Saturday, October 25, 2008
MEET the FAMILY : SPANKY (pt 2.)
Spanky is the 9th cat that my wife and I have "adopted" in our lives.
We don't have nine cats. That's just how many we've taken into our home on somewhat "permanent" basis over the past 11 years, although there were one or two that we just "fostered" for a little while.
And this is not counting the many dozens of cats we've sheltered, fed and cared for who lived out of doors.
But Spanky is the newest, having been indoors for the past 2 of his 6 months of age.
I should start at the beginning, really, and try to get you up to speed without getting too stuck in minor details.
Spanky and his siblings were born (we're fairly sure) in early April 2008.
I'll get into the situations surrounding the nature of our property and the cat's sanctuary therein in a future post.
To do so now would just convolute this post and make me blitzkrieg through what would normally be a rather worthy subject of writing.
Let's just say that our property* has many places where the feral cats come to hang out and have their litters each year.
In his case; one of the three woodpiles that we have set up on the edges of the yard.
Spanky was different from day one.
While his litter-mates were tiny, frightened balls of fuzz, he was drawn to me.
Maybe it was something in him, maybe it was something in me, but as a tiny little newborn, he would try to come out of their hiding place in the woodpile and step towards me, before his brothers and sister would shrink back, which would make him instinctively do so as well.
But, from day one, he wanted to be closer to me.
As the weeks and months passed, he would soon abandon any relative safety of hiding places and come galloping towards me, whenever I was outside.
One time, I recall quite vividly, he was hiding between a tree and the car in the driveway, and when I opened the basement door, (which is actually AT ground level), he saw me and started to trot over to me.
However, I was in the process of taking out the trash and quickly turned to step back into the doorway, which caused him to stop his forward motion, and suddenly look so sad and forlorn. He dipped his head down in obvious disappointment and started to slowly turn away.
My wife noticed that and called my attention to it.
I immediately stepped back outside to greet him, and his eyes lit up with excitement and he ran (in that clumsy way that tiny kittens leap and bound) straight to me.
That was the moment that I KNEW he loved me.
Before that, I just figured, he liked how I would whistle tunes around him, or call him and play with him.
But THAT drastic changing of emotional responses showed me that he was really attached.
Oh. It's worth noting that originally, I had named him "BUCKY".
This was because he would fearlessly follow me around like a faithful sidekick.
(Bucky was the sidekick to WWII era super hero; CAPTAIN AMERICA, and while I have never been a fan of Captain America before, I had the image of a loyal sidekick in my head, and it was either Bucky, or ROBIN (as in Batman and...).
Anyway, BUCKY won out.
However, somewhere in the deepest recesses of our minds, we wondered that IF he were ever to come inside, "BUCKY" sounded too much like "BUDDY", who is one of our other indoor cats, and it would cause confusion, so we had to think up a new name for "Bucky".
My wife came up with "SPANKY" because, as she said, "He's a 'Little Rascal'".
And that he is. So, Spanky it would be.
As he and his litter-mates were growing up, they would lounge about, either in the various hidey holes that we had set up for them, or the assorted spots where the tall grass grows.
One such place is the disused flower-bed, by the basement door, at the near end of the drive, by a few tree-stumps which also serve as perches and playground.
The flower-bed was allowed to get overgrown with grass and wild plants, because with all the deer that roam our yard, growing flowers just isn't an option.
Spanky's favorite place to relax and soak in the sun, was there, in the disused flower bed.
He would often do this with two other, younger kittens (his blood-cousins) from a different family, whose mother pushed them to Spanky's litter shortly before she vanished.
(She may have been ill and known, so she made sure that they were in good "paws" before leaving them, OR she went off to search for the 3rd kitten who disappeared one night after a horrible rainstorm. We'll never know.)
Unfortunately, he would sometimes remain there even after the weather turned, and his mother would take the family to a safe haven (or just for a walk in the woods). Whether he stayed there for comfort, laziness, not wanting to be too far from me or the onset of his illness, I can't say. Often, however, I'd go outside only to find him, alone, while his family had ventured out for the day.
One day, during a tempestuous thunderstorm, I went out to make sure that their food bowls were all filled for the night, and running up to me was Spanky.
Alone, scared and getting wet.
I held him while we sat under the retractible awning on the deck waiting for his family to return so that he could rejoin them in one of the shelters we have built for them.
But as the night approached, I didn't see any sign of his kin.
Lightning flashed and thunder crashed in the distance while the rain grew in intensity.
I knew that I couldn't sit there, holding him all night, so I quickly thought of a way to take him in for the night.
The upstairs bathroom is of a decent enough size that I could be able to set it up as a temporary "motel" room for him, and I'd lay out a few comforters on the floor, so that I would be able to sleep in there with him to keep him company.
He nuzzled up next to me all night and slept like a baby (with a few instances of kitten-playfulness).
The morning came, and my wife saw his family outside, so I quickly scooped him up, reassuring him with soft words, bringing him out to them for a reunion.
They all played and seemed genuinely happy to see him; hale and hearty.
Not a day or two later, when setting out the food bowls again, I found him playing near a large mound of what I surmised as raccoon poop.
The problem was it was infested with bugs, and upon closer inspection, so was he.
I pulled a tick from his face and removed a few bugs that I saw upon his coat.
He must have got too close to the poop.
The raccoons come out to eat the leftover food at night, and Spanky, being fairly fearless (or ignorant of such things) would often get quite close to them.
I had to go away for two days following that, and when I returned, the Mrs. seemed very concerned about Spanky's health. He didn't seem "right" to her.
Of course, this was a weekend, and the vet was closed, so I took him in again, and catered to him, nursing what ailments that I could see.
He was congested and his eyes were all goopy, and he was sneezing. Blood.
Monday morning, off to the vet we went. By now, I was thinking that he was a good 50% "ours" and as long as I could take care of what ailed him, and if it weren't too severe, he might be able to return to his life - but more than likely, it seemed like we probably had another "child".
I couldn't help but think that if he were so easily susceptible to ailment and injury, then he might be better off inside.
But first, we had to find out what was wrong.
(continued in part 3)
* I don't like the term "property" to describe land, since... really, it'll be around far longer than we will. It's just "on loan" to us from the planet.
(yeah. I hug trees. I'm not ashamed of it.)