Thursday, April 28, 2011


"If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel,
You are looking the wrong way."
                                                       Barry Commoner

Although everything I own is still malfunctioning, and I am unable to post photos with my blog posts - which I find mundanely boring - I manage to survive, as does the latest victim of surgery.

Being a Crazy Cat Lady is not all fun and games, and I would advise anyone aspiring to this height to look deep into one's soul.  It is not the love of cats - or any other animal for that matter - that one has to affirm.  It is the strength to endure the suffering the animal may have to endure, whether it be by accident, illness or, as in our latest case, the worst sort of inbreeding.    Inbreeding I may add, as a result of irresponsible pet owners.  My only consolation at this stage is that I managed to save my own corner of my own little world at that farm.   The ferals (with the exception of the two smartest, strongest males), were all fixed before we left, at least ensuring the females would have no further inbred litters.

I waited a year to have the last two of the rescues fixed due to their diminutive statures.  Helen, due to being blind, also needed to know her way around the apartment really well, before the trauma of surgery.   

Three or so days after Helen had her surgery, she began to have Grand Mal seizures.  It was Sunday. I had to hold her through every seizure, my son couldn't even watch, he escaped to the new gardens he is designing.  And stayed there.  I stayed up with Helen all night, ending up with her in the vet's office promptly at 9 AM the next morning.   Helen had two Petit Mal seizures in front of him.  He immediately put her on an I.V. with fluids and steroids.  She stopped having seizures and was  "resting" at 2 PM that day when I called to check on her. 

After doing the research I discovered epilepsy in cats does not usually appear until aged 2-3 years, due to the cerebrum not being fully developed.  Although something is wrong neurologically, she is after all blind, she had not had any incidents, and although she is one month short of a year old but only weighs 4.5 lbs. she has had no health issues.   The only trigger I could find was a drug called Meloxicam which was administered for pain and inflammation after the surgery, staying in the animal's system for 10 days.

I have had all the farm cats fixed at the high volume clinic and this was the first incident, so I am by no means blaming them.   My vet said that he does not routinely administer that drug.  The side effects include seizures, and we are hoping the dose was far too much for her size, coupled with the fact that she is - as my son says - a 'closet kitty' that caused the incident.   She looked nothing like our Helen when I brought her home - in my still-falling-apart vehicle.

She wouldn't eat until my son - her preferred adoptive Dad - came home, at  which point she sat by her food bowl and stared at him until he went over to sit with her on the floor. She finally ate and had some water.  Today she is finally looking like our Helen.  She is eating on her own every two hours or so, is on steroids for the next thirty days - just in case - and rests a lot. 

For my part, I sit quietly listening to Lawrence Krauss lectures on You-Tube -volume on low- or reading the only book of his I could get my hands on in a hurry.  ATOM.  Incredibly enough he mentions the discovery of ZERO.  I have the book on the discovery of zero and it is great.    I am waiting you see, for the slightest little out-of-the-ordinary noise that could indicate Helen having a problem.  I don't mind.

Having worked in emergency services so long, I know that an unconscious human is feeling and knowing nothing on a 'knowing' level, and if that human is conscious, said human can be reassured with words, as well as the comfort of a loved one nearby.    Animals cannot understand why things are happening to them, thus can only rely on the proximity of those they love for comfort, and the trust they have in their human to help them.

The black and white city feral has been eating my sons seedlings as they try to mature ( I told him not to put the cat-nip out in the herb garden until last...    :} ).   Last night the Son was standing at the back window staring out at his gardens when I heard him mumbling to himself, "There's that darn cat, bet he's going for the plants....."   

I raced out to the back with a cup of dried cat food, and did the Hansel and Gretal routine, spreading the food bits from the cat, to the flat rock on the side of the house where I leave his food.  I had been remiss in feeding him due to keeping my eyes and ears glued to Helen.   He continued to sit.  He is in really rough shape now after this past winter, so I thought maybe he might like a jar of strained baby food beef left-over from poor Murray.  I put it in a disposable dish and raced out with that, where he still sat, not moving.   He actually let me approach to within three feet of him, while I talked to him, but he wouldn't move toward the food.  He just looked at me, and there was something in his eyes. As if he were remembering the old man that was his owner, from the strange little house across the street.  Remembering long before, when he had his elderly owner to talk to him, before the man was put in a nursing home, and the man's relatives came to take everything of value out of the home - including the Baby Grand I saw whisked into the moving van - and threw the cat out the door.  (Someday I will find out the cat's name, I found someone, who knows someone, who knew a friend of the man, who has since passed away).

I flew up the stairs to the back window and what I saw was an act of kindness rarely seen in humans.  There the cat sat, in the same spot I left him, while he watched another, totally emaciated cat eat the baby food.  When the new stranger had finished, only then did the cat follow the trail of food to his rock.

Though in the past I have tried to maintain some sort of faith in mankind, the more needlessly abandoned animals my daughter and I run across (dogs, ferrets, you name it), my faith has dwindled to, " I abhore people, though adore the people I choose to associate with."

My disdain for Freud was well known in my psych. courses, but even Krauss refers to him in ATOM. After looking in the city feral's eyes last night, and seeing what I believe to be hope on his part, as well as a rememberance of love once showered upon him by a lonely man, I must refer to Freud for the first time in my life, with some iota of respect, for he said,  " I have found little that is good about human beings.  In my experience most of them are trash."    Way to go Freud. 

Yes Prof. Turner, I said it.

Monday, April 11, 2011


While I attempt to finish my next post.   He has a video of my daughter's dog.  "Candy."

"Candy" hates me.   For some odd reason the minute her eyes see me, apparently what her brain sees is a medium rare T-Bone steak...   It's the long, low growl and those beady eyes that never lose site of me that unnerves me to the point of unbridled fear.   

It was "Thunder" that did the incredible-never-ending-fear-of-dogs thing to me.  He was a police dog that came after me, hey, in my very own place of employment, and did that lunge at the thighs and hold the walking T-Bone hostage until ordered to knock it off thing.  We never did figure out how "Thunder," the pure white German Shepard, ever did end up in that hallway, the very same hallway I was attempting to negotiate, while minding my very own business.                       


Interesting to note as well, it occurred just outside the Shift Commander's office door, where four cops stood stock still, while I said,  "HEY YOU GUYS???   SOMEONE SAVE ME HERE.......?"   To which they whispered in reply,  "Shhhhh, he doesn't know we're in here....."

So take a gander at fluffy, er, "Candy."   She was staring at me when the kid took the video at my Grandson's birthday party....

Find  "Candy"  here

He's also posted some of our herd, in which his gorgeous baby Einstein may be seen. Einstein has the oddest  tiger coloring I have ever seen.

Friday, April 8, 2011



It appears Camilla has gone green and snagged a bird's nest for a hat.....

Sunday, April 3, 2011


In any electrical circut, appliances and wiring will burn out to protect fuses.

                                    Robert Byrne

From an early age I was educated to appropriately fear the power of natural electricity,
 but it would be fear of the  made-made sort that would gradually seep into the nucleus of my cells with the ability to set off my 'fight or flight' instinct faster than you can count to one after hearing the first rumble of thunder.  This is not a good thing for a hiker, but I'll get to that at some other time.

My father began his career in the NAVY, and being mechanically inclined, learned the job of maintaining the huge engines that kept the ships he was on from floundering somewhere in the North Atlantic where no amount of intelligent dolphins could lend aid.

The most important things he learned were fire drills for every section of each particular ship. Apparently these drills had a carry-over effect, causing him to arrive home on leave, throw his huge duffel bag down on the porch, fling open the screen door, and yell,   "FIRE!"

Knowing he was due in, my sister and I would glare at each other over the tops of the current books we were reading, give each other the "Here we go again," teeth-sucking, eye-rolling routine, grab our packed-in-case-of-fire-bags and roll out of the house.  It wasn't as easy when Nana was still alive.  In her slowly worsening fog of dementia she believed it every time, and would start throwing anything that meant something dear to her out her bedroom window.  My sister and I were in charge of collecting Nana, which would mean grabbing our bags and trying to bodily wrench her from her things, while trying to convince her  it was just a drill. The neighbors were used to it. They would see things flying out the second floor window and dryly remark, "Jim's home on leave."

After the lumber yard fire, I gained a new respect for Dad's fire drills.

From the time my kids were able to walk, they learned to pack a bag of essentials - always throw a book in there in case it turns out to be an actual fire - line their shoes up at the door before they went to bed, and when the fire alarm went off, to calmly grab their bags, collect shoes at the door, feel the door, if not hot, head like the swallows of Capistrano for the car.     Which was always parked far away from the building.

While living in a cookie-cutter, brick, three story apartment building, the fire alarm had a tendency to go off quite a bit.  Lot of  'food-on-the-stove' calls goin' on there. Lots of drills with my kids grabbing their bags, me grabbing the pet carriers.

 I never realized how numb to drills my kids had become until one day, when we had our own house, I was vacuming.  I had one of those canister things that you dragged along behind you.  I reached the end of the living room and turned to see smoke billowing out of the vacume cleaner, my son nonchalantly standing behind it, staring.   I caught his eye, he said calmly, "oh, fire." and trudged up the stairs to get his bag.  Not knowing when, or if the thing would blow, I opened the front door and kept dragging until the plug popped out of the wall and the vacume cleaner was in the middle of the lawn.  Smoldering.  Five minutes later my son -  the Cub Scout -  is slowly inching his way out the front door with his bag, dragging the cat carrier to which he had roped his sisters bag. 

His sister was not home for the incident. Which may account for her amazement when, after she had put buttered bread in the toaster, the toaster went out the back door.

Were it not for my half Irish blood genetically steering me towards the traditional municipal jobs that would be mainstays for immigrant's survival generations after arriving in this country, I would swear it would be my 'face-the-fear-head-on' attitude that drove me into my career in public service. Many years later psychologist's would name the 'get-right-back-on-the-horse' routine something fancy, along with the "cure" for it. They would call it flooding. At the time I transferred into the dispatching aspect of emergency services I viewed it as more of a control issue. If something in my house was going to burn, at least I was in the first line of contact feeling some minimal control over FIRE.

After I was hired for my first dispatch position, I was trained by one  of the most competant fire dispatchers I have ever known (yes PB, I'm referring to you), who also happened to be a former cop and volunteer for the FD.  This was way back in the day of one dispatcher for five towns, police, fire, rescue, the whole nine yards - most with volunteer departments - and the cops serving as first responders.  It was also the time of non-clearly marked roads, fire and access roads with no names but developed properties, usually found by directions given as,  'pass the big rock, take a left onto the dirt by the dead oak tree.'

I had a few small fires, and one room burn-outs before the big one came along.  Naturally it was in an ancient, corn cob insulated, three story farmhouse out in no man's land.

 Were it not for Gladys - a fellow dispatcher and friend - who knew every nook and cranny of the town she had lived in her entire life, even the old firefighters probably would not have found the home, located as deep in the hills as it was.  Gladys dispatched for BASE 500, a privately owned dispatch center that covered what was left of the towns not covered by us.  BASE 500 had a lot more transmitting power than our municipal facilities, thus when Gladys heard someone confused about a location, she would switch to our frequency, blasting us all out of our seats with perfect directions.

The call from an elderly, bedridden woman came in around 1 AM.  She said she smelled smoke, feared her house was on fire, and her care-taker had left for the night.  I dispatched the units, all volunteers racing out of their homes into the night, and while signing on all began asking exactly where the house was located.  Though Gladys came blasting over our frequency with perfect directions to the home, it wasn't enough to save the situation,. The woman would perish.

I ended up speaking to the frightened elderly woman confined to her bed, unable to walk to save herself, until smoke inhalation finally overtook her.  The old home was fully involved by the time the trucks all got there to start dousing it with tons of water, and although the response time - Thanks to Gladys - was incredible considering the variables, it never could have been fast enough to save that poor woman.

I hadn't quite gotten over that when the next big one came along. It would be comically dramatic, though not fatal. Some guy called on the red line to say that he had a "small" stove fire and could we send just one truck just in case he couldn't handle it himself.  Needless to say the fire department does not do custom orders for obvious reasons.  He got a full assignment sent to his house, which he heard, before seeing, coming down his street.  He called me back screaming.  "I JUST ASKED FOR ONE TRUCK LADY."  The first  arriving trucks on the scene were calling for a second alarm and screaming at me to tell the guy to get out of the house.  Meanwhile the guy could hear the radio through the phone and said to tell them he had his kitchen sink sprayer and was dousing the fire, oh, and it was almost out too.  What the guy didn't know was the fire had gone straight into the walls of the house, so while he stood in his kitchen calmly spraying the stove, the entire exterior of his home was engulfed in flames.   It turned into one of those incidents where one of  the cops, those brave souls who run toward danger, as opposed to away from it, took it upon himself and, despite my warning not to,  entered the home to physically drag the guy out of the house.  Ever since that fire I can't tell you how many police officers I have worked with that have done the same thing, ending up with melted uniforms and burns, to save those who refuse to save themselves.

Never The Less.....

When I moved into this apartment late last summer, the PhD candidate from the third floor met me in the driveway to introduce herself, and lend a few warnings  pointers.  

"I work midnights." she said, and without a breath in between she continued.   "The smoke detectors are all hard-lined and if one goes off, they all go off."  "The people that used to live in your apartment were constantly burning food on the stove."   "They also would throw burning appliances over the side of the porch onto the lawn."  

Well, at that last remark I felt myself begining to pale before her very eyes.  I wasn't sure if I had FIRE HAZARD in neon lights on my forehead. After all, once one has set a toilet on fire (  that particular doozy may be found here  )-inadvertently I might add -  there's just no tellin'.

I began to feel an understanding, if not even a slight affection, for those who had come to live here before me.  There was a time, before I  finally come to the realization anything I touch that has a plug is going to light itself on fire when I least expect it, I had lots of things with plugs.  Through the course of my life, I have thrown dust-busters, toasters, toaster ovens,  vaccume cleaners, electric sweepers, and even a small black and white portable TV   'over the side.'   Though the TV was in my younger days and went out my bedroom window when it began to smoke.  

I am darkly familiar with the smell of electrical burning, as in flourescent light ballasts, and my computer desk top power supply that burnt out last month.  Or the USB connection to my digital camera that unfortunaltely  emitted that acrid odor at the very same moment I plugged it in, which caused a little bluish gray poof of smoke and  a bit of a shock I could have done without. 

While living at the farm it was impossible to avoid freezing to death while taking showers during the winter in the huge, uninsulated house.  I bought an oil-filled electric radiator for the bathroom, rationalizing that since it was enclosed, with no open flame, it would be safe.    I am more frequently wrong, than right in my assumptions...

I always left the thing unplugged unless it was actually being used, so I plugged it in one day, turned it on, went to the kitchen to do something, and for no known reason, promptly returned to the bathroom heater.  There I found a small flame, about the size of a pilot light, in between the electrical thermostat thingy, and the actual oil-filled thingys  (Yuh, I'm one of those, don't know any technical jargon, in a pinch I will attempt sad charades to describe things in person, and the most fun is trying to reproduce noises the car makes for the mechanics, while watching their attempt to control hysterics....).  Well anyway, I hadn't left the thing alone for more than two minutes, here is this flame I am staring at in disbelief, that within the space of thirty seconds had grown exponentially.   Luckily my panic training kicked in swiftly. Despite the urge to stop, drop and roll right out the door, I snapped the plug out of the wall, raced to the kitchen to grab a truckload box of baking soda, and quickly threw it all on the flame, which was still growing, despite it's lack of power.

And although the apartment we are in now is simply loaded to the gills with GFI outlets, it is, as my son says, not what it seems.  Some plugs with GFI outlets are connected to plugs in other rooms. Only one plug may be used at a time in others, lest the breaker in the basement trip. Most recently my coffee grinder burnt out before the GFI popped.  In fact it never did pop.

I feel the need to document my relationship with fire due to an article I read years ago.  I cut it out and stuck it in the fire-proof safe, just in case someone arrives to visit and finds not me, but a human shaped pile of ashes on the floor.  The article reads;

Spontaneous human combustion is most likely to occur during a period of strong magnetic disturbance. No one knows how or why a person seemingly ignites without any external fuel, leaving behind little more than a heap of ashes, an uncharred limb, and a pungent blue smoke hanging in the air, but many victims were wearing slippers at the time of occurence.

I do not own a pair of slippers.........