Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jake Learns the Ropes

Jake had his ups and downs as he was beginning his new job as Cat-in-Charge at the Fort Collins Cat Rescue. One morning when I arrived to do my shift for shelter cleaning he greeted me with a decided limp. Dr. Gloria, our Veterinarian, examined him and discovered he had some infection in his front paw. It looked like he could have caught it in something and tried to pull it out. It even seemed to be dislocated. Ouch!
He healed quickly with all the attention (and medical care) he got. The sore paw may have been partly responsible for his litter box difficulties but that is just my guess. It seems that it was happening mainly when he had been out on one of his many adoptions. According to Judy Miotke, FCCR Animal Care Technician, sometimes new cats that have trouble with litter boxes may need some time to get used to a new place. Also, if they start having trouble after they have been using a litter box successfully for a while it could be a sign of illness. It could be a kidney infection or some other new stress that has come into their lives. Cats are vulnerable to stress too. It is worth it to do a little checking with a vet.
Leslie Quitmeyer, Jakes handler in the FCCR’s “Purrfect Therapy” program and good friend has been working with Jake and LAPP, Larimer People Partnership. LAPP provides training and support to individuals and screening for their pets so that human-animal teams may share the benefits of human animal interactions. In mid-July I heard that Jake had passed his evaluation to do pet therapy with Leslie’s help, through LAPP. Here is what Jake had to say: (I think)
"Well, I wowed the people at LAPP the other day. You should have seen what they did to test me. But it was a piece of cake ...or tuna maybe...First of all Leslie had to carry me a bunch but it was O,K. I was just getting my bearings. But then lots of people touched me all over, I had to walk through a crowd, someone dropped books behind me, (I had to turn around to get a look at what made that noise), and some people came up to me yelling. (I wondered what that was all about, some people do strange things.) I still have trouble sitting on laps sometimes but there is always something interesting to check out, don't ya know?? I had a great time! I really have something to brag about at the shelter now."

Jake jumped into his therapy job with enthusiasm. One time at the Columbine Rehabilitation Center he put his investigative skills to work the minute he was brought into the first room. He explored each corner and sniffed the hand of each new person who reached down to pet him. He was always calm. The first person who met him was Coleen. She was delighted. Her face lit up, even though Jake was a little more interested in exploring than sitting. She even gave him a new name. He is officially ‘Pretty Kitty” at the rehabilitation center and he did look very handsome decked out in his red harness The bright red against his rich silvery grey coat made him look even more lustrous. As usual, he knew he was a star. Waving his tail as he walked down the hall you could tell he already had it figured out, he ‘owned’ this place too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Cat Circus Comes to Town

Think for a minute about circuses. My first memory comes out of a blurry past. My family happened to live near a railroad track in our small-soon-to-be-large town in the Midwest. We actually watched the circus train unload and the parade of elephants pulling equipment to a nearby empty lot. That along with the actual performance amid sawdust with the clowns, high wire acts, wild animals and acrobats, cotton candy and popcorn keeping us enthralled.
Last week while seeking for things to do with my grandchildren I came across a listing in the newspaper for the AMAZING ACRO-CATS CAT CIRCUS and I was hooked right away. Not for my grandkids, but for me.
No train, no elephants, no wild animals but described as amazing and acrobatic and highly entertaining! It sounded like great fun. To think that cats could perform high wire, bowl, leap through circles (no fire though) and perform in a rock band just seemed like a rockin’ good time. To see the cats, a major love of my life, but to see if they could actually do these things was intriguing. I had to make a deal with my husband so he would go with me but I knew it would be worth it.
The venue was not an empty lot but a small charming funky theatre in old town Fort Collins called the None Such Theatre. When we arrived the lobby was full of cat lovers. The Fort Collins Cat Rescue was also present to hand out information next to two very acrobatic kittens in a cage that were available for adoption. Also the Cat Circus trained rescue cats for their stars so they always had one or two needing homes on site.
The theatre sat about 50, and there was a stage filled with things like climbing poles, wagons ,a set of drums, a guitar and piano (cat size of course) but arranged around the outside of the stage, and piled on the floor behind curtains were 15 or so cat carriers. Soft music blended with the voices of the patrons as they started to fill the seats. One by one the cats were brought in and put into their carriers.
Tuna, a large short haired white cat was the first to appear from his carrier. With a click on a clicker and a swing of her arm the handler directed the cat toward a small lamp sitting at the front of the stage. The house lights had dimmed and the crowd leaned forward and craned their necks to get a glimpse. Tuna took his time sauntering to the front of the stage. Even though interested in the people and faces and stuff crammed onto the small stage it was clear she knew what her task was. As her handler tapped and pointed she lifted her paw and turned on the light…so the show began.
Along with the multi-talented cats we were treated to a ground hog driving a car, a chicken doing a high wire act and 5 little mice with hats on scurrying across a high wire.
I was wondering, and I imagine you are too about what percent of the time they did their tricks. I would say 98% of the time. That is not to say on the first try! The cats had been clicker trained with treats (yummy chunks of chicken). They emerged from their carriers, ran to center stage, and on cue balanced, leapt, rolled, pushed toys, answered questions (by raising a paw) and generally looked as if they were having a great time. Only once did a cat run into the open lobby next door but she came back when she heard the click. None of them tried to run out the door.
To train one cat to do a trick is a challenge but to get four up in front along with the chicken was a true feat. But that was exactly what happened. White cat on guitar, long haired white cat on the drums, grey on the piano and then Tuna, the star of the show on the cow bell, along with the very attentive chicken playing a tambourine. Believe it or not they all played in unison. I got the biggest kick out of the drummer. She would lean forward reaching her paw out, signal for her treat and with a sign from her trainer sit back and hit the sticks for the drums 4 or 5 times then lean forward again. So with a few slight breaks for treats the Rock-Cats created a rock and roll song. I don’t think it had a name.
You probably need to like cats to have enjoyed the Cat Circus. But it was on hour of delightful antics by the cats as well as an energetic performance by the owner Samatha Martin and her assistant. We all left shaking our heads in amazement and with smiles on our faces.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Jake is a T.V. Star (On Animal Planet of course)

It’s funny how things happen…for Jake it has been a series of lucky breaks, certainly brought on by Jake himself. From stray cat picked up by the Larimer Humane Society, to failed adoptions that brought him to the folks at the Fort Collins Cat Rescue, to the decision for him to become a Shelter Cat, and finally to a new job as a therapy cat he has brought joy and comfort to folks who love him instantly and are delighted by his antics.
Korats are known for bringing good luck with them wherever they go. And so Jake has. He has lead a charmed life but it has not stopped there. Last week it resulted in STARDOM!
Believe it or not Jake is a TV star. I was absolutely floored when I discovered that one of my posts published in this blog “Writing Outside the Barn” caught the eye of Animal Planet. They run a terrific program called Cats 101(and Dogs 101) that highlight different breeds or activities of certain cats. (or dogs) It seems they were looking for stories about Korat cats and presto, due to our modern technology and Google they picked up the post, “Jake’s Story” published a few months ago and languishing in cyber-space, waiting to be noticed. In that story I surmised Jake was a Korat cat. Sarah, director of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue was contacted. Leslie (Jakes handler) and I had planned to take him to a rehab center that very day so I took some photos and Sarah e-mailed them to Animal Planet.
I have done a little searching myself and now am convinced he is a Korat cat because of his thick silvery coat and his heart shaped face with round green eyes and large ears set up high on his head. What really convinced me though were his small oval paws with blue to lavender colored pads.
So the next thing you know a crew from Animal Planet arrived to tape him for a program about Korat cats. Jake first visited the library where he was read to by children in the Readers to the Rescue program. His next stop was at the Fort Collins Cat Rescue where he got a breather for a while and was taped playing (bossing) around his companions, especially Princess Gray, one of HIS girls.
His last visit was a nursing home, where though he was tired and may have been a bit impatient with the cameras and sound crew hovering around and following his every move but he stuck to his job. He charmed the residents and at the same time continued to explore all the enticing sights, sounds and smells. At one point he was encouraged to spend some time in the yard but it was clear he liked being inside with his people. They were fascinated by him and all who wanted attention got some from him.
In all his visits, from the library to the nursing home, his quiet, dignified presence was calming while at the same time exemplified royalty and high position. In his native Thailand Korats are often given as good luck charms on royal occasions, especially weddings. Jake’s performance made us proud.
I wasn’t at the shelter when Jake returned but Leslie, his handler, told me he was ready for his home base, and had had a very big day. He needed one of those famous things cats are well known for, a nap! I will fill you in on more of the details of Animal Planet’s visit soon (there is lots more to tell) plus I will let you know when his episode airs (P.S. You can find the The original Jake’s Story at the March post. )