Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Lucky She Is

Happy stories are very much alike and every sad story is different, but real life stories in general tend to be bittersweet, rather than completely perfectly happy or totally desperately sad. In the life of every sentient being there is joy and misery, happiness and
sadness, hope and despair, something is lost, something gained and something still on the horizon. It relates to humans and animals evenly and helps in understanding a basis of their mutual relationships. A mission of helping animals sounds great
and easy on the surface, but there’s much more involved in animal rescue then just picking up and caring for unwanted animals. Taking them in is one thing; providing them with everything they need is a completely different matter.

Treca Sreca was the third kitten I’d run into over a very short period of time and her name means literally “Third time lucky”. Tigi and Negro had already settled in when she arrived, a cute tiny girl with big round eyes, the youngest and the smallest of three. They were inseparable from the beginning; they ate, slept and played together. For quite some time, all three of them had been rather reluctant to go out and even when they decided to set foot into the outside world, they were extremely cautious and
careful. Their strongest instinct was fear and it helped them stay alive.

When Treca Sreca was less than a year old, she disappeared without a trace. She never took a long walk before and I knew something had happened. After many
hours of calling her, combing the entire neighborhood and checking the backs of other people’s houses, I finally managed to locate her, locked in a nearby basement. A dozen tense, anxious phone calls to neighbors followed, until I found someone who had the key and was willing to
unlock the door. There she was, dehydrated and horribly hungry, dirty, panic-stricken and almost hysterical. Broken and bloody claws on her front paws told me the story of the immense fear and the frantic digging into the concrete walls she'd done, trying to find the way out…

Treca Sreca's long years of watching every step, being on her guard and struggling to stay alive are behind her now. She is living a tranquil and blissful life in the shelter, so appropriate for a nice, calm and placid cat. She
is still talkative like she's always been, her tail is still held vertically, over her back like always, but she has something she hasn’t had before – she is glowing with happiness of a protected and very much loved kitty. She surely won’t ever forget the times of
fear and uncertainty she went through, but she is now able to move on without any bitterness, hatred or malice, like only animals can.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Deep Into the Winter

Problems are piling up…

Winter is already in full swing, but the weather is very changeable; we were literally snowed in a couple of weeks ago, and then it was pouring rain for days. After that we had some chilly but clear
weather followed by freezing rain and now it’s snowing again. The central heating is on day and night and the first tank of gas we bought back in September is close to empty; another one has already been ordered.

During the cold winter
months what scares me the most is the thought of a heavy, wet snow falling and sticking to the already rain drenched chain link fence. It will eventually reach a point where it can't bear the burden of the extra weight and will collapse. We’ve been lucky so far, as last
weekend’s snowfall melted quickly, but we can't count on luck forever and I wonder what will happen when it turns against us. The chain link fencing around the shelter has gotten loose and the posts are wobbly due to the horrible winter and huge snowfall last
year. The entire fence is much weaker, more than ever before. How this winter’s ordeal will end up remains to be seen.

The roof of the auxiliary rooms in the backyard is another matter. Completely worn out, with rotten rafters and partially
cracked roof beams, it’s still miraculously holding on, but the new snow always gives me the willies every single time, nevertheless. Our last year’s project of repairing the shelter started too late and we weren’t prepared well enough. We were trying to raise funds
while simultaneously repairing the shelter and it was a big mistake, we should’ve found a way of covering expenses before getting bogged down with major shelter repairs. Most of the unpleasant lessons seem to have to be learnt the hard way…The first time is always the hardest, no matter what we are talking about.

All of the kitties are eating tremendous amounts of food during the winter months; I can’t believe how fast the food storage empties. They have all
gained a lot of weight but their appetites are still voracious. When the weather is bad, most of them don’t even want to set foot outside, but on rare perfectly calm and sunny days the yard is full of chubby, furry creatures rolling around. Just looking at them is a pure

We are in the middle of winter now, and no one knows how bad it's going to get. If you can help us in any way possible, please do so! Your kindness and thoughtfulness will make everything a lot better and will be a great encouragement.
Felix kitties, all of them unwanted and unimportant once, deserve to have nice lives in their safe haven!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Lonely Life of a Lonesome Girl

Dumping a pet cat on the street is irresponsible, unacceptable and despicably cruel; abandoning a pet in places where it’s known that someone is feeding cats doesn’t make that disgraceful and cold act any better. In contrast to feral cats, which were
born into that lifestyle and know how to forage and survive, dumped and abandoned pet kitties become confused, frightened and depressed; their chances of survival are usually pretty slim. Animal rescuers must be getting hoarse from repeating
the same story of responsible ownership over and over again, yet public awareness of animal welfare issues is not easy to elevate and consequently, progress is painfully slow.

The real problem arises when a lost or
abandoned cat is not spayed or neutered. In addition to losing their homes, safety and sources of food, these once loved animals are forced to fend for themselves and scramble to learn how to survive on their own. As their contact with humans dwindles, they
become shy, distrustful and fearful and are often almost impossible to catch. Unwanted mothers give birth to unwanted kittens that must learn to be cautious and to not trust people in order to survive. All of them end up trapped in a continuous, vicious
cycle of misery and suffering. Sadly, these youngsters’ chances of being socialized and adopted into good homes are literally zero.

Flekica was born not far from my building, in a shared neighborhood yard, about 15 years ago.
Her mother was a black stray that had a home once, but her owners used to let her outside to roam around freely and when she got pregnant, they simply dumped her. She gave birth to four kittens, Flekica amongst them, but just two short months later the
mother and three of her kittens were brutally killed by a pack of dogs. Flekica was the only survivor. What saved her, I guess, was her extreme distrustfulness, wariness and vigilance.

She couldn’t be
approached, not even at an early age. She was always on her own, shunning people, jumping at every sound, hiding and fleeing from danger in a flash. At one point, she became aware of my cats, she learned their feeding schedule in due course and would
come around to eat at the same time each day. Nonetheless, she still trusted no one, and used to flinch whenever I made a sudden move. Up to the present time, she hasn’t changed, although it’s been more than 15 years now…

Flekica has never expressed any desire to be stroked or touched, but surprisingly, she allows me to pick her up when necessary and even cuddles while in my arms. She sometimes follows me around and is usually very talkative when she wants something. She has a chronic eye problem, probably due to malformation of the tear duct; one of her eyes is constantly tearing but the discharge is clear and it’s been like this forever. With more than 15 years of living close to a human, conditionally speaking, we
haven’t succeeded in softening her distrustful attitude towards people; for the life of her, she won’t approach any strangers. But when there are no guests at the shelter, when everything is quiet as it should be, when tranquility embraces us all, she seems
content, calm and relaxed, living the lonely life she wants, always on her own…

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gentleness Is a Choice

I guess I’ll never understand what lies behind animal cruelty. Intentional animal abuse seems to have deep connections to severe psychological problems. Scientific studies reveal that people with psychopathic personality disorders have a tendency to
torture pets and other small animals, but they may also show similar aggression towards humans. In spite of all of the scientifically proven facts, I simply can't figure out how a human being could intentionally hurt sentient creatures, much less those who
are the most helpless and innocent. It’s incomprehensible and yet it is happening, almost every day.

Stray cats are far too often the easy targets of abuse and cruelty. Friendly and trusting kitties are always at a special risk, as they approach everyone
showing love and affection, mistakenly thinking that all people are good. Many of them pay for their bad judgment with their lives. Most of the surviving ones become cautious and unapproachable, yet a few continue to behave as if nothing had happened, no
matter how much pain they have endured. Okac is one of those ever-friendly ones.

He was brought to me as a four-month-old kitten, skinny and dirty, with a horribly injured eye. Someone had obviously tried to gouge his eye out and
then maybe got interrupted in their despicable, cruel, horrendous act. They left a kitten with an eye covered in blood and in terrible pain. I had no problem catching him, he let me pick him up as if he had known me forever. He was quickly rushed to the
vet and it turned out that his third eye lid was torn, which caused the loose piece hanging out of the corner of his eye. During his first third eye lid surgery, his third eye lid was stitched up but it didn’t heal properly and he couldn’t close his eye, so he had to endure three more surgeries over the next few years in order to fix this issue.

The biggest problem with surgical interventions is that all of the muscles are relaxed when a cat is under general
anesthesia, so it’s not easy for the vets to accurately estimate how much tissue should be removed. Finally, Okac had been diagnosed with secondary dry eye syndrome and secondary entropion as the result of the trauma. There was no point in another
surgery, as he wouldn’t have gotten any better. Vets managed to save the sight in his eye, but we don’t really know how good his vision in that eye is, it’s probably damaged to some degree. He still has some dark discharge from his injured eye and is
under antibiotic treatment whenever his eye discharge becomes even darker or too abundant.

After that first eye surgery, Okac was living in my garage and didn’t want to go outside for quite some time. The first time he went for a walk,
trusting and loving as always, he returned with a broken hip – someone had probably brutally kicked him. He obviously approached that evil person trustfully, with no fear at all. Some kitties never learn…

Okac’s hip hadn’t
been operated on; I took my outgoing, affectionate, lovable little boy to my apartment and he was the best patient one could imagine. He was just lying still and resting, hardly ever getting up. He managed to recover on his own, as cage rest and leaving a
dislocated hip to sort itself out by forming a 'false joint'' produce almost as good a result as extensive surgery. His broken bones healed on their own; he was limping for months afterwards, but he now runs and jumps like any other cat.

Despite all of the horrible things that have happened to him, Okac continues to love people. He is evidently one of those rare, special kitties that return evil with good and although he paid a terrible price for his gentleness, he hasn’t changed a bit. He is calm, quiet,
loving and cuddly, there is not a trace of bitterness or fear in him. Had he stayed on the street, he would have been dead years ago, as his noble nature couldn’t be altered, no matter what. His life on the street did leave scars on his body, but not a single one on his

We can learn a lot from cats, especially from cats like Okac. Can you even imagine what a wonderful world it would be if it was inhabited by people who are not vindictive, hateful or deceitful, if it was populated by pure,
gentle, sincere and outgoing people with open minds and open hearts? It would really be a world worth living in.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Forever In Our Hearts

It’s said that the New Year is the time to celebrate a new beginning, to unfold new horizons and realize new dreams, but it's also the time to take a look back over the past years and correct injustices, if there were any. Something that’s been bothering me for
quite some time, something I feel guilty about, is that nothing has yet been written about Oset’s passing a year and a half ago. He somehow remained unfairly forgotten, as if he had never existed, as if he had been unimportant and had never been loved by anyone. But
in my heart he will live forever and I feel I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for everything he brought into my life and for all of the love he had given over the years. He deserves a loving last goodbye, a final token of appreciation, an everlasting tribute to keep his memory

Oset was found as a tiny kitten, a light pale, golden little guy with beautiful, luminous, wise eyes and a slightly sad and serene gaze. He had always looked a bit different, somehow older and more sagacious than the
other kittens, as if he knew and felt something they didn’t. Although I didn’t want to admit it, not even to myself, from the very beginning I couldn’t shake off a vague feeling of unease over his future and a strange foreboding that he would die young. There was some deep sadness in his eyes…

He appeared out of nowhere, skinny and very hungry, in the middle of summer. I guess some children from my neighborhood had found him and carried him around until
they got bored and then they left him in front of my garage. He was too friendly and much too trusting for his own good, so I took him in, knowing that outgoing and affectionate kitties usually don’t survive long on the street. He loved all of the other cats and they all loved
him back, but when Augusta arrived, just a few days after him, she became the light of his life. They were inseparable from the beginning, one soul in two bodies.

A couple of months later, Oset disappeared and was nowhere to be found.
I was looking everywhere, desperately searching the entire neighborhood and found no trace of him. Augusta was refusing to eat and just waited for him with a blank look in her eyes, wrapped in her own misery. After a few sad weeks, I got a call
from a friend who told me about her new pale ginger kitty and I knew instantly it was him, I knew Augusta’s waiting was finally over. When I brought him home, they were both sparkling with sheer happiness and the joy of their reunion was so overwhelming that
it can't be described in words. It seemed that nothing could ever separate them again. They had their whole lives ahead.

When we moved to the shelter, many kitties estranged from each other but not Oset and Augusta. Their love was
flourishing, stronger and more vibrant than ever. They were joyous and playful, cuddly and sweet. Although Oset was a bit skinny (he had always been bony and delicate), he looked perfectly healthy. The tragedy that was about to happen could not be foreseen, there
were no warning signs at all.

Fate struck right out of the blue. On a lazy summer day, when all of the kitties were just resting and enjoying the sun and the warm air seemed to shimmer, I suddenly heard a cat crying in the yard. I rushed out
of the house at breakneck speed and found Oset lying in the grass. He was breathing heavily and unable to get up, with a totally distraught, panic-stricken and almost hysterical Augusta beside him. Before I could even try to take him to the vet’s, in just a few
short minutes, everything was over. My precious pale golden boy, so loving, so young and so beautiful, was gone and gone forever.

Time is passing rapidly by, weeks turn into months and months into years but my memory of Oset is
still crystal clear and as vivid as it was at the time of his death, now a year and a half ago. But it wasn’t just Oset that died that day, something inside Augusta broke and never returned, something inside of her disappeared forever. Her love for him was larger than life and when she lost him, she lost herself. Oh yes, she is still here, she is doing more or less everything that any cat does, yet she is nothing but an empty shell of her old self. She is not interested in other cats, she is not interested in humans, she is
not interested in much of anything anymore. She doesn’t live, she just endures life. But maybe in her dreams her beloved pale golden soul mate comes to comfort her and to show her that he never really left. Maybe those dreams are what help her hold on.

You will always be missed, my beautiful golden boy. The kitties will never forget you, Augusta will never forget you, and neither will I.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”.