Part Five: Elsa, Baby and Reality (from 'Wake Up and Eat")

      Elsa died that following Spring. I don’t know at what point she came back into the yard but for quite a while I thought she was sun-napping on the grass. It wasn’t until I let Grem out for the afternoon that I saw her (Grem) run up to Elsa to patently annoy her. Elsa didn’t budge and Grem moved on.

There was no sign of trauma or blood when I examined her, but there are so many dangers out there. Statistics give ferals an average 4-5 year lifespan.  

     I lined a box with a plastic bag and (using big disposable gloves, of course) gently transferred her. I know it’s silly, but I made a nice bed of newspapers for her.

     With all the assistance and moral support of so many donations on the GoFundMe site, we managed to get her through some very harsh weather and give her a home and a family. It’s not lost on us that she wanted to come home before passing away. For documentation, I took some pics of how I found her but I won’t post them. Instead, remember her from the videos that showed her at her best.

Video: Liza and Elsa

    She had become more and more distant as time went on. She was sleeping someplace else. She didn’t show up every day. I never got a chance to get her TNR’d. I wouldn’t have been able to do it through the Cat Lady without getting out and out manipulated to post-op another dozen cats. 

     Gently lifting her to place her in the box was the first time I had ever touched her, let alone hold her in my arms.

     The Three Amigos grew into three separate and distinguishable individuals- Alphie, Buddy and Fiona. Alphie was the brawny big brother, Fiona was the small and dainty female and Buddy, as you can guess, fit right in the middle. I named him buddy because he and Grem played together the most. Alphie became the grumpy stoic, usually watching down from a beam under the deck. Some of his favorite beams seemed impossible to reach but, after all, he was a cat.

     Fiona was maturing and the one thing I dreaded was inevitable. She started showing a belly bump. I felt so helpless. I was so frustrated.

     One of my GoFundMe patrons had sent me a trap. It wasn’t quite the heavy-duty grade that the Cat Ladies and the TNR workshop had, but it was totally functional. I started spinning my wits again to figure out if I could do something.

     I visualized taking a trapped feral in a cage on several buses and subway connections to get to the big ASPCA Spay/Neuter clinic “For Rescue Professional Only”. As of this writing (2021), it looks like things haven’t gotten any easier.

 The ASPCA TNR Home Page


     The TNR Workshop did not give out certificates. It seemed like you needed to have some secret phone number to get to the right person to start getting my rescue group recognized. After all, I had done, only Liza and Grem were the only ‘fixed’ members of my group. I couldn’t find out how to show somebody how much I was doing.

     On top of that, I learned there were a lot of things that could/should be done and only the spay/neuter and a rabies shot were free.

     Getting a pregnant cat spayed is not pretty. It’s simply a mass abortion of all the fetuses in her womb, followed by the standard permanent sterilization. Trying to look at the bright side that there would be fewer homeless cats in the world just added to my feeling that I should have prevented this in the first place.

     Every time I saw Fiona I felt like a phony. Then I didn’t see her at all.
    I forget if it was late spring or early fall but it was a cold rainy day. Irene was doing something in the backyard and was calling out my name to get out there to tell me something. From the far end of the yard she pointed at something near me but I couldn’t figure out where or at what she was pointing. I started down my concrete stairs and almost stepped on what she was trying to get me to investigate. At first, I thought it was either a turd or an old decrepit soaking wet cigar.
    I ran inside and grabbed a used plastic grocery bag to use as a mitten. I don’t know why people have been having conniptions about these bags. They’re the most reusable things in the world.

     I reached for the wet lump of dirt.

     Whatever it was, it opened its mouth and took a big breath of air. My god, it was one of Fiona’s kittens. There could be no other explanation. 

     I gently brought her inside and wiped her dry. Her eyes weren’t even open yet. Of course, Irene followed me inside when we discovered what was on my steps. The kitten couldn’t have been older than a few days.

     Irene was a retired Nurse Practitioner, along with being a long-time cat parent, and her instincts kicked in, “Bundle her up and get in the car.”
    She took us over to her vet, who was just a few miles away. I cupped her in my hands and gently exhaled warm air on her.

     Many moons before, in case you’re wondering, Irene did indeed ask her vet if he spayed and neutered feral cats. He did not.

     It took a while, he was a very busy vet, but he did come out to the front desk before seeing whoever was next. He gave her a quick once over and told it like it was. She was way too little to survive. She probably wouldn’t last much longer. Then he did something amazing. He looked down her throat, grabbed the cap of an old school Bic pen and gently put the long pointy part down her throat. He pulled out a gob of green muddy stuff. It looked like some slough that she partially swallowed while laying in shallow water. Well, that was something I would never have seen, let alone attempt to remove.      
    You have to watch this video to see how tiny she was. You can’t even distinguish her until she moves.

Video; Little Baby

     When we got back, Irene brought down one of those little bean bags that you can warm up in the microwave. I put that in the little box we used to take her to the vet and then layers of folded washcloth over that before I set her down.

     I didn’t have the ingredients for emergency kitten food (goat milk and corn syrup) and stores that would carry those things were closed by then. I did get her to drink water from an eyedropper every once in a while. Dehydration is more of a danger than starvation at a time like this. I preferred eye droppers to those syringe devices. The syringes were stiff and clumsy and they were harder to control the flow.
    Grem, who was in for the night, was very excited and curious about this little visitor. I didn’t know how she would act if she got real close. She could do a lot of damage if she didn’t know her own strength.

     I moved the baby from the box and tucked her in my shirt while I laid back against the pillow in my bed. I was hoping my body heat and the sound of a heartbeat would comfort her. Sadly, the little baby didn't make it through the night.  

     At least she didn't have to leave the world all alone on a cold wet cement stairway. All evening and until a little after midnight, she was warm, dry, cozy and handled with love. She was purring! I read up on neonatal purring and that she should have been still too young to purr. I guess she was an advanced student. 

     I managed to get her core temp back up and she napped and stretched and yawned like any little baby until she was quietly gone.

     RIP, Little Baby.

My two experiences with the amazing Melanie Safka: She waved to me from her float at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Yes. Me. I was the only 6'3" long haired hippie freak beatnik in an old thrift store army jacket. She flashed me the peace sign and I was bowled over. 
Around that time, my (mega talented) writing/composing partner and bro from another mo John Borus composed an anti war song purposely meant to echo Melanie's Look What They've Done To My Song. I have twice sent missives to her with these lyrics but I know not if they ever reached her. Wow, hearing her sing our scathing words would probably be one of the biggest heartstoppers in musical history.
There's still time.
BTW, the second verse is a reference to something we heard about dog tags being jammed between the teeth of a fallen soldier so that they didn't get lost on the journey home.
Look what they've done to your son, ma
Look what they've done to your son
Well, they packed him up in a wooden box and he'll no more carry a gun
Look what they've done to your son
The blue the white and the red, ma
The blue the white and the red
Well, they put the flag over his coffin and the dog tags on his head
Look what they've done to your son
He'll no more make any noise, ma
He'll no more make any sound
Well, you raised him up from a little seed and they stuck him in the ground, ma
Look what they've done to you son
The man he came to your door, ma
The man he came to your door
He said sorry that we got him killed
Ya got any more?
Look what they done to your son
(repeat first verse)