My days are mostly fled with house renovation recently. Sometimes I find a real gem, like this plank from the former coal vent in the basement, which it seems is still filled with coal dust, more than 100 years old. Ugh.
Its been five years since our upstairs AC and heating unit was installed. It's been really cold in Abby's office anyhow. I was just about to go buy things to make the 8 inch ducts 10 inch ducts so I was climbing around the ceiling to see what pieces I'd need and, wait, what is this? Damper levers? Why was I never told that the rooms had dampers an they were closed?
I didn't really think that I'd end today with a total of five kittens and four adult cats in my house. I didn't think I'd suddenly be a rescue squad.
Wait, that's probably not a good place to start.
Two weeks ago our beloved cat Soze was put to sleep. He was old—we have no idea how old because he found us a decade ago and was already an adult. A perfectly behaved pet, Soze (named after Keiser Söze in Usual Suspects) thought he was a dog. He'd follow people around, hang out at parties, chill out with children and sit for hours on our laps.
I didn't really feel up to writing about Soze, he was such a part of my life that with him gone I wanted to just embrace the emptiness for a while. As he aged he started to crumble, with arthritis seizing his joints and nerve problems hobbling his step. My early photos of Soze were often entitled some variation of Proud Kitty, as he sat very regally and was fond of walking down the street to hang out with other families.
Soze was a great, great friend. Putting him to sleep was sad, we cried a lot. He had had a seizure Saturday two weeks ago, and we were going to put him to sleep then but we realized that he hadn't said goodbye. We had some friends coming over that evening and we turned it into a mini-Soze party. He used to love sitting on the lawn during parties and this way he got a chance to be hugged and loved and to go out with a lawn full of friends paying attention to him.
Sunday morning he seized again and we knew it was his time to leave us. We cried, the vet cried. We buried Soze in the yard near his friend Ditto and returned to the house to cuddle with our remaining cat, Tigger. It seemed, after so many years, that it was right for Tigger to have some time alone. He's not the biggest fan of other animals.
Last Saturday our friend Sheryl called and said she had a meowing kitten in her yard, we were over in a few minutes. There in the shrubs was the cutest ball of fluff a teeny little kitten with swollen eyes and a loud, clear meow. We called our regular vet who sadly was away, and then had a bit of a disagreement with Valley Cottage Animal Hospital, who told us they weren't prepared to handle a stray cat we were clearly going to adopt. The receptionist went so far as to tell us that they were not "equipped" for that. Really? The 24-hour emergency vet clinic is not prepared?
We called Oradell and took her right over, getting a prescription for her eyes and taking bloods for FIV tests.
That began our love affair with this new cat, who is now living in our third-floor bathroom and is already utterly spoiled. She follows Abby and I around, she falls asleep in our arms and she was totally relaxed over at Shery's with a dozen other people around.
Callie (short for Calliope) is super cute and I'm in love and she looks at me with eyes full of love like I've never seen. But clearly some Karma wheel isn't satisfied.
Sheryl let us know that there was a whole street full of cats near her, and after investigating a few times I came to knock on the door of her neighbor, Bob who is both sad and cute at the same time. Bob's an old man, wheelchair bound in an apartment without a ramp. Bob has been feeding the dozen or so cats that have been inhabiting his property.
When I met him he rolled to the door like a cross between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marlin Brando (both during their least-flattering roles) wearing just a tattered white t-shirt and his "drawers." After being relieved that we were going to set traps and catch the cats clearly overrunning his abode, he regaled me with a lingering tale of mobster antics in the seventies. Bob inherited his father's butcher business in Brooklyn and the mob shook them down on a regular basis. Over the next hour I found out about how cuts of beef are made, how the gangsters used to take money right from their cash registers, and how he was hassled by the Feds.
Bob, who has advanced diabetes and sometimes "eats nothing but mayonnaise sandwiches at the end of the month" because he spends money on cat food, remembered vivid details of his past while talking to me but didn't exactly know how he came to live in Valley Cottage.
This morning, as I promised him, I returned with cages in hand, small-sized Hav-a-Heart traps designed for squirrels a size that's good for most kittens. Since Bob didn't put out food overnight the cats were hungry and I caught the first kitten before I walked back to my car to get the second trap.
When I had caught two kittens I drove them home to drop them off and then went back and found two more had been caught. Basically we caught the four least-cautious kittens and after those were trapped the others started to figure out what was going on.
I brought the four amigos home, then headed over to Home Depot to get some larger traps—big enough for some of the teen (if cats were teens) and adult cats on the grounds. I put together three of the large traps while the cats watched me curiously and then after talking to the neighbors about cats ("we don't know why there are so many" say the people feeding them) I headed to Petco for a cage big enough to put the four trapped kittens and the several other not-caught-kittens together.
At first we thought the rescue kittens weren't going to be friendly, but we've managed to cuddle all four of them (even after Danielle got nibbled by one—what DID you do to that cat?) and they're really very charming. Looks like three boys and a girl.
We also have three boxes full of teen/adult cats, who were less thrilled to be in the traps but seemed to mellow out when left in the basement. Tonight Abby and I transferred them to carriers, fed them and put them in the garage where they are less likely to freak out as it smells a bit more like outdoors.
Tomorrow I'll try to catch the remaining mazillion cats and next week we begin a nice round of spay/neuter.
The kittens are adorable. We'll likely keep one as a playmate for Callie, but the rest are up for adoption (though we've had some requests for kittens already). I'm not sure how many more kittens there are but jeez, these are some cut animals.
It's been a really good week for seeing wildlife around here. I have been living in Rockland on-and-off for all of my life, and there wasn't a time when there was such a robust animal population. The river's got it's cranes and I saw a blue heron the other day, but that's nothing compared to the trio of Eastern Screech Owls that's been hunting our property.
I first saw them a few night ago—I was laying in my hammock at dusk playing a game on my iPhone when I heard a flapping of wings. I looked up to see an owl, about the size of a Guinea pig a few branches away. A second and then a third owl landed and they sort of checked me out while calling. The first owl flew to a branch just over me and sat there a while watching me.
They were back out again tonight and I took Abby out to see them. They flew over us a few times and then came down to the tree over the hammock, looking around and eventually flying off. Then the bats came out, followed by Mr. Fat Skunk who trundles ever-so-slowly out from behind my garage before picking around the lawn.
Yesterday in Valley Cottage I saw a fox, which first ran lightning speed across the lawn at the house of the friends where we were outside watching a movie, and then I saw it again sauntering down King's Highway.
And a few days earlier, Abby and I saw a baby muskrat over by Congers lake. Adorable fuzzy and wet little fella.