Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jake's Comfort Zone

Jake brings his calm way of being, green eyes and friendly accepting nature to many sad, hurting and lonely people, children as well as adults. Some have escaped abuse, some are facing illness that has changed their lives forever, some have forgotten what it was like to feel a soft touch from pets they said good-by to long ago.
Earlier this year he brought comfort to Linda, a woman who in her vibrant years suffered a stroke. One result was she became almost totally blind. She couldn’t find her way around places that had been familiar to her much of her life. So Linda came to The Samaritan House Fort Collins Village for rehabilitation. From being an active member of her community she struggled everyday to interact, make her needs known, communicate, and learn what she needed so she could go home.
One of the things she missed was the comfort of her cats, Felix and Tango. Their antics amused her and brought warm furry love to her every day. Linda’s days at Good Samaritan were long. Things moved slowly. Her therapists had an idea. They knew about a cat named Jake who came to visit at Good Samaritan regularly and suggested he come and visit Linda.
She knew the day Jake came to see her it would be a good day. It was as if he knew of all the heartbroken places she had inside. He moved slowly to rub against her legs then snuggled next to her. He touched her cheek with his nose. Her words were muffled as she buried her face in his fur. Jake then sat next to her on her bed and listened as she thanked him for coming to see her and talked about her cats she missed so much at home. Jake helped her through her many days of rehabilitation and made her time away from her home and family a little easier.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Small Life

pale dry leaves cushion a spot
under the butterfly bush
in my back yard
a leafy cave
hides a dark place…

from my kitchen window
I see a slight gray shadow
tall ears above a pink nose
I’m startled as two eyes
stare at me from under the bush
not blinking

a rabbit…  frozen as a statue
safe in its stillness
in perfect camouflage hawks won’t
see   as they fly overhead
looking for dinner
I say hello and in an instant
it hops away
into the grass and weeds beyond
as if it heard me speak

evening flows in, moves the day
out of the way
I sense something watching
prepare supper and glance out the window
there it is again
stares through the window
curious I suppose
I smile and move
to see if it will turn its head to follow
 this time just a flicker of its eye

the rabbit has claimed this spot
I see its small gray form every morning
and evening
sometimes it spends the day there
happily nibbling on seeds and grass
crabapples spread over the ground
never moving far from its hiding place

in the middle\of the night
I hear an animal scream
it isn’t a dream
nor the first time I hear this sound
filter through my sleep

when you live near farms and fields
out beyond the lights and noises of the city
the sharp sadness of loss
the beat of life and death is always present
in small ways

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I Write About Animals

I spent the summer between 6th grade and Junior High in the library. I also spent it on buses taking me to and from the library. On those bus rides I suffered the stares of other passengers. Sometimes they moved away from me. I don’t blame them too much because I looked like I had a bad case of the measles. I didn’t. It was a mysterious blood condition that eventually went away by itself.

I read every horse book and dog book I could find in the small neighborhood library that summer. (I would have read cat books, but at that time, there weren’t very many.)Then I got started at the main library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I grew up.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, changed attitudes about the treatment of horses and began a movement that created the first Society to Prevent Cruelty of Animals. This book changed my life. It was one of the first animal books written in first ‘person’. Another book, Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders stayed with me also and told a sad story about an abused dog that as a young girl, I couldn’t believe.

I didn’t know it then, but I am convinced these books led me to my vocation and the belief that kindness and mercy toward animals would guide me all my life. My calling now is to write about animals, to be a spokesperson and a voice for the voiceless.

I keep lots of quotes and stories about animals. I came across a piece the other day by Dr. Michel Klein who wrote a book, Animals, My Teachers: An Autobiography of a Veterinary Surgeon. The book was part of The Companion Book Club and published by Harvill Press, London in 1975. He was ahead of his time and says, in part:
“It is animals as much as human beings, from the tiniest Yorkshire terrier to living colossi such as Siberian tigers or Indian elephants that have made me what I am. It is to satisfy a passion which gradually overcame me and has never ceased to grow: to restore the animals place in a world dominated by man, a place we encroach on by steadily destroying and looting its habitat. Man without animals condemns himself to inhumanity. My task is to protect them, draw them closer to us and promote our knowledge and love of them.”

I don’t know how much of a dent I can make but I keep trying. I not only hear the words from Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe but the cries of cats and dogs that lose their lives in shelters, suffering farm animals, show horses and race horses, puppy and kitten mills, and so many more.

This is why I write about animals.


book, Jake’s Gift: The Story of a Cat Who Wouldn’t Quit, has just been released and is available on Amazon or at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Home for Moonbeam

     I'm settled in my study for my morning writing. I hear a little kitty voice, a distinctive one that sounds like a lilting  r r r t t t with a question mark at the end. Moonbeam has a whole vocabulary of sounds. She is my best buddy, the most devoted of my four cats. This particular sound asks me a question. "Why havn't I gotten my morning hug?" A black cat with a white chin and tummy, built like a linebacker with short legs and sturdy body lands solidly on my desk, next to my computer.

     She leans into my hand, rubbing and purring, checks to see if the coast is clear and launches on to my lap. She shadows me , follows me from room to room. Wherever I am she will be there also.  And she is feral. How can that be?

     Thanks to Leslie Vogt and Jan Link of the Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals, she has had a chance to bloom, to become the sweet companion that she is. Thankfully she was picked up when she was a kitten, from a hoarding situation in a filthy alley and shed, barely protected from the elements and fighting for her food.

     Who knows if she still was with her mother. Along with being hungry she had an infected eye. I found out later it probably was a ocular hernia. Bottom line she couldn't see out of it. I don't know how much pain she was in.
      I learned that since she was picked up from an impossible situation she could not go back to it like most other feral cats happily return to their colonies after being spayed or neutered. She had to became a barn cat. And I had a barn. The morning I picked her up after her surgeries and shots  (and I didn't know she was a she for a year, that was how long it took to be able to touch her) along with a possible sister and another cat that might have been her mother, I had no idea how I was going to take care of these three cats. I just knew I wanted to help in any way I could.

     They were scared, hunched in the back of the live traps they were in. I remember feeling so bad for them. They were stone silent. Eventually I got them into a small room in my barn where they could become acclimated and then, when let out hopefully would stay.

     It is pretty easy to assume that feral cats are not socialized enough to become house cats. It does take some special circumstaces. It is hard to tell if a cat was abandoned or born feral but if captured at a young enough age, it is possible for them to be adopted. Of course some are clearly happy to live outside and some are abandoned house cats and once they have been treated, they can go home with a family. You just never know.

     I was careful. I didn't know how wild they were, if at all. I learned quickly that they had a ways to go. But I was patient with them. After about 5 weeks I could play with them (toy on a string) and put their food in front of them instead of moving it close to them with a stick. And I always talked to them when I went in to feed them. They won my heart.

     Shortly after they had settled into a routine, I let them out into the barn. They played in the hay and cuddled in a warm den I built inside of one of the stalls.. They began to follow me when I went to the barn to feed them, Moonbeam even came up to the house and sat under the kitchen window and meowed. Soon I was even able to pick them up occasionally.

     Sadly, because of the fox and coyotes in my area I lost both Lollipop and Polka Dot in their first year. Moonbeam was the only one left in the barn. As it got colder and she was by herself I tried to get her to come in the house. Little by little her curiosity got the best of her and she came in to explore. With hardly any fanfare, it didn't take long for her to  blend in with my other 3 cats. She loves it, is not interested in going back to the way it was. She is home.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Harley's Challenge

Harley is the second of the two cats my daughter, Jennifer, adopted from the FCCR&SNC (Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay Neuter Clinic) to help out in the barn, be barn cats. Her real name is Harlequin which means clown. Well, she doesn't act like a clown although, being a Tortie with her face looking like it had been painted one color on one side and another color on the other side, she looks like a clown.
At this moment she is in rehabilitation. After coming originally to our barn, hanging around while Diego (barn cat #1)was there, one day she dashed out the door. It was weeks before we saw her again, although the neighbors told us  she had taken up residence in their barn. Problem was, the neighbors left on a trip, thought they saw her in their barn before they left. But they didn't. Turns out she was closed up in the garage. After 3 days of not seeing her, I became suspicious.
 I went over, tried the door to their garage and it opened. At first I didn’t hear anything. So I called her name. Pretty soon I heard a weak meow. The garage was so cluttered I couldn’t even walk in much past the door. As soon as I rattled the food dish I heard her meow come closer. So I left food and water. The next morning and for the next day after that I left food for her and it had gotten slicked up by the time I arrived. I knew she could not stay in the neighbor’s garage.
I had to see if Jennifer would be willing to take her in her house too, to join Diego who had become unexpected house cat number one. (read about Diego) She agreed and we  decided  she needed a large cage for protection and one that would hold her litter box, feed dishes, a scratching and climbing post and a blanket. But the biggest hurdle was Jennifer’s husband. He  didn’t want any cats in the house. Such is the way of strange happenings. So Harley has an inside home for a while. Till March First. We’ll see.
Harley has been rehabilitating from being an outdoor/feral/barn cat. I think it could work. She still hisses when something startles her but she purrs a lot, too. Temporarily she stays in the Great Dane sized enclosure. Soon she will not remember that she was an outdoor cat. The kids love her and love taking care of her. I think the next thing I will do is see if I can pick her up out of her cage and carry her around the basement. I might even put a harness on her too. Now,  I go to bed every cold night and thank the great Cat Protector above that she is safe and warm  inside…for now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Diego's Plan

I’m certain Diego had a plan.And he had almost everything worked out. The one that didn’t go as planned was the length of time he spent at the FCCR.(Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay Neuter Clinic) It was a heck of a lot better than wandering around scavaging for food, trying to understand why he was abandoned, but still, after a few weeks like this you would be crotchety too.
Getting hurt in a territory dispute at his new adopted family’s barn wasn’t planned either. But it did put him in the position to get what he wanted; an indoor home with plenty of room and freedom to choose where he was going to sleep and who he would adopt as his most trusted person. His week to ten days having to live inside and wear the Elizabethan collar set it up for him. After that it was clear, he didn’t want to be a barn cat, he wanted to be a house cat. We now think he had been a house cat all along.
He wiggled his way into the routine. First he slept in his crate, then on the bed in the basement and then on a pile of hunting clothes. One day he actually sneaked outside when no one was looking but came right back in. Hummm, he was no dummy. Then one night when it was stormy he came upstairs and slept in mom and dad’s bed. After that he discovered a hiding place in a closet. He slipped through the dog door once in a while but he always came back. He even came when he was called.
But the best thing he did was hook up with one of the 6 yr. olds. Tyler began to carry him to his room. Diego began to sleep there. Sometimes Tyler had a difficult time getting to sleep. His mom or dad would often need to lie down with him. But now that was Diego’s job. Diego had found his man. It was his plan.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Diego's Decision

Diego and Harley, the cats my daughter adopted from the Fort Collins Cat Rescue to be barn cats, got out of the barn the first night they were there even though the barn doors were closed. The next morning my husband told me he had heard cats growling outside the house that night. When we checked the barn we found they were both gone. I couldn’t believe it. Even that time we had been in the barn the first afternoon, Harley stayed in the enclosure in the stall stall and Diego explored a little of the rest of the barn but seemed unwilling to get close to the outside. I thought they would be so happy to be out of cages they would settle into their new larger digs happy even though still wary.

The next day I called and called, searched the barn but no cats. I was not looking forward to letting the cat rescue know they had already disappeared.

About 9:30 the next night I heard what I thought was soft meowing. I did! It came from the huge tree in our back yard. I grabbed a flashlight and ran out in my P.J.’s and slippers and there was Harley. Just out of reach in the crook of a30 ft. tree. Harley would have none of it I could almost touch her. Because of her muted Tortie coat she was hard to see but certainly scurrying higher the closer I got. About that time Jennifer and her husband Miles came running out of their house We ended up having to leave her there and hope she would come for food in the morning.

Up early the next morning I headed out to feed the horses, hopefully calling the two cats. I caught a movement out the corner of my eye. And there sitting in the crook of the tree sat Diego. Now, I thought, considering his reputation he would most likely run away when I got close to him. But he not only let me pick him up, he was purring. He stayed in my arms all the way into the barn. I opened the can of cat food and as I was giving him some I heard another small meow. I looked up and there was Harley. She had come through the next stall that was filled with hay, climbed up the hay bales, and the wall, balanced on the rafters and was looking down at me. The minute she smelled the food she was down on the ground joining Diego, gobbling up the food. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I wish I could say all was well after that. But things just got more complicated. It seems, the sounds of cats fighting the night before was the sounds of cats fighting. Diego had a large wound on the back of his neck. It looked like a bite or it could have been a cut from some wire or metal around the barn. I didn’t notice it right away but after a few days it looked like it was bleeding. During this time, Diego didn’t go outside the barn even when the doors were open. Harley did disappear but appeared again. It was a noisy place. The neighbors chickens regularly flew over the fence and ended up in our barn looking for handouts. This brought the grandkids in. It certainly was not conducive to quietly getting used to a place.

Even though I treated Diego’s wound it was not getting better. So Jennifer asked me if I would take him to her vet. I was still treating Diego a bit gingerly but he was a gentleman as I loaded him up in the carrier and drove him to the vet. Each new thing he tried, he seemed familiar with, going to the vet, being examined, getting a shot and worse of all having his wound cleaned out. It seems that my treatment of it had helped because it had already started healing and sure enough it was an abscess. But the biggest shocker was that this outdoor cat (I was wondering about this) was going to have to wear a lampshade and he was going to have to be kept in the house for a week to ten days so his wound would heal. Now, from the beginning Jennifer had wanted barn cats. Not house cats. Her husband was not in favor of having cats in the house. But spunky as my daughter is and ready for pretty much anything she said OK let’s fix him a place, Miles will be OK. So in a corner of their basement we set up a wire crate with blankets, open to the rest of the basement, food and a litter box and a little room divider that would keep the dog and kids out at least for a while.

He made his decision, he walked in and immediately made himself at home and began to snoop. He stretched, followed the kids around. Everything seemed to be calm and settled. He would stay there for 10 days. It was a long time.