Farewell, Sarge

As many of you know, we look after a colony of community cats. We don’t know how old Sarge was when he showed up, already neutered and ear-tipped, but we could tell he’d had a hard life. He was pretty banged up, missing at least one tooth, and his visual acuity was poor.

It was a long time before he’d let me touch him, but eventually he let me pet him most of the time. He learned his name, a moniker given because he was a veteran campaigner with a broad stripe, and would come when I called him. He would sit on the back stoop, looking in the slider door, to see what we did all day, and once in a while he’d put a paw over the threshold.

A few days ago, he developed an enormous growth on his cheek. I was able to feel it briefly, and it was hard/solid. There were only two things it could be: an indurated abscess, or a tumor. He was drinking water but not eating, and all I could do was monitor.

The day before yesterday, the swelling had increased. I tried to pick Sarge up so that I could examine him further, and he flipped his wig. He twisted, turned, and ran away from me.

That little bit of time in my hands, though, told me how much weight he’d lost.

This morning, he was struggling to walk. I went outside and picked him up, where he stayed quietly in my arms as I sobbed. I called the vet, and they got me in for an emergency euthanasia. The swelling was a fast-growing tumor, and the vet concurred with my assessment that it was the right thing to do. Sarge was not going to get better.

So, my elderly little campaigner earned his angel wings today.

If you would like to make a donation to your local animal shelter in Sarge’s honor, that would be lovely. You can also buy a copy of Hugs and Hisses; all proceeds go to Humane Society Silicon Valley.

I’ll be over here in the corner, missing a little feral cat.

Sample Saturday: “Hugs and Hisses”

smartmockups_kheynjzcHi, everyone. August 28 is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. I could think of no better book to sample today than Hugs and Hisses, which is dedicated to two very special cats who live at the Rainbow Bridge, Gigi and Teddy. Enjoy!

Nov. 20, 2010

It’s my first hands-on training as a cat socializer with Humane Society Silicon Valley. I’ve already had five hours of classroom training; the academic background is a big part of what makes this Animal Community Center different from the other SPCA where I volunteered in the 1990s. Don’t get me wrong; that was a marvelous experience, and I adopted my beloved Mr. Nicky there (RIP, sweetie-puss).

I’m wearing my uniform t-shirt, jeans, a name tag and closed-toed shoes. Ashley, the cat behaviorist, has let me into the room of the cat I’ve chosen as my first visit. She hasn’t been socialized today, according to the board. Her activity chart tells me that she is shy and doesn’t like to be picked up. Her name is Fuzzie; I’ve seen her listing on the shelter web site. Her owner passed away and she is looking for a new forever home. The web site says Fuzzie is a Manx mix; she has a little bobtail. She’s been in the shelter long enough that her adoption fee is sponsored; the Homeward Bound program is a wonderful concept that means the right family can take this kitty home for free. She won’t be euthanized for space or time; she’s here until she finds the right place. Unless she develops a horrible medical condition or behavior problems, she’ll find a home.

I go in and sit down on the floor; Fuzzie is eating. Ashley tells me that this is a welcome sign; Fuzzie had been off her food and losing weight. The shelter, no matter how nice and up-to-date, is a stressful environment. I start talking to Fuzzie, telling her about why I came to the shelter: to help pets like her find a new best friend. She stops eating and turns around to face me, giving me a gravely meow. I extend a finger to her and she strops against it, purring. She walks over to me, closing the social distance between us, and I pet her some more. She goes back to her food dish and eats some more. I keep talking quietly to her.

She hops up into the cat tree next to me, and I look for signs that she’s done talking to me — turning her back to me, for example. Instead, she looks toward me, extending her face through an opening in the cat tree. I readjust my position on the floor, still giving her plenty of room to move. I talk to her some more and stroke her chin. She is still purring.

She extends one smokey paw (she’s an unusual smoke tabby; she’s the color of a thunder cloud, with a white undercoat) toward my lap, touching my knee. I keep talking. She puts another forepaw onto my leg … and crawls into my lap to purr.

I remain sitting there and talking to her, with tears flowing, as I recognize once again that I’m in the right place.

Want your own copy of Hugs and Hisses? Back cover copy and purchase links are below.

Award-winning author, animal communicator, and Reiki practitioner Sharon E. Cathcart shares tales from her humane education work in this new memoir. Sharing stories of both happiness and heartbreak, Cathcart brings us into the challenging world of animal rescue. All proceeds from the book will benefit Humane Society Silicon Valley.

AbeBooks; Alibris; Amazon (geo-targeted link); Angus & Robertson (Australia); Apple Books; Barnes & Noble; Better World Books; Blackwell’sBOL (Netherlands and Sweden); Bokus (Sweden); Book Depository; Bookshop; Booktopia (Australia); Chapters Indigo (Canada); Dymocks (Australia); Exclusive Books (South Africa); Fnac (France); IndieBoundKobobooks (also available for 2400 SuperPoints); La Feltrinelli (Italy); Librerías Gandhi (Mexico); Love’s Sweet Arrow; Mondadori (Italy); Porrúa (Mexico); Rakuten Japan; Scribd; Smashwords; The Ripped Bodice

Meanwhile, in the Feral Colony …

We loaned our trap to a friend so that he could help yet another friend trap their missing shop cat … and it worked! I don’t have photos myself, but Dave showed me his photo of Flossie “in jail,” and told me that she’s forgiven them all for the trap. She even deigned to snuggle with him. I was so happy about the reunion!

But just 30 minutes ago, we found a deceased tuxedo cat near our house; she’d been hit by a car. I examined her to ascertain that she wasn’t one of our colony regulars (I would need to notify the microchip folks if she were), and my husband buried her in our back yard. I don’t know if she was a neighborhood stray or somebody’s beloved pet … but I decided she needed a name regardless.

Rest in peace, precious Priscilla.

If you would like to do something to help the cats in my area, please buy a copy of Hugs and Hisses. All proceeds go to Humane Society Silicon Valley.

Precious Kittens Available for Adoption

131285024_10220043135377426_6464418113523009967_nAs many of you know, my husband and I look after a colony of community cats. One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic is that the “feral fix” trap/neuter/return projects were shut down. So, many community cats had kittens. One of them was Penelope, a tiny tortoiseshell in our colony. She had a litter last summer, all three of whom were adopted by a friend. She had a second litter in April and, as with the last batch, because she had them in our yard, we were able to socialize them from day one.

Well, those kittens are now eight weeks old, and are available for adoption from San Jose Animal Care & Services. I am not going to lie; there were a lot of tears.

131341647_10220043133297374_2737409650803215012_nI became especially attached to the smallest kitten, Tigger, and vice versa. Tigger is aptly named; he is bold and bouncy and, despite his tiny size, was the ringleader. At the same time, he is gentle and affectionate. He was the first to figure out every new skill and show his sisters how to do it.

I cried as I put every kitten into the crate to transport them, but I bawled my eyes out over Tigger — even as I knew that it was the right thing to do. We have five indoor cats, two of whom are seniors with health issues. On top of that, I’ll be starting back to the office at least a couple of days a week, and it would be unfair to both the precious, playful baby and the staid adults to put them through that.

As of today, the kittens are available for adoption. Orange polydactyl girl Tammy Twelve-Toes, torbie girl Tibbs, torbie girl Teddi-Anne, and orange boy Tigger may be just right for you or someone you know.

(Photo of Penelope and the four kittens, and Tigger with his “arm” around Tibbs by Jeff Cathcart.)

Frequently Asked Question: Shelf Life

Well, here we are on the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for a question from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Here we go: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

I put it aside for a minimum of 30 days, regardless of genre. I didn’t always, but I’ve found that this technique helps tremendously. It allows me to see plot holes, and figure out whether I even want to proceed with publication.

Thing is, I never delete work completely. I have come back to a manuscript a couple of years later, for example Hugs and Hisses, and discovered that work which initially disappointed me was actually quite good. It just needed to be right time/season for me to see that. Another disappointing manuscript eventually became the Pocketful of Stories series as I pulled out all of the useful bits and left the rest behind.

Without having the perspective of that 30-day minimum break, I wouldn’t have been able to see the flaws or good qualities very well at all. Deciding to put things on the proverbial shelf for a while has made an enormous difference in my authorial process.