Friday, July 30, 2010

Cats Here, Cats There

This was a pretty catty week. My wonderful vet, Lisa Lemke of Green Oak Vet Clinic, made an offer I couldn't resist: if I would take a wonderful big siamese cat named Boots to my farm, she would spay whatever cats I chose. I wanted to take my basic family of cats, but was only able to get Fluffy (Chickboy's mother) into a carrier, so I set the live trap near Raccoon (Fluffy's sister) and hoped she would walk in when I wasn't looking. Unfortunately, Raccoon didn't fall for the trap, but two other young cats did. One of the trapped was an unnamed mother, probably a yearling, and the other was probably her kitten. The mother was old enough to spay, so she went with Fluffy.

Doc did a wonderful new form of spaying that meant she entered from the side instead of the belly of the cat. The opening was smaller and closes up easier because the entry is through three layers of muscle that automatically want to close up. The black mother earned a name, if I can identify her amongst all of the other black cats, she will be called Shadow. Both Shadow and Fluffy recovered quickly after they returned to the farm. The little kitten that made the trip to the vet's with Shadow was gone the minute I opened the trap.

Sadly, Boots the Siamese also disappeared as soon as my back was turned. I was hoping to introduce him gently to the farm, but when he didn't jump right out of the carrier, I made the mistake of turning my back and poof! he was gone. I looked for him on and off until about midnight last night but didn't see him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chick Boy and Tiger Boy and Fine

Both of the young male tiger cats were waiting at the gate tonight, so I guess they are feeling fine. Chick Boy walked with me to the feeding station, but Tiger Boy was gone a moment after I opened the gate. I put a lot of food down hoping there would be enough left after the large group was finished so the scared cats could slip in later and still find something to eat. There's one young black cat whose hip bones are sticking out. He waits with the group at the gate, but won't go near the feeding station. I've tried to put food in different places, but someone else always seems to find it. I think I'm going to have to set another feeding station.

I have some fittings for building some out-buildings. I've been planning to build a chicken house, but I won an eBay auction with fittings for three buildings. I may build a double size chicken house and then use the third kit to build a cat shelter - it might be fun to have a building to protect them in the winter and fill it with climbing things and little cat caves, etc. I'm thinking I could paint the buildings with plans for hooked rugs.

I was in the back hay field tonight, stacking hay bales on a trailer. The hay field is the prettiest place on the farm - surrounded by trees and high enough to look down on everything visible in all directions. Jim, from across the street, was driving the tractor and baling the hay; Becky, his wife, was driving the truck that was pulling the old car hauling trailer; and I was stacking hay bales on the trailer - we worked back there until the baler broke just before it was getting dark. Except for equipment break downs, that's a nice, relaxing way to work - even though it's exhausting. It's sort-of a very physical form of meditation, hard enough that your mind focuses on the labor and not on any distracting thoughts. Maybe this would be a better world if everyone baled hay.

Feral Cats

Technically, the cats at my farm are feral cats. They aren't exactly barn cats because most of them don't live in a barn - some of them may live in the hay loft, especially when they want to hide their kittens, but mostly they live elsewhere. Some live under my front porch, some live under my swimming pool room, and both of those groups can access the crawl space under one wing of my house - which is good in the winter time because there's a heat duct in the crawl space. Recently, I've realized that some of them are living rough out in the bushes and brush piles, as though the colony has split into lots of separate little family groups.

Two of my favorite kittens are now half-grown males. It's the time in their life when they might be driven away by the dominant male - and the dominant male has suddenly become a big black tyrant - a tough male with facial scars who appeared out of nowhere. Last year, the tomcat was a very sweet orange tiger, one who almost let me pet him and spent most of his time watching the farmyard from the roof of the boarder's lounge building. He seems to have disappeared and been replaced.

I want the little half-grown males to stick-around, so I captured them last night in a live trap and took them to the vet this morning. Their surgery was uneventful and all is well, I left them sleeping off their drugs in the open cat carrier, in a shady spot near the feeding station. I hope their testosterone will disappear asap so the black tom doesn't hurt them - or, at least, doesn't hurt them anymore. One of them, Tiger Boy, has already been pretty well beaten up. He had been gone for a couple days and then was hiding at the end of the driveway when I decided it was time for the trip to the vet. I have my fingers crossed for both of them, especially Chick Boy who is the little gray tiger in photographs earlier in this blog who grew up with the chickens. He greets me at the driveway gate every time I arrive at the farm - which is where I'm going to go now (Gotta spend some time with Gibby!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good Ol' George

I've been thinking about the story of "Old Drum" recently. I saw the movie a long time ago and thought I remembered something about a faithful dog - I found the movie and watched it, using an instant download through my Wii from Netflix. The story in the movie reaches its climax with a speech by a famous attorney. Turns out the story is basically true - except the dog that is shot in the movie survives. The reason I've been thinking about the faithfulness of dogs is my dog George's behavior since my mother passed away. George was very close to my mother, and vice versa. My mother saved his life a couple times when she knew he was not well and I hadn't noticed anything was wrong. The first time, I hesitated because I hadn't noticed he was sick, and barely got him to the vet in time. The second time, I loaded him in the car the minute my mother said something was wrong - I think they were able to read each other's minds. Anyway, Ol' George has always spent his sleeping time on the cold wooden floor of the downstairs bathroom or on the cold wooden floor of the kitchen where anyone using the back door had to step over him. Since my mother died, he's been sleeping on the carpeted floor next to her couch. After she turned 95 she spent most of her not-in-bed time resting or sleeping on that couch. That's where George is right now, stretched out on the floor, leaning his back against the couch.

Here is part of the speech, spoken in the real Old Drum trial in the Supreme Court of Missouri. It's the only part of the speech that was saved.

George Graham Vest speaking:

"Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us -- those whom we trust with our happiness and good name -- may become traitors in their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog.

"Gentlemen of the jury, a man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

"If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death..."

This is one of those situations where the English language falters. Back when I was in grade school (we didn't ever call it elementary school) I asked a teacher why all of the speeches and poems we studied always said, "he", and I was told that "he" stood for everyone: men, women, and children. Well, I don't think Lawyer Vest meant it that way back in 1880, but I'll accept that the master he in this speech stands for my mother - and the watchful, faithful and true dog is our Ol' George, my mother's dog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The videos on this page are just a few seconds each. I wanted to show Gibby living inside his four bedroom dog house - using my cellphone camera that I thought was set for still photos. Anyway, Gibby is a happy dog - although he runs for the library, the room that leads to his doggy door, the minute I pick up my BB gun. I've been shooting at rats. Rats in Gibby's house. I've tried live traps and sticky traps, now the BB gun. Truth is, I'm sure the only solution is to set out poison and I can't do that without endangering cats and dogs.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Friend is Gone

I attended a very sad funeral today. It was particularly sad because most of my departed friend's friends thought he was already gone. He was my dearly beloved veterinarian, Buck Lindquist. Buck was a truly amazing animal man - I think he spoke the language of every animal he ever met. He was also the most intelligent man I ever knew. He was a sort of combination Dr. Doolittle and Albert Einstein. The sad end to his life lasted for ten years. He fell down a long flight of stairs onto a cement floor and had a closed head injury. He was just starting to get over it, and came to help me with a dying horse. He overstressed himself walking out to my pasture, laying on top of the horse to hold her down, and then hiking back to my farmyard. He drove home and had a stroke. He was in a nursing home for the last ten years. Ten years of an extremely bright mind closed up by brain damage and drugs.

One time, Buck saved my favorite horse. He walked into our riding arena, heard a sound no one else heard, ran to the far end of the arena, and found my Morgan stallion, Tara, choking on an apple that was lodged halfway down his throat. Buck massaged his throat and moved that apple up and out! It popped out like a ping-pong ball. Buck was like that, he could just look at a horse and make a completely accurate diagnosis. He treated 45 horses at my farm for about 25 years and I never knew him to be wrong - even when vets at Michigan State gave second opinions, they used all their high tech stuff and just confirmed Buck's seat-of-the-pants diagnosis.

Horses weren't afraid of Buck. Other vets might walk into a barn and every horse would suddenly be on the alert, but not with Buck. Horses, even breeding stallions, were so relaxed around him that he could give them shots or stitch up wounds and they wouldn't even wiggle. I helped him do a surgery one time. He had fingers the size of sausages, yet he removed the tiniest little bone chip from the hock of an Appaloosa race horse. He stitched up that surgical site so years later there was no sign of a scar.

I feel very fortunate to have known Buck and I'm so sorry he never got out of the nursing home.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gibby Stays Home

Gibby is staying home. I haven't heard from Kate and now it doesn't matter. If she doesn't care enough to call me, she obviously doesn't have what it takes to care enough for my Gibby.

I think I'll give Gibby a new assignment. I have to get some exercise. His new assignment is to make me take him for walks. We'll start out with walks in the pasture, then gradually get back to the woods. I'd like to be back there during the spring wildflower season. I haven't seen the trout lillies or trillium for years - my woods used to be carpeted with them. I'd like to see how cutting trees out of the woods changed the spring flowers - I hope not much. We won't start our new plan today, it's pouring rain outside and the lower pasture will be underwater.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maybe not...

Today is Saturday and no call from Gibby's possible new family. Kate thought they might come out Friday, but she didn't call. She said she'd like to get Gibby early in the weekend so he could be with them for a full couple days before they would have to leave him alone to go to work - but, that hasn't happened.

I'm beginning to think the whole idea was a mistake - the right people would have called to let me know what was going on.

I stopped at the vet clinic to see if they had heard anything from Kate, so Shelly called to see if they were still interested in Gibby. That should have triggered a call to me, but it didn't, so...

I'm thinking it was a mistake. I am really fond of Gibby and giving him away was going to be hard, maybe I'm not going to do it. He is one hundred pounds of loving dog (having gained 30+ pounds since he came to the farm - one-third of his weight!) I was looking forward to moving some cats into the farmhouse, maybe I'll have to figure out a way to still do that with Gibby in the house. He didn't chase the cats when Kate came to see him and he didn't chase the cats at the vet clinic... I'm trading a sock knitting machine (CSM) for some cat spaying and I need to have them in the house during the recovering time. I guess I'll go buy a baby gate so I can put the cats in the kitchen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gibby Has a Forever Home, I Think

Gibby has been a wonderful guard dog - his deep bellow of a bark is quite enough to warn the bad guys that he is there and on duty. He has done his job for almost two years now, so it's time for him to have an end to this lonely duty - and that may happen this weekend. Two days ago he met Kate. Met her and liked her. She took him for a walk out in the pasture and they both came back happy. This weekend, he will meet the other member of Kate's family - if they hit it off, away he'll go - to a real family where he can be a real member of the family.

Last night, I told Gibby he could go live with Kate, and I think he understood. He's never been so obnoxious before about wanting to be petted and held - I was trying to work on a rug and he kept bumping my arm with his big head. If I sat back in the chair, I suddenly had the upper half of a hundred pound dog in my lap. If I didn't pay attention, he showered my face with kisses - something he's never done before. He couldn't have been more lovable.