Wednesday, January 29, 2014

State of the Charlie/Mochi Union

Charlie and Mochi now have their own Facebook page! For those of you who enjoy seeing pictures and videos of these ridiculous looking lovable beasts, click here or on the image below to check it out - and don't forget to like the page :-)

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Monday, January 20, 2014

PLEASE HELP! Dogs need adoption in southeast GA!

I’ve written at length (numerous times) about the problems of being one of the fairly small number of folks in Southeastern Georgia willing to take responsibility for animals no one else wants. My mother and I like dogs (I have Mochi; she has eight – and you may remember that we picked up six puppies in December), but we are cat people. Cat rescue is our thing. My mom has roughly 25 cats (all rescues, all spayed/neutered and vaccinated).

Cats and dogs do not always get along. Luckily Mochi is great with cats (I’m fairly certain he thinks he is a cat), and mom’s three indoor dogs (two little ones and one pit bull) are also great with cats. The dogs in mom’s backyard, however, are cat-killers. Specifically Kali, Viktor, and Nadya. It’s not their fault. They were all full grown when we found them. Kali and Nadya (found separately) were starving, and probably hunted whatever they could to survive. Viktor was most likely a lost/dumped hog-hunting dog, whom we found injured and on the side of the road in the absolute middle of nowhere. Whatever hunting instincts they had when we rescued them were already fixed into their brains. Mom has had Kali since 2009 and Viktor since 2012. During that time we have lost several cats to the backyard dogs. Most of the cats know not to venture near them. I picked up Nadya last New Year’s eve. We’ve lost two kittens in little more than a year, once they’ve gotten big enough to venture out the cat window. Kittens who didn’t know that the backyard dogs were not friendly like the indoor dogs. We lost little Sunshine today. It was probably Kali that got her (apparently she had a scratch to the face), although we don’t know for sure.

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Rest in peace, poor, sweet Sunshine.

WOULD ANYONE BE INTERESTED IN ADOPTING A DOG? (Or if you're a dog rescuer with some cats that don't fit in at your place, would you be interested in trading?)

Perhaps this isn’t the best way to introduce the question of adopting these dogs… But we really need to find homes for them. We’ve wanted to find homes for them ever since we found them, but they’re not the easiest to place (especially Kali and Viktor). Viktor and Kali couldn’t go to anyone with cats or small dogs. Viktor can’t go to anyone with male dogs (he’s viciously aggressive against male dogs), and Kali has in the past been aggressive towards female dogs. However, they get along great with each other. I wouldn’t want them to go to someone with little kids. They’re not aggressive towards humans at all (they’re quite friendly), but they might view a small child in the same way they view cats and small dogs and I wouldn’t want to take that chance. What they need is someone with a fenced in yard, no small children, and no other animals that might wander into said yard. They are both very sweet and love attention. Kali is actually passive aggressive; when you try to put her in her kennel, she will often roll over on her back and refuse to budge until her belly is rubbed to her satisfaction. Nadya is incredibly sweet, and could go to anyone with a good fenced in yard and no cats. (She's great with small dogs.) I’m sure she’d also LOVE to be a house dog.

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I’ve mentioned before that my mom is 69 years old and lives alone. She has about 25 cats, in addition to the eight dogs. If I get offered a job in the US, I will take Viktor and Kali off her hands, but my future is (as I mentioned in my previous post) rather up in the air. I might be living in the US after I finish my Master’s program, but I just as easily might be living somewhere like Kyrgyzstan. (This also, of course, depends on me being able to live somewhere where I could have large dogs. For example, I would not be allowed to have them in the place that I am currently renting.) Additionally, right now half of my mom’s cats live out at her land (where there are no dogs). When she moves out to her land (once the house is finished; probably in June) she will be bringing the eight dogs out to the land. While she plans to have dog ‘yards’ out there as she does at her current location, there are about 15 cats out at her land who have only ever met Brin, the cat-friendly pit bull, and who are used to having free reign across all her of her land. She is terrified of what might happen to her cats if she brings Viktor, Kali, and Nadya out there, and so am I.

These dogs are cat-killers, through no fault of their own. We took these dogs in because they were abandoned and mistreated, although since we are cat people, it is proving quite a heartbreaking hardship. If anyone is interested in adopting them (or knows someone who might be), please leave me a comment and let me know. All three are fixed, have had their shots, and are on heartworm preventative. Please share this post and help me get the word out. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Showing my Floridian roots.

I took Mochi for a walk down along the Little Econ Greenway yesterday. The high was 52F. I wore a couple of sweaters, and this is how Mochi was decked out:

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Honestly, Mochi probably would have been just fine without the coat (having a built-in one and all), but here in Florida, I rarely get the chance to bust out my own winter wear, let alone the dog's. That's not to say that I'm feeling overly nostalgic for cold weather. I mean, I was excited when the polar vortex made it cold enough to actually wear my lovely little dark green riding hood coat a few times... but I am already ready for this Florida "winter" to be over and done with.

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It really is a rich dark green and I am really not a funky shade of orange; the lighting in my bathroom is terrible. Also, I need to clean my mirror.

I'll be graduating with my MA in a few months, and as such have started looking for jobs. Given that I am looking for teaching positions, this isn't really the best time of year for job postings as most fall-starts aren't going to be listed for a few more months yet. Or at least that's what I tell myself. Last fall I submitted my application for a really good 1-2 year position overseas. There are a large number of positions available, so even though it's competitive, chances are good. Still, as I selected the former Soviet Union as the region to which I would like to be sent, I just keep thinking how cold it will be. So I've started applying for jobs in the southeastern US. (I figure I'll go with whichever good job offer contacts me first and let fate deal with the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go problem). There aren't many full-time positions in the ESL field if you're looking to stay out of the public school system, and I really am hoping that there will be more openings posted in a couple of months. Still, in the past couple of weeks I've applied for four jobs (three in Florida, one in Georgia), all of which would be good jobs (although two would be most excellent). I've found myself browsing real estate in the areas where these jobs are located. Real estate! Looking for jobs stateside? Browsing real estate ads? Longing for warmth? I seem to have gotten old overnight. Not that a job in the US would stop me from vacationing in places like, say, North Korea...

Monday, January 13, 2014

An explanation of feral cats and TNR

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now, but I’ve been pretty busy this past year. This topic came up sometime in the spring semester of last year (I think; it’s been a while). I was talking with a friend of mine – an intelligent, well-educated guy – and he wanted to know how I could support trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs while at the same time becoming violently angry towards people who abandoned their animals. After realizing that I needed to provide him (and as I said, he’s an intelligent and educated fellow, if not well-versed in feline terminology) with an explanation of what a feral cat really is and how a *good* TNR program should work, it occurred to me that I should write a post on this topic. However, I’ve been busy, and am only just now getting around to writing it.

So… what is a feral cat? A feral cat is a cat that was born in the wild (or on the streets), and grew up without any human contact. A feral cat that has reached adulthood knows how to fend for itself, especially when it comes to finding food. A feral cat is NOT a stray or abandoned housecat. While many cat owners have noticed that their feline companions are skilled hunters, the vast majority of domestic housecats that have spent their lives in human care would stand little chance of surviving on their own in the wild. If cats are not socialized around humans as kittens, there is little chance that they will ever become socialized to the point that they are adoptable. As such, when feral cats are picked up by animal control in places that lack a TNR program, the feral cats are typically euthanized as soon as allowed by law. If feral kittens are acquired at a young enough age (generally six months or less), they can be tamed; however, this can take months – and a lot of work.

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This is Charlie.

Charlie was a feral kitten. She was approximately four months old when I caught her. She bit the crap out of me. I’m still amazed that I was able to hang onto her long enough to get her into my apartment. She was terrified, and hid under my bed for two months. It was several more months before I could pet her. She’s now nearly four years old, fat, spoiled, and content – but it’s very rare that she lets anyone other than me pet her.

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This is Sava.

Sava was also a feral kitten that my mom and I acquired in late 2008. She was probably four or five months old when we got her, and she was completely terrified of humans. While she will now let us pet her (especially when we’re putting out food), she has never been, and no doubt never will be, a super-friendly snuggler.

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This is Buddy.

Buddy was a full grown adult male when I trapped him in 2009. He was completely feral, terrified, and furious. I kept him in my bathroom for about six months, in an attempt to get him accustomed to me. After six months of getting hissed and snarled at every time I needed to use the bathroom, I gave up and relocated him out to my mom’s land. He will now (after five years!) come to within a few feet of me, and as of mid-January 2014 he began allowing my mom to pet him. 

Trap-neuter-release programs are designed to return healthy, vaccinated, neutered feral cats to the environment in which they are accustomed to living. A good TNR program would never trap, neuter, and release a friendly housecat, as such an animal would lack the skills to survive. A good TNR program tests the cats that they have taken for communicable diseases such as feline leukemia and feline AIDS. Cats with these diseases are euthanized in order to prevent the spread of these diseases among the feral cat population. Additionally, feral cats with severe injuries are euthanized. However, a good TNR program keeps and socializes feral kittens that are young enough to be socialized and then put up for adoption. A good TNR program not only spays/neuters and tests for diseases, but also vaccinates the cats against rabies and feline leukemia, and doses them with a dewormer. In this way, the cats that are released back into the wild are healthy, vaccinated against future illness, and unable to reproduce. Keep in mind that these are cats that are accustomed to living in the wild, without contact with humans. These are wild animals, skilled at living in the wild, and terrified of humans. If caught by a good TNR program, they will be released as healthy, vaccinated, and sterile creatures that will be able to live out the remainder of their lives in the manner to which they are accustomed. Lastly, prior to release, a good TNR program will notch the cat’s ear. This ear-notch signifies that the cat has been neutered and vaccinated as part of a TNR program. Some good TNR programs also operate ‘cat colonies’ – areas in which the cats can be released in safety, fed through feeding stations, and monitored at a distance for health issues. (While this is an ideal situation for many ferals, such colonies are often expensive to manage, and very few exist in the grand scheme of things.)

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Notice I prefaced many of my sentences with the phrase “a good TNR program.” A lot of people who don’t know anything about cats – like the guy I mentioned in my opening paragraph – simply assume that TNR is a program for any homeless cat. Just because a cat is homeless (and even scared to approach an unknown human) does not mean that it is feral. Trapping, neutering, and dumping a friendly housecat is an inhumane act. (Charlie may have once been a feral kitten, but I’ve seen her lazy fat ass try to catch lizards – and fail miserably. She couldn’t make it in the wild; she’d be sitting around waiting for the food bowl to appear.) A good TNR program will examine every animal prior to release in order to determine if it is a scared, lost housecat or a true feral. Programs that simply perform the basic trap-neuter-release functions without testing for diseases or vaccinating the animals are rare, and are usually run by well-meaning individuals who don’t know any better. However, the best and most humane way for a TNR operation to work is for the animals to be healthy and vaccinated prior to release.

If you notice that there are feral cats in your neighborhood and they don’t have notched ears, there are several things that you can do. If you call your local animal control, find out what they do with captured feral cats. As I mentioned previously, many animal control facilities simply euthanize feral cats. If your local animal control euthanizes ferals, see if there is a TNR program in your area. If there isn’t, you can perform the TNR function yourself: trap the cat using a humane trap. Take the cat to the vet. If the cat tests negative for FeLV and FIV, have the cat spayed/neutered, vaccinated against rabies and FeLV, de-wormed, and have his ear notched. Release the cat in the area where you found him. You may wish to leave a dish of catfood out for the kitty to make his/her life easier. If you see feral cats in your neighborhood that have notched ears, in all likelihood the cats are fine. Keep an eye out in case the cat is ever injured, and you may wish to leave a dish of catfood out :-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Doggie Deliveries

After the catastrophe with little Loki breaking his leg last Friday, I didn't think he would be going to his new home that weekend. I knew he would need a lot of follow-up care, but as I didn't know the people who had been planning to adopt him, I didn't know if they would be willing to provide all the necessary follow-up care. In fact, after my experiences in Georgia during December, I was fairly convinced that they wouldn't even want him.

My dad drove over to Orlando from Tampa last Saturday to collect Molly. Initially, she was terrified of him. As in she totally freaked out and pissed herself, then ran and hid, shaking, under the bed. She'd never shown any signs of being in the least frightened of me, my mother, or of Lois (the president of BARC who had administered their first vaccines), so this was quite a surprise. I suspect that she was mistreated by a man sometime before we found them. Luckily, she got over her initial fright very quickly.

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That evening, I heard from the woman who had agreed to adopt Loki - she definitely still wanted him, despite his injury and the follow up care that he would need. Additionally, it turned out that her other dog only had three legs, so even if he never fully regained all use of his leg, he would fit right in. This was such a relief, and such an unexpected surprise. It's always reassuring to discover that there are folks out there who are willing to care as much for animals as I am. On Sunday, I drove Loki over to Clearwater, where I met his new family - human, canine, and feline. I miss the little guy, but he will have a blast over there, and I know they will take excellent care of him.

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Since I was in the area, I stopped by my dad's to see how Molly was getting along. She was definitely racing around the house like she owned the place, snuggling with her new humans, and trying really hard to get the cats to play with her (they weren't so into it).

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Molly and my brother

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Here Molly's playing with Harley, a cat my dad adopted from me when I lived in GA in 2009.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What a shitty day.

Charlie got all discombobulated by the return to Orlando combined with the fact that I'd brought two puppies with me (who were supposed to be delivered to their new homes in the Tampa area on Sunday). She somehow wedged herself in behind the dishwasher and then couldn't figure out how to get out. I have baby gates to keep the dogs from going where they're not supposed to, and had set one up to keep them from bothering me while I lay on the floor attempting to coax the kitty out from behind the dishwasher. Loki, of course, has been climbing baby gates like a pro since the day I brought him home. My mom had even joked that if he wasn't careful, he was going to break a leg. In his hurry to try and get to me (and I feel guilty because he was trying to get to me and I was yelling at him not to climb the gate) he fell... and somehow managed to fracture the hell out of one of his back legs. He spent all day at the vet, had surgery, had a pin installed, and is now in a crate whining pathetically. (I ended up having to unscrew the dishwasher from the counter and haul it out from under the counter in order to free the cat. She is fine.)

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I didn't want to man-handle his leg, but you can kind of see the sutures.

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