Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Saving an ocean of homeless cats


Published as "Postcards from Phoenix" in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, June 7, 2018
 
A photo of a sign that reads "Feral Cat Entrance" is on my Facebook page.

It was the perfect illustration of my spring in Phoenix, a season of cat catching and making new acquaintances. I've certainly learned a lot, especially that it takes a village to make an impact on a project like this.

In the end, I had three adult females spayed, and found homes for six kittens. I learned how to bottle-feed and foster a feral family, and how to reach out and ask for help.
In April, I captured and spayed Ratty Cat, the unfriendly feral I'd been feeding for months, along with her three newborn kittens, and thanks to instructions found online, housed them all in a crate within a crate in my office.

Things were going smoothly until I spotted another stray nursing a litter of kittens in the alley behind my house. I felt like I was spitting into the ocean.
I posted a plea for help on Nextdoor, a phone app that serves as a virtual bulletin board for neighborhoods, but got no response. Paul found a post from a cat rescuer nearby, and I commented on it, thanking them for their work, describing my cat situation and adding, "I could sure use some help."

A woman named Michele Ford contacted me, and suddenly, I was in business. Armed with Michele's traps and knowledge of cats, we went to work. I was elated when we caught the entire family from the alley, and then devastated when someone stole one of my traps with two kittens inside.

It was a reminder that I live in a big crime-filled city, and also that this cat-rescue stuff isn't for the faint of heart.
I promised Michele I'd help her in any way I could to thank her for all she's done for my alley cats. My plan is to set up a Facebook page where she can solicit donations, share photos of kittens and cats up for adoption, and accumulate more volunteers like me.

I'm not an expert, although I did tell her I'd been the publicity chair for the Tryon Garden Club and the Lanier Library Poetry Festival. I'm not sure how impressed she was with my resume, but she's grateful for the offer.

I showed her the Facebook page for Paws, Prayers, and Promises, an organization in Tryon that's a shining example of conducting a rescue the right way. While I was spitting into the cat rescue ocean, Paws, Prayers, and Promises amassed a navy of well-equipped vessels to navigate the seas.

In the time I saved a handful of cats, they saved dozens. Just today, they raised two-thousand dollars for life-saving surgery for an orphaned kitten. They are a mighty force in the cat-saving world.
The whole time I was juggling my crate-within-a-crate feral family with only the internet to provide me advice,  I wished I was in Tryon where I could reach out for help and easily find it.

My Phoenix vet gave me a list of local cat rescue organizations, none of whom returned my calls. One even had a recording that said they didn't accept outside calls.

I get it. Phoenix is a huge city. These organizations are overwhelmed. But that was no comfort to me when I watched kittens nursing in the dirt in the alley behind my house with no way to help them.
My season of cat rescue has come to an end. By the time you read this, I'll be in Tryon where I'm happy to say I'll spend my summer.

I have a cat-feeding station set up on the side of my house in Phoenix, and neighbors to man it in my absence. Hopefully, Ratty Cat and the other strays in my neighborhood won't even notice I'm gone. I've asked my neighbors to be on the lookout for kittens, and Michele is standing by to trap on my property if needed.
I feel so lucky to have found Michele, and look forward to helping her with her Facebook page and anything else she needs when I return in the fall. She now uses "the McNabb method" of housing feral mothers in a crate within a crate. We're both grateful to have made a new friend.

I have the satisfaction of seeing the kittens I raised in happy homes. Yes, of course I cried when I handed them to their new owners, but I know they're loved.

Beautiful, now-spayed Ratty Cat adorns my lawn and meows her thanks to me, although she never wants me to get too close.
You too can have this feeling—that something you've done has made a difference in the life of a homeless animal. You don't need to keep feral families in your house or set traps in alleys or reach out to strangers asking for help.

Just go to the Facebook page of Paws, Prayers, and Promises and hit that donate button. You're welcome.

Leo, one of Ratty Cat's kittens
 

 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

I'm a judge!

Thank you to Tryon Arts and Crafts School for asking me to be a preliminary judge in their national ghost story contest, The Apparitionist. I can't wait to read all the scary stories! You have until August 27 to enter.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Catching cats on a hot spring day

Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, April 27, 2018
I'd been feeding a stray cat for months when I contacted the Animal Defense League of Arizona to get on the waiting list to trap, neuter and release (TNR) my little wild cat. By the time my turn came along (there's about a two-month wait here), she was showing up daily, right on time for dinner.
I called her Ratty Cat because when she first appeared she was in rough shape, her long black fur in tatters. Regular meals revealed a beautiful cat, and while she learned to tolerate me, she remained aloof, growling and hissing if I came too close, even with a treat in my hand. I once held my hand out to her carefully; she sniffed it and whacked it, leaving me with a scratch to remind me she's feral.
I felt confident I could trap her on a Tuesday to get her to her spay appointment on Wednesday morning. Monday, she had kittens.
I called my contact at the Animal Defense League and asked, "Now what?" Even though it was April, the temperatures in Phoenix were already in the 90s, and it even hit 100 that week. I was told the newborns don't usually make it when it's over 90, so I went to work.
Paul helped me remove a board from our backyard fence where tiny voices cried out. Ratty Cat came flying out of her nest in the bushes behind the fence, leaving three black kittens behind. As instructed, I placed the kittens in the trap and waited to catch Ratty.
When she didn't show up, we took a crash course (thank you, Google) in bottle-feeding, and continued to leave the trap in place. At four a.m., I caught the wrong cat, a beat-up black-and-white cat (rattier than Ratty at her worst), but had to release it with a hope to catch it again someday after my kitten crisis had passed.
By four p.m. the following day, I was starting to panic, imagining myself bottle-feeding around the clock for the next six weeks. When the trap door fell, I was never happier to see that mean little face. I put Ratty's trap in our guest bathroom right away, carefully lifting the trap door just enough to put her kittens in with her.
The following morning I lined up outside the vet clinic with the other cat catchers. One woman had three traps; another man only had one because his other one had caught a raccoon. "I once caught a chicken," the veteran cat catcher lady said. They were all impressed with my mother and three bonus kittens.
I left a travel crate with the clinic, and was relieved to find Ratty and her babies safely inside when I picked them up that afternoon.
Thanks to an internet full of people experienced in dealing with ferals and their kittens, I had Ratty's new temporary home ready for her in my office, where our cat-chasing dogs can't bother her. We set the travel crate with mother and babies inside a larger wire crate with a litter box, food and water. When changing Ratty's food, water and litter, we turn into puppeteers, opening and closing the travel crate door with string and a yard stick so she can't fulfill her promise to kill us.
It's been ten days, and I still get growls, hisses and spits every time I freshen her crate, but there was one glorious morning I got a quiet purr before she was back to her usual threats that afternoon.
I know things could still go wrong as kitten lives are fragile, but so far, they seem fine. Now I'm looking down the road, hoping to find homes for the kittens (who will be spayed and neutered, of course) and to be able to grant Ratty's wish and free her back to her world but with a kitten-less future. Then she and I can get back to our regular routine where I feed her and she lets me admire her beauty as long as I don't get too close.
So, who needs a kitten?
 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

In black and white

I arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1984, and among my first jobs was a print ad for the L.A. Times. Shot by a husband and wife team that went by the name Four Eyes Photography, the ad only paid $75, but as often happened on print jobs, I was asked to stay and "test." When testing, everyone worked for no pay, but for images like this one that could be used in our portfolios. I recall wearing this same outfit months later on a fateful night when I met a man who changed my life.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Postcards from Phoenix: Making new friends, keeping the old


Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, February 28, 2018
Why do I love Tryon so much? In a recent weekend visit, I boiled it down to three things: friends, community and place.
I discussed this with a friend at TJ's one morning who said, "It's good to be reminded of that. Sometimes I forget."
So, here I am, back in Phoenix, writing to remind you all how lucky you are to live in such a special place. Having grown up in Asheville, my DNA tells me I'm in the right place when I see the mountains, smell the fresh air, marvel at the natural beauty of Western North Carolina. That's "place," reason number three I still feel at home in a town I no longer live in.
Reason number two is community. I spent Saturday morning at the Tryon Coffeehouse Co-op where volunteer Tracey Daniels manned the bar, and locals welcomed visitors from Traveler's Rest. The next day I saw it when Bill Crowell, town commissioner and owner of Saluda Forge, pushed a hand truck up Trade Street towards The Tryon Bottle. The Bottle was a beehive of folks helping with a move to new digs in the center of the Missildine's renovation project.
And that brings me to the number one reason I love Tryon: friends. I am fortunate to have many wonderful friends in the "Friendliest Town in the South," but I also love how good you are to each other.
When Paul and I stopped in Friday afternoon for the wine tasting at The Bottle (I still called it "La Booty." Silly me!), we were greeted by lots of people we know, and picked up right where we'd left off.
Then someone introduced us to a new Tryonite named Bob. Bob told us he was a neighbor of ours and extended an unexpected invitation to come to his home the next evening. I can promise you I've never received a party invitation minutes after meeting a single soul in Phoenix. Or anywhere else I've lived.
We weren't able to attend the party, unfortunately, as we already had plans. I was sorry I wouldn't get to know Bob better on this trip. Then on Sunday morning, when we drove down Trade Street and saw our friends helping with the move at The Bottle, there was Bob. New guy. Pushing a hand truck full of boxes.
I was so proud to see people helping The Tryon Bottle owner Della Pullara get settled in her new location. I have no doubt she felt rich in friends that day.
My heart was full at that moment—full of love for Tryon and its friendly ways. But something else happened that day that broke my heart.
I saw a post on a Facebook community page by a woman named Zelda who moved to the area in 2014, and has no friends. I wondered how that could be, here where I'd met so many friendly people. Within a day, her post had over 200 comments, and I was shocked that some people said they were also friendless and feeling alone.
There were also many responses with offers of friendship, and suggestions of ways to meet people, and that gave me hope.
When posting advice to Zelda, I thought back to my early days in Tryon. The first thing we did was subscribe to the Bulletin, so I suggested the same. We watched the newspaper for events of interest, and soon found ourselves on a Gallery Trot downtown where we discovered lots of new people and places we loved.
I also suggested Zelda volunteer for a non-profit or two. Shortly after my arrival, I offered to serve drinks at Upstairs Artspace events. No, I'm no bartender, but I can pour wine without spilling it, and smile when I hand out the cups. Pretty soon, people I'd run into in town asked if I worked at Upstairs, and no, I didn't work there, but it was a reason to start a conversation, and conversations lead to friendships.
I'm not worried about Zelda anymore, and hope the other lonely people responding to her post are also finding new paths to new friends. It was brave for Zelda to post her plea for friends on a public Facebook page. She put herself out there, just like new-guy Bob did inviting neighbors over and then helping The Tryon Bottle with its move.
Seeing people reach out to make new friends in a new home was a good reminder for me to make more of an effort myself in Phoenix where I've found new friendships a challenge too.
So, thanks, Bob and Zelda. And thanks, Tryon, for always making me feel at home. I can't wait to see you again.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

When lips were red

Thanks to Facebook, an old friend shared this gem taken backstage at a Christian Lacroix fashion show in June, 1988, at Bullocks Wilshire in La Jolla, California.

That's me, second from the left in the fabulous collar.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Flash back to the eighties

#TBT To 1988. We rarely got to keep the clothes we wore on jobs, but after a day of splattering paint on these overalls, I got to take them home. I actually loved them and wore them often after buying my old fixer-upper house in L.A. I generally wore a top with them though.

The song is about John Lennon's death. Here's the link to the music video.