Saturday, September 7, 2013

Animal Activism

I love animals and I try to stand up for them -- up to a point. Like all things in my life I try to do this in moderation. To my mind this is a cliff that a lot of people jump off. I am against the inhumane treatment of animals and advocate for them on occasion. I think that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) often crosses the line in their efforts on the behalf of animals.

I don't view animals as little people with fur. I do view them as living, breathing beings possessing varying levels of sentience. So I still eat meat. I might still wear leather if I could afford it. I won't wear fur.

What is the difference between leather and fur? I accept leather as being an extension of the meat I eat so that the more of the animal is being used and not just discarded. With fur we keep the skin and discard the rest of the animal. There is a fine line in there, but I have defined it for myself.

I have been a vegetarian and found that it did not work well for me. I need more protein in my diet than I can manage without meat. This is directly tied to certain health issues. I am also mom to a lovely little cat and it seemed strange to be willing to buy meat for her but decline it for myself. Even so, I generally only eat meat once a day.

I find the beating and abusing of animals abhorrent, as I do in the treatment of humans. This is as true for food animals as it is for soldiers. I am also pro-choice when it comes to abortion. I believe in gay marriage. I think that cockfighting and dog fighting are reprehensible. I am on the fence about bull fighting because it is not a part of my culture.

I let my cat outdoors to face the world on her own -- this was and still is an act of love. When I adopted her I had every intention of her being an indoor cat since her previous owner had had her declawed (which I oppose). She did not do well as an indoor cat. She became depressed, lethargic, gained weight and her fur became tacky. So I let her out. Within three days she was healthy, happy, and had a gleaming coat. And yet people will still criticize me for my decision.

The issues around animals and what is cruel and what is kind are not quite so black and white as
people what them to be. I try not to anthropomorphize animals and layer human thinking over them. I see them as thinking feeling creatures. I will not post and share horrible pictures and tales of slaughter and abuse. To my spiritual thinking this feeds power into those things. I will post cute, happy animals. Even better I will write and post articles of people who treat animals well and do fantastic things on their behalf. I will feed power to the good.

I try to approach it all with love and gratitude. I love animals and am grateful that we share the planet.

Friday, April 12, 2013

K - The Kismet Kittens

When I was a kid my mother had adopted a cat named Cassie. Cassie's mother was Cleo, the cat of a
man my mum was dating. She disappeared within her first year with us and we never saw her again. Eventually mum decided that I needed the companionship of cats again (this was not long after dad moved out and they divorced). So she took me to the Humane Society to adopt another.

I was just 9 and had taken a small doll with me. The doll accompanied me as I went from cage to cage looking at all of the cats. One special little calico came forward and started chewing on the doll's feet. She was an adorable kitten in a cage with her litter mate, another little calico. When I called out to mum that I had found the right kitten, she came, looked over my shoulder, and uttered the most magic of words:

"We'll take them both."

The cage was opened and the kittens loaded into my arms. They had been taken from their mother too young, so they were barely a handful apiece. I carried them to the desk where mum was filling out the necessary paperwork and paying the adoption fee. The second kitten noticed the gerbil cage on the counter and before I could stop her she did a face plant on the glass side of the cage and fell to the floor.

It was kismet. I was now smitten with both felines. For the moment. When we got them home we found a problem with our new family members -- they had been taken from their mother before they had learned a very, very important thing from her. Neither one of them knew how to use the litter box. We entered into a round of cleaning up piles and hunting them down behind the furniture, and trying in vain to teach them to use the box.

There was no question that they were home to stay, despite this little hitch. I was given with the task of naming them. The first became Ramona Felicia after two of my favorite books at the time. The second received the name Tabitha Samantha after my favorite television show. (Yes, I'm old.)

They sorted themselves out between the two of us. Ramona adopted mum and would sleep with her at night. Tabitha would sleep with me. She loved to tuck herself into my left armpit and pretend to nurse. I spent the next couple of years wandering around with a soggy armpit. Thankfully she eventually outgrew that habit. She also never meowed for about the first five years. Apparently it took her that log to have something to say.

A gray and white stray showed up outside the back door. A godsend, though we didn't know it at first. She started getting a big belly and I implored mum to let her in, pointing out that she must be pregnant. So we took her in. That night the young man who rented our spare room made the mistake of looking away from his dinner. One of the kittens stole a chicken leg from his plate. He dove under the table to retrieve it, knowing full well that he couldn't eat it now. Once he had it he jumped to his feet and dramatically said he wasn't going to let that poor cat starve out there. There was some confusion as he ran for the door and we tried to stop him because that poor cat was now inside. In his rush the kittens went outside and still received the chicken leg.

This cat I named Amanda Victoria because it meant "lovable victor."  One of the most lovable things about her was that she taught the kittens to use the litter box within a day. She never managed to teach them to cover it, but we could live with that part (by constantly cleaning the box).

The kittens lived long and healthy lives with us, and eventually with me. Tabitha lived to be 17 and Ramona lived to be 18. Strangely we kept calling them "the kittens" until they were little old geriatric cats. They started a long parade of cats in my life. Each cat is a tribute to all the cats who came before.

"Cats rule. If you don't believe me just ask the cat." -- fridge magnet.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hamster Haven

When I was about 11 years old my mother bought me a couple of hamsters on a whim. She bought two so that they could keep each other company. Instead one declared war on the other and we ended up having to keep them in separate cages that we kept sitting right next to each other.

One hamster was sweet and gentle while the other was hell on earth. So you can guess which one was the aggressor in their relationship.

At the same time we had a cat, Cassie, who was terribly lonely when we were out at school and work. Cassie would curl up to purr herself to sleep on top of the cages so that she would have some company. She never tried to get the hamsters, they never crossed her radar as prey.

The interesting part of this story is that the sweet and gentle hamster somehow learned to purr from her. If you held him up to your ear you could hear a tiny, hamster-sized rumble.

Both hamsters died while I was at summer camp and the cat disappeared a short time later.  The next year we replaced Cassie with two more cats but we never had hamsters again.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Great Catmunicator

My cat is learning to become a very effective communicator, now that she has figured out just how
stupid I am. Obviously, if she just sits and meows at me, I'm at a total loss. I have to ask her to use her non-verbal skills -- though I'm no genius at interpreting them at times either.

Naomi has always wanted to curl up on my head and it took us several years to work out a way for her to get what she wanted and for me to still be able to breathe. I lie on my left side and she sits on my left arm. She wraps around my neck and has the upper part of her body on my head. She does this most often right when we go to bed and occasionally in the wee hours of the morning.

A couple of years ago she did this, then got down. Then repeated. Then she did it again, very quickly. I finally got it. She wanted me to turn over so that she could have the warm spot. So I rolled over. She curled up in the warm spot and went to sleep. That part of my training was complete.

Last night I did not go to bed normally. Instead of turning out the light and crawling into bed so that she could curl up on my head for a bit, I left the light on and laid down on the made bed. She came up and curled up on my head for a few moments and then moved on to curl up next to my butt. She didn't stay there either. She would come and stare at me, meow and then climb up again. I finally realized that she was concerned. She has somehow come to take the regular routine as how she tucked me into bed before she would jump into the linen closet over the bed to go to sleep herself. (Never fear, she does not have leave to mess my clean sheets and towels, I have made a cozy bed for her in one spot so that she will leave the clean stuff alone.)

Much to her relief I got up, turned out the light, and went properly to bed. She came and cuddled me one last time again. Minutes later I could hear her leap into the cupboard over the bed happy the she had finished her business for the evening.

My mother passed away last year. It is nice to know that there is still someone looking out for me and willing to tuck me in at night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cats 101

My cat is . . . well, a cat. She is precocious, funny, lovable, and willing to bite to draw blood.

I was talking with a neighbor this week when he saw me out in the garden. He told me about his relationship with my cat. That sometimes she wanted to talk and hang out, and other times she has no interest in him whatsoever. The worst was when he told me that sometimes she asks him to let her into my house. Like all cats, she sees no harm in asking -- again and again and again. Just in case the answer changes.

She will also walk into any open door in the neighborhood. One of my neighbors was visiting another one day. It was warm, so they had left the door open. The next thing they knew Naomi had joined their little get together. She will also do this with open cars. One day she almost left with a workman, but fortunately the same neighbor #1 pointed her out on the seat of his truck before he took off. She used to be welcome in a different neighbor's house until the "unfortunate incident." This was when she was in the house without the neighbor knowing it and had to go. She went on the bedspread that was lying on the floor. Now she is banned, though the neighbor is still friends with her.

If I go to visit a neighbor, she will come along. She went with me over to another neighbor's house and he let her in. We had a great time watching her once she discovered the boa constrictor in his cage. He suddenly became more active, moving like he was enticing her to come closer. She would, very cautiously, and then jump back suddenly. She is used to garter snakes, but that thing was huge!

Another time she followed me all the way down the street when I went to the neighborhood garden club meeting. She sat outside the whole time asking to come in. It made everyone laugh and me blush. Late comers kept asking if they should let her in, only to receive a chorus of "No's."

About a week ago I heard yet another neighbor scolding a cat. I couldn't tell whether it was her Shadow or my Naomi, but one of them had caught a mouse and she was imploring the cat to let the poor little mouse go. I was laughing at this. That kind of logic doesn't work on a cat. They are just doing what comes naturally -- and a good thing too, or we would be neck deep in pests.

Cats also like to find little "nooks" to curl up in. Suitcases and bathroom sinks are highly favored for this. Naomi also likes the linen closet and I have given over a portion of it to be a permanent bed for her. Lately she has found a new place to curl up.

When not filling up a bucket, she likes to curl up in the garden, in the lettuce, or instead of the lettuce.

Needless to say she is NOT happy when I make her move. She is 100% cat and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I Bee-lieve

I was gardening a lot this week and had a great opportunity to spend some time with bees. I working in one of my raised beds, extremely close to the blossoming sage. The perfect purple blossoms were being plundered as I worked. This was the longest period of time I have ever spent around bees and was keen to watch them on their quest to collect and distribute pollen. Since I was not making a move toward them in any way, they were completely ignoring me. This is something I could not say about the yellow jacket who kept showing up to nose around me, making me intensely nervous.

The last time I got stung was by a yellow jacket was in the privacy of my own bathroom. And in an intensely private place. I was doing my usual bathroom business, as one does, on the throne when I realized that something didn't feel quite right. I reached down to check and -- yikes! My hand came away with a yellow jacket perched upon it, but not before he had given me what for in the nether regions. Talk about freaking out! I threw the offensive little creature into the toilet and flushed. Then cleaned and bathed the painful area repeatedly.

Needless to say (but I'm gonna say it anyway) it was a little touchy trying to sit down at work for the next few days. I had to tell my coworkers what had happened so that they would understand the strange little dance I was doing trying to sit comfortably. Who ever heard of getting stung in the. . .?

The last time I was actually stung by a bee was several years ago. We had had an unseasonably warm autumn and I was out cleaning up leaves and such on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I woke up a bee that had been snoozing in a warm fold of a plastic garbage bag. I didn't notice him until he got me on the wrist. Who ever heard of getting stung in November?

My conversation with the gentle bees came, by chance, on the same day as the Colorado Rockies baseball game was interrupted by the sudden appearance of two swarms of bees that sent players, photographers, and cameramen scrambling.A beekeeper came and vacuumed them all up with his bee vac.

It must just have bee-n one of those unbee-lievable days!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Buck Stops Here - Well, There, Actually

I live in Boulder, Colorado. It is a fairly affluent city with a strangely diverse population. It was once featured on the Today Show as having the largest cross-section of religions of any other city in the country. This is a place of big money living side-by-side with New Age granola types. On Thursday evenings a group of hundreds get together to ride their bicycles all over the city - just because it is Thursday. I live in a trailer park, so obviously, I am not on the money side of things, as to the other side - you be the judge. My neighbors consist of an astrologer, three massage therapists, a Rolfer, a junk dealer, a recycled building materials dealer, and a young woman creating her own business of crocheted fashions. The first time I saw one of my neighbors she was jogging past dressed as a butterfly.

Our "trailer" park, or, more politically correctly, mobile home community, is not stereotypical of the "trailer park" of red neck comedians, though there is plenty of comedy around here.

We live with a fairly wide range of wildlife passing through. Fox, deer, snakes, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, skunks. . . Around here it really is a wild life. . .

One fine autumn day I was out in my yard raking leaves. I looked up with a doe came out from between two of the homes across the street. She turned and trotted down the street and then went between two more of the homes. Nothing unusual there. A moment later a huge buck came out from between the same first two houses as the doe. He looked around and did not see her, apparently his sworn lady love. On the other hand, he did see me and I didn't quite measure up. Thus, really ticked off, the horny beast lowered his antlers and started to rush my direction. I froze. What to do? I was too far from the house to make a run for it. I had my rake, but compared to those antlers I may as well have been holding a toothpick. I wondered briefly what impalement would feel like.

At the last moment, or maybe the moment before that, he caught the scent of his lady love, raised his head and trotted happily and lustily after her. I dropped to the ground and tried to get my heart and lungs working again. Not a hole in my person, other than those that are meant to be there.

Most of my wildlife encounters have not been quite so dramatic, but they are plenty. This may be a city, but we are just barely downstream from the whole Rocky Mountain Range. It is probably only a matter of time before I am faced with a bear - or worse.