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A few little thoughts, just because I want to!

P1170692 webIf you had told me five years ago that I would be holding the paws of cats while they were going to sleep forever, I would have looked at you in bewilderment. I did not sign up for that and I certainly did not believe that I would be able for it as I’ve always been a little squeamish, but then…. I have always loved animals too…

When I was a little girl, I wanted to become a farmer, like my grandad’s neighbours, but then I realised that I would have to get up early in the mornings and, even as a kid, I’ve never been one for early mornings. Then I decided that I should become a writer in a ranch. Don’t ask! In fact, I did follow the writing path for a while and set off on a studying journey involving a lot of academic essays being written, travelling to give papers in front of other academics and I even had a couple of articles published.

And then… something happened…. I’m not sure what though. I never became a writer, I never became a farmer, but I got to travel to farms every so often, to trap cats that needed to be neutered. And I got to write about those cats. Not as much as I would like to though… Just because I do not have the time… Anyway, who wants to hear about cat stories? Well, it is not just about cats, it’s also about how people deal with grief and the suffering endured by those cats. And then it makes you think about many other topics: what is our responsibility when it comes to the natural and animal world and what can we do to rectify our mistakes? Or should we just keep living on, in our egoistical little world? Mind, I am quite selfish myself, but one day I decided that I should help, and that day led to another and increasingly I began to help, so my life changed and I was never able to turn back. It just happened naturally, I did not decide it, but now that I’ve started what I am doing I cannot stop it and I need to continue…

 

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So many things have happened since I last wrote on this blog. There have been some tough times, there have been some happy ones. And there has been a huge life change when with a couple of people I co-founded a cat welfare organisation called Community Cats Network. It literally took over my life and because of it, this blog got forgotten about… Not exactly forgotten about as I often think about it and I miss it. I also miss the blogging community and visiting blogs. Unfortunately, there is not enough time for this anymore.

Since the inception of Community Cats Network, I’ve always wanted to organise a fundraising Readathon in order to merge two of my passions. This idea has finally seen the light. I should of course have posted about it a long time ago, but as always, it was difficult to find the time…banner3

If you have a bit of free time this weekend, go and check out the event. You can still join it as late registrations are accepted (eh, it’s for a good cause after all!).

Next year, I’ll definitely be more organised and give you a bit of notice!

Yes, I do realise I am ten days late doing my August post.  I also realise that I don’t have my usual landmark photo – to be honest, the weather has not been the best and I did not feel like venturing outside when I thought about it.  And, yes, I also realise I haven’t posted for a long time, nor kept up to date with my favourite blogs.  What can I say?  I have been really busy.  I know, I always say that, but it’s true and this time I am happy busy.  Moreover, I have been blogging, just not here.

So, what happened to me that has made me so busy you might ask?  Do you remember the animal rescue charity I was telling you about a little while ago, the Cork Animal Care Society?  I have been helping them.  Not only by fostering kittens – Daz and Suds are still with me and Leo has also moved in – but also by looking after our presence on the internet and coordinating fundraising activities.  I have thus created a blog and this is where I have been writing lately.  Oh, and guess what?  We are going to have a booklet of creative writing, called Furry Tales and Meowsings!  And we welcome submissions from anywhere in the world (hint, hint!)…  I should soon find a balance and might even manage to start posting here again before September comes.

Here, in Ireland, we would nearly forget what summer means if it weren’t for the cats who haven’t forgotten about the mating season and are having loads of kittens who need help.  The weather is atrocious and my garden is struggling, although the sunflowers have finally come out.  I hope your summer is a little bit sunnier than ours…

It was sunny last sunday, so I decided to tidy a bit the garden…  The catnip plant was getting so big I resolved to cut it.  This is how I found Tantrum when I walked in the living room.

Look at the way his paws are grabbing the cloth!

Feeling good!

Summer?  Is it summer really?  I’m being negative, the sun actually made an apparition today.  Let’s just hope it lasts…

First of all, I’d like to wish a happy Canada Day to all Canadians stumbling on this blog.  Canada day also marks the end of the fourth Canadian Book Challenge and the beginning of the fifth edition, in which I will again take part (you can check details on John’s blog The Book Mine Set).  Like last year, I will again begin with a novel by Carol Shields.  There must be something about this time of the year that draws me to her writings!  To celebrate Canada Day, I have been posting reviews on Canadian short stories and will keep doing so during the weekend (you can find the links to all the Canadian short stories I’ve reviewed here).

June has been a strange month for me and I’ve had ups and downs.  I usually like June.  The days are long and you can chill out in the garden in the evenings; however, the weather was not too helpful.  I spent most of my time studying, although very slowly, and… looking for a job, but nothing on that front yet.  The passing away of someone special did not help to lift up my spirits.  I went to Germany for a conference, though, and that was a nice experience; I will soon write a post on this trip.

Anyhow, this is a new month, a new beginning, right?  I have decided to be positive and to make the most of it with what I have.  Hopefully, the garden will start being more productive and I might spend more time in it if the weather permits.  I also still have the two foster kittens, Daz and Suds, under my care.  I think I might have found them a forever home, but I’m considering fostering more kittens when they leave.  At least, watching them always puts a smile on my face!

I wish you all a good summer!

Can you see?  The first green bean is out!

The broccoli is getting bigger (there is a second one, but it is much smaller):

Not a red hot chilli pepper, but soon, I hope:

Most of the flowers in my garden are spring flowers, but there are still some clematis:

And these little blue flowers have come out:

And the sunflowers should be blooming soon.  Now, that will cheer me up!

I don’t think I’ve ever shown you the view from my garden…  These cows are my alarm clock!

The sad news came in yesterday: Anne Fitzgerald from the Cork Animal Care Society unexpectedly passed away.

You might remember my two recent posts about the CACS.  Although I had spoken a few times to Anne on the phone, I only got to meet her in person ten days ago at the volunteers’ fair in Cork and had been in touch with her since.  They say that Anne was an inspiration and she was for me.  A few days after the fair, she sent a cry for help: she needed someone to foster two kittens as she needed space for some new-born kittens.  That’s how I offered to foster for Daz and Suds

Daz and Suds, two of the many kittens rescued by Anne

I again saw her a few days later as I met her in East Cork to go to collect a mother cat with her two-day old kittens at the vet and bring them back where they belonged (read the story here).  She had to go back the following day to collect that mum’s sister, who had been neutered.  She rang me that evening, she was happy.  The mum and her new-borns were doing well, her sister had been spayed and gone back to the garden where she belonged to and the sister’s four kittens were being rehomed by the vet and had had their sore eyes sorted.  A success story as she liked them.  Anne was also happy because the woman who had rung her about these cats insisted to pay the vet bill.  It was not a question of money, it was the fact that with it more kittens would be saved, but it was also a proof that some people cared and were ready to help making this world a better place for animals.  I’d like to imagine that she went away that night peacefully thinking that the animals could rely on other people to continue her work in helping the animals.

The new-born kitten we collected at the vet. These ones were lucky, they still had their mum. How often did Anne have to be the surrogate mother for less lucky kittens? (photo from the CACS facebook page)

Saying that Anne cared is not enough.  Anne was devoted to animals, she lived with them and for them.  No matter what time of the night, what day of the week, Anne was there for them.  She was always on the go, on her way to rescue distressed animals, and even when at home, she would never stop as she had so many kittens to care for.

When she stepped into my car on Friday, Anne was carrying a big cardboard box.  She turned to me with a smile and said: “do you want to see what I have here?”  Of course I did!  She opened the box and there was a tiny ginger kitten about two weeks old.  As I was driving, she got a bottle of cat milk out and syringe-fed the kitten who then went for a long nap while we were tending to the other cats and kittens.

Yes, Anne was an inspiration for all of us.  We won’t be able to replace her, but we must continue the amazing work she was doing by putting our efforts together.

This is my small tribute to Anne (read Albert’s wonderful tribute on the CACS website).  The last couple of days have been very sad for the animal world, but we must keep going on….

RIP Anne, you are sadly missed (photo, courtesy of Anne)

Little did I know when I went to help recruit volunteers for the Cork Animal Care Society (read my post here) that I would end up fostering for them a few days later!  I already have four cats, so fostering kittens always seemed like an imposssibility. 

These last couple of days, updates from the CACS haven’t stopped, more kittens are coming in every day.  Some of them are very young and need intensive care: bottle-feeding new-born kittens is a hard job.  However, there is only so much space the current fosterers can offer.  They urgently needed a fosterer for two six-week old kittens so they could take in a new-born kitten and a two-week old kitten who needs to be bottle-fed.  A case of life or death.  What could I do? 

Of course I offered to help!  I am not working this week and the living room is unoccupied most of the time, so no excuse!  I can only look after them for a week as I’m going away to a conference next week, but at least it will leave a bit of time to find another fosterer.

Daz and Suds

Daz and Suds (named so because they love fresh laundry) arrived this afternoon and settled without any trouble.  They quickly went exploring their room and we had a lovely cuddle time together!

Wow! New toys!

Don’t they look like they already own the place?

 

This cushion has always been a favourite with kittens…

 

 

Yesterday, I finally got a chance to give a hand to my local animal rescue.  I love animals and I admire the work these associations do (you might remember my article last winter).  However, it is not always easy to help when you have either no money or little free time…  I was thus delighted to have at last the opportunity to give a hand.

The Cork Animal Care Society does a brilliant job.  Anne Fitzgerald, who is one of the main persons working for the association, has a golden heart and works non-stop to help and save the lives of our furry friends.  I am not exaggerating, between feeding the kittens and rescuing animals in trouble she does not really have time for herself.  She has devoted her life to animals.

Yesterday, there was a volunteer fair in Cork and the CACS had a stall there.  Our job was to explain the role of the association and recruit volunteers.  The CACS does not have a rescue site – although they have a sanctuary for feral cats – but there are many other ways to help.  The way they work is that the animals they rescue go to a foster home before being adopted.  This means that the animals are already trained to live in a house and the fosterers know them well, so they can go to a family suited for them.  What this means as well is that the CACS is constantly looking for fosterers, especially in this season when new kittens arrive everyday.  Of course, they are also looking for adoptive family; however, fostering can be a good experience for people who are not sure they can make the life commitment of adopting a pet.  They are also happy when people are able to make a donation (helping to the costs created by such a high number of rescued, and sometimes injured, animals), organise a fundraiser or even just offer a lift (to go to rescue an animal or bring one to the vet).  However, and most importantly you can help the association by being RESPONSIBLE and part of our job yesterday was also to raise awareness about animal rights and the importance of neutering, but also the responsibilities that owning a pet entail.  Let me tell you, this is the most difficult job and the reaction of certain people reinforced what I already thought about Irish society regarding animals, especially cats.

A stray mum with her four kittens, two of them are females who will themselves have a few litters; I let you do the maths!

Neutering is a big problem in Ireland and the number of stray cats swells every year.  This is a sad fact when you know that many of these animals suffer.  It is also an aggravating factor in the spread of diseases.  Thee was a time when I thought how nice it would be to get a female cat and let her have a litter and see the little ones growing up.  Then, I realised how selfish this was.  How could I be responsible for bringing more kittens into the world when so many are suffering and looking for a home?  Nonsense!  If you want to see kittens growing up, get involved as a fosterer as many families are rescued at a young age, some having even lost their mother and necessitating bottle-feeding (a hard job, I guarantee you – you might remember my own experience with Gypsy). 

However, Ireland is very backwards where cats are involved.  I believe this is because farming and fishing are still an important part of the economy.  Although I like this aspect in Ireland, I don’t like the mentalities associated with it.  Cats are not seen as pets in farms, but rather as helpers to keep the mice away.  This is fine to a certain extent, but people need to become sensibilised about the consequences of not neutering.  How often do you hear “Ah sure! They’re cats they’ll be fine!”  No, they won’t; they are animals and deserve to be treated with respect.

Among the arguments I heard yesterday, this one seems the most ridiculous: the man wouldn’t get his male cat neutered because he had had one before and had got him neutered thinking that would prevent him from roaming.  Soon after, the cat went wandering and got killed on the road.  Consequently, the man was putting the blame on the operation.  He wanted to adopt a female cat but said with conviction that he would not interfere: if she were spayed, fine; otherwise, he would let her like that.  Imagine what would happen the day the female would come back pregnant?  Probably drop her on the side of the road…

(By the way, any serious rescue will either neuter the animals before putting them up for adoption or make you sign a form requesting you to get the kitten/pup neutered as soon as he has reached the desired age.)

Cottage Rescue, another Irish association (from whom I adopted Kaos), posted these 10 worst excuses for not getting your pet neutered on Facebook.  It is a good summary of the attitudes of too many people around here:

‎1. Just one litter and then we’ll have Fluffy spayed.
(Studies show that virtually the entire pet overpopulation stems from the “just one litter mentality.)
2. My dog doesn’t run loose, so he doesn’t need to be Neutered.
(Murphy’s Law says o…therwise.)
3. We always find homes for the kittens.
(and that means that an equal number of kittens at the pound will be killed.)
4. I want the children to witness the miracle of birth.
(Rent a video.)
5. My dog is so cute and unique, there should be more of her.
(The shelters and pounds are full of cute and unique dogs, most with only a few days to live.)
6. It’s not natural.
(There hasn’t been anything “natural” about dogs since we began to develop breeds thousands of years ago.)
7. I just couldn’t look my dog in the eye if I had him castrated.
(Watch it, you’re anthropomorphizing.)
8. A female dog or cat should have at least one litter for health reasons.
(Medically, factually and ethically indefensible.)
9. Neutering my dog will make him fat and lazy.
(Too much food and not enough exercise make a dog fat and lazy.)
10. Neutering my pet will change its personality.
(The main influences on an animal’s personality are the kindness and care with which it is raised.)
 

Anne (CACS), John (ARAN) and a pup at the volunteer fair in Cork (Pic: courtesy of Anne)

I really enjoyed doing this yesterday.  Despite being confronted with such backward mentality, I also met people with genuine interest.  I was also glad to meet the like-minded people who were representing the CACS at the fair.  Amongst them was John Carmody.  John is the creator of the Animal Rights Action Network (Aran.ie) and he is a true lover and fighter for animal rights. 

For those who have read this blog before, you might have guessed that I am a bit wary of mass activism or any other big group movement.  I tend to be frightened by ideological messages and the potential power they might have.  However, their cause is good and I am endowed with judgement and can make my own opinion about their actions and which I want to support.  I tend to strongly believe in the impact one person can have around her (you know, every little bit counts and adds up), but I am also aware that a group is stronger than an individual and groups defending a good cause need all the support possible to make a difference.

I was only vaguely aware of ARAN, but listening to John talk made me realise what they do – I guess meeting a human being rather than seeing a name on a webpage had an impact on me (see, the power of individual interaction works!).  They defend all causes related to animal rights.  They organise events to raise awareness, such as talk in schools, but also take action to get their message across and provoke reaction.  One of their actions involved women wearing fur coats and lying on the pavement with blood on them; a shocking action to an atrocious crime.  As a result of one of their campaigns, one major department store in Ireland, Brown Thomas, stopped selling fur.  Other causes they defend include the massacre of seals and the exportation of greyhounds to China.  I have joined their network and will follow closely what they do in order to offer my support when I can (by the way, they welcome supporter from anywhere in the world).  If you want to learn more, take a look at their website and read this interview.

Overall, this was a productive day and I enjoyed doing something for a cause I truly believe in.  The CACS has a website and a page on Facebook where you can follow all their updates (although there are sometimes too many to be updated) and you will see that I am not lying when I say they do an incredible work.  Try to look for your own local rescue and see how you can help them (be careful, some are scams).  But most importantly, act as responsible human beings and treat the animals with kindness; they are more genuine than many human beings.

Doesn’t this look like a summery view of my stretch of road to you?  I agree, it is not that bright, but the sun was setting down at the time…  In fact, today was the sunniest and warmest day of the year.  It was lovely after so much rain and wind during the month of May…

As you might have guessed, May was as busy as June for me.  There are many things I’d like to post, but I haven’t had a minute; no worries, it will eventually happen.  Meanwhile, you can have a look at the conference blog in which I was involved: http://bookendsucc.wordpress.com.

June looks a bit quieter, but I was saying that about May, so who knows…  I have a trip planned to Marburg in Germany.  I have never been to Germany and I look forward to it.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a word of German.  I bought a phrase book, but I have no idea how to pronounce the words!  At least I know how to say thank you, so I can be polite…

I used to love the way June used to be synonymous with longer days (still is) and the arrival of the summer.  Nowadays, you just don’t know if you will actually get a summer!  The summer solstice is also the occasion for celebrations and, when living in France, I used to go to see “les feux de la St Jean”, which were parties of pagan inspiration involving dancing around a fire, eating earthy food and fireworks.  Apparently, such celebrations are still taking place and, next year, if everything goes according to plans, I should go back to where I spent many a 21st of June in Brittany.  This year, I will have to contend myself with looking after the garden so I can enjoy eating lovely veg during the summer (I’ll post photos soon).

I wish you all a great month, enjoy the long and, hopefully, warm evenings!

“En Mai fait ce qu’il te plait!”

This is another French idiom, which means that in May one should do whatever one likes!  I might not be able to take this idiom too literally as I must get back to my thesis after a month spent travelling, going to conferences, catching up with family and friends and doing some work in the garden.

As you can see, my stretch of road is becoming quite green.  The weather has been lovely here and the flowers are blossoming.  The air offers so many fresh smells of flowers; it’s delightful.

The clematis in my garden

As today is the 1st of May, I offer you all a stem of Lily of the Valley from my garden, a traditional lucky charm given in France on this date.  I brought back the offsprings from my grandfather’s garden two years ago and this year I am glad to have got three stems.

Enjoy the sunny days of May!

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