of them would be okay with that.

Their previous foster mom, Jenny, nicknamed Reba "the Shadow". She loves people, and she follows us everywhere that she can. We took her to an adoption event three days after we got her, and her cage door was probably closed for only twenty minutes in the whole five hours that she was there. For the rest of the day, people were in the kennel, petting her, or she was out of the kennel petting them. She is a cuddler.

I fell asleep last night with her head on my shoulder, and when I woke up this morning, she was on the Tall Lady's pillow, warming the top of her head.

As usual, the Flying Fellini Sisters are displeased. Initially, Bianca was too, but her defenses appear to be crumbling, and I think that the Weebles will soon have a splendid big sister to play with.

Kitten season is upon us again - I know this because Maria Soroski put a post on FaceBook tonight asking for used blankets and towels. If it's like last year, it will be busy.

If you can adopt, foster, volunteer or donate to the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, your help is needed and will be very greatly appreciated. If you have a cat already, please make sure that your little babe is spayed, or your little buddy is neutered. Please check to ensure that your sillier friends and relatives have been too...

Please visit Bianca, Reba, Rena and Ronny on the VOKRA Adoption Page, and don't even bother looking at any of the other cats or kittens - they're not nearly as good our Weebles. They wobble, but they don't fall down.

The Full Ronny

To donate to VOKRA,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bearding the Beast

I stopped shaving near the middle of December. It was something that I'd been considering off and on for some time, and whichever day it was that I chose seems to have been the right one.

There are two sorts of pelt in my family. My grandfather Adam, and my brother Jim got the Diack gorilla gene, while my father Alex, my brother Don and I inherited the MacPherson coat, which looks a good deal more like a frozen chicken.

I've thought about doing this before, and have even avoided my razor for a couple of consecutive days, but I've never liked the result...or the itch. This time, however, I thought that I saw possibilities. After all, hair can cover a multitude of chins.

I never considered putting it to a plebiscite - there are only two people whose opinion matters - but for some reason, there were votes on the subject, and for awhile, they seemed evenly divided. My beard was blond, sparse and scruffy. For the first few weeks, it was hellishly uncomfortable. I went to one of my Mood Disorder Association meetings with about fourteen days growth, and managed to alarm the entire group. I had calls from seventeen people that evening, all seeking reassurance that I hadn't taken too many pills or opened a vein.

In time, the itching stopped, the whiskers evened out, and I began to look a little bit less like an abandoned Chia Pet. I still looked into the mirror while holding my neglected double-edge razor and thought maybe just a little trim. One thing, though, has stilled my hand.

Brie, our little, odd cat has come to love my beard, and she will sit for hours on my lap rubbing her hard, flat little head against my chin, eschewing all prior cat-brushes in its preference. Sometimes, I'm hard pressed to say how much of the fur on my chin is hers, and how much is my own. Last Thursday evening, there was another complication.

While I was out, the Tall Lady took a drive to VOKRA Command Central. When I returned, I discovered that our family had yet another addition. Schroeder, the Rafter Kitten is about twelve weeks old, tiny, proud and handsome. We believe that there is some British Short-Hair in his family, and as a consequence, his head occupies about one-third of his total continental mass. The rest of him  resembles a number thirteen billiard ball. In sum, he looks like a tiny snowman with a few orange patches. The picture is completed by two perfect, little triangular ears and a small, stripey toothpick of a tail. When you look for the definition of "cute" in your dictionary, you may find Schroeder's picture there.

He has not yet been accepted into the Inner Circle of the Flying Fellini Sisters and la Bella Bianca. In fact, if he hadn't already had a name when we met him, we were going to call him "Cuffy". He gets thumped a lot. He was lonely. It was just a short time since he'd been trapped, and he missed his mom terribly. On his first night in his new home, Schroeder was thrilled to be invited to share the big bed with us.

At about three o'clock Friday morning, I was awakened by loud cheerful purrs as the new guy wrapped himself around my neck and snuggled into my beard. I was only a little surprised when he started trying to nurse on the whiskers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fostering Communication

After all these months, if my buddy Lemon were to call me from Montreal, there's a chance that I wouldn't recognise his voice immediately. It has probably changed in the year and a half that he's been living with Merripaul. There will be differences in tone and inflection that he's developed with them, and he will have learned new expressions with which I am not familiar...oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that all of the cats who've lived with us can talk?

None of them has actually learned to speak English, but all of them have spoken to the Tall Lady and me, and common courtesy demands that we reply. Some of them are shy or laconic, while others have been chatty - even a bit long-winded. Each of them speaks in his or her own individual voice, from Xena's enthusiastic "good morning" meow, as she leaps to the top of her laundry basket, and raises her right paw for a high five, to her sister Brie's long, mournful train-whistle moan, as she descends deeper into the insane, hormonal, raving babble of her monthly false heat.

Sometimes, I think that they speak to us simply because they enjoy our conversation. Other times, their sounds have a specific purpose. They seem most vocal when I'm holding the can-opener. Brie and the littlest ones run rings around my ankles, Blossom with her impatient accusations of premeditated delay on my part, while Sachi and Shisan sing me songs of praise and celebration. Xena and Bianca wait confidently where they have always seen their dishes alight, quiet, serene and beautiful.

Bianca is not a great talker. She is our big, quiet black shadow. On the occasions that she has something to say, it will come out in a soft, gentle, apologetic kitten's mew. Remember, for all of her regal, impressive stature, at ten months, Bianca is still just a kitten.

We have had three adoptions in the past three weeks, and I have to admit that our little girls have sometimes used impolite language during our exchange procedures. Blossom and Sachi were the first to leave us, and they were adopted by the same people. After fifteen minutes of classic Marx Brothers buffoonery, including stuffing the wrong kitten into two different carriers, to the accompaniment of her sisters' jeers, growls and hisses, the exchange was completed, and our good babies were on their way to their permanent home to meet their new big brother, Chewbacca, and Ella, the Big Bitch Bunny.

Shisan went to the vet on Friday morning. It was nothing serious; she came home that evening with a shaved arm, a bare tummy, a little zipper and a new tattoo. She was horribly, horribly embarrassed, and her crabby aunties did nothing to improve her low mood. Xena growled at her and ran away; Brie hissed and slapped her on the ear. The poor, wounded kitten stretched out on the carpet, solemn and sorrowful as a kitten can be. Bianca walked over, slowly and carefully, lay down beside her, and enfolded her in a consoling big sister hug. Shisan has always been her favourite kitten.

On Saturday morning, Shisan had important visitors. The came to meet her to decide if she would be a good addition to their family. Shisan was not exactly rude to them, but she was still tired, sore and sluggish. She didn't feel very sociable, and she didn't care about making a good impression. Later that evening, we got a message that Shisan had been adopted. They came to pick her up last night.

This time, all went according to plan - kitten into carrier, carrier to adopter, adopter out the door - no more finger puppets...

The Tall Lady and I were both very quiet last night. Our apartment always seems hollow and empty after the last kitten of one of our batches has been adopted, and in spite of knowing that it's for the best, we grieve for awhile. We lay in our bed, not talking, but each knowing exactly what the other was thinking. Xena and Brie may be glad to see the last of each and every one of them, but for Sheral and me, this is the hardest part of being cats' foster parents.

Out in the living room, in the still and silent darkness, a small sound began, and it continued all night long. It was the soft, gentle, apologetic kitten mew of a big, quiet, black shadow searching for her baby sister.