Friday, January 29, 2010

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

7am surprise.
styrofoam on the floor, 2 layers of carpet on top, 2 blankets and a very long day. :(
Sebastian Blue in a warm car, on his way to a better life.

busting in at 4:45pm. it was dark, but he was in there. :)

To my utter surprise, the trap door was closed at 7am when I peeked in the garage window. I was on my way to work, but excitedly made the mad dash through the snow to see if, indeed, Sebastian Blue had taken the bait. He had and he was silent about it. Of course, as feared, he waited until it was 6 degrees Fahrenheit to dine. Now he faced a long day of waiting until the wonderful Susan and myself got out of work. I was fretful, but did the best I could to keep him from turning into a catcicle. With 3 layers on the floor, 2 on top and many prayers for protection, I left him.

Despite my worries for his ability to withstand the cold in a stilted position, I was ecstatic that Blue had surrendered to a better life. Even if he was passing through a cold hell to get there. At last, at last, I returned to the squalor garage to spend some time talking to Blue before Susan arrived. He was cramped and silent in the back corner of the trap, but I sang to him and told him how some day soon someone was going to fall madly in love with him (even more than I did) and give him a much deserved home.

By now, Blue is at the shelter with hot water bottles under blankets to warm him body and soul. He'll dine on wet food and kibble and be allowed to adjust to his new situation at his own pace. Susan will send pictures and a progress report as soon as she can.

And now, I have even more great news~ Coco and the Gwen Puff are going to be adopted. Already! My darling sister-friend, Kasia Blue, recently lost her beloved cat Sophie. Kasia and her 2 daughters have been following the stray cat saga since day one and had looked forward to seeing the cats in person at the first adoption fair offered. Not with the idea of adopting, but just to see the stars of the story. Then a little tragedy happened and suddenly they became a one cat household. So, to bring some sweet to the bitter, Kasia decided today to give a home to both of the girls in the story, as soon as they're ready.

It has been a very good day for strays. It has been a very good day for me, as well. I was so happy this evening, I had myself a nice cry, knowing these sweetest of souls were going to live lives they deserved. Thank you to everyone who said a prayer on behalf of Sebastian Blue. May you be blessed in return 10 times over.

Oh, yes, there is more to come...

xo, Graciel

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Sheltered Life

Here are a few pictures from the wonderful Susan to let us see how the kids are doing. Coco and Gwen the Puff will meet Susan at the "apartment" door to be petted. (See picture #1). Gwen purrs. Susan says they are throw-aways, not feral at all. They are adjusting well. Creamsicle-Gabriel is the frightened one. He will not allow himself to be petted yet and gave Susan a mad-house run around when he escaped the apartment one day. As seen by the scratch on his nose, he's not taking this transition in stride. Susan is not concerned, however. She is fully confident he will calm down and be adoption material. Thank goodness. No doubt the forthcoming trip and snip at the vets will help in that matter.

After further adjustment time, a little surgery and a clean bill of health, the kids will join the general population of 200 cats at Niagara Feline Friends. Yes, you read that right. 200 cats. Each one cared for and fawned over by the small staff of cat crazy volunteers. There will be no cages after the initial adjustment period. Large, comfortable, well-equipped rooms of roughly 50 cats each will be home to the trio until they are adopted. And notice I am not saying "if" they get adopted. There is no if in my mind, only when. Please hold that thought with me. Eventually, the trio will make the rounds of monthly adoption fairs at a local pet store, or they may even find a home through the NFF website information or newspaper ads. Maybe, just maybe, someone who has followed this story is only waiting for the adoption green light to be given. Fingers crossed.

So, I wait patiently for Sebastian Blue to join them. The trap is still empty and darnit, there is a winter storm warning here in Mayberry starting at 10pm tonight. I'm nervous. It's going to be 6 degrees by Friday. Could you please whisper in his ear to get on with it and agree to be warm and well fed? The shelter serves Science Diet and wet food, for Pete's sake!

There you have it. The update, the sheltered life, and the drama of Little Boy Blue.

p.s. 7pm, this just in~ Susan told me the girls went yesterday to be spayed and are doing great. Neither one tested positive for feline leukemia! They have all their shots and both are quite young, at 6 to 7 months. Their molars are just coming in. One step closer to being long-time pets.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Thawing Of Numb

I have not wanted to mention the fatigue and the stress and the feeling of standing in a hallway between 2 doors that has plagued me since November, because really, I've just needed to be quiet about it and maybe try to be numb about it while things, so many things, worked themselves out for my best good.

I thank God for the unexpected stray cat project that stopped me from going to the blue spectrum of numb. I thank God, as well, for a homeopathic-wise friend who is helping me to combat stress and fatigue with natural remedies. And most of all, I thank God for yesterday's early morning phone call from my long-absent Gypsy King. He is well and on his way home, having bumped up his rank even further in the malevolent atmosphere that continues to plague Iraq. (I still outrank you, I tell him.)

I remind myself it is January, fresh month of new beginnings, yet not necessarily a time of physical forward movement. (Stray cat exception so noted.) More a time of fresh ideas and plotting escapes from one way of being to another. A time of healing and looking within to see clearly those unsung talents. A time to gather strength.

Today, the door at the end of the hall is more lit. I am less stressed on the relationship front. Perhaps the meditative state will no longer elude me. Regardless, I can feel a shift in the January air. A shift that feels like things are indeed working out for my best good.

Last But Not Least

The trap is set and half-way covered, the menu is sardines with a garnish of kibble, and worry-of-worries, the temperature outside is rapidly dropping. Now, what Mr. Sebastian Blue needs is your proven prayers to coax his elusive self in from the cold.

Thank you for your help. I'll keep you posted.

xo, Graciel

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Return Of Blue

He's back. The elusive member of the gang of 4 readily showed himself to me this evening. He was sitting on the rear steps of a business along the alley. Because he was sitting next to a cat dish I thought (hopefully) he belonged there. After a bit of observation, I believe I'm wrong.

I got out of my car and talked to him as he sat on the landing, staying at a reasonable distance. I then walked over to the garage hideaway with my flashlight. No one was inside and the sardines on the floor had been eaten. I walked back to my car and got inside. Immediately Blue ran down the steps and launched himself onto the open garage window. He looked down inside and then looked over at my car. That made me decide he needs help.

Blue sat in the window until I reemerged from my car with the food trough and vittles. He jumped down, but only scooted to the blacktop on the side of the garage. I dropped the trough through the window and made sure the dry food hit the bottom with some noise. I got back in my car and took the last fuzzy picture of that lonely, little Blue before driving away.

I've sent an email to the wonderful Susan asking to borrow another trap. I'll let Blue get used to food being in the garage again for a couple days and then dazzle him with sardines in tight quarters. I'll let you know, if you don't mind, when I'll be needing some more of your prayer energy for this last member of the foursome. Thinking positive, I've picked out his shelter name~ Sebastian Blue. Because doesn't his oh-so-handsome self just look like a Sebastian? I hope you agree.

Updates on the safe and snug trio will likely arrive this weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Prayers Answered

I am bursting with joy! Our prayers were answered. This morning at 8am, I peeked in the window at the garage and oh-my-God the trap was shut! I called work to say I would be late. I hurried inside and there was Creamsicle. Mad as hell. M-a-d a-s H-E-L-L! Hissing and ramming himself (guessing he's a boy now) against the sides of the trap. I gingerly put him on a carpet piece and covered him up to calm him. It worked. I left. But I wasn't sure at that time how he would get to the shelter and was fretful he had to be in the trap all day.

Not to worry, the prayers were still working their magic. The wonderful Susan, of rescue/shelter fame was originally supposed to be unavailable today to help me. That changed by mid morning and suddenly the plan was made for Susan's husband and son to get Creamsicle out of the garage and into the shelter long before I was getting out of work. Serious joy overtook me.

To top it off, Susan sent the pictures of Coco and Puff (aka Gwen) in their new "adjustment home" at the shelter. I'm thrilled with the size of it and the lovely accessories. Susan went back to see them last night. She said that both cats came to the front when she opened the door and allowed themselves to be petted. Such a good sign!

So thank you to everyone who said a kind word to coax our Creamsicle to a better life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. More pictures and updates from Susan will be coming very soon. And if no one else at the shelter has the same name, I would like to choose Pam's offering of "Gabriel" as Creamsicle's new name. Pam and her Mom, all the way over in Washington State, have taken a special interest in these beautiful strays and offered gracious support. "Raphael" will be the second option, should a furry Gabriel already exist at the shelter. Thank you to all the ladies for the wonderful name selections. ( I heart Lottie!)

This just arrived. And it made me cry.

xo, Graciel

p.s. I have not seen the cross-eyed Blue since January 13th. I haven't forgotten him. I will be setting up the food bowl again and checking to see if he shows up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Left Behind

Tonight I went to check on the 3rd trap. What I found was Creamsicle sitting on the carpet in front of the yet-to-be-sprung trap. If a cat can look forlorn, Creamsicle did. I pleaded softly and told him/her the other 2 were waiting. I went for my camera and when I got back, the fur ball had moved to the back. Sigh.

I decided to check on the sardine situation in the trap. Had any been deftly swiped? As I went to the back of the garage, I waited at the rear window and sure enough, Creamsicle stuck her head out, looking for an escape. A simply gorgeous cat close up. As it turns out, no sardines had been extracted. Perhaps the stomach of the Left Behind is not yet empty enough. I added some dry morsels to the stinky pile of sardines for good measure. And again, I wait.

Could you please offer up another prayer or 2 for Creamsicle to surrender and let me bring her in from the cold?

In happy news, the wonderful Susan from the shelter sent me an email update. She said other cats were moved around so Coco and Puff could be in the same cage. 2 cat beds were provided, along with litter box, food, water and toys. Coco went to her bed as if she knew it was meant for her. Puff was more shy, sitting on the edge of Coco's bed or behind it. Wet food was given to help soothe them. Pictures are coming. I'm thrilled they are together as they adjust.

At Niagara Feline Friends, cats have people names, I was told. Something to do with the musical CATS and the notion that cats only get into heaven if they have a human name. Well, okay. So Coco gets to be Coco, but Puff needs to be changed. I asked for Puff to be changed to Gwen, because if I could have taken any of the 4, I would have taken the disheveled puff and named her Gwen. (Truthfully, any cat of mine has 12 to 14 names, so Gwen would have still been Puff...if you follow me.)

So, let's pick a name for Creamsicle. I trust you will pray hard enough to get the cat in the trap and force a name change. So, I'm taking suggestions. Just one caveat~ I'd like it to be an Angel name. And we don't know if Creamsicle is a boy or girl, so you might have to make 2 suggestions.

Now you're up to date. Thank you so much for your most kind comments, your interest and your continued prayers.

xo, Graciel

Winter Strays No More

Bye-bye beautiful Coco.
I see you way back there, Darling Puff.
Off they went, to my great relief and sadness. Monday night was their first night in from the cold. They will be lovingly cared for at the Niagara Feline Friends shelter, first being isolated (hopefully together) from the general population for adjustment and observation. No more 5 degree nights. No more scarcity of water or food. No more crazy cat lady showing up at the window of the clubhouse.

Before they were carted off to a warmer life, I stood next to their blanketed cages in the dark and I sang to them. One small song, over and over, to help them adjust to the presence of well-meaning humans. And now, amid the happiness of rescue, I am also sad. Because naturally, I came to love them and wished I could take them home with me. But 2 shelter cats, already in my care, is my current limit.

I re-set the 3rd trap with fresh sardines in hopes of luring Creamsicle into giving up the stray life and joining the other 2. I'll be checking twice a day, and keeping an eye out for that cross-eyed Blue. As soon as the wonderful Susan sends me some photos from the shelter, I'll be sure to let you know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sardine Salvation~ the first success!

After an almost sleepless-with-worry night, I went to the garage first thing this morning. My nerves were palpable. When I peeked in the window, I almost cried. There, looking pitiful inside 2 cages, were Coco and Puff. The first success in this 2 week adventure.

Puff gave a few words of protest, Coco gave none. They were mildly afraid when I entered the garage, but not nearly as frantic as I thought they would be. I put them side by side on a carpet piece and covered them with an old blanket I had cut up for just this occasion. Now we wait. Which feels excruciating. The wonderful Susan, who volunteers at the shelter and drove out to give me the cages, won't be able to pick them up until the end of her work day today. Because Niagara Feline Friends is a private shelter with no public drop-in access, I cannot whisk them away myself. As well, I would have great trouble carrying a cage by myself over the mound of tires in between the garages. So we wait.

But the day will pass and at its end, these 2 beautiful souls will be in a warmer, food-filled place and on their way to a more loving life. I will clean up the sardines in the garage and start fresh again in high hopes Creamsicle will allow herself to come along too. Or maybe Cross Eyed Blue will come back and decide to dine on sardines. I will be keeping track. Because all 4 of these cats have invaded my heart and I can do nothing but see this through.

To the kind and loving people who have offered to send a donation to Niagara Feline Friends to help pay for the vet care expenses for the gang of 4, I will be sending you information today in your email or on your blog. Susan, from the shelter, will be sending photos and updates on the cats so we can all keep track of them until they (fingers crossed) find happy homes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sardine Salvation~ Step 1

Sardine Salvation

And so it begins, the quest to extract stray cats from squalor. A wonderful woman from the no-kill shelter is coming today to help me set up 2 humane traps in the garage. I'm nervous. But hopeful. This is new territory for me. If you could spare a moment, please say a small prayer for the safe and quick capture of the gang of 4. I realize this is so very minor in light of tragic world events, but I'm asking anyway.

I'll keep you informed as things transpire.

xo, Graciel

Update, 4:30pm, Sunday~ no cats in sight. Traps, empty.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Coco, Puff and Creamsicle

Good morning, Coco, Puff and Creamsicle.

Good night, my darling Puff.
I'll be back.

With sardines.

To lure you to a better, more loving life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Strays~ Day 10

Progress is slow, but steady in the quest to better the lives of 4 stray cats. Today, I found out I can have access to the garage. "Do whatever you need to", was the message from the out-of-town landlord. Unfortunately, the lock on the overhead door wouldn't budge, so I went through the gate of the fully fenced yard to see if I could get to the little side door. I could. But a forever-long gutter had to be extracted from the narrow passage between the 2nd and 3rd garage and 2 tires had to be crawled over and thank goodness I wore my long undies as I plowed through the snow. Thank goodness, again, I was able to force the door open. Of course, the gang of 4 hurled themselves out windows as I came barging in.

I had no broom, but I went to work kicking broken glass and nails aside. I put a piece of carpet (thank you, Sue!) on top of their make-shift bed of dirty Styrofoam in the back. I found 2 silly golf chairs in bags and set them up, as well as unearthing an old wagon and lining it with junk, all in hopes of getting paws off the cold floor. I moved crap around and rearranged the carpet pieces near the food trough. I will go back later with more vittles.

It became clear to me today, live traps will be needed to usher these sweethearts to a shelter. I don't think I want to sit for however long in the cold, hoping they come back into the garage and betting on them being brave enough to let me pick them up. So coordination for borrowing traps will begin. I have decided Niagara Feline Friends will be the shelter of choice. They have been the most helpful and willing, even having the live traps to loan and offers to assist in the extraction, if needed. I have no idea how long this will take. But I will continue to watch out for them until they're all on their way to better lives.

And wouldn't you know, this little saga has captured the hearts of a number of people. I have had offers from Elaine, Sue, Kasia, Lynn, Debi, Debbie, and Daisy for everything from buying the next bag of food, to sending a little bit of money for their surrender fees, to giving carpet pieces, to offering an overnight holding locale if the capture and surrender timing is off, to driving the cats to the shelter. The power of the human heart touches me deeply. I am always amazed and grateful when circumstance and need call up the most beautiful parts of our selves, when we take the opportunities to shine our lights on the world, and do right by the little abandoned jewels we find, within ourselves and without.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Crazy Cat Lady~ Day 7

Alright, I admit it. Before I remembered to keep my voice 'normal' while the camera was running, there I was using my typical cat voice in addressing the gang of 4. (Dogs, squirrels, rabbits, mice and birds get the same inflection. I can't help it.)

The update, small as it is: emails have been sent out, only slightly pleading, to 2 no-kill cat shelters asking for help, guidance, advice, anything. The cats are strays, not feral, based on the feral cat website that states if cats are willing to eat in the vicinity of a human, they are not wild, but stray. Found the surrender times and days( very limited) for the 10 Lives Cat Shelter with expected fees per cat at time of surrender. $75 per cat for vet care, and rendering them sterile.

2 pieces of scrap carpet have been launched through the window to keep exposed pads a tad warmer. Looking for more. And best of all, after today's early bird 4pm vittles, I ran into the incredibly sweet woman who rents the house near the garage. She will have her husband call their landlord to ask if I can have permission to enter the garage. I will go back to see her on my next day off. If permission is granted, first of all, hooray(!), second of all, cardboard boxes with carpet pieces will be placed towards the back of the garage for more protection from the elements. And from there, hopeful coordination of borrowing live traps, coaxing, trapping all 4 (sounds daunting) and finding a shelter to accept them...unless, of course, you've been following this small saga and wish to take one of these darlings under your wing from the time they're safely extracted from said garage. (A girl can always hope.)

So, there you have it. Winter Strays~ Day 7.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Winter Strays~ Day 4

I have gone back to check on the strays twice a day since finding them. Creamsicle has replaced the cross-eyed blue of day 1 as the 3rd member of the trio. Based on the advice of my animal-wise and dear friend, Lisa, I have checked the local vet's office for word of lost cats. I have stopped by known places in Mayberry where public notices are taped to walls and bulletin boards. No one seems to be missing cats.

Tonight, however, more information was gleaned. As I was cooing to the cats through the garage window, a woman stopped by. She knew of the cats. She told me they have been around since the summer when the garage was "cleared of cats" and this group "must have been the last litter". I questioned how they could be from the same litter, being so different, but she said it's possible if a cat mates with multiple males. I question the Himalayan in that theory, but what do I know? In any case, this very nice woman said she and her husband come by to talk to the cats regularly and a store owner, whose business backs up to the alley, leaves food and water for them by her store's rear entrance. This explains why the cats look so good and respond so well to people. But apparently no one has thought to go beyond the talking and feeding scenario.

I'm not exactly sure what to do next. There are a couple predicted 5 degree nights coming soon. I' m worried, even though I know they have each other for warmth. Still. 5 degrees. Then there's the concept of live-trapping (after getting permission from the garage owner to gain entrance) and bringing them to no a kill shelter for hopeful adoption. To me, they seem adoptable due to their friendly manners and over-the-top cuteness. It's overwhelming, though, the idea of trying to accomplish this on my own. Research and advice is needed. The local feral cat association is first on my list.

My fingers are crossed for benevolence, assistance and the most loving outcome for this gang of 3. And the cross-eyed blue, if indeed, he too needs help.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Winter Strays~ Day 2

I couldn't stay away. My curiosity rivaled a cat. I had to know if the bowl was tipped over, if the food was gone, if anyone in fur was still in the garage. I went before work and peeked in the window. The bowl was upright and half empty, and way in the back of the garage, at the pixelated edge of my zoom capabilities, was a pair of cats curled around each other on a dingy piece of foam. The Himalayan and the disheveled long hair, who I have nicknamed (begin your eye-roll now) Coco and The Puff. The Puff, upon seeing me, stood up and seemed to smile. I gave morning salutations and promised to return. It seems, despite pure bred status and a healthy coat, Coco is indeed a stray.

I went back in the dark. With an 18 pound bag of vittles. By the light of my high beams I dumped a coffee can's worth of food through the window and into the bowl. Coco came running and braved my presence for first dibs. The Puff came too, meowed her thanks, and stood under the window while I talked to her. She introduced me to her friend who hung back slightly, a new-to-me cat in white with orange stripes. "Hello, Creamsicle", I said, "Welcome to dinner".

Tomorrow I hope to drop a water dish through the window. My friend, Don, fashioned 2 of them from cut-down flower buckets. Yes, in this weather the water will freeze, but I'll do my best to keep cracking the surface. And maybe, just maybe, with food and water, with trust built and as-yet-unforseen help revealed, these beautiful cats will will no longer spend their days as winter strays.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Winter Strays

I went for a walk around Mayberry today while waiting to meet a friend. I had not intended the walk on such a frigid day, but instinct or Soul or a benevolent force suggested I might wish to stroll up the alley on my way around the block. I stopped in the alley to photograph dried queen anne's lace capped with snow. While I focused, I heard a thunk to my right.

Looking up, I saw a cat. She was a disheveled puff of fur staring at me from the narrow ledge of a broken garage door window. After introducing myself and taking a few pictures, I ventured into the snowbank that led to the door. She jumped back in and waited. I peered through gap. She wasn't alone.

2 cats came forward, picking their way through crap on the floor. The floor and the building were rancid with neglect. The disheveled puff gave a few meows, knowing she had hit the mark when she chose to reveal herself to me. Me, who can't resist a feline in need, dead or alive. The Himalayan and the crossed-eyed blue were more cautious and remained mute. I wasn't so sure they were strays like the puff. Regardless, I made solemn promises to return with food within 2 hours. Off I went to meet my friend.

I returned as promised, ahead of schedule, bearing a wood-slat trough and a canister of food. The only cat in sight was the crossed eyed blue, but he quickly ran out the back window. I dropped the trough through the window. With that, the disheveled puff ran across the alley, plowed through the snow bank and launched herself into the garage. I emptied the canister into the trough. She wasted no time being shy. The call of her belly was urgent.

Naturally, I will go back. I will go back with food until I understand what else can be done. I have a compulsion to help make things better. I do not and cannot resist it. I am also crazy for cats.

This day of strays gave me clarity regarding my year ahead. I realize now I do not need to make great plans or resolutions or try to 'make things happen'. I need only declare I am willing to be of service, the service of offering love and care. Anywhere. From that declaration, I will be led. Unfailingly, I will be led. Down alleyways or across the world. And things will get accomplished. Great, spontaneous plans will unfold, and cats will be fed.

{For those of you in Buffalo, might you have any suggestions regarding these cats?}

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Word For 2010

This is my edict for twenty ten, my true north for the course of the year. My word and my way is Soul.

I choose this word because it is high time to let my Soul and its callings be my daily guiding force. In every moment, the ideal is to listen to the directives of my most inner and intimate self. My higher, wiser self. My inner guide. My Soul.

This is the ever-present, inner aspect that knows what is best for me and urges me to act according to my highest good. This is the light of my clear path to passion and play and profound contentment. This is the aspect, the knowing, that trumps all other opinions and cares deeply for my well being. And when I am well in relation to myself, everyone around me benefits.

Let me consider my Soul in all choices I make in the year ahead. Let me attend to the needs of this most creative part of my self. Let me make note of each time my Soul lifts up within me to mark a significant, resonant happening. Let me infuse more Soul in my food, my movement, my dress. Let my love, in all its facets, be soulful. Full. Of. Soul. The time to hold back has passed.

Do you have a word or mantra or edict for 2010? I'd love to know...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Into The New

You know as well as I do, what we decide today, this new day of a new year of a new decade, with our best and most optimistic intentions, will begin to feel like a bit of a struggle 3 weeks from now. We feel sure and fresh today, convinced we can surmount anything and make any dream come true. It's a glorious sensation, that joyful optimism. Buoyant. Giddy. Lathered in hope. It's easy. It's pleasing. And desperately necessary. I thank God for the inner bounty of days like today. I hope, like me, you are scheming your best year yet.

But more than a simple hope for a dreamy fresh start for ourselves, I ask for unfailing strength of mind and heart for you and me to meet the challenges of the year to come.

I ask for support when doubt and fear cast shadows on our dreams for ourselves.

I ask for the cleansing force of love to wash us clean when 2010 feels soiled and unforgiving.

I ask for bubbles of joy to remain readily available in our very own pockets.

I ask for clear roads and clear plans and bone-deep faith in ourselves to carry us wherever we choose to go.

I ask for laughter to lift us and save us daily.

I ask for peace in our noisy brains and gentleness in our times of harshest self-judgement.

I ask that 2010 be the year we learn how to honor our needs more fully, that we see the dignity and common sense in filling our own wells first before we choose to give outwardly.

I ask for good health, yours and mine, and the understanding of what we truly need in order to be healed.

I ask all this so we can live the dreams we choose for ourselves as we collectively step into the new.

My deepest wishes to you, Dear Readers, for a blessed and bountiful new year.