Sunday, August 24, 2014

It’s the Spirit That Counts

The beginning of Shadow’s story is as equally sad and unjust as the beginning of any other story of a tiny, abandoned, abused wee kitty baby with the additional misfortune of being black who had obviously been unimportant and had gone unnoticed since
she was born into this cruel, insensitive world. Compassion appears to be hard to find these days; in these times of overall crisis and financial hardships, it seems that caring, unselfish people are as rare as unicorns and things are only getting worse. Hundreds if
not thousands of pets are being dumped into the streets, unwanted litters of owned queens are tossed into trash bins and only the most fortunate ones manage to cheat death at the last possible moment, when some noble person comes to their
rescue. But these lifesaving gestures of kindness and love are becoming infrequent and too few and far between…

Apparently invisible to many, Shadow somehow appeared in the flea market when she was maybe a month old at the
most. No one knew where she came from or what had happened to her. Obviously away from her Mom for a while, she was scared, emaciated, painfully skinny and couldn’t even eat solid food yet, although it’s questionable if she couldn’t or just didn’t want to because she
was already giving up. Oblivious and uncaring people at the market had been kicking her and stomping on her for hours, until one of the sellers scooped her up and hid her under their stall. where she spent a couple of days before I learned of her existence.

And then the real fight for her life began. The poor little muffin could barely walk, one of her hind legs was injured, she was stumbling and falling a lot and was spending most of her time just lying down. She was extremely reluctant to eat, so I
was force-feeding her baby kitten milk, of which she would swallow a little between struggling and spitting. No one could tell for sure if she was going to make it as things definitely hadn’t been looking exactly promising from the start. That’s when she
got the very first name of her own – our friend Kim named her Shadow since she was just a thin little wisp of black that was barely there.

A couple of days later she started vomiting and I quickly rushed her to the vet to see what was going on. It
turned out that her body temperature had dropped to a dangerous 35.4C but she exhibited no other symptoms, she had no eye discharge and her throat looked normal. Utterly weak and exhausted, she weighted only 190 grams, but she couldn’t be dewormed
while she was so fragile, as any deworming medicine could’ve easily killed her. After receiving warm infusions, antiemetic drugs and antibiotics she seemed to be a little better, but it was still touch and go whether she would manage to pull through.

Just when we began to hope her problems were coming to an end, she went into another major crisis in the middle of the night - she went totally limp, seemed unconscious and looked as if she were dying. Her body temperature was 36.6
C and it was possible that whatever virus she was fighting had already damaged her brain. The vet told me that even if she survived she might have some permanent neurological disorder, but as long as she was alive, nothing else mattered. At one point we thought she
was blinded in one eye and that her wobbly gate could be a consequence of some neurological condition, but the worse she looked, the harder all of us fought to save her. It may sound like a paradox but the old saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get
going” undoubtedly bears much truth…

Our tiny, starved and abused baby sweetheart beat the odds. As soon as she had a home and felt love for the first time in her short, sad time in this world, she learned that life could be worth living and
fought with all her might. Day by day, step by step she kept improving, slowly but steadily and after maybe two scary weeks of her exhausting, desperate struggle to live, the vet finally gave her the green light. Her eyesight is not damaged after all, her
movements have became flowing and she is now growing into a mischievous, naughty, joyful kitty which is very understandably spoiled rotten.

Shadow is approximately four months old and not solid black anymore;
her coat is scattered with white hairs but her sweet face, although more mature, is almost the same. She’s still living in the house even though she seems eager to go outside, but the wide world she expects to find will be limited to the yard. Extremely
friendly towards other cats, she is having a great time playing with her protector and teacher Tinker Bell and both of them are incessantly poking their black little noses into everything. But Shadow is not just a silly, playful kitty girl, she is a true fighter with an incredible and
intense desire to live, she’s a precious little creature who’s been to hell and back and proven to be tough as steel when it mattered the most. Maybe she remembers what she’s been through, maybe she doesn’t, but none of us here who have had the privilege to be by her
side while she was fighting her way up to the light will ever forget her amazing inner strength.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Our Valiant Survivor Finds Eternal Peace

Why does a beloved cat ever have to leave? I know, everything that’s born has to die, every story has a beginning and an end, no one lives forever and it can’t reasonably be expected that even those we deeply care for will always be by our side, but the heart
says otherwise. Yes, they will all leave one day but not yet, not today, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year, not ever…

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Speki has crossed over to the other side. Or maybe it wasn’t that unexpectedly – he
must have been at an advanced age although no one had any way of knowing exactly how old he was. He had FLUTD and liver problems, his lymph nodes had been swollen since he first arrived at the shelter, he’d definitely been through hell and back in his supposedly
long but not easy life… But when some gorgeous furry creature, beautiful inside and out, tugs on our heartstrings, almost all objectivity is lost and perhaps we see just what we want to see and don’t even want to think about something we can’t bear to think of – and
that is, sooner or later, a sad but inevitable end of a fairytale.

Speki was one of Etela’s cats, one of those amazing fighters which managed to survive a devastating fire that destroyed the cat and dog shelter they lived
in a little more than three years ago. They witnessed a fierce blaze consuming the only home they knew while listening to the terrifying crackling sounds of a house in flames, the horrendous noise of exploding glass and the loud barking of hundreds of dogs
scared beyond scared. But there was no one to help, no one they could turn to; far away from any human settlement, the horror they endured was theirs and theirs alone. They must’ve been aware that dozens of their mates didn’t make it and died a dreadful
and painful death; they had no way of knowing that weeks later someone would come to their rescue. Discouraged and desperate, but not defeated, they were living one day at the time, ultimately determined to survive, to live and tell their story of anguish and
hope, a story that could be seen in their haunted but wise and forgiving eyes.

Unfortunately, for Speki and two other kitties, the tragedy they went through, the biggest tragedy that could happen to any living being, was not the last one.
Before several massive rescue missions took place, all three of them were picked up from the site of the fire and sent to some “wild” shelter near Belgrade in which, instead of finding safety, care and love, the only thing they found was yet another horror.
Three months later they arrived here, confused, emaciated, terrifyingly thin, full of worms and fleas, with ear mange and a fungal disease. Speki was in the worst condition of all due to his neuter surgery (done some time earlier), which left him with an infected
incision, tons of pus and in dire need of an urgent revision of his wound. Up until now, I still don’t know whose fault it was and I don’t care; the point is that no animal in the world should live out a real life horror movie twice. And that’s exactly what happened to him and
his two unfortunate friends.

When Speki finally reached this veritable safe haven, his life took a different turn, a turn for the better. No more pitch darkness in closed, dirty rooms, no more sadness and inhibition, no more
just dreaming of green grass and clear skies. He had all the open space he wanted, where he could do everything he could think of - sleep on the roof, rest in the shade, leap through the new fresh snow and enjoy the warmth of the heated cat rooms during the
winter if he felt like it. He had found his earthly heaven, where food bowls are always full, where tranquility rules and last but not the least, where someone cared. While obviously enjoying his new life, he gained a lot of weight and became a gorgeous and magnificent kitty
boy yearning to love and to be loved. Wildly affectionate and determined to cuddle whenever possible, he used to jump on people’s shoulders and climb on their heads, all of that accompanied by loud purring. Big and strong, he was sweet as can be.

But nothing lasts forever and even the happiest stories must end sometime. There were no warning signs at all, nothing to prepare me for finding him motionless and unresponsive one morning, still alive but barely conscious. I
rushed him to the vet with a dark feeling of impending doom, as I somehow knew he wouldn’t make it back. The vet confirmed my worst fear – Speki’s body temperature was 35.4°C and although he was being given warm infusions from the moment we
dashed into the ambulance, he was rapidly sinking into unconsciousness and we all knew his time had come. In those rare split seconds when he was himself again, he was trying to lick my hand, but those instants were getting shorter and more scattered and
we simply could not let him be dying for hours. On the vet’s suggestion, I had to make that heartbreaking decision every cat owner fears, the one that none of us will ever forget – to mercifully put him down. Even though I knew it was the final act of compassion and
the last gift of love, my heart shattered into a million pieces while I was watching him through tears as he was crossing to the other side. But however hard it may be, I feel we must take responsibility for those who can’t decide for themselves; I wanted him to pass
away peacefully, beautiful, dignified and loved until the end, and that’s exactly how he left.

The shelter doesn’t look the same without him, life is not the same. He was so special and so full of love that he simply couldn’t be
overlooked and I still can’t believe he’s not here anymore. Or maybe he is, in the warm breeze, in the deep blue summer night, in the quick rain shower, or in a sparkling rainbow? Someone with such a strong desire to live, astonishingly brave and with a heart of
gold, can’t just leave those he loved…

Fly free now, my shining star, my wonderful furry darling made of affection, warmth and light. Go bravely on and soar in total freedom until we meet again.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Serious Problems with the Roof Replacement

Why doesn’t anything ever go easily?

As you already know, the massive renovation work at Cat Shelter Felix has finally started as of a couple of weeks ago. We kept silent as long as we could, wishing to pleasantly surprise all of our friends and
supporters with good news on the shelter’s repair progress. Everything seemed to be going along well, just as it should; workers had finished building the four small dividing walls between the support columns, removed the old roofing, lifted the new roof beams, made the
entire wooden frame, our hearts were already singing with joy, but then…

To our incredible disappointment, it suddenly and unexpectedly turned out that we have about one meter of empty space between the top of the walls
and the roof beams, through which all of the kitties can easily climb up to the attic and make it all the way through to the section under the roof of the main building. Once they’re there, the whole wide world is theirs; they’ll have dozens of ways to escape and happily
wander the neighborhood and curious as they are, they simply wouldn’t be able to resist the challenge. Our happy optimism turned into utter despair in an instant. We could all just sit down and cry.

Although we knew there would be some
gap (the pitch of the roof has changed due to the extended roof overhang that protects the walkway), no one could've imagined, not in their worst nightmare, how big it would turn out to be! Evidently, the problem is that the walls of the cats' rooms (and the
walls of all of the buildings on this property) are made of rammed earth, some reed and random bricks, so they were literally crumbling while the workers were lifting the beams and this enormous gap is the result.

All of the cats from
the backyard are now enclosed with tarps in a sort of improvised shelter between the side entrance to the yard and the biggest of their rooms, as the top wire mesh (chain linked fence) had to be temporarily lifted. Unfortunately all felines are escape artists and it will be
literally impossible to keep them from making their way out of such a weak enclosure for an extended period of time. The only thing we can do is to fill the empty space above the walls and under the roof beams with wooden cladding, if we miraculously
succeed in raising the funds to purchase all of the necessary materials - until then, we can’t dream of releasing the kitties back into the yard! We can't use bricks or any heavy material for that purpose because the existing structure, even strengthened, wouldn't be able to
bear the additional weight and everything will just come crashing down.

The old roof was in such terrible shape that it’s really surprising and a true miracle that it didn't fall in on the cats a long time ago. Parts of the new roof that
have been done so far look good and sturdy, but the mere thought of that gap, that big gap is like a dark cloud over our heads. At the moment, we have absolutely no solution to this problem. The kitties are already nervous because they’re accustomed to having
plenty of open space and all of them are definately not impressed with this restricted area they’re now forced to live in. While they’re constantly trying to escape back into the yard, which the most skillful ones have already done a couple of times, (catching
them wasn’t an easy task and no fun at all), workers are beginning to install the tiles. The insulation layer or more precisely the foil insulation is already in place (we’ll also have to put wooden cladding over the oblique roof beams to protect the insulation layer from tearing)
and in just a few days we’ll have a new roof above the kitties’ rooms. A new roof and a huge gap underneath.

As if all of this is not enough, new problems arose. The portion of the roof that’s being replaced right now is higher
than parts of the old roof that will remain in place, because the pitch of the new one has changed. At the end, if we don’t put two triangular wooden gables between the edges of the dual-pitched roof, nothing on Earth will prevent the kitties from having a
promenade all over the roof. One wooden gable should be made above the door between the two parts of the yard, so the kitties won’t be able to cross from one part of the yard to another over the door as they please. The other one is necessary to stop them from escaping
through the gap between the new roof and the old roof of their biggest room in the backyard, which is made of sheet metal and tiles but is much lower than the new one.

The only good thing is that if we by some incredible luck
manage to raise 2.300 euros needed to purchase the timber cladding, fill the gaps and thus ensure no cats could escape, all of them will have more space on the roof than they have ever had before. Their paradise will finally be a real paradise. But until then, this is a
complete disaster.

How long will we be able to keep the kitties in that improvised shelter, when they are incessantly trying to break out? They’ve hated it from the second they were rounded up and forced to be in there. What will happen
when they succeed and start fleeing in all directions? I’ve already caught at least a dozen of them who have breached what we naively believed would be only a temporary enclosure and I was forced to use a humane trap for the least approachable and most insolent. Not
one of them will step into the humane trap again, that’s for sure, and if they escape just one more time, there would be nothing I can do but to wait for the runaways to find their way back home, which they hopefully will, at one point…

If we fail to raise
around 2.300 euros as soon as possible, there’s a huge chance our long struggle won’t end well for the 117 shelter kitties. Workers will finish their job and go away and then what? Is it even possible to raise this kind of money on such short notice? Is there anyone out
there who believes it’s worth a try? Many questions, and the answers are sadly nowhere in sight.

I’m totally aware summer is a bad time for fundraising, with holidays, etc, I know people are strapped for cash. The sum of money we need is
huge and even more importantly, it’s for shelter repairs, not for saving a few mangled and abused animals, each of them with a sad story and heartbreaking graphic photos. But what we’re trying to do is to ensure a good, secure life for a three-digit number of
kitties! Is it not a vital and worthy mission? It’s also a very time sensitive emergency so please, help us with whatever you can afford and share our plight! Every little bit helps as all donations add up and ensure a bright future for these lovely creatures! Our kitties have no one
but us, and we all have no one but you!