Thursday, November 26, 2015

gratitude abounds

I've been away from blogville for some time due to ten days of travel and time on each end of the travel preparing and then adjusting back into regular life. One challenge is that I keep having incredible experiences that open my heart and stretch me in becoming a more fulfilled, alive person. So, returning is not a matter of just re-engaging regular life as it was before I left. This challenge is one I embrace, as it indicates how much I'm growing more into life.

Today being Thanksgiving in the US, it's a day of reflection and noting my gratitudes. There have been many, it's been quite an amazing year.

The highlight of my year was my summer Montana Equine therapy experience, which forever changed me. It was certainly the most terrifying thing I've done and the most life changing. I'm amazed what happened when I leaned into my deepest fears with the support of some incredibly loving people, I came out so much stronger on the other side. Fear, take notice, I'm done running from you!

Thecatguy and his trusty mount, Harley

I'm so grateful for all my delightful kitties!!!

Buddy continues to live a healthy and tummy rub filled life! It was sometime earlier this year when the vet figured out that he has IBD and once we started treatment, his health immediately improved! I'm grateful for his continued health and his lovey personality. 

Buddy is usually affixed to me in a snuggle posture
Nahum is as fluffy and gorgeous as ever!

I've started getting Nahum acclimated to my office in hopes he'll be my therapy cat. I was thinking Marvin would make a good therapy cat, and I think he would (he has the personality for it), but two things got in the way, he started having more health problems and on his second visit to the office, he urine marked my couch, Ack!

special food speeds up the acclimation process!
Willow is still Willow, cute as ever. In this year she has gotten more snuggly which I adore. (She's actually purring up a storm in my lap right now!)

Willow gets cuter every year - how does she do that?!

Rose is still terrified that her humans might eat her alive, so she keeps her safe distance.

Silly boy Theo, remains a character. We must always be mindful of unattended food as Theo will attend to it for sure!

Over the past year, Theo has gotten more snuggly. He loves being held and just wants to be close. He doesn't really like us having foster cats as it takes attention away from him and usually takes some of his space away too. Theo very much likes his space and his peeps.

Oliver! Every interaction I have with this boy makes my heart aglow. This guy is pure love, I so adore him and so wish he could be inside kitty, but he continues to urine mark his space. So, that means I can only bring him inside under supervision or in a room that's been fully oliverized (covered with towels and things that can soak up the pee.) The other day, I brought Oliver inside and we both snoozed together in the living room with the indoor cats letting him be - it was a glorious moment! I'm hopeful for more such moments where he can be inside and not create tension with the other kitties.

Camping in the side yard with Oliver this summer was a highlight of the year for sure! We both had a wonderful time!

The saddest event of this year was MK going missing and is now assumed deceased. That was hard. Really, really hard. That happened early in the year and really set my heart into a painful place for quite a long time. Even though I never got to pet him due to his semi-feral nature, I loved him deeply. I miss him and his silly antics dearly.

Pierre has had a good year, although it's clear he misses his brother, MK. Those two were inseparable, so without MK, Pierre gets lonely. He's taken to staying pretty close to Oliver, who tolerates the closeness. Oliver gets his love needs met from me, but Pierre is still too scared of humans to trust me that much and thus tries to love on Oliver every moment he can get. 

Since MK went missing, Pierre rarely leaves the yard. Actually, that seems true for Oliver too. Both stay close to the house, which makes me happier. I occasionally see Nora come by for dinner, which makes me happy!

ever so curious Pierre

Bert, my previous foster cat, is doing amazingly well in his new home! I had the honor of housing him for about a week this summer while his forever human worked on moving to a new house. I love that he's doing so well. This boy really got a big chunk of my heart and knowing he's happy makes me happy.

And now there's Marvin, my current rescue and foster.

Somehow I thought I would guard my heart from becoming too attached to Marvin. I failed miserably. This guy is such a delight. He's little (about 7 pounds) but has tons of personality. He's become a professional snuggle champion in such a short time, he's a natural. 

His health has been up and down since his rescue. I'm super grateful that his health has been stable for the past week, but with chronic kidney failure and his other problems, his health is a roller coaster of emotional stress.

Marvin is still available for adoption if the right person comes along and wants to love on him for however long he has. And if no one comes along, he can stay here and live out his days knowing he's loved and enjoyed. I'm grateful for how sweet his personality is and he's like eye candy, a pleasure to look upon! I love his deep, luscious chocolate coloring!!

I usually get one big house project done a summer, but this year I somehow managed two!

I'm grateful for the house and for the ability and resources to get these projects done.

I'm also grateful for all the humans in my life. I've been gifted with an amazing wife and many delightful friends who I treasure. I'm also grateful for all my blogging friends - you all have gifted me in amazing ways that you are not even aware of. Thank you!

I'll close with this quote that I was introduced to on my recent trip. I feel it beautifully sums up my life journey of this past year as I come to more fully own and live into my gifts and value.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. - Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

a few words wednesday

It's that time of the year...

Oct 26, 2015
when the temperature drops and cuddle season starts! 
Oct 27, 2015
Pierre loves to climb on top of Oliver and snooze. I'd guess Pierre weighs about 12 lbs (5.4 kg), that's a lot of weight to have resting on top of a 17 lb (7.7 kg) kitty! Oliver's such a good sport!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Oliverland (Part 2)

The tour of Oliverland continues in this second installment of an exciting three part series. (Be sure to check out Oliverland Part 1, if you missed it.) In todays tour, I'll show you Oliver's 24-hour feeder and lounge space.

Before I get to far into the tour, let me detour into history and take you back in time to the very first Oliverland structure. This was back before I knew anything about anything.  And it was before Oliver trusted me at all, back then he was too scared to share the yard with me and would run away when I came out.

August 2011
The very first building, was a combined dining space and living quarters. 

August 2011
The outside entrance opened into the dining space and from there another doorway opened into the living area, featuring soft towel bedding. What in the world was I thinking?! How did I expect Oliver to live in such spartan conditions? no windows, no insulation, and no heat! Yikes! But that wasn't the only thing that needed to change.

August 2011
My TNR mentor at the time quickly set me straight. When building a cat shelter, you never want to put the food right near the living space as the food will draw predators and other potentially unfriendly visitors. I also learned that a feral cat shelter should always have two doors, that way a predator can't corner the cat inside the shelter, it can escape out the backdoor.

With this new knowledge in mind, I got busy constructing a standalone Dining Hall.

The Grand Opening of the Dining Hall was a big to-do!        Sept 2011
The state-of-the-art Dining Hall featured two real-glass windows, a large picture window looking out back and a smaller window facing East. Inside, Oliver could eat and drink while staying dry from the rain!

With the Dining Hall completed, I went to work on remodeling the living quarters. The old dark, cold living space was deconstructed and replaced with Oliver's Guest House, a modest sized insulated and heated home (which you saw on Part 1 of the Oliverland tour.) With Oliver immediately taking to his new digs, it became clear he needed a larger, more grande home for his greatness, and thus, Oliver's House was commissioned (again seen in Part 1 of the tour).

   Oliver's House being constructed.                           Sept 2011
When these renovations were completed, Oliverland consisted of the Dining Hall, Guest House, and Oliver's House - each of the living spaces were now upgraded with full insulation, heat, web-cams, and two doors. Oliver and his family were happy, and a happy Oliver meant happy Oliverland Management.

But then the slugs came and swarmed the food bowls, grossifying everything. And not to mention the raccoons and opossums, which I was not interested in feeding.

I had learned about raccoon-proof feral feeders and wanted to build something. I did some research and found the basic 4x4, platform design. But then I realized I could build something into the side of my detached garage. After a little work, Oliver had a new raccoon-proof (and slug-proof) feral feeder!

October 2015
It's built on the simple idea that raccoons can't jump (they climb) but cats love to jump! The metal flashing keeps raccoons from climbing up and the table gives the cats something to jump from, up to the feeder ledge. 

I've seen raccoons standing up on their hind legs on the table, looking into the feeder, not able to figure out how to get to the food! Success!! And no nasty slugs - I'm not really sure why the slugs haven't found it, but I'm not going to ask them.

The feeder is basically a plywood cabinet built inside the garage, which I can access from inside, but the cats access from the outside. Back when I first built it, there was two corner shelves that had food and water bowls. Now, I use a fancy gravity feeder with a stainless steel feeding bowl. It's the perfect size and is dishwasher safe! You'll notice what looks like a recent change on the wall to the right of the feeder (unpainted). That was a recent modification, that lets me attach a trap on a temporary shelf inside the garage, so if I want to trap cats who come to the feeder, I easily can.

There are two windows in the feeder space, so the cats can look into my dark garage. Under the feeder is storage space for cat food. There's also a webcam in the feeder, so I can watch who's eating.

This is the live view from the feeder-cam:

(sorry - feeder cam currently offline)

Note: There is a limit to how many can watch the cam at the same time, so if everyone's tuning in at the same time, it may say it's unavailable. Also, newer internet browsers, like Edge, don't support the old software technology, so you may be out of luck.

The feral-feeder provides Oliver, his family, and distinguished guests access to fresh food 24-hours per day, 365-days per year. They love the food, but are less keen about the water being so near the food in the feeder, so after years of the water going untouched, the controversial decision was made to remove it from the feeder and built a separate temporary watering station.

As you can see, this temporary watering station is extremely crude and is not up to the high standards of Oliverland. Oliver, and family have filed many complaints with Oliverland management about having to drink water in the open air (at risk of getting drenched in bone chilling rain and wind), not to mention the dangerous condition of the platform (a kitty could hurt a leg if they stepped into one of those holes in the dark of night.) Due to the ongoing contentious negotiations and threats of bitey action from the kitty council, Oliverland management is unable to comment further on this matter at this time. Both management and the kitty council are all hoping a settlement will be reached soon and this matter will be behind us.

Meanwhile, when Oliver's feral-feeder came into service, the old Dining Hall was fully renovated into a Lounge Hall - a place for Oliver and his guests to hangout away from the rain or blazing sun.

In the remodel, the large picture window was removed so access could be from either side.

The Lounge Hall is a popular spot for enjoying a visit with friends and family or having a go with the kickeroo. 

In the upcoming Part 3 of the Oliverland tour, you'll get an in-depth look at Oliver's back porch palace, his kitty castle, and loft - and maybe if we're lucky, the tense watering hole situation will be resolved with a new weather-proof watering hole arrangement (I've been hearing rumors about a possible kitty-gazebo!)  Stay tuned!!

Friday, October 16, 2015

(former) Feral Cat (Fri)Day!

A day to celebrate my favorite former feral, Oliver!

He got to spend a good part of last Saturday living his dream - being inside kitty!

May this day bring many blessings to all the homeless cats out there. May each know love, have a full tummy, and enjoy warm, dry, safe housing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

marvelous Marvin

Mr. Marvin is turning into quite the social cuddle bug.

He's always got to be on a human.

I'm sure this won't come as a surprise, but my heart has been really opening up to this guy. I'm not sure how he does it, but I think he gets sweeter everyday! 

He's very secure in himself. New space and new people don't intimidate him in the least. He just doesn't get scared. With that kind of personality, I wondered if he might be interested in a job, as my therapy cat. I brought him to the office one afternoon for an interview.

He immediately hopped up in the picture windows and admired the view of the city from the 7th floor! There would be no hiding behind the couch for this boy!

Once the windows and floor were explored, he went on to check out the other higher places, like the bookshelf! I hope to do a few more visits to the space to get him fully acclimated and them try him with clients. 

I do have concerns about his health though. In addition to his chronic kidney failure, he's been having more problems with balance lately. I noticed it awhile ago, but it seems to slowly be getting worse. He sometimes has difficulty walking in straight line and will jump down from places and crash hard.  The other day his balance was so far off I almost confined him to an enclosed pen out of concern for his safety. And no, he's not abusing the nip!

Since it's been getting worse, I brought him to the vet to get this looked over. I feared it might be a tumor in his ears, because he never likes having his ears touched. But of course there in front of the vet, he walked perfectly straight and made me sound like a crazy, overprotective kitty parent!

The vet looked deep into his ears and tested him in all sorts of ways, but didn't find anything obviously wrong. She gave me some things to really watch out for next time he looks unbalanced (specific symptoms of micro-siezures, etc.) so I'll be on the look out. Since he was there, we ran his kidney numbers, and his creatinine was back down to the high end of the normal range, that was a happy surprise!

So long as Marvin stays healthy, I think he's got a job - my new therapy kitty! Yah for both of us!! I'm excited to get to work with him, I think he'll have a lot to teach us about how to be better at being human.

Monday, October 12, 2015

roof project

I've not been around the cat blogosphere much lately, been running like the wind and too exhausted to do much other than collapse. There certainly has been a lot going on (too much), so I'll try to post some updates this week.

I usually have energy for one big outdoor project per summer, rebuilding the back porch was this summer's big project. But after watching the garage roof leak like a sieve after a mid-September rain storm, I figured I might not be able to put this one off any longer. Every year I went up there and patched holes, but it was becoming less and less effective. So, with a good looking weather forecast and a bunch of intense emotional energy to burn, I decided to give re-roofing the garage a go! It took only 10 days and it only rained once, on the 9th day!

The old roof was metal sheeting with many holes in it. The problem is the pitch of the roof is too small, so the water doesn't run off very much, especially when all the neighbor's trees shed their droppings. The water just sits and works it's way through the screw holes rotting the wood. In time there are major leaks!

Oliver snoopervised from a safe distance.

And later made sure no one disturbed the ladder.

Snoopervising is a hard job, so Pierre came by to assist his pa. 
I heard rumors around the job site that the snoopervisors might be trying 
to unionize in order to demand better wages.

The old red metal roof was put on top of the even older asphalt shingle roof. I tore it all off and replaced the many rotten wood rafter bits and then began with new sheeting. At first I thought of trying to reuse the old metal sheet roof, but there were just too many holes.

Oliver, patrolling the job site.

Poor-man's truck
I hauled all the materials on top of my car! I forgot how many trips it took, maybe five or six. Seemed like it took longer to haul the materials than build the roof! 

Getting the materials secured on the roof was a bit of a challenge, considering the metal roof panels are 12 ft (3.66 m) long! Thankfully, I'm not far from the building supply store and I figured out how to sandwich the metal panels between the sheets of OSB sheeting, to keep them from sliding around. The red tie down straps go through the rolled down windows, which means with the car loaded, the doors do not open - all entry and exit is accomplished by climbing through the window, just like The General Lee in the Duke's of Hazzard!

Oliver successfully negotiates higher pay for the feline laborers.

And the new roof!
 (notice our amazing 24-hour vet clinic in the background)

It was a lot of work, but it feels awesome to have gotten this project done, especially since I wasn't expecting to get around to it until next year. But, now with this done, I don't know what I'll do next summer! Maybe that greenhouse I've been dreaming about...