Thursday, February 28, 2013

Women's History Month 2013 Begins

As a prelude to Women's History Month PBS ran the 3 hour documentary MAKERS - The Women Who Make America on Tuesday, February 26th.  Not only was it a look back at the successes and failures, but for me there were stories of individual women previously unknown to me.

You can watch the full show online at this link: MAKERS documentary 

Personally, I wish the program had been longer.  There were several icons of feminism missing whose writing has greatly influenced me.  They include Alice Walker, Susan Griffin, Elizabeth Gould Davies and Andrea Dworkin.  I came across a review by Katha Pollitt in The Nation that I found myself agreeing with for the most part.  Check out the article here.

I plan to do my best to post daily, spotlighting different stories about women whose places in history have often gotten overlooked or who I have found inspiring.

One final note for all of us to celebrate.  On February 28th, fourteen months after the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) came up for reauthorization by Congress, the bill finally passed in both the House and the Senate.  It will be headed to the President, where he has promised to sign the bill into law.  The stumbling block was finally overcome - and protection for Native American women on their lands, LGBT women and undocumented women immigrants is included in this bill.  During those fourteen months, SIXTEEN MILLION women were victims of violence. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dogless No More

It was just too much for me.  Without Celie, I had no one to "wash" the cat dishes clean each night.  Of course I have always washed their dishes with soap and water, but I had become used to the dogs or dog licking up what the cats left behind when they were done eating.

Candy, a cat rescue friend, suggested a good looking black lab who was scheduled for "death row" at Animal Serivces.  That led me to the website of Orange County Animal Services to take a look at the dogs they had.  The lab was good looking but I wanted a smaller dog in the hopes there would be no conflict with the cats.  Plus, I'm aging rapidly and wanted a dog that would be easy to handle and get into and out of my car.  I also wanted a dog who was at least 6 years old.  There were quite a few, but one in particular caught my eye. 


Don't let the picture fool you.  Although she looks small in the photo, she weighs 43 pounds and is amazingly strong.   She is 8 years old, housebroken but not leash trained.  She nearly pulled me to the ground when Barbara and I went to the shelter on Tuesday afternoon.  Although she seemed timid and depressed in the run, once she was out of the run, she headed for the door and OUTSIDE!  I took the leash off and she walked around the yard, bounded after any bird who landed on the ground and generally enjoyed the freedom.  

Once we brought her back to her run, the sadness returned.  No doubt other potential adopters during the nearly two weeks she had been at the shelter had taken her out and then brought her back.  There she laid, alone and destined for the euthansia room.  She had been at the shelter since February 1st and time was running out and her hopes had been dashed too many times.  

Before Barbara and I went into the shelter area, we visited our long time friend, the manager of Animal Services, Dil Luther.  I met him the day he started working there, back in 1991.  Although we haven't always agreed on their policies, we have remained friends and have worked together to help the animals of Orange County.  He has gone to bat for CARE's T/N/R program on a number of occasions and for that I will be forever grateful.  Dil went into "the back" where the dogs were with Barbara and I.  He rushed us back to the front to get the adoption application filled out.  Maggie would be going home with me..................but not until Wednesday afternoon.  

She's been with me for just over 24 hours.  In fact, right now, she is under my feet as I'm typing on the computer.  The cats are hanging back, definitely not sure what she is, why she's here and not particularly happy about her presence.  She is a bit hyperactive, especially when she thinks she is going outside.  She loves riding in the car, but gets a bit more worked up than I would like.  By the time we reach our destination, she's panting and nearly gasping for breath.  On the leash, she can't get where she wants to go fast enough.  

Although she went through the shelter clinic before coming home, I took her to my vet today.  At the shelter clinic she got her rabies, bordatella and DHLPP vaccines along with an Ivermectin shot and a microchip.  She, however, had diarrhea.  My vet found that she is riddled with hookworms.  He medicated her and gave me other meds to give her.  She has to go back in 2 weeks to see if another treatment is necessary.  For the diarrhea I cooked her chicken and rice tonight.  I made enough for the next couple of days.  I've found that chicken and rice often works better than any medication out there.  In fact over 20 years ago a former boss was frantic because her dog had gone through every treatment her vet knew of to stop her loose stools.  Prolonged loose stools can lead to dehydration and ultimately death for dogs and cats.  I recommended either chicken or hamburger and rice.  Within a few days she greeted me with a huge smile and told me that I had saved her dog's life.  I was just happy that it worked and her dog was on the road to recovery.  

That's about it for now, but I'm sure I will have occasional updates.  I'm also sure that the cats will come around, if for no other reason than the fact that Maggie simply isn't interested in them.  She is perfectly happy letting the cats deal with her on their own terms and take their time getting familiar with her.  Right now I think she's just happy to be out of the shelter and in a home.  I'm happy too!

P.S. - No, I'm not changing her name.  She's 8 years old and knows her name, so I won't be worrying over finding the perfect "C" name for her.  She will remain Darling Maggie.  Oh, and Dil, Barbara, Dr. Porter and I are debating just what her actual genealogy is.  Short of having her DNA tested (yes that can be done for dogs), we will never be certain of what breeds contributed to her cuteness.

P.P.S. - Cody, the lab, went to a rescue group so he made it out of the shelter alive as well.  
I hope each of you will, at some point, do your part and save an animal from a kill shelter.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I'm not certain that I am ready to do this just yet.  As I began writing this, the tears started.....again. 

In 1997 I was down to one dog, Cassidy.  In the fall, with the help from a friend, I managed to catch a neighborhood dog who had been roaming our street for over a month.  He was extremely timid, but would kiss my face and let me pet him, with one hand only.  I named him Caleb.  Shortly after catching Caleb, I had to euthanize Cassidy due to a large cancerous tumor. 

Because Caleb was so timid, I thought another dog would help him become less shy.  When I took Caleb to my vet and mentioned this idea to him, he told me they had a 5 month old puppy that needed a home.  The puppy had been brought to him by a woman who was moving out of town.  As this woman was leaving her bank, after closing her account, she noticed a car ahead of her slow down and throw a puppy out of the car.  Fortunately she stopped and picked up the pup.  She was near the vet's office and took the puppy there, not knowing what else to do with her.  My vet, Dr. Ken Sundberg, agreed to help find her a home.  He spayed and vaccinated her, and Celie became part of my family in early 1998.  Within a few months I rescued two more dogs from the street - Cuinn and Cordelia. 

Life with the four of them had its ups and downs but, for the most part, the ups far outweighed the downs.  Now, all of them are gone.  Celie was a lab/chow mix.  She was 15 years old.  In the past year she developed fatty tumors on her stomach and behind her right front leg.  She also suffered from degenrative disc disease, and had a couple of episodes where she had trouble walking.  With some medication she pulled through those occurrences.  She was, however, slowing down.  Her sight wasn't as good as it once was and neither was her hearing.  Although she had always tended to ignore me when I called her.  Lately she even did it occasionally when it was dinner time. 

Friday morning (Feb 9th) I knew something was wrong.  I have to admit that after losing Cordelia last year, I knew Celie's time with me was coming to an end as well.  Celie woke me up before 5AM to go outside.  I let her out and she stayed out longer than usual.  Then around 7AM, she asked to go out again.  When I called her to come in she was lying in the yard, not by the back door as she usually did.  She looked at me from the yard but wouldn't get up.  She had never just laid down in the yard and I began to worry.  I walked out to her, about 40 feet from the door, and I coaxed her to get up.  I started walking back to the door and she followed for about 2 steps and then stopped.  I came back to her and had to walk along side her to get her all the way into the house.  As soon as she came in, she laid down on the floor, breathing heavily as though she had over exerted herself.  My internal alarm bells were ringing loudly. 

I was on a deadline at work and had to get everything completed for a couple of mailings, so I couldn't miss work.  I continued to get ready to leave.  When I was about to leave, Celie had moved to the living room rug.  I found two piles of diarrhea.  Obviously she was sick.  I put her back outside, cleaned up the messes and called the vet.  Although their schedule was full, I was told I could bring her in at 5:30.  It was obvious that her back legs were giving her trouble when I brought her back inside.  When I left Celie was lying on her side in the kitchen.  Needless to say, throughout the day I continued to worry about her and wonder what I would be coming home to.

I had noticed a month or so ago that Celie seemed to have put on weight and was concerned, so I had taken her to the vet at that time.  Her weight had not changed significantly.  The vet didn't think the fatty tumors had gotten larger since her last visit, and pronounced her fine. 

I left work about an hour early.  Celie was in the living room when I arrived.  She had two more "accidents" in the kitchen during the day.  I let her outside again.  When she came back in, I offered her a treat, as I had always done.  She wasn't interested, which was unusual.  I sometimes thought she only went outside so she could get a treat when she came back in.  Not this time.

Before leaving for the vet, we walked over to Barbara's house.  Celie, as always, was happy to see her and busily wagged her tail.  Of my four dogs, Celie had always been Barb's favorite.  Barb had gone with me when I had taken both Celie and Cordelia to training classes.  She worked with Celie and I worked with Cordelia (definitely the smarter of the two).  Then off we went to the vet.  Dr. Porter checked her out and although he was concerned about the tightness in her abdomen, prescribed medication for her diarrhea and a probiotic.  She wasn't to be fed on Friday night.  That wasn't a problem because she simply wasn't interested in eating.  In fact, the most telling sign is that she had no interest in cleaning up any remains in the cat food dishes.  She had always raced to get to them as quickly as possible. 

I have to say that I had figured Dr. Porter would tell me that Celie had stomach cancer when I took her in.  With the prescriptions, I found a ray of hope.  She just wasn't feeling well and we'd get through this.  It wasn't her "time" yet.  Deep sigh of relief.  He did ask, at the time, whether or not she had been vomiting, which she hadn't.  However, after giving her the medication for the diarrhea, she threw up within about 30 minutes.  I chose not to give her the probiotic.

There were no accidents overnight.  She went outside and came in, but still only sniffed at the treat.  I gave her the medicine and within 10 minutes, she threw up again.  I called the vet to clear up confusion about administering the meds and to let Dr. Porter know that she was now vomiting and not interested in food.  I got a call back in a few minutes and was told that Dr. Porter wanted to do blood work and x-rays so I should bring her in then.  They would work us in between other appointments. 

When the young vet tech came to take her into the back for the diagnostics, she balked and didn't want to go.  I walked along with them and she went more easily.  I went outside to smoke a cigarette and thought that the x-ray should be done first.  If it showed what I suspected, blood work would be a waste of time and money.  When I returned inside, another vet assistant told me they were doing the x-rays and depending upon the results may not need to send out the blood to the lab. 

Needless to say, the x-rays confirmed my worst fear.  Dr. Porter apparently had come to the same conclusion between her Friday visit and the next morning.  Celie had an enormous mass in her spleen, to the point that it could burst at any time and cause internal hemorrhaging. He recommended putting her down, then and there.  My problem was that I had been ready to hear this news Friday evening and when I didn't I had become optimistic that this was simply an episode we could treat.  I wasn't ready to give up and give in.  Dr. Porter was amazingly patient with me as we talked through this.  In the end I didn't want to witness her suffering with little I could do to ease her pain.  Worse yet, I would have to manage to get her into the car and take her to another vet at the Emergency Clinic to have her euthanized.  I have had to do that with other animals and, although, the staff at the Emergency Clinic had been kind and understanding it wasn't my preferred option. 

I made the decision to put her down.  The three of us, Celie, myself and Dr. Porter sat on the floor of the examining room while he injected the anesthetic and then the Fatal Plus that would end her life - forever.  She went peacefully as I held her.  I made arrangements with Terry, the truly kind owner of Pine Castle Pet Crematory, to bring her to him for cremation.  I know it was the right decision to make, but it never gets easier no matter how many times I've gone through this. 

Regardless of the sorrow that accompanies the loss of a loved and cherished dog or cat, I do not regret having taken them into my life and heart.  The joy is so much greater and longer lasting than the pain of loss.  Although I miss each and every one of those who are gone, I am glad they were a part of my life, of who I am.  I cannot understand people who say they loved their dog or cat and cannot get another after losing that dog or cat.  The lives who are extinguished for no other reason than they don't have a home weighs heavily upon me, each and every day.  These dogs, cats, puppies and kittens deserve a chance to love and be loved.  They deserve to experience joy, good food, attention, hugs, play time and everything else they need to lead full lives.  Who better to provide these things than the very people who have had cherished companion animals?  What better way to affirm the lives lost than to extend those same experiences to those who are unwanted?  For me, it's a way to pay tribute to those who have come before.  Share your love with another - both you and the animal you save will reap the benefits for however long each of you have left. 

It has been about 36 years since there hasn't been at least one dog in my life.  Although I have more than my share of cats, I know that sometime in the near future there will be another dog.  During those 36 years, I haven't had to go looking for a dog - one or more have always seemed to find me. 

Below is an old photo of Celie and Cordelia - The Girls:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Killer Cats on the Loose!

Well, at least that is what biologists want everyone to believe.  If the latest “study” commissioned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and cobbled together by the ornithologists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is taken as gospel, then there’s a veritable bloodbath taking place all around us.

Scott Loss, Tom Will and Peter Marra reviewed a number of studies, some of them conducted in the 1930s and 1950s, upon which they based their conclusions.  They did not conduct an independent study of their own to arrive at their new figures.  For a detailed dissection of this latest hatchet job I recommend you visit Peter Wolf’s blog, Vox Felina, aptly titled Garbage In, Garbage Out.
No one has any idea how many feral and free roaming cats are “out there” at any given time.  There has been no census or population count done – PERIOD!  Logically, the numbers rise and fall, depending upon time of year (can we say KITTEN SEASON, anyone?) and environment/habitat.  Cats who have homes may be strictly indoors only, allowed outdoors either supervised or not supervised for varying lengths of time and some are outdoor only.  A couple of studies have surveyed small groups of cat owners about their habits concerning whether or not they allow their cats to go outside.

None of the studies have taken into account the ages of the cats in their study, or whether or not the cats have been spayed or neutered.  In my experience both of these factors are extremely important.  Neither has any study asked about the cats’ histories.  Did they come into the home as a kitten or an adult?  How was the cat acquired?  Was the cat an outdoor cat, rescued off the street?  At what age did that happen?  Was their mother an outdoor cat?  Did she hunt prey and teach her kittens to do the same? 
Biologists know that orphaned mammals who are raised in captivity from an early age do not fare well if released into their natural habitat.  Mammals have less inherent (instinctual) behaviors than fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles.  Young mammals have to be taught by their mothers where to find or how to catch prey, where to find shelter and safety among other things.  While all cats are carnivores and predators, they aren’t born knowing how to hunt, only with the instinct to hunt.

One need only observe lion cubs at play and then observe kittens at play to see the similarities between them.  Mother flicks her tail, whether she is a lioness or a domestic cat, and the kittens chase and try to catch it.  The cubs and kittens naturally stalk each other and pounce on their littermates in play.  This play behavior mimics hunting behavior.  However, neither the cubs nor the kittens go for the kill.  Big cats, like tigers or lions, will bring a live but injured prey animal back to their dens to teach the young to kill their prey.  Often times the young ones simply “play” with the prey animal and their mother has to actually kill her offering.  The cubs of big cats generally stay with their mother for about two years until they are capable of surviving on their own.

Another point often overlooked by biologists in their studies, usually because they haven’t witnessed “the hunt” from beginning to end, is what condition was the prey animal in when the hunt began.  In most cases, predators take down the weak, sick, injured, old or young of their prey species.  If you have ever watched a nature film, you will see that the stragglers in a group of herd animals are the ones singled out as the target animal.  Why would domestic cats who hunt behave any differently?  Also, in the nature films you will witness that the hunt isn’t always successful and their prey escapes.  Logic would dictate the same outcome for the success of the domestic cat’s hunting forays.

Seasoned, older hunters are generally more successful than younger, inexperienced hunters – of any species, including humans.  Additionally, older predators are not as successful as they once were.  They are less likely to hunt as frequently, possibly due to injuries or they just aren’t as fast as they once were.  Wild animals MUST hunt and kill to eat.  Domestic cats live in an environment where food is much easier to get.  We humans leave trash everywhere, whether it is in dumpsters, construction sites, the side of the road or our garbage cans.  It doesn’t take a lot of energy or skill to scavenge in our trash filled world. 

Intact – unspayed females – who live their lives outdoors are generally pregnant or nursing a litter of kittens.  They have a greater need for food than do male cats or spayed females.  Spaying females will greatly decrease the amount of food they need to survive and, consequently, reduce their need to hunt as much.  Male felines, whether big cats or domestic cats, who are not neutered will travel great distances in search of a mate.  They can smell a female in heat from miles away.  During mating season male cats will forego food for longer periods of time simply for the chance to mate and pass on their genes.  Unneutered male cats have been known to kill a litter of kittens to bring on estrus in the lactating female.  Once a male cat is neutered he wanders less and tends to stay close to his regular food source.

Opponents of Trap/Neuter/Return (or just cats in general) like to say that even well fed cats will hunt.  I don’t doubt that some of them do.  However, no one knows what percentage of outdoor cats are prolific, successful hunters.  Since stalking, hunting and killing prey expends an enormous amount of energy, it’s unlikely that cats, as they age, who have a regular food source provided will expend that energy to hunt.  Although it’s anecdotal, my experience with the outdoor cats in my neighborhood over the years shows little or no interest in the birds, squirrels or lizards around them.  Any outdoor cats I’ve observed have been spayed or neutered.  They spend their days lying around with full tummies.  They remind me of those husbands who plant themselves in their recliners with their remote in front of the television and holler to their wives “Honey, bring me a beer.”  Why get up when someone else will bring you what you need? 

Are there too many cats living outdoors and struggling to survive?  YES!  Cities and counties have spent millions and millions of dollars picking up and killing millions and millions of cats, yet there are still lots and lots of cats out there.  As I see it, there are two factors at work here.  One, human irresponsibility – people continue to abandon cats, most of whom have not been sterilized.  Two – as with any species, when there is less competition for the food supply, more young are born.  Biologists are well aware of the term carrying capacity.  As long as there is an abundant food source the number of individuals of a species will continue to reproduce and a higher percentage of their offspring will survive to adulthood.  There will be less disease simply because there are fewer contacts with individuals of the same species.  As the food supply diminishes, fecundity is reduced, more of the young die before adulthood and disease can spread more easily through the species. 

As long as researchers refuse to use the same parameters used when studying wild and/or native species when they study outdoor cats they will reach the wrong conclusions.  Additionally, by refusing to listen to the experts – the people on the ground, practicing Trap/Neuter/Return – they will lack the necessary information to insure they reach accurate and reasonable conclusions. 

The women and men who care about cats and give of their personal time and money to help the cats in our communities know more about cats and their behavior than any scientist now or in the past.  These folks have done more to reduce the number of outdoor cats than all the animal control agencies have done by killing untold millions, and likely billions, of cats over the years.  Access to a cooperative animal control agency along with access to affordable or free spay/neuter is an important tool in the arsenal needed to solve this problem.  It’s also the only humane solution. 

One final note, again something that seems to always be absent in these studies that oppose TNR – not every cat is returned to the site where they were trapped.  Most individuals or groups that practice TNR do their best to find responsible homes for the friendly adults and the kittens.  These cats are REMOVED from the outdoors and live in permanent homes.  All of the rescue groups that I have worked with include in their adoption agreements that the cat adopted will be an INDOOR CAT.