Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fun with iMovie

You'll need to go visit youtube to see this 1:20 minute trailer.
I have months of footage from several different litters of foster kittens. I had a little guy (named "Google" for his googley eyes) in the recent past who almost didn't make it. "Fading Kitten Syndrome" is the term used to describe young kitties who decline into emaciated, howling heartbreakers. I've never seen this happen to kittens that stay with their mother all the way until 8 weeks. Most commonly it happens at 4-5 weeks when people erroneously think they're  ready to be adopted out.  I had a week of intense intervention work with Google in which he got fluids under the skin, milk through a syringe, and--this is what I suspect saved him-- twice daily I held him up to my adult cat and let her groom him.  One morning, in a sudden blaze of glory, Google was starving for solids and started playing.
And, here's my iMovie kudos to my cat, "Momcat", who had kittens in 2009 but has enjoyed life as a spayed female for six years

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Substances of Life

"Charlie" the black Lab came to me as a foster dog about 72 hours after having his hind leg amputated. Labradors are joyful, exuberant extroverts under the most dire circumstances. If you aren't in close physical proximity to share their happy wag, however, all that lively energy can twist into anxiety, excessive vocalization, drywall and door destruction and lots and lots of pee and poop smashed around in a frenzy.  It's incredibly hard being a dog in a people world of schedules and commutes under normal circumstances! Add to that, in Charlie's case, recent traumas and handfuls of medication, and despite his clearly loving, innocent nature, his behaviors turned my life upside down for two days. Neutered at the same time his leg was amputated, he had to urinate on any vertical surface. An incessant whistling sound came from him, as if he were caught in a windstorm with a tiny hole in his vessel. If I turned away from him the whining would escalate to a rhythmic barking. To top it off, his incision site continued to leak fluid, wetting his tail and slapping about as he bumped into things because of his e-collar. We tried everything for sleeping arrangements, and eventually I grabbed a sleeping bag and pillow and wandered out to my car at 2 am. During a blizzard.  I took Charlie back to the shelter knowing he'd be better suited to a larger, busier house for his foster time.
        Three hours later, after I'd finally cleaned up all the urine, feces and fluid, and was relaxing with a book and a cup of tea, the animal shelter called. It took the young woman a few moments to get to the point. Charlie had a type of wound infection that required euthanasia. He was dead.
         For a few moments after the call, the still quietude of my clean condo was hollow and eerie. For a very brief time I'd been surrounded by noisy, vigorous, wet, eager and annoying life--by Charlie.  There is no excreta from the dead. There is no urine, feces, vomit, discharge, sweat, semen, or fluid. Those elements are produced (and reviled, hidden, cursed and shamed) only by the living. OK, OK, the dead leak fluid and other foulness but it's decomposition not metabolism; it is not the process of fight, maintenance or repair. I've always wondered why so few European writers and artists craft anything about this subject (Germans may be an exception :)  A whole 900-page novel may never include a single character's act of urination or even mention menstruation. (I suspect male ejaculation shows up more than both of those combined.) Yet these are the things that prove we are alive, that structure our days and inform our brief time on the planet. Like an armistice with biology, Americans enjoy this silent void (pun intended).
           I was recently with some newlyweds sharing a pizza and reviewing our day spent at an event in a public park. One of my friends let out a theatrical sigh, cocking her head in wistful jest "Ahh... that's the restroom where we met on our first date..."  She was referring to the stone monolith on one end of the park built for reception of human bodily need, and not for aesthetics.  It occurred to me that, despite her humor, using the landmark of a public restroom to arrange a first meeting with someone who'd become your life partner was not ironic at all.

Monday, November 16, 2015

I am rotating my (*ahem* proverbial) eggs

In composing a recent email  I was about to write that I lived like an ostrich, alluding to the head-in-the-sand behavior that connotes voluntary ignorance.
But, as with many animal behaviors, our interpretation has nothing to do with the truth.

"Male ostriches dig a sizable hole—up to 6 to 8 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep, which is plenty big for their puny heads—in which to stow the eggs. During the incubation period, both mom and dad ostrich take turns rotating the eggs with their beaks, a task that requires them to submerge their heads into the nest, thereby creating the illusion that their heads are buried in the sand." -- some reasonably reputable website I forgot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Elephant Chow

One of my students asked if Purina made Elephant Chow. Why, yes, they do, under their exotic brand name Mazuri.

Monday, November 2, 2015


The hardest thing to teach foster kittens is that it is rude to swat/bite/chase someone else's tail when they are taking a poop.