We Can Do More Than We Think We Can

What does it take of us to help an animal in need?  A bit of time, perhaps, and some inconvenience.  We’ve helped one animal to suffer less.  This small victory does not have a widespread impact, but it certainly changes the world for that one animal.DSC_0135 2

It’s easy to bypass an animal in distress, a lost dog, a stray cat, injured creature, a starving animal.  It’s easy to turn away and to assume that others will do something.  Most of us don’t do anything.  It requires giving of ourselves or our time in some small capacity, and we’re busy, busy, busy.  I believe that each time we turn away, some small portion of our humanity is eroded.

Years ago I made an agreement with myself: when I see an animal in need, I will do whatever I can to remedy the situation.  I’ve found that “whatever I can do” is generally more than I had originally thought.  This has led me to capture stray dogs and humanely trap stray cats and deliver them to the SPCA, to gently instruct children and others in kindness to animals, to intervene when I see human cruelty to animals, to become a vegetarian, to inconveniently arrive late at meetings when I’m rescuing an animal.  I sleep better at night for all this.

My dream is to have a widespread impact on humane treatment of animals.  If each of us engaged in some small gesture of kindness, of help toward animals, so much suffering could be reduced.  Will you join me?

raleigh

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Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 4

© 2014 Carolyn Cott

One evening during Spuds and her kittens’ wanderings, they came to a building from which came a chorus of meows and barking. Spuds listened closely. There was a question in each of the sounds, some complaining, but not fear. In a few of the voices she heard glee.

For the next three days she ventured out on her own during the daytime, hiding in the shrubbery and watching that place of meows and barks. People came and went, some bringing animals in—those people were teary with contorted faces. Some brought animals out—those people were happy and chattering to the bewildered-looking cat or dog. Spuds caught sight of one cat in a box with small metal crisscrossed bars. The cat’s feet were splayed out in front of him, bracing against movement, but his gaze was more curious than anything.

A van came and went often, spilling out a large man stuffed into a uniform with many pockets and shiny buttons. His face was always serious. The dogs he brought in on leashes were skinny and mangy and haunted looking. The cats were yowling. Just wait, communicated Spuds silently from her hiding place, just wait: you’ll be fine.

After the third day Spuds gathered her brood over a feast of two freshly caught mice. When the kittens had finished their meal and Spuds had crunched through the remains of bones and tails and toes, after all of them had washed their faces with their paws and were content, she told them her plan. They listened, then slept.

When the moon was still high between the buildings, Spuds nudged the kittens awake. Yawning and stretching, they meandered after her. She settled them down together beneath a bush by the front door of the place of meow and barks, and waited. As the sun rose pink, Spuds licked the face of each of her babies and looked into their eyes, trying to convey a lifetime of love. When each kitten held her gaze and blinked slowly, Spuds moved to the next.

People started coming to the building, sharp, purposeful footfalls clicking on the pavement. Spuds saw the man in the uniform come up the walk. She nudged the littlest kitten out from under the shrub and told her to meow. The kitten did, and the man looked down. Spuds nudged the other kittens, and they followed their sister.

The man looked down and sighed. He scooped up all four of the kittens in his meaty arms and then saw Spuds. He called over his shoulder to a woman coming up the walk. She reached beneath the bush to grab Spuds, but Spuds eluded her grasp. The woman ran after her, but Spuds was faster. Before turning the corner, Spuds looked back toward her babies, watching as the last stubby orange tail disappeared through the door. She had a moment of panic, then darted under a fence and was gone.

Spuds has a hard time getting comfortable at night without the kittens to curl around. She misses her babies terribly. She holds onto a hopeful image: someone taking care of them, giving them warmth and food and water and comfort. With that picture in her mind, she can let go and sleep. But her first thought upon waking is of them: the way the sun shone on their orange fur, their ticked whiskers alternating white and tan to the tips, their small tails, fuzzy and broad at the base and tapering to a point.

She spends nights wandering around, half-heartedly hunting for food, nibbling at some tidbits in the dumpster. Maybe she should have gone in with her kittens, she thinks. She turns that split-second decision over and over in her mind, not clear why she had turned and fled. But it’s too late now.

to be continued….

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/
Chapter 3:  https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/05/04/ollie-spuds-chapter-3/

Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – With that Picture in Mind, She Can Sleep
© 2014 Carolyn Cott

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

red cat from free digitalSpuds had no plan. By night she hunted. By day she slept. She moved from place to place, restless.

Spuds wandered eventually into the city. Spuds learned to spot potential danger and change direction instantly. She came across a band of other cats in the park tried to live with them, but they were as prone to fighting as they were to grooming each other. She left and eventually made her home in a partially crushed box in an abandoned trash pile. It was often bitter cold, but there were plenty of mice to hunt. Water was the issue. She had to learn to drink when it rained and went thirsty when it did not. When the water froze in winter, she went without for longer periods of time. It was difficult not to crave water; sleep was the only escape from that gnawing need, but sleep was never deep and sound—Spuds learned to keep part of her mind alert for danger even in sleep.

By the late winter, Spuds’ hunger and belly had grown. One cold morning she birthed four tiny kittens, three orange, and the tiniest a pale ginger.

Spuds had never loved as much as she loved her babies. The need for food increased, so she’d leave her kittens huddled together, first communicating to them soundlessly not to move, not to mew. She held the gaze of each of them, then trotted off to hunt for her family.

She came to an area where the air was fragrant with food, women’s high-heeled shoes clicked on the sidewalk, and men’s overcoat tails flew behind them in wind. There were shiny lights and big cars along the street, and fragrant alleys and dumpsters behind the buildings.

The next night she moved her kittens, one at a time, in her mouth, waddling as fast as she could through the streets, to their new home.   She nudged the kittens beneath a stack of wooden pallets. There was no cardboard to tuck into and the concrete was cold, but food was available. There were always trade-offs.

Spuds would jump easily up and into the dumpster, emerging with delicious tidbits she’d present to her kittens. Once the kittens had eaten, she would do so, and then they curled together, the whole lot of them purring. This was her happiest time.

As the kittens grew, Spuds couldn’t keep them sequestered, so they wandered around together with her searching for food. Twice she had to fight dogs to keep them safe. Once the smallest ginger-colored kitten barely escaped the wheels of a passing truck.

Spuds sensed the time was drawing near when the kittens would wander off and start their own lives. When they settled down to sleep together, she sent them mental pictures of the life she hoped they would lead: images of a warm fireplace, kind hands setting down bowls of food and water, a soft place to sleep, and safety, safety, safety.

to be continued…

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/
Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 2

(continued from previous post)   The cat’s name is Spuds.  The old man she’d lived with thought she looked like the color of yellow Finn potatoes.  He’d pulled her as a kitten out from under a bramble—mewing and shaking—on a busy roadside.  He gently stroked her fur with large, rough hands, looked into her gold-green eyes, and took her home.

Spuds had a life of luxury with him: curled up on the rug by the wood stove in winter, lounging on a sunny perch on the screened-in porch in the summer watching red cardinals and blue birds.  Spuds liked the old man, a lot; they understood each other.  But one morning when she went up to his room to remind him it was feeding time, something was different.  She jumped up on the bed and stood on his chest and peered at him.  She could sense him, but he wasn’t in there his body.  She called out to him.  Then she saw him in her mind’s eye, and his eyes were dazzling.  Then he receded and was gone.

Four days passed before anyone came to the house.  By then Spuds had clawed her way through the bag of cat food and found that fresh toilet water wasn’t completely undrinkable.

People came then, many of them, people who had never come before.  They pawed the old man’s possessions, argued with each other, and carried things out of the house.  Spuds watched.  A woman noticed the cat and picked her up, bangle bracelets clanging together, and put Spuds outside.  Spuds sniffed at the air, then turned to go back inside.  The woman blocked Spuds’ way with a well-shod foot.  “You’re free now kitty, go away.”

Spuds looked for a long while at the closed door.  Then she walked down the driveway and before turning onto the road, looked back at the house.  The windows glinted empty and cold in the sun.
Ollie & Spuds will be continued

Chapter 1: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/15/ollie-spuds-chapter-1/

Chapter 3:  https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/05/04/ollie-spuds-chapter-3/

I Have This Dream…

All animals illustration ID-10040124For most of my life I’ve had a pact with myself:  if I see an animal in distress, I will do whatever is within my realm of possibility to help.  It’s how I can live with myself.  Sometimes what I’m able to do seems woefully inadequate.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that even a small victory—restoring just one animal’s life from bare, sketchy survival to plentiful food, water, and shelter (and if it’s fortunate, love) has to be enough.

Sometimes at night I look out the window to the blue moonlight and think of all the creatures with whom I share this night, this land.  It isn’t my job to take on everything, but I can make peace with myself by redefining what it is I can do, and by doing those things.

I can’t save every animal, but I have this dream:  Many, many people choosing to take it upon themselves not to look away from an animal in need and being willing to inconvenience themselves for a few minutes to do what can be done.  So much could be accomplished.

Three days ago I saw a black adolescent cat at the edge of our property.  He watched me and angled his head in interest.  When I took a tentative step toward him, he ran off.  Daily I place bowls of food and a fresh water where I last saw him.  Soon I will set the humane trap, and one of these days, I’ll trap him and take the long drive to the SPCA.  It’s not convenient, but I’ll do it because, for me, I have no other choice.

And when the winter wind blows icy and the snow drifts, I will not have to think of him out there, hungry and cold.  I will not have done much, but I will have helped that one small creature.  For now, it will have to be enough.
Carolyn

Saving just one animal won’t change the world…but surely the world will change for that one animal.”  Author unknown

Illustration by Vlado courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Part I – I Was Born on an Amish Farm in the Middle of Winter

Mr. BeanI was born on an Amish farm in the middle of winter.  I divided my time during my first six weeks between playing with my siblings and nursing when I could.

Sometimes my mother wasn’t around, and the six of us youngsters pushed each other aside to drink the trickle of cow’s milk that dripped down from the metal pipes carrying it away from the cows, away from us.  There wasn’t much milk, but it at least sometimes it quenched our thirst.

One day an older cat wanted the milk I was lapping from the pipes.  He rushed toward me and I lost my footing and fell.  I—with all of my 3 pounds—jumped on his back, expecting him to tussle playfully like my brothers and sisters.  He had other ideas, though, and bit off a chunk of my ear.  I learned to be wary.

Over time my stomach became swollen and filled with worms.  I was always hungry, and I became sickly and quiet.  The barn was icy cold, and the wind crept through the cracks.

One winter day a man and woman came to the farm.  They looked different from the people I had known—no long skirt, no hat.  They spoke with the farmer.  The farmer’s little boys found me and delivered me to them.  The woman told the boys that the kitten was going live in a house.  The boys, wide-eyed, said, “Nooo!”  “Yes,” she said laughing, “and the kitten is going sleep on a bed.”  “Noooo,” they said, and squinted at her as if she might be crazy.

To be continued
For Part II: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2013/09/20/part-ii-i-was-born-on-an-amish-farm-in-the-middle-of-winter/