Archive for January, 2013


I just finished reading an article in Salon advocating killing cats.  The argument, as I understand it, is that there’s a huge overpopulation of cats who  kill other species.  The problem  is so bad on some islands that many species are going extinct.  The author states that trap/spay/neuter/release programs do not work because the released cats will still kill other animals, and because there are just too many cats to spay/neuter.   Therefore, because these programs don’t work, all feral cats should be euthanized.

I then read the comments section, where opinions varied.  There were quite a few people who said that human overpopulation is the biggest threat to biodiversity, so we should work on getting that problem under control first.  After all,  less humans mean less people who want to own cats!  Others said the trap and release programs would work if they were expanded.  Some comments focused on whether large amounts of cats could be humanely euthanized, while others asked whether it was humane to let cats roam outside, catch diseases, and perhaps die painful deaths.

Readers of my blog will note that I have a history of trapping/spaying/releasing feral cats.  The cat pictured above, Patches, is one of those cats.

A dog person at heart, I was “dragged” into this work because there were feral cats in my neighborhood, they were procreating, and one of my dogs was killing the kittens.  Would the author of the Salon article say I should have euthanized my dog? Or maybe I should have let her continue this practice, thus helping eliminate the feral problem in my area?

Through the years, people have registered different responses to my work with ferals.  My neighbors think I’m crazy.  The cats are feral, after all, and don’t matter, they say.  Just let them get run over.

One of my veterinarians lectured me about how too many cats kill birds, and how euthanasia is a very valid option.

And, while she hasn’t said anything directly, I can tell that my shelter’s volunteer coordinator does not agree with me helping the ferals.  She, too, would rather they be brought to the shelter to be euthanized.

Yes, euthanasia an option, but here’s the problem with that particular line of action:  where I live, I’d have to be trapping and euthanizing every week.  I live in a somewhat rural area, where people feel free to dump their unwanted cats and kittens.  Then there are the truly feral cats who have never been owned by anyone, roaming the woods and fields, and yes, eating mice and birds and chipmunks and rabbits.   Add to that the fact that several of my neighbors throw their food scraps (including meat) out in their yards.  This practice attracts feral cats as well as other wild animals.   So, if I didn’t have a population of cats already claiming my neighborhood as their territory, I’d always be inundated with new arrivals.

No one commenting on the Salon article talked about how hard it would be for someone like me to constantly trap and then take the animals to the shelter, to be held for five days, then euthanized. Now, I do admit that trapping an animal to spay/neuter isn’t always easy, either.   But there’s a longer cycle to that.  I have two more cats to get neutered; then I’ll be done for awhile.

Yes, these cats may get hit by cars, they may hunt birds or mice, or they themselves may become dinner for a fox or coyote.  They will live for however long they live, they will have been fed, watered, had access to shelter, and been given names.  Some, like Patches, Atticus, Callie and Dots, developed a strong bond with me.  I could pick them up and pat them, though they would be wary of you.

So, this might not be the best option, but it’s what I can do.   And until someone (including the county) is willing to come every week to trap and euthanize, then this is what I’ll continue to do.

Do you have a feral cat problem in your area?  If so, how do you handle it?






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As I begin contemplating what to do next with my life (why wait for the Camino?), I’ve been prompted to write a list of all the good things I’ve received from my past jobs.

So here goes:

1. My current job gave me the flexibility to take care of, and spend time with, my dogs in their infirmed years. I am eternally grateful for this.

2. I’ve met some great people along the way. Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve met interesting people. Two that come to mind immediately are A. and K.

I worked with A. in an insurance setting. We sat by each other and spent hours talking about a shared passion: college basketball. While we were both hardcore Duke fans, we spent hours watching other teams play as well. We would talk for hours most nights on the phone, dissecting plays, celebrating victories, mourning losses. Then we would begin again at 8:30 a.m. the next business day. We never tired of talking basketball!

I moved on to another job, and we continued to talk frequently until family obligations and distance got the better of us. A. passed away about seven years ago, and I have to say that tournament time is just not the same.  Though I do have to wonder if, like me, she would have lost some interest in the sport due to the “one and done” atmosphere that currently exists.   While I don’t begrudge anyone making money, I miss the opportunity to watch players develop and grow over four years. It’s just not the same family atmosphere.

Another very special person is K., who is truly like a younger brother to me. He’s funny, smart, empathetic, athletic … just a great all-around person and someone I’ll always feel close to, no matter how far away he lives or how little we communicate (he’s currently practicing law in the Midwest.) True tale:  one of my finest accomplishments in life was introducing him to the sheer yumminess of homegrown tomatoes.

Of course, there are many other amazing people with whom I’ve worked. Artists, musicians,and authors working in retail or the food industry while they nurture their true joy. Mothers who give me another perspective on life — and making me very glad that I’m not currently dealing with a teenage daughter! Fathers sharing pride in their children’s accomplishments. Students figuring out what they want to do in life, then going on to be successful in that very career setting. So many wonderful people with whom I’ve shared laughs and tears…

For all the joy of knowing these folks, there has been some sadness. A coworker was murdered, several have had cancer scares, others have passed away, and a student went crazy and started stalking people in our office. But luckily these challenging situations were few and far between.

3. Another thing I’m grateful for is all I’ve learned along the way. Because I’ve had such varied jobs (public relations, retail, food industry, office work), I’ve had the opportunity to learn about many different industries.  And because some of my jobs had major down times, I’ve been able to educate myself about my personal interests: gardening/microfarming; sustainability; spirituality; shamanism; and of course, the Camino!

4. I am grateful for the jobs in which I could work independently. Once I know what I’m doing, I’m pretty good at getting projects done, setting schedules, etc. I don’t need micromanaging. Luckily my last few jobs, I have been trusted to not only do my assigned tasks, but to also come up with more efficient processes.

5. Over the past 15 years of working in a university setting, I’ve had access to libraries, inexpensive gym memberships, and athletic and artistic events.

6.  I’m extremely happy that my recent jobs have not required me to “dress up.”    While I dress professionally for meetings, there’s just as many days I can wear jeans.

7.  I’m grateful that I don’t have an extremely long or difficult commute.

8. My job is conveniently located so if I forget to bring lunch, I’m near a dozen restaurants.

9.  When it’s icy, I have the option of taking vacation time rather than risking life and limb driving into work.

10. Maybe this should be number one, since it’s very important:  I am grateful for a paycheck!

I’m sure that if I took more time,  I could come up with more reasons to be grateful for the jobs I’ve held.  If you work, what are you most grateful for?

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courtesy Microsoft clip art

courtesy Microsoft clip art

At long last, I have a date for my Camino!

After close to two years of dreaming about this trip, I’ve purchased my airline ticket and made it official.   I leave the States on Wednesday, April 24, spend a few days acclimating and traveling to St. Jean Pied a Port, then begin my walk across Spain on Sunday, April 28.  There’s no backing out now!

Not that I would seriously back out, mind you.  I just had a brief moment of panic after hitting the “purchase now” button.  What was I thinking?  I haven’t re-learned Spanish like I had planned, I haven’t lost that last 20 pounds that seem to never want to go away, I’m not walking 20 miles a day with a 15-pound pack on my back.   And the biggest “what the..” of all:  I’m quitting my job with no idea of what I’ll be doing when I get back.

But then I calmed down a bit, reminding myself that I’ve been guided to do this trip, that I have phone apps to help with the Spanish, that I can always walk slowly and take my time (I have two months, after all!), and that I will have a lot of time to figure out the next steps in my life.  I’ll  literally be walking into my new life!

I still have to purchase some clothing and other items for my trip, and finalize arrangements with my wonderful house sitter (MamaNell).   Get some bills on automatic pay, get the car inspected early, and hire a lawn person to cut the grass.  Buy enough cat food for the ferals.  Write my letter of resignation.   Figure out what to do about my phone since my model of iPhone will not work in Spain.  And probably many other little things that I haven’t  thought of at this moment.  These next three months will fly by.

I can’t believe that I’m almost on my Way!









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Usually we are the ones who choose our pets, but every once in awhile our pets choose us. Patches the cat definitely chose me.

Patches is a gray and white feral cat who is curious, playful, and very determined. And about four years ago, he decided he was going to live at my house, come hell or high water.

In this particular instance, the “hell or high water” was a long-haired orange and white cat named Atticus.

Atticus, also feral, was a pretty laid-back cat who had been used to sharing my yard and the crawl space under my house with his cousins and siblings. (Unfortunately, my dogs did not take kindly to cats, so the cats couldn’t come inside.) Things happen, though, and so Atticus found himself OCAH (only cat at home) and he loved it.

That is, until pesky Patches started hanging around. The two fought … and fought … and fought. Atticus was a large cat, about twice the size of Patches, so poor Patches would come out of battle all scratched and scarred. But he would not leave.

I thought the fighting would stop when I created a separate eating spot for Patches. It did not. Then I thought the fighting would stop after Patches got neutered. No such luck.

What finally made it stop was the water hose, which was turned on and aimed at the pair. Finally, they called a truce. Atticus stayed in the front yard, Patches in the back.

Now, all these years later, Patches is OCAH (except for the ferals who live next door), and since I am currently dogless, he is able to come in the house.

At first, Patches was very anxious and didn’t like being in an enclosed space. But once he realized that I would let him out upon request, he relaxed and began exploring.

Three months since he first walked inside, and Patches has made himself at home. He especially loves to curl up on the sleeping bag on my bed.


He also has a favorite chair.


And he’s very playful. I’ve bought him a few toys; his favorite is the blue catnip mouse.


Patches still likes to go outside and prowl around the neighborhood. But on these cooler days, he loves curling up on the sleeping bag for a long winter’s nap.

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“Unhappy” endings


As has previously been discussed, I’m having a little trouble staying joyful, and a good part of that reason is because I’ve been putting off doing the main things that normally brings me joy.  One of those things is sharing my life with a dog.

For those who don’t normally read my blog, I am waiting to get a dog (or two) until after I walk the Camino de Santiago this coming spring.  The Camino is 500 miles long, and I will be gone at least six weeks.  I didn’t think that getting a dog, especially a rescue, and then leaving it in a few months for such a long period of time would be fair to the dog.  I also hadn’t budgeted for a dog sitter.  I tend to be picky about dog sitters; not just anyone can take care of my precious pets!   My favorite sitter is quite popular (and quite expensive); I would have had to book her a year in advance.    So, for all those reasons, I had decided against adopting a dog at this time.

But now is the time to admit that I have been sorely tempted.  So when Stepmom A. said she would pet-sit for me, I filled out an application to adopt Darwin, a friendly lab mix with a lot of energy.   The application was approved on a Thursday night, right after Darwin was adopted by someone else.   Yay for Darwin, whose now in a loving home!

Not to be deterred, I started looking at a few other dogs.  Lab mixes Tulip and Oliver went to foster homes;  I believe both had expensive medical issues to address so this is a good option for them.    Gretchen, Nora and Heather, also lab mixes, got adopted.     Literally every dog I showed even remote interest in got adopted or went to foster!  Apparently lab mixes are easily adoptable, so my interest could just coincide with popular demand.  But what if I have some extraordinary power of putting energy toward a dog and the dog then getting adopted?  Wouldn’t that be a good use of my time and energy?  I decided to give it a try.  One might laugh, but non-lab mixes Corky, Naomi, and Kimmie all got adopted, and Jacob went to a foster home.

This was turning out to be fun!  I could be feel good about my (perhaps non-existent) role in these animals’ adoptions or fosters!   And in the meantime, I would volunteer at a local shelter walking the dogs.

So, I went to training, where I learned about the shelter and their vast need for volunteers.  Without volunteer help, the dogs would never get out of their cages for walks on the woody trail or romps in the large, enclosed pen.  Volunteers also help socialize the puppies, and teach the older dogs some commands so that they are more easily adoptable.    Yay for volunteers!

I also learned some pretty alarming statistics about the number of animals in shelters nationwide, and the numbers that are euthanized each year.  I should have written them down, but I didn’t.  Suffice it to say the numbers are incredibly depressing.

The particular shelter where I am volunteering takes in any animal surrendered to them, be it dog, cat, gerbil, goat or horse.  Some people also bring elderly or sick animals to be put down. Knowing what I paid to have my own dogs put down, I appreciate  that the shelter will provide this free service to city/county residents who could otherwise not afford it.    Others, for various reasons, bring in animals because they either cannot or will not keep them any longer. Then there are the pets who are strays or abandoned by their owners.   And don’t get me started on the animal cruelty cases!

For every hour this shelter is open, four animals are brought in.   FOUR!     The shelter keeps animals as long as possible, but after awhile, dogs get nippy or anxious and just not happy.   And if a dog bites anyone, it’s put down.   I don’t remember what they said about cats, but I’m sure there are signs for when their lives in the shelter become sub-optimal.

That being said, statistics were cited about how the adoption rate was on the rise over the past few months.  And volunteers were told that, even if there were “unhappy” endings, at least we would have given an animal some love and care that it might never have received otherwise.

Steeled with this information and my seeming talent in helping dogs get adopted, I went to work.

Unfortunately, today I deduced that one of the dogs I was hoping to help get adopted, or foster myself, had an “unhappy” ending.   And I have to tell you, I cried.   Even though I know that she’s no longer stressed and nippy.  Even though I believe in puppy heaven (or a version of some such).   Even though I know that everyone tried.   I still cried.

I’ve been working with feral cats for the past decade, so I’m plenty familiar with “unhappy” endings.  I have told myself what the shelter tells volunteers, that any amount of love given to an animal matters to that animal, and that my small amount of help did make a difference.    But I still cry.

I  have to tell myself that can’t save them all.   I just don’t have the space and financial resources.  And unfortunately, there’s a never-ending supply of animals who need help.   So I just have to remind myself about what I say I believe — that they are alright in the end.  That they too go somewhere where there’s only love (and perhaps puppy treats).    RIP Shelby.







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