Sunshine on My Shoulders and Other Small Victories (and Some Small Acts of Anarchy)

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I was enjoying a nice lunch break at work one day last week, and was pleased to notice while enjoying the warmth of the sun that my socks not only matched each other and my shoes matched each other, but my socks matched my shoes. It made me so happy, and on one of those days when I was feeling behind on everything at home and perhaps a bit stretched at work, it felt like such a victory. A small victory perhaps, but embracing those victories helps me keep my well-dressed feet on the ground, so to speak.

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Especially working in the world of animal rescue, it can be easy to slip into the feeling of never getting anywhere. For every animal successfully placed into a loving home, there are countless more that need help. The spay/neuter message is not getting out to people, if the number of kittens coming into shelter right now is any indication. On some days, it seems like we have more animals coming into the shelter than going out. Believe me, I love fostering kittens during so-called kitten season, but I wish there wasn’t so much need for it.

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I love these little cuties, but I wish there weren’t so many homeless kittens that need our help.

 

My way of coping, and staying firmly planted on the sunny side of the street (my preferred side of the street and of life), is to focus on the small victories.

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Celebrate the one cat that did get a wonderful home.

Read a book.

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Take a break and walk around the neighborhood admiring the trees and flowers. Sing a song, loudly and out of tune, in the car on the way to work. It’s okay to have a moment of happiness in these troubled times. Even keeping up with the laundry is a victory to celebrate some days. And at an animal shelter, we have a LOT of laundry! When it’s neatly folded and stowed on the nicely labeled shelves, it’s a thing of beauty.

 

 

Other victories, built on baby steps over the years, involve me driving on my own to places I never would have before. I didn’t learn to drive until I was in my early 30s. Then I didn’t drive on the freeway until I was about 40. Of course, the Google Maps lady on my iPhone has made a huge difference in my bravery. (I have remarkably poor orientation for someone who used to draft maps as part of my job.) Yesterday, I celebrated 2 victories–driving the shelter van on the freeway, and driving it with animals inside! I feel extra apprehensive when I am responsible for lives other than my own.

 

The caption to this cartoon is about happiness. I celebrate these examples as small victories as well.

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I prefer the middle brownie to the edge one. Notice that the laundry theme comes up again.

 

Sitting out in the sunshine (that’s where I started this conversation) can itself be a small victory on a busy day.

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I have been revisiting John Denver’s song catalog lately, mostly inspired by Sunshine on My Shoulders. It’s a sweet, simple, but poignant song, and a good reminder to embrace feelings of happiness and joy, however small they might seem.

 

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John Denver, 1943-1997.

 

Near the end of John Denver’s life, people made fun of him. It was cool to NOT like John Denver. I always liked John Denver, but I went through that period of wanting to fit in so badly that I pretended NOT to like things and people that I did and to like things I people that maybe I didn’t care about as much. I feel really bad about that now. John Denver, if you can hear me from wherever sing/songwriter souls go when they pass along to the next stage, I apologize and I proudly sing Sunshine on My Shoulders again.

 

 

I remember the anti-John Denver sentiment from the period when he was lobbying to be the first civilian in space on the Space Shuttle Challenger. The punch line was “Help send John Denver into space–one way!”  He didn’t go on the Challenger mission in 1986. When the Challenger exploded on take off, NASA’s plans to send civilians into space were ended. All 7 crew members were killed. I remember watching the tragedy on television.

 

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The Challenger crew.

 

John Denver was a flawed human being, absolutely. But every one of us is flawed. It doesn’t mean we should hold him up in disdain for the contradictions between his clean, wholesome (okay, nerdy) image and his battles with drugs, alcohol, and marital infidelity. At one point in the 1980s, the University of Colorado campus newspaper ran an essay contest called “When did you first learn to hate John Denver?” And there’s the rub. I never hated him. I just pretended to, which is even worse. Peer pressure is, in my opinion, a form of bullying. And that is not cool.

 

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Excluding others and bullying, not cool. I’m with her.

 

I was never cool or popular, and I cared a little too much about it as a teenager and young adult. I agonized over what to wear, who to like, why boys ignored me. At one point I tried a little too hard to break out of my introvert shell and had a disastrous tryout for high school cheerleader. It was bad. Really bad. Humiliating. I never did that again!

 

 

But people were kind to me afterward, not cruel as so easily could have been the case. Now, I still care maybe a little too much about what others think of me, but I am much more accepting of who I am and what makes me happy.

I have fond memories of watching The John Denver Show on television in the early 1970s. In 1974, his Back Home Again album was a hit, mostly because of the songs Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Annie’s Song. The song my friends and I loved to sing was Grandma’s Feather Bed (written by Jim Conner), to which we not only sang, but jumped up and down on the beds and had pillow fights to while singing along.

 

Jumping on beds while having pillow fights is one of those acts of anarchy and rebellion we cherish as children. I still have my acts of anarchy, too. Mostly they revolve around socks with attitude. I might be smiles and sunshine to all appearances, but my socks are telling it like it is. Of course, no one sees the socks unless I pull up my pant legs, but I know what they say. I have socks for every mood. I love my Blue Q socks. They make me feel victorious.

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Today, I am the Duchess of Sassy Town.

 

I throw off the yoke of oppression and declare my love for John Denver songs, the Hallmark Channel, and the ocassional romance novel. Call me sentimental, silly, whatever. I don’t care and you can kiss my grits if you don’t like it! (Southern sayings are great, by the way.)

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Love the things you love, don’t pretend to love the things you don’t (unless tact and good manners make it the kind choice), and celebrate the small victories.

 

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How can you not tickle that belly?

 

As soon as I am done tickling this kitten, I am going to go sing while folding laundry, and then maybe sneak in a few minutes with a good book. Best day ever.

 

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Peace and hugs.

 

 

Five Little Poopers and How They Grew (apologies to Margaret Sidney)

We have foster kittens in the house again! Beautiful momma cat Cola arrived to us with her 1 week old babies Squirt, Soda, Pop, Fizz, and Bubbles, on April 2. In the week we have been watching them, they have shown so much change. I can sit and watch them for hours. And I do, believe me, much to the chagrin of my instructors at Saybrook University, who keep waiting for me to submit this semester’s essays on the human animal bond. Instead of writing about it, I am living it! They have me mesmerized.

Here is the family on the first day they came to stay with us.

 

 

These little bundles of love and joy get bigger, stronger, and more active every day. I feel so privileged to be a part of their journey to finding new homes with loving human families.

It was a bit of a challenge to sort out which little one is which, but on the day of their first weigh-in we tried our best.

Day 7 collage

I’ve been waiting for a mom with 5 babies to come along just so I could use the title Five Little Poopers and How They Grew, a nod of a sort to Margaret Sidney’s series of books, Five Little Peppers. The first in a series of 12 books (published 1881-1916), The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew was a childhood favorite of mine. As I’ve written before, as the youngest child of a young, pretty widow, I was fascinated by stories of widowed mothers with spunky children, everyone pitching in and getting into all kinds of hijinks.

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Margaret Sidney was the psuedonym of Harriet Mulford Stone Lathrop (1844 – 1924).

Five Little Peppers book cover

Margaret Sidney considered the series done after 4 books, but pressure from her fans prompted her to keep writing. The series, in order:

  • Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1881)
  • Five Little Peppers Midway (1890)
  • Five Little Peppers Grown Up (1892)
  • Five Little Peppers: Phronsie Pepper (1897)
  • Five Little Peppers: The Stories Polly Pepper Told (1899)
  • Five Little Peppers: The Adventures of Joel Pepper (1900)
  • Five Little Peppers Abroad (1902
  • Five Little Peppers At School (1903)
  • Five Little Peppers and Their Friends (1904)
  • Five Little Peppers: Ben Pepper (1905)
  • Five Little Peppers in the Little Brown House (1907)
  • Five Little Peppers: Our Davie Pepper (1916)
all 12 books
Someday I will own them all!
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For now, I will settle for the much cheaper alternative of the Kindle version of the complete set.

In 1939, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew was released as a film, with Edith Fellows receiving top billing as sister Polly.

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The cast of the film version of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939).

 

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Of course, as the youngest in my family, my favorite Pepper was baby sister Phronsie (short for Saphronia). She was also the sibling saddled with the least common name in the family, another trait I share with her. In the film version, she was played by adorable little Dorothy Ann Seese.

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Dorothy Ann Seese (1935-2015) was considered to have the potential of Shirley Temple. She appeared in 11 films between 1939 and 1955. She became a data analyst and then a paralegal.

When I finally saw the movie, not so long ago, I became seriously concerned for the kitten actor who appears as a gift to Phronsie. Phronsie hauls that poor little thing around like an old sock, and I became concerned for the welfare of that long gone cat.

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Phronsie and her kitten.

Apparently I’m not the only one who was concerned for the kitten. I found pictures of the kitten in several scenes, marked with a red arrow to show that the kitten was alive and kicking and still in the movie.

 

I’ve been oddly fascinated with the number 5 recently. Biblically, the number 5 supposedly signifies the grace of God because man was created with 5 fingers on each hand, 5 toes on each foot, and 5 senses. In other traditions and readings, the number 5 represents balance, health, love, marriage, the human (the 4 limbs and the head that controls them), peace, harmony…

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Other odd things about the number 5: there are 5 vowels in the English language, an earthworm has 5 hearts, many (but not all) starfish have 5 arms. Back to the Bible, David was armed with 5 stones when he killed Goliath. I am generally opposed to throwing stones at anyone or anything, but it’s a good story as far as parables go. With faith and determination, you can do what you set out to do.

5 stones

 

Legendary designer Coco Chanel considered 5 to be her lucky number. Her most successful and iconic perfume, Chanel No. 5, was released on May 5, 1922. She purportedly said, “I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th month, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck – therefore, I will name it No 5.”

 

 

I am currently reading Louise Penny’s 9th novel in her Inspector Gamache series, titled How the Light Gets In. Gotta love a book that references singer/songwriter/poet/ordained Buddhist monk Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

 

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Here is the song performed by 2 amazing singers, Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla, who were both backup singers for Leonard Cohen, or his angels, as he called them.

 

In the Inspector Gamache book (yes, back to the book, there is a reason I brought it up), How the Light Gets In is a mystery surrounding the famous Ouellet quintuplets, a fictional set of 5 identical sisters based on the real-life Dionne quintuplets (born 1934) and the story of their family ceding custody of the girls to the government of Ontario, which made millions of dollars off of them a tourist attraction.

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Ontario premier Mitchell Hepburn with the Dionne quintuplets.

The Dionne quints were the first known quintuplets to have survived infancy. In 1934, such a birth was headline news and not a common occurence. Now, with fertility drugs and medical interventions, such a story would not be the rarity it was then. In the midst of the Depression, the world was hungry for what they thought was a happy story. But the true story of the Dionne sisters is much darker; they were watched, examined, kept by Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe in his Dafoe Hospital and Nursery with the support of the Ontario government.

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Living facility constructed by the government of Ontario for the quintuplets, surrounded by barbed wire fencing. It became known as Quintland and was a tourist attraction.

 

The parents were poor, unable to make ends meet, and already had 5 older children to support, so the girls were taken away at 4 months of age, exploited, exhibited publicly several times a day. They didn’t see their parents Oliva-Edouard and Elzire Dionne until they were 9 years old, in 1943, when Oliva and Elzire won custody of the girls back from the government. In later years, the girls described being sexually abused by their father. They had all left home by the age of 18.

 

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Never thought of indvidually, sisters Annette, Émelie, Yvonne, Cécile, and Marie.

 

Émilie became a nun, but died young at age 20 from suffocation during a seizure. Marie died of a brain tumor at age 35. In the 1990s, surviving sisters Annette, Cécile, and Yvonne, living in poverty, received a settlement from the government, but it could, of course, not make up for the abuses they suffered. They also told their story in the book Family Secrets, with writer Jean-Yves Soucy. Yvonne died of cancer in 2001.

 

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Annette, Yvonne, and Cécile in 1998.

 

As far as I can tell, Annette and Cécile are still living.

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Cécile and Annette in 2017.

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Morbid curiosity on my part? Probably. Partly. It is a fascinating story. Not necessarily murderous as in the Louise Penny fictionalized version, but still dark and tragic.

 

 

As for my 5 little ones, their mother is taking quite good care of them, and they are on the path to very happy lives. Yes, I love to show pictures of them and it would be great for people to spend time with them, socializing them to human company. But I don’t get any benefit from them other than tremendous happiness and the feeling that I am doing something good in the world. Priceless.

 

 

I love all 5 of the babies, and their momma, to pieces and would never do anything to hurt them in any way. But I do want to share them with you. Everyone needs a little kitten photo break in their day.

Cola today
Mother cat Cola.
Squirt latest
Squirt, the only boy.
Soda latest
Lively adventurer Soda.
Pop latest
Serious looking Pop.

 

Fizz today
Curious Fizz.

 

Bubbles today
Tiny Bubbles, the smallest of the siblings. The smallest always holds a special place in my heart.

(I am aware that Tiny Bubbles is a 1966 song from singer Don Ho, but I am not going there right now. You’re welcome.)

I wish them loving adoptive families, long healthy lives, happiness cat-style, safety, delicious nutritious food, and bright sunny windows. That’s 5 things. I am sure I can come up with more, but this seems a fitting place to stop.

Consider fostering for your local shelter. You’ll be glad you did.

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Read books. Read every day. Seriously.

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Peace and hugs (and kittens).

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Hiding from the horrors of life

California is on fire, and I am hiding in my guest bathroom.

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Not from the fire, but from the despair I feel about the world right now. I’m not just sitting in the dark on the floor in the bathroom. I have the current foster cat family in with me. Or they are letting me hang out with them. It gives me comfort. But still, I consider it as hiding.

 

I want to help, but I don’t know how. My anxiety keeps me from making a move. I can easily donate money (not much, but some), but I want to DO something. Yet here I sit, playing with kittens, feeling defeated. The most I’ve done is obsessively share Facebook posts about resources for help. Cooking also gives me comfort. But instead of volunteering my services to help feed evacuees, I cook for the 2 of us, and we eat in front of television.

The things I “should” be doing today seem so unimportant. Folding laundry, who cares? I could be writing scholarly papers for school; my PhD is important to me of course, but I can’t focus on anything. It seems trivial when people are losing everything, some even losing their lives.

People do come forward to help in emergencies. Volunteers are helping at evacuation centers. Animal rescuers are helping find shelter and foster homes for displaced animals. Others are organizing donations of supplies for the evacuation centers and animal shelters. I want to be one of those people.

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Evacuation center at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga.

The world seems like it’s falling apart. The hurricanes and the continuing devastation left behind, especially in Puerto Rico. The Las Vegas shooter. The never ending issue of racism and inequity in this supposedly civilized country that treats its own people like garbage. A “president” who couldn’t care less about anyone but himself.

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Trump throws paper towels at the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

It’s like the modern-day Fall of the Roman Empire, or how I imagine it.

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I was already feeling it. Whenever I drive around Oakland and Berkeley, I see more and more homeless encampments. Oakland is turning into Tent City. I despair for my own city and its people.

 

We’ve been watching the Ken Burns series on Vietnam, which I am finding so painful to watch. I am ashamed of how ignorant I am about the times in which I was born and raised. It hurts me to see the the death and destruction, not just of the American youth sent to fight a senseless war, but the countless civilian deaths of the Vietnamese on both sides of the fight. Children killing children. Hate mongering. Old white American men thinking of lives in terms of numbers and “kill ratios”, and continuing a war for their own egos.

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Vietnam PBS

And now a place I hold dear to my heart is being destroyed by fires. (Why can’t the idiots in power face up to climate change? It’s for real and the effects are being felt right now.) I lived and worked in the Napa and Sonoma areas not so long ago. I didn’t want to leave to live in Oakland, but life doesn’t always work out the way we think it will. I still have friends in the area, some of whom I know are safe as I write this. Others I haven’t heard anything about, and it scares me.

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The backyard of my former house in Napa, circa 2005.

And lest I get complacent thinking I’m safe, the fires continue to spread. I never think it couldn’t happen here. It did happen here. There was a fire not so long ago that destroyed a large swath of the area where I live now–the Oakland Hills Fire in 1991. It’s only about 40 miles from Oakland to Napa, and the fires are now approaching the rural area around Fairfield, among other places.

Oakland hills 1991
The Oakland Hills Fire of 1991.

I don’t have an emergency plan. We’ve never prepared any kind of earthquake kit (the usual recommendation in California) or thought through how we’d get all of the animals and ourselves safely out of here.

My heart is breaking for the world, but I bury my head in the sand. I care, and caring is a good first step, but sometimes we have to do something with that caring. It’s is too close to home this time.

Stay safe.

Why We Won’t Be Keeping Chiclet (meant to convince myself more than anyone else)

Meet Chiclet.

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Now that we are all in love with our current foster kitten Chiclet, here’s why this won’t be a foster fail. If you believe all of this, great! I’m trying. I haven’t been quite this attached to a foster since I’ve been fostering for the East Bay SPCA.

Last night, Bob broached the conversation of keeping her. Not because he thinks we should, but because he knows I want to. This was such a sweet gesture, and he firmly keeps the World’s Best Boyfriend crown on his head.

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Of course I wanted to squeal in delight and jump up and down, but I was trying to be sensible. Silly me!

Here’s the rundown:

  1. She is highly adoptable. The minute she’s available, there will be people falling in love with her and wanting to give her a loving home. If I am going to foster fail again, I’d rather save my Keep the Cat card for one who is going to have a harder time. You know, that 3-legged, 1-eyed, snaggle-toothed one with a personality disorder. Who won’t have everyone oohing and aahing and filling out adoption paperwork at blink of a kitten eye.
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Bill the Cat needs love too.

 

2. We have 3 cats and a dog living with us already. I don’t want to be a hoarder.

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3. Sara is going to be 19 this summer. Does she really want another kitten in the house? We recently added Marble, aka the Tasmanian Devil, to the lineup. Maybe Sara would like some peace and quiet in her twilight years.

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Peace and quiet, please.
Sara meets Chiclet
Maybe, maybe not.

 

4. Poor Einstein can’t catch a break. He’s a very patient dog, but will another cat be the last straw? And he’d like some time and attention, too! Walkies!!!

Einstein
What about me??

 

4. The aforementioned Tasmanian Devil.

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Marble isn’t a year old yet and is a handful! When we tried introducing him to previous foster kitten Pepper, he grabbed her by the throat. Not good. If I have to spend my time making sure one cat doesn’t kill the other, I will not be happy or pleasant to be around.

 

5. Misty. When we adopted Misty, she was considered “unadoptable” because she really doesn’t like people. Can’t blame her. She was treated roughly during the 4 years before she came to us. She’s slowly coming around, but VERY slowly. She’s great with Marble, and might be fine with Chiclet, but like Einstein, she could use some more special time and attention.

Misty
Unadoptable, says who?

 

6. The family just waiting to meet Chiclet. It would be selfish of me to keep her. I imagine the 8 or 9 year old me meeting Chiclet and falling in love. How can I stand in the way of another child’s destiny??? Those moments at the animal shelter when I hear a child say, “Mom, I NEED this cat!” are why I work there.

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7. We aren’t getting any younger. If Marble lives to be 20 (perfectly possible), I will be 75 and Bob will be 81. Should we really keep getting kittens? Maybe we should adopt older cats when we adopt more. Senior cats need homes too, and what better match than a senior with a senior?

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8. When I take Chiclet and her mother Sugar Cube back to the East Bay SPCA, I make room in our home for another foster family, helping to continue the cycle of saving lives. Isn’t that the point? We have fostered 32 cats for the East Bay SPCA since we started back with Abracadabra in 2015.

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Mama Sugar Cube with her little Chiclet.
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Abracadabra!

This count does not include Marble, who was a rescue of a different sort (that might or might not have been entirely legal but it was definitely in his best interest).

Will it be hard taking her back to the shelter? Yes. Will I be sad? Yes. Will I sing sad songs? Undoubtedly. I’ve already got one picked out, Irving Berlin’s What’ll I Do? as sung by Rosemary Clooney.

 

 

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What’ll I Do?, Irving Berlin, 1923

 

But I’ll get up, dust myself off, and find out who my next foster family is. I’ll fall in love again. Life goes on.

Up next: Take Me Out to the Ball Game!, in which there will be no mention of cats but lots of baseball, the Arizona desert, and a side trip to the Musical Instrument Museum. Stay tuned!

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Making a kitten video becomes a music appreciation lesson

Smart phones and social media have made it possible for me to indulge myself in my fantasy world of talking animals that I so believed in as a child. I was a shy, quiet, bookish girl, lost in my stories of animals and little people like The Wind in the Willows and The Borrowers (see Some of the books that made me a life-long reader). If I had access to video and the internet in the 1960s, I am sure I would have been unbearable, dressing the family pets in clothes and making them act in weddings and other such human activities. But I can have my second childhood now and let my mind go back to that precious place.

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Today was the day that the most recent family of foster kittens left our care to return to the shelter for their next steps in the adoption process. So the 10-year old that lives in my head decided we needed to make a graduation ceremony video. My cameraman (cough, cough, Robert Ward) kept getting his hand in the picture, but we are still working on our technique.

 

You can’t have a graduation without playing Pomp and Circumstance.

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Which is where the story takes a turn from kittens to musicians. As we were driving the kittens to the East Bay SPCA, Bob, who happens to be a classical musician, said, “Elgar is the James Taylor of classical music.” Um, what? This required some explanation.

NPG x11894; Sir Edward Elgar, Bt by Charles Frederick Grindrod
Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
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James Taylor (born 1948)

James Taylor has a way of creating a sentimental, nostalgic, introspective mood that often seems to look back on better days and times.

 

Matthew Riley wrote an entire book on Edward Elgar and the Nostalgic Imagination (2007, Cambridge University Press). He uses terms like vanished greatness, a lament for times past, childhood and the countryside of an old England as musical subject matter. The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were times of great change, and Elgar’s music was a look at times past, not a look forward to the future. Arguably, the same can be said for James Taylor reflecting on the late 20th century/early 21st century.

While driving me and the kittens (I see a new story called Driving Miss Crazy Cat Lady in here somewhere), Bob put the car audio system on Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A Minor. It’s quite lovely. Here it is performed at the North York Moors Festival in 2013.

 

It was suggested by my instructor that I might like the Enigma Variations as well. I do have a taste for both nostagia and melancholy, but I usually lean toward sad and folky singer/songwriters since I am still fairly ignorant of the classical music world after all these years (sorry Bob).

enigma-cover

The Enigma Variations (1898-1899) comprise 14 variations on an original theme, each variation being a musical sketch of a loved one or close acquaintance. I won’t post all 14, but here is a selection, Nimrod, the 9th variation and tribute to Elgar’s great friend Augustus Jaeger, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor Daniel Barenboim in 1997.

 

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Music editor Augustus Jaeger (1860-1909).

Another singer/songwriter in the musical world I inhabit is Natalie Merchant.

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Natalie Merchant (born 1963).

Whenever I take a foster cat family back to the shelter, saying goodbye to them always makes me think of the song Break Your Heart.

 

Did Sir Elgar like animals? I have no idea. I assume Natalie Merchant does, although I couldn’t find an image of her with any. She did allow the use of her song My Skin on one of those heart-breaking and tear-inducing ASPCA ads, which is too hard to watch so I am not showing it here. But this is the song:

 

I know James Taylor likes animals. His cat, Ray Taylor, is often featured in JT’s social media.

 

jt-and-ray
James and Ray Taylor.

Now that we’ve come full circle back to cats (I knew I could do it), I will leave you with this. Please consider fostering for your local shelter. It will add joy to your life, and help the shelter save more lives. You might even meet your new best friend, like Marble here, who entered our lives as a foster and now is a member of our furry family (see The one that didn’t get away).

marble

Peace and hugs.

The City of Oakland wins the battle, but I win the war (meow)

If you are one of my loyal readers (Hi Beth, Cathy, Ellen, and Bob), you might remember my call to arms over being issued a parking ticket on Indigenous People’s Day/Columbus Day when the meter was clearly marked that it was a meter holiday (see City of Oakland, You Suck! (Or, a Tale of a Valiant Fight against a Parking Ticket)).

 

I filed my appeal, and waited for the ridiculously slow snail-mail response.

I finally got the letter in the mail. Remember when going to the mailbox to get the mail was exciting? Those days are long gone.

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When I was a kid…
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…versus now.

 

Basically, the result of my so-called “administrative hearing” (how is it a hearing if I never got to speak?) is that I am being called a liar. M. Thornton, the Administrative Hearing Examiner, writes: “The pay station in the photograph does not match City of Oakland pay stations.”

 

 

WHAT?! Last I checked, Ultimate Grounds Coffee at 4225 Park Boulevard, Oakland (where I was at the time of the ticketing) was most firmly in the City of Oakland.

 

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M.Thornton advised that I had until December 16 to file another appeal, which would cost $25. I already paid the $58 ticket. I don’t really care about the money. It’s the principle of the darned thing.

 

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I enlisted my deputy, Bob. Armed with a mighty iPhone (and reinforcing our strength at Marzano restaurant, conveniently across the street from the alleged parking violation), we gathered our evidence.

 

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As you can see, not only is the pay station still marked with the meter holiday label in question, it also is marked with the City of Oakland logo. What do you have to say now, M. Thornton?

 

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I could smell victory in the air! Or maybe it was the coffee from Ultimate Grounds.

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The only problem was, I had to now actually find a time to go in person to Alameda County Superior Court. I work full time. And I am a full-time student. And it was coming up on the end of the semester with 4 major papers due. But I had plenty of time, so I said to myself.

So I procrastinated. I worked. I wrote papers (or procrastinated about writing papers). And all of the sudden it was December 15th! Argh! What’s a warrior princess to do?

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Then I got the email from the East Bay SPCA. A mother cat with 1-week old babies needed a foster home. Could I take them? And pick them up during my last two-hour window of time to file my appeal of the ticket on December 16 before I had to be at work? Of course I could. Kittens! Hello! Kittens will always trump parking tickets.

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The scales of justice will always favor kittens in my book.

 

I heeded the wise words of Goethe.

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And I did what would the best thing not just for the kittens, but for my peace of mind.

 

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Yes, this looks exactly like me. Really.

 

Meet Rosarita and her little beans. All are healthy and doing well.

 

I hope when the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future visit M. “Ebenezer Scrooge” Thornton, they scare the wits out of him/her.

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How I picture M.Thornton.
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Scrooge visited by the Ghosts. He became a nice man after this.

I’ll leave you with the words of Tiny Tim.

 

Oops, wrong Tiny Tim.

Even you, M. Thornton.

I always wanted to be a political activist (Or, can someone recommend a good pair of vegan walking shoes?)

I don’t usually post on the blog two days in a row, but I have a lot on my mind, as do many of us. My blogpost from yesterday (Why isn’t there any tofu in The Hunger Games?) got lost in the excitement of the US elections, but I did happen to mention the similarity between a Trump presidency (gag) and The Hunger Games. I hope I’m wrong.

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While there is a part of me that wants to flee the country (any Norwegian language tutors out there?) or just pull the covers over my head and stay in bed for four years, the rest of me is looking for motivation to keep moving forward and keep working for change in the world. My kind of change, not his.

In order to get myself moving today, I’m making a mental list of all of the reasons it’s still a world worth fighting for and things I have to be grateful for:

Kittens.

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The sun is shining today where I live.

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I live in a blue state.

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I have a job that I love.

 

I have a roof over my head.

I know many people who feel like I do and we aren’t going to spend four years sitting on our asses crying and complaining; we’re going to stand by our commitment to make the world a better place.

Did I mention kittens?

 

There are plenty of books to read when I do want to sit on my ass and cry.

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I have plenty of healthy food options and water to drink. Don’t take that for granted! If we enter The Hunger Games, I live in one of the better districts.

 

Puppies (hey, I am not a speciesist). And squirrels. I love squirrels.

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Coffee. Gonna need lots of it!

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Chocolate. See coffee.

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And I live in a country where I am (at least for now) able to disagree, dissent, protest. People around the world give their lives for that right. And I plan to exercise it.

So, anyone got that recommendation for a good pair of vegan walking shoes? I am going to need them for the protests I’ll be going on.

And again, did I mention kittens?

 

As always, peace and hugs.

Three little sailors

In a moment of insanity, Bob agreed to me bringing in another foster cat family from the East Bay SPCA.
We have 3 resident cats and a very tolerant dog.

Einstein

 

Sara, 18 years old and queen of the house.

 

Misty, the magical mystical cat.

 

Marble, the new kid on the block.

 

But knowing that we could help save 4 more lives outweighed my common sense and Bob is the best boyfriend ever, so welcome aboard Yuki and her babies Kyro, Smudge, and Patrick. I’m in love again!

Yuki, such a good mom and super nice.

 

Yuki and the kids. Patrick is the orange and white, Kyro is the gray and white and little Smudge is the dilute tortie.

 

It’s hard not to fall in love with kittens! And I play the “if I could keep one, which one would I keep” game. Smudge.

Marble is understandably confused about the guests in what used to be his room.But he has Einstein to harass and Misty has taken him on as her annoying kid brother to boss around.

Me, I’m spending a lot of evening hours sitting on the floor taking endless pictures and videos of the family and introducing the kittens to my favorite shows. They love a good cooking competition.

Kyro likes Worst Bakers in America.

 

Kyro, winner of Best Kitten Belly.

 

Patrick weighs in.

 

Smudge, wriggling her way into my heart.

 

Whenever we have kittens in the house, and they are just getting mobile, I can’t help singing the old song about drunken sailors.

 


They’ll be with us for another couple of weeks. Fostering is one of the best things we do!

And thank you, Bob.

Remembrance of pets past (National Pet Memorial Day 2016)

National Pet Memorial Day is the second Sunday in September, which this year happened to fall on September 11. As in 9/11. I decided to delay posting a couple of days so as not to seem insensitive to the horrific losses of that day in 2001. But I have been waxing nostalgic over all of the companion animals who’ve made their way into my life over the years.

Early in our relationship, Bob asked me once to name all of the pets I’d had in my life. He jokes that it took at least an hour. But it actually probably did!

I had some time on my hands today (well, I should have been studying, but this project was more fun), so I made a chart of them all. I’ll pretend I was studying the organizatonal system of companion animals.

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Argh! I forgot Sam, the jaunty little rooster who lived with us from 1974-1975 and really did go to live on a farm, and one of the foster kittens, Raisinette, who spent a weekend as a newborn being nursed by mama Mars until we could get him a better foster placement.

Some lived longer than others. The lives of some were cut short way too young (e.g., kittens Aloysius, Henry Aldrich, Dagwood, and Smokey).

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Me with Luke, circa 1970.

Explanations:

Tripp: She joined the family before I did so I am not sure what year she starts on the chart.

Cassius: I barely remember him. He wasn’t named for Muhammed Ali/Cassius Clay but for the Roman senator “of the lean and hungry look”, according to my mother. I think me dressing him in doll clothes was too much for him; he ran away.

1972:  A very bad year in many ways. When my mother remarried my evil stepfather and they were planning on splitting up the family and moving from Georgia to California, I came home from school one day to find that all of the animals except for Tripp had been taken to the pound. Even he wasn’t despicable enough to take Tripp away from us. That was also the year that the cat Christy had the ill-fated and oddly named kittens. (Note: Please spay/neuter your pets!)

Molly McGee: A beautiful Irish Setter who was meant to be my companion, but I came home from school one day to be told “she’d gone to live on a farm.”

Brandy: He was a really dumb Siamese cat (and I don’t say that lightly; I love cats and find most of them to be as clever as all get out) who escaped and ran away. I hope he was found by a friendly person and not hit in Sacramento traffic.

Coffee: Brandy’s brother, died of feline leukemia. (Note: Please keep your pets’ vaccinations up to date.) (Second note: I did not name Brandy and Coffee. That was my stepfather, who liked to put booze in his coffee and thought he was being funny with the names.)

Goldfish: They were cute but…

Parakeets: Sadly, one (Woody) got out a window, one (Albert) we gave to a friend before a move, and one (Arlo, the one we actually taught to talk), just keeled over. After that we gave up on parakeets.

Sam the parrot: I mislabeled Sam. For all I know he is still alive. He was awesome in many ways but he drove me crazy flinging food all over the living room. And Pofuduk was taking too much interest. A friend with a shop took him to be the shop bird.

Halo: After another move, our beloved Angora cat Pofuduk got out. We put up “Lost cat” signs. The doorbell rang, and a kid was outside holding a portly, odd-eyed Angora that was not Pofuduk and asked if she was our cat as he’d found her on a busy street (well, as busy as they get in Chico). Pofuduk had already returned home, but Halo stayed for a bit. The nicest landlord ever asked if he could take her home when we were moving out of our rental. Pofuduk hated her, so we let her go.

TicTac: Hamsters and cats are a bad combination. I’d just been through a divorce and wasn’t thinking clearly about that one. Never again.

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The doomed TicTac. Don’t ask.

I don’t have digital images of most of the early pets, but here is a sampling:

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Me, with Rush and Mischief, circa 1974.
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Pofuduk, circa 1982.

And the more recent:

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Bingo in his senior years.
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Sweet, shy Gumbo.
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Sadie, the friendliest dog I ever met.
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Ben. We miss you, buddy.
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Sara, my feisty girl. Eighteen now and doing pretty well.
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Goofball Einstein, saved from doggy death row.
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Beautiful, temperamental Misty, rescued from kitty death row.
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Marble, the newst addition to the family. A foster “fail”.

The foster lineup (also see The one that didn’t get away):

 

I am sure there will be more, assuming I have a few years left in me. I’ve loved them all, and miss the ones who are gone.

Have you hugged your pet today? Do it!

 

The one that didn’t get away

KITTENS! Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about fostering animals in need.

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I’ve written about the various cats and kittens we’ve fostered, starting with the post:

The Kitten Chronicles

(Thank you Robert Ward for your patience with the ever-changing array of guest felines.) But now I am here to say I am offically a Foster Failure. I actually don’t like that term; it makes it sound like I lost the cat or something bad happened. What it means is that I finally met my match and can’t part with one and he is now staying here as part of the family. That’s a good thing!

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Marble, the one who stole our hearts.

My first attempt at fostering was more than 18 years ago. That one was a fail too, and I didn’t try it again until last year, as part of my volunteering with the East Bay SPCA.

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Ben (orange) and Sara (brown), 1996. Sara is still with us; RIP Ben.

Our first guest was little Abracadabra, who needed to gain a few ounces before she could be spayed and enter adoptions. What a little delight she was!

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It only took her a week to get up to weight. I was dreading taking her back to the shelter, but I knew she’d find a good home quickly. In the week she was here, she was a great helper.

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The laundry basket is empty now, you’re welcome.

Unfortunately, black cats and kittens take longer to get adopted, so she waited a couple of weeks but the right match came along, and she went off to her new life.

We were ready to jump in and take the next step: a mother cat with a litter of kittens. So Mouse and her babies Ratticus, Sugar Glider, Ferret, and Chinchilla came to occupy the guest room, now known as the foster room. NOTE: I am not responsible for any of the cat and kitten names; don’t blame me if they seem ridiculous to you.

You can follow their adventures:

The Kitten Chronicles

Kitten Chronicles, age 13 days

Kitten Chronicles, part 3

Kitten Chronicles, 4 weeks old!

Kitten Chronicles–7 weeks old!

Mouse’s Kittens–Ready for Their Debut, or, They Leave the Foster Nest

From the amount of blogging I did about them, you can tell that Mouse and babies had a big impact on me.

We decided to go with another “singleton” for the next one, and along came Honeysuckle. She had a broken front leg and a shattered ball joint in one hip. She needed a place to recover from the broken leg, and then have surgery on the hip.

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Such a beauty. Of course we welcomed her to the foster suite.

More than likely hit by a car, this Maine Coon mix sweetheart was a real trooper and made good progress recovering from her injuries.

 

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This sweet beauty was adopted within a week of going back to the shelter.

When I took Honeysuckle back to the shelter, I was asked if I could take another “broken” kitty. Of course! Meet Kianna.

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Kianna had a broken tail and a fractured pelvis, also likely hit by a car. Two words–purr machine! She looks intense but what a love!

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Once her pelvis had time to heal, she was taken in to have the tail amputated, and then came back for more recuperation time. She was welcome to stay as long as she needed!

Kianna no tail

For reasons I can’t begin to understand, she waited at the shelter for a long time for an adopter. We thought long and hard about whether to adopt her ourselves, but the East Bay SPCA wisely transferred her from the Oakland adoption center to the one in Dublin and she was very quickly went home from there.

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Waiting at the shelter for someone to realize what a jewel they’d found with her.

There was a wintertime slow-down in the need for fosters, but like clockwork, it was kitten season again! Our first foster of 2016 was another short-term singleton, Babou. Talk about a lively kitten!

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Chasing a bug.

Again we had a vacancy. Thus, Mars and the candy bar kittens–Dove, Milky Way, Twix, Snickers, and Reeses–took over the foster quarters. You can read more about them here:

The Kitten Chronicles, Redux

Mars and newbies

Mars had a much different approach than Mouse; where Mouse was ready to have the kittens independent after 4-5 weeks, Mouse was extremely devoted to her babies and kept close watch over them the whole 2 months they were here.

Mars cuddling

Five kittens seems like a whole lot more than four! As they got older, the foster room seemed to get smaller and chaos ensued as the kittens became mobile. But entertaining, that’s for sure!

Mars babies beanbag

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My friend Alex visits the Candy Bar kittens.

The house seemed so quiet when they were gone, and as expected, everyone found homes quickly. Have good lives, little ones! While they were here, we briefly had little Raisinette, rescued from the mean streets of Berkeley by Alex. We tried adding him in with the bigger candy bar kids to see if momma Mars would take him. She reluctantly let him for a bit, but a better mother/baby group was found for him.

Raisinette
We called him Raisinette to stick with the candy theme.

Going outside the “system” for the first time, two amazing people, Eliana and Mark, involved me in a rescue of two little beauties at the Office Depot in Berkeley. It was not easy to catch these girls! Mark was like a kitten rescue ninja! They only stayed with us a few days; a home was found for them with friends of Eliana and Mark.

Gray girls
We called them Grayson (right) and Ember (left).

And next, the three French Sisters: Joelle, Amelie, and Elodie, featured in:

A Tale of Three Sisters

French girl trio

Très précieuse! I hate to admit to favorites, but Amelie (top center) was the one I thought would lead me to foster failure.

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Bob was charmed by the girls as well.

The girls all made their age/weight goal for adoptions, and I sadly took them in to the shelter to go on to their new lives.  Bonne chance!

Well, in a major fluke of timing, that same morning my awesome friend Molly had come across a kitten in need of a place to crash. Long story that I won’t go into. I said, sure, I can take him, thinking I’d put him in the foster room for a day or two and then see if they had a spot for him at the shelter. That was more than a week ago and many vet bills later. The poor little guy, Marble, ended up needing some serious vet care. Again, thank you Robert Ward!

For the record, I was not the first one of us to suggest we keep Marble. It was in fact Bob.

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Day one: he’s got Bob figured out.
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I’m an easy mark; I’d never say no to adding him to the family!

He was having trouble keeping food down, and of course it was the weekend, so off to the 24-hour clinic, Pets Referral Center, in Berkeley. The nicest people in the world work there!

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The veterinarian’s office is not fun!
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Making friends everywhere he goes.

We were afraid he would need surgery for a possible obstruction, but with medication and monitoring he is on the mend. He does not like medication time! But he’s eating and playing and cuddling and making himself indispensible.

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Not medication time again?!

I was afraid he was cold in the foster room (it is a bathroom and has no direct light), so he is now ensconced in what was my office until he is fully recovered and can start being introduced to the other residents. In the meantime, he is my right hand assistant and keeper of the laptop.

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My editor. Blame him for the typos and mistakes!
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He also likes books and sun puddles.

It looks he’s here to stay! Whether another foster comes to use the foster room, aka guest bathroom, is yet to be seen. I hope so!

You, dear reader, can also have some of this adorableness in your life. And if dogs are more your thing, the East Bay SPCA has those too! There are lots of animal rescue groups for other small animals, including birds. (And no worries about vet bills when you foster for an organization; they take care of all that.)

Many who foster make it for years without a so-called “fail”. You would be doing an amazing service for a shelter or rescue group, and helping to save a life.

foster kitten

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And should you have a foster fail, don’t worry. There are lots of us! We even have a Facebook page.

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Please consider being a foster for your local shelter; you’ll be glad you did.

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