Friday, January 11, 2008

Widening My Circle

My "when I win Lotto" dream is to travel across the country by car - huge luxury car that spews tulips into the atmosphere. Upon my return from the Magical Tour I will immediately move to my lovely farm and begin to collect all the needy animals of the world.

Until then I do what I can.

Back in Brooklyn there was a terrible stray cat problem. The usual cause - one careless human doesn't spay or neuter and lets the cat go outside. Male cat of careless human meets female cat of another careless human and a never ending cycle begins. At the beginning I did what most well meaning people do - I left food and water and tried to provide some shelter. This was a bit difficult since I rented and any spot I chose wasn't really my spot. I didn't realize for quite a while that the landlady was feeding them too!

A neighbor was involved with a small animal rescue group and she taught me the merits of trapping and at least having the tomcat fixed to cut down on future generations. I also put together a flyer telling everyone where they could have their cats spayed or neutered for low or no cost. A shelter on Long Island agreed to take kittens since they are "more adoptable".

Trapping a tomcat is not for the faint hearted - I just realized that the haz-cat suit I used to socialize Siren was really a later version of my Brooklyn garb - long sleeves, pants tucked into socks and gloves. Kittens were easier to handle but harder to find. My most infamous rescue was when I got stuck climbing a small fence. My pants caught on something halfway over and there I was - splayed across the fence with my ample butt pointed toward 2 lanes of busy traffic. One of the neighbor's kids called for my son to help - I almost died of embarrassment and laughter as I listened to my son saying "where is she!? - where is she!?" - "you can't see her!" screams neighbor's kid, "her whole butt is in the driveway!"

I guess this didn't scar me for life since my son and neighbor's kid had already seen me in less than flattering poses - you haven't lived until the entire junior varsity football team walks in just in time to find you stuck in the Thigh-Master! Again with the pants - they were stuck in the coils and my attempts to free myself had turned me into a pretzel - not the thin ones, the big meaty ones you get at the hot dog stand.

"Yo Jeff, your Mother is a freakin' riot" - my epitaph?

I have little rescue experience with dogs - it's not that I'm a cat person - I'm really an elephant person - they're the most spectacular creatures - both fierce and touching. Working long hours, living in small apartments, traveling a lot - cats just adapt better to that than dogs. I am aunt to many dogs and for awhile I transported dogs from a shelter in Brooklyn to a larger, better equipped shelter on Long Island. We'd play the radio and I'd sing to them and tell them a better life was just miles away. I'm pretty sure that calm and loving transition from one temporary home to yet another helped. They seemed to enjoy the ride. Of course, as any cab driver will tell you, there's always one who doesn't appreciate the service.

One of my last trips as driver to the dogs was late at night. All day I had caught glimpses of a large dog dodging traffic and wandering aimlessly - looking for something familiar I suppose. I was exhausted from walking around the neighborhood searching for him and it was getting dark. The lost and frightened expression on his face was haunting me and I decided to just sit on the front steps - the stoop as they call it in Brooklyn. I still had the little bag of cold cuts in my pocket - a sampler platter - a good hostess should always anticipate. I sat there drinking a beer, clutching a leash and crying. I'm so glad I left the gate open. He walked right in and stuck his head into my pocket! "Now you stop by! You bastard" - I was so relieved - no matter how late it was by the time I got him situated I would sleep. Knowing he was out there would have been torture.

The shelter's intake office was closed - although he appeared friendly and calm he was very large and my apartment was small and full of teens and cats. A friend near the shelter on Long Island agreed to put us up for the night. I could take him in first thing in the morning. He ate, he drank, he did his business and settled down for a nap in the back seat of my car. The radio was playing quietly, the windows were open a bit and traffic was light - it was almost midnight by now. My big buddy was asleep and all seemed right with the world. "Grrrrrrrrrrr" and then up pops his giant head. "Grrrrrrrrrrr" - a low, ominous sound from deep in his throat. I guess he had a bad dream and woke up in a strange moving car - at that moment all I could think of was how and where to pull over. I was cursing myself - what an idiot to not have put a halter on him, how stupid to be alone. From the rear view mirror I could see he looked upset and I spoke to him quietly as I looked for a well lit place to stop. "It's me buddy, we're going to a good place, I'll give you some water in a minute" He stared at me blankly and then sank his teeth into my shoulder, just the shirt - not my skin. I really cursed myself now! What a way to die - would we crash as he ripped my throat open or would I slowly lose consciousness on the shoulder of the Long Island Expressway.

I finally found a wide enough shoulder. I wanted to get out of the car and leave him in it! The car coming to a stop made him loosen his grip and I slipped out. It took a few minutes to calm down and plan (and cry) my next move. After talking to him through the slit in the window for a while I slowly opened the door and offered water. He licked my hand, drank the water and looked at me as if to say - "I don't know what came over me". I climbed into the back seat and hugged him. We made the rest of the trip with him sitting right up front, next to me, his leash wrapped around the back door handle - enough give for him to be comfy and enough restraint for me to stay calm. We never did stay at my friend's house - she had small children and I didn't want anyone to become stressed. Instead my big buddy and I slept in the car in the shelter's parking lot. His head was in my lap and I'm sure I was snoring and dribbling when the security guard woke me at 7 AM. He laughed at the sight of the two of us and told me that "this was a new one"

Big buddy was adopted within a few days and lived to be almost 15. His parents sent me photos and he always remembered my birthday. He never once had a moment of aggressive behavior - it really must have been a bad dream. I'm thrilled that I didn't call the police or animal protection - the ending would have been so different.

I've decided Siren needs a sibling. There's a good chance Siren disagrees but we'll work it out. I will foster with an option to adopt. Win-Win. If Siren takes to the foster then our home is ready, if not - then one more cat becomes socialized and loved on its way to a home.

I've been playing with this decision long enough - writing about Siren, thinking of all the animals who have touched my heart and sifting through Magnetbabe's site (Field Lines - link is on my "I love to read" list - check her out!) has inspired me. I haven't done enough lately and my soul feels it.

I searched through quotes to find a title for this post. Here's a few that touched me.

"Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. "
Albert Einstein

"Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures."
His Holiness The Dalai Lama

"Lots of people talk to animals.... Not very many listen, though.... That's the problem. "
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh


Lisa said...

Lovely post, Dianne. And, as usual, funny, too.

" 'Yo Jeff, your Mother is a freakin' riot' - my epitaph?"

LOLOLOL! What, no picture to go with that??

You're such a good soul. We have always found our animals as strays or adopted them from a shelter and have fostered a few dogs over the years as well, including one who was pregnant and had her puppies in our guest room. What a frightening experience you had with "Big Buddy," though. We had one foster dog that was a bit aggressive toward our three other dogs and one dog we picked up a stray while on vacation in Maine that had to be muzzled for a month before she understood the cat was not a meal, but they were never aggressive toward us. It's so good that you didn't let that lapse in judgement on his part be the end of him.

I hope your experiment with finding a friend for Siren works out. If not, keep trying. We had one cat who only got along with one other cat (out of about five) over the years.

I love the quotes. . .

P.S. When you decide to Blog, you really Blog! I'm still trying to catch up on all your posts. . .

cathy said...

i laughed. i cried. i thought about volunteering at a shelter since i can only have one pet in my apartment.

another fine post, dianne.

Dianne said...

Lisa could you imagine a picture of me stuck in a Thigh Master!!! LOL - what a sight. I'm so glad I didn't see myself either time I was on display.

Cathy - I think you'd enjoy doing some work at a shelter. It's incredibly rewarding.

and thanks to both of you for always having such kind things to say.

Jeni said...

That would, indeed, make quite the epitaph for your tombstone! LOL Too doggone funny, kid!
I really admire both you and Magnetbabe for your interest and work in trying to help the animal population. The dog - "Big Buddy" as you described him sounded so much like the dog my son had - "Andrei" who, sadly died a year ago this past December. When my son was living down by Gettysburg and would come home for a weekend, he would almost always bring Andrei with him and the dog would sit up in the cab of his pick-up truck, just looking around like he was a regular passenger there. He was part German Shepard and part Akita and just a big gangling mutt but so sweet and lovable too. Watching him run as he would lope and gallop along was just about like watching my son, his master, run too! We used to refer to him as "Clate's son" because there were so many characteristics he had that were just exactly like my son's!

Michael Manning said...

This is a wonderful post! My downstairs neighbor left food and water for a cat I nicknamed "Mr. Cat" and he was a tough customer--bit me in the hand while playing. The other day I saw her placing an animal carriage in her car and noticed the food and water were gone. I'm waiting to run into her to ask what happened.

Dianne said...

Jeni - the image of Andrei galloping along just as your son would made me smile. Isn't it amazing and wonderful how animals touch our lives!?

Thanks Michael - glad you enjoyed the post. I had a good laugh remembering my mis-adventures at anything physical and it was wonderful to remember my "Big Buddy"

Hopefully "Mr. Cat" was in the animal carrier on his way to a new home - please let us know.

Minnesotablue said...

What a great post this was. You and Magnetbabe are sure two of a kind. Can I give you hug?

Anonymous said...

This is my first time here and I love your Blog! I can picture myself hanging on that fence. I love all animals and would keep every stray i find if i only had room. I did save 8 newborn pitt bull puppies from freezing to death last Nov. Kept them in my sewing room untill they could be adopted. They chewed the walls and doorframes, and my sewing machine!! It was like a newborn baby, feeding them every 2/3 hours. They were beautiful, and worth every minute of it.


Dianne said...

Being two of a kind with magnetbabe is high praise - thanks minnesotablue - and that hug was much appreciated.

thank you so much loretta - I'm glad you found my blog and enjoy it. and what you did for those puppies is heroic!
please keep coming back - I can't seem to shut up and post almost daily.

magnetbabe said...

Awww, I love this! What great stories you have to share, I would love to read some more. We really are kindred spirits! I'm glad you've decided to try to open your home to one more (Siren is, of course, the ultimate decider...). After our recent experiences, we're dying to buy a house and expand our family. In the mean time, it is enough that sharing stories (and pictures!) inspire some people to look differently about animal rescue.

My favorite quote:
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
-Mahatma Ghandi

I also wanted to share this with you, I thought you'd get a kick out of it!

magnetbabe said...

Sorry, I meant either "think differently about" or look differently at animal rescue." What came out was a grammatical disaster. Ugh.

Dianne said...

"(Siren is, of course, the ultimate decider...)"

this made me think of Bush! but of course Siren is smarter.

I loved the video magnetbabe - I'm going to check out that org.

and Ghandi's quote is perfect - it was among the ones I had trouble editing out but the post was getting long - it's amazing how just googling "animal quotes" brought up so much inspiration.

I will absolutely share more stories - try and stop me :)

Smalltown RN said...

What a great cover a very important topic with humour with a taste of reality...well done.

Thanks for visiting my blog and for leaving your comments

Dianne said...

thank you smalltown rn - this particular post was a labor of love :)

and I'm glad you visited me as well

Lifecruiser said...

Oh, my. You.Are.Brave. That sounded like a tough job. I'm glad that we don't have any stray cats almost at all here in Stockholm. Phew.

I can't stand to see them suffer. I've always loved animals.

Earlier in my life everybody always asked me why I didn't became a vet. "You're nuts!" always were my answer.

How would that look? A vet that can't put animals to sleep just because the owner want to get rid of it?

I would end up with a whole house full of pityful pets! *giggles*

Dianne said...

lifecruiser - the vet I had for almost 20 years refused to put down any animal unless it was medically necessary. he took in so many unwanted animals over the years - he was always in debt. a lot of his clientele would help him out as best we could.

I bet you would have been a wonderful vet :)

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Dianne said...

thanks crescenet! I'm glad you found me and glad you enjoy the blog.

I will definitely check your blog out too. and a hug right back to you.