Since Siren is so prominently displayed on the blog I thought I'd tell you all a bit about him. Unlike my family and friends he can't sue me - I think.
Siren came to own me over four years ago. A wonderful NYPD officer found him wandering under the George Washington Bridge and, animal person that she is, she rescued him - she has rescued dozens of animals over the years.
Siren was dehydrated and suffering from malnutrition. He had wounds that, the vet would later tell me, were both people inflicted and signs of fighting with other animals. He was a few months old and (appeared to be!) shy and docile. Officer Lovely, I gave her this name and the other cops love it, hid him in the holding cell (it was a slow day) and frantically tried to reach the shelter she deals with. All the other hardened, grizzled, tough guy officers visited him and brought him toys and fed him junk. Even the Commander was in on it and gave Officer Lovely some extra time to find Siren a home.
Unfortunately the shelter was over their legal limit (adopt folks, adopt) and the Commander was reaching his tolerance ceiling. Siren's future was in peril when I happened to pass my son's computer just as he was opening an e-mail from Officer Lovely - there was Siren's handsome face along with a plea for help. We had just moved into the big-ass house and I wanted a baby brother for JR and the story just tugged and tugged at me. After a night of torturing myself (my specialty) with pros and cons I called Officer Lovely, heard all about this sweet, frightened cat who needed a second chance and said Yes, Yes, Yes - I am the Mom for him! Officer Lovely already had 2 rescued dogs and several rescued cats in her own home and was thrilled that I had come along.
Being the NYer I am I said without hesitation that I would come to the station but Officer Lovely knows her turf and suggested we meet at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway - apparently drug dealers, gang bangers and crack whores don't frequent the GSP preferring to stay closer to the station house - it's quite efficient for all involved.
I grab my extra animal carrier - never know when a stray needs transport - and my assistant (now ex-assistant, what a loon she was) and I make our way North to the arranged meeting point - right by the Burger King - would you like fries with that rescued cat!?
Officer Lovely was lovely - small and pretty and so sweet looking. It was hard to imagine her in uniform but I have heard stories of her strength and bravery. She kicks ass without ever breaking a nail.
Siren cuddled up in the carrier and he and loon assistant settled into the back seat. The trip home was uneventful - Siren cried a few times but mostly slept.
Once home Siren went directly to the basement office, my alpha cat JR had been spoken to but words don't work much with cats and I knew the introductions would take time. I fed Siren the crap he was used to for now - baby steps - and after devouring all his food and water he took up residence behind the server in the middle of every wire that connected me to everything I needed - really should have been a warning sign.
Meanwhile upstairs JR was smelling the air and howling like a wolf - fe-fi-fo-fum - I smell the blood of - something that's gonna mess up my world. JR was, he passed away last year, the sweetest creature to ever live and this reaction shocked me. Once again my road of good intentions was leading to chaos. Since apparently JR needed LOTS of time Siren went to the extra room that was going to be my serenity room - a place for my photography, my books, my music. Since my serenity is never a priority it was full of boxes and perfect for Siren to hide in.
We got through the first night with lots of howling on JR's part and lots of slamming himself against the door and wailing on Siren's part but we did get through. Surely it would get better.
The next morning I went in to Siren's room with food and water and a baby blanket (Martha Stewart collection) - Siren was hidden so I sat down on the floor and arranged his blanket (did I mention it was a Martha blanket) and set out his food and waited. I spoke softly, I made little cooing sounds, I made myself as small and unintimidating as possible. And I was met with ...
Screeching, wailing, hissing, all hair standing up (his and mine) and what felt like tiger claws and lion teeth. Outside the door JR was screaming - "I told you so! I told you so! This isn't good!". Here's a suggestion - if you're a bit chubby and you're pushing 50, NEVER need to get up off the floor quickly.
I went back to all my behavior books, I called the vet, I called an animal behaviorist, I drew on all my own experience from working with rescued animals - and I panicked. Since panic works for me I tried again - same scenario. Only now the claws seemed sharper, the teeth seemed larger and the beast had tasted blood.
We went on this way for days - I would dress up in overalls and gloves and boots to feed Siren. JR would sit by Siren's door and howl and hiss. I cried a lot and questioned why I was doing this. The days turned to weeks - JR realized Siren couldn't morph through the door and calmed down - my wounds healed and I moved to Plan B.
Each day - wearing my haz-cat suit - I would go to Siren's room and sit (on a chair!) and I would sing to him and tell him little stories and assure him that I understood and I was gonna hang in there with him for the long haul. I knew abuse issues, I knew passive-aggressive, I knew fear and I embraced chaos. We would be a family damn it!
Sadly JR and Siren never did get along. Siren is too wild and unpredictable and JR was too old and scared. I would put JR in my bed and close the door and let Siren run around. Eventually JR's diabetes and arthritis and stroke effects made it difficult for him to cope so we put a screen door on Siren's room - that way he could stay in there longer without feeling isolated and JR could still be alpha cat. Siren's exercise time would come when JR came down to the basement office. As JR's illness progressed he became feeble and incontinent - trips to the basement were too much for him - so I would carry him around while Siren bounced off the walls beneath my feet.
Little by little Siren got it - I was on his side, I came bearing food and toys and love and patience - and Martha Stewart blankets! Layers of the haz-cat suit came off. Milestones were achieved - he'd sit next to me on the sofa (just don't touch him!) - he'd allow me to stroke his head (between the ears for 10 seconds) - we'd look out the window together and make fun of the squirrels (he'd quack at them and look nervous - I think it was squirrels who attacked him under the bridge)
When JR passed on (at 16 after having lived a marvelous life) Siren didn't seem to notice much - he smelled around and checked every square inch and seemed to feel good about his alpha catness. He enjoyed the extra freedom and the monopoly on my time. He even sensed my loss and would stand (not sit) on my lap.
We continue to make great strides - he socializes with other people (under my watchful eye) - he shows wonderful moments of love and compassion. I know all his signals now - don't drop anything, don't make sudden jerky moves, don't walk around with paper towel rolls or sticks (I think he was beaten), don't touch his butt (really we can all relate to that one). I can sense a bad moment coming - the head cocks or the eyes glaze or the wail builds volume (hence the name Siren). Often he just tells me he's having a bad moment by hugging the wall and looking psychotic.
My serenity room is still Siren's room - more for time-outs than as living quarters. We're gonna leave it that way - who know when another cat/dog/pig/horse/elephant may need a place to recover. I find my serenity in that. All the other stuff - photos, books, music - lives in the basement - my own private hole in the ground.
Please enjoy these photos of Siren, my Sy man, my success story, my serenity, my homage to sharing love and surviving abuse.
Edit: I put the slideshows in a new post -
PS - I have some great animal sites to share but my tolerance for technology has reached its limit so please come back - I'll be posting them eventually - I'm still such a blog virgin.