Friday, October 31, 2008

which are you?

if you are a person who has an uncommon feeling for the weak, the strays and the downtrodden and feel quite alone in your point of view, this piece of research might help shed some light on why when it seems so obvious that saving a life, ending suffering should be in the highest priority, others can look away citing what seems like watered down reasons for public good.

in a less elegant and scientific way, i, in my feline wisdom, have come up with my own observation about the different social attitudes that exist in Singapore. Jonathan Haidt made a very successful career studying the same phenomenon.

his Moral Foundations Theory looks at the way morality varies between cultures and identifies five fundamental moral values shared to a greater or lesser degree by different societies and individuals. these are
1. care for others, protecting them from harm
2. fairness, justice, treating others equally.
3. loyalty to your group, family, nation
4. respect for tradition and legitimate authority.
5. purity, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions.

before you read on, rank these five moral values for yourself.

as the blogger and champion for this family who takes my cue mainly from the man and woman of this animal house, here’s how I rank
1. loyalty to your group, family, nation – this family is everything to me
2. respect for tradition and legitimate authority – man and woman, your wishes are my command, most of the time…
3. fairness, Justice, treating others equally – felines like fairness, no favouritisms please.
4. care for others, protecting them from harm – i do care but cats like our privacy and I am just respecting everyone else’s, yeah?
5. purity, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions - I am pretty disgusting in my habits and lovin’ it.

this is how the woman ranks
1. care for others, protecting them from harm – non-negotiable
2. loyalty to your group, family, nation
3. fairness, Justice, treating others equally.
4. purity, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions.
5. respect for tradition and legitimate authority.

by american definitions, that makes me a down turf conservative and the woman a flaming left-wing liberal. why I think Sarah Palin is a hot folksy harmless hockey mom and the woman thinks McCain is on drugs to put her so close to the steps of the white house.

interestingly, my ranking mirrors the man’s.

he will lay down everything for the welfare of the family while the woman will be out throwing herself at the world in hopes of saving it. there is no right and wrong, of course. conservative thinkers preserve much needed structure and order to society: state, family, traditions, institutions. liberal thinkers buck it when they see the wreckage trailing behind these big shiny buses.

in all fairness, you need the both for society to progress spiritually and intellectually yet still in keeping to a pace that remains hospitable and tidy to most. in Singapore, my conversative voice certainly rings much louder in the hawker centres, in shenton way and in parliament. but if we are to become the vibrant city that we keep hearing about, it bodes well that while we retain the societal structures that serve us well in keeping us safe, organised and sparkling, we give room to these eccentric liberals who would not let go of a life, be it an old cranky old woman, a stray mangy cat or a tired misused elephant, room to do what no one else will, which is to plug the gaps left gaping open by the sharp unseeing corners of societal building blocks.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bak Bak's hospital visit

Bak Bak is starting to refuse food so they brought him to the vet yesterday to see what they can do to make him more comfortable.

he is as curious and as oblivious as ever to his condition, making eyes at a passing dog and taking a keen interest in the coys in the pond.

the vet recommended the drip twice a day and the man and woman decided they would do that at home where Bak Bak can still be in familiar surroundings amongst family with room to roam when he wants.

their first in-home-intravenous-attempt went well. he hardly protested like he did at the vet's.

he even took a short stroll afterwards!

old smoking feeder

second stop this weekend, they visited *Wendy*'s ex-friend, old chain-smoking feeder. it's not the horror story they were expecting but certainly the air in the spartan but spotless apartment is pretty stale. the only windows open are the top vents above the casement windows.

the three kittens and their mother are very tame and at ease with people, a very good sign. the man and woman introduced themselves as cat welfare volunteers who will help to sterilise the cats when they are of age. that got them through the door. after offering to bring them back some eye and deworming meds, the man broached the subject of meshing the windows. it was surprisingly well-received so it must be the man's touch with old auntie types...

this one is so pretty and knows it. she has no qualms hogging all the attention and camera time!

busy long weekend

it's the man's bday but there's work to be done. they visited Socks who is very happy in his new home. he now lives in the lap of luxury in a hip city studio with direct view of the singapore flyer. lucky cat!

yeah, we can see you are totally at home there!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

at dinner

dinner conversation turns to the topic of the animal family today. it is quite usual then for friends to start wondering about whether it is right to lock up cats. today, they also thought about whether it is right to let Bak Bak continue to face his fate. this mind you, coming from a doctor.

as cat welfare volunteers, we know our course of action. but it does throw up some food for thought. what is more important? to be free or to be free from suffering? in our crazy world, these two values are in increasing opposition. in many instances, you can only fulfill one to the detriment of the other.

humans usually have a choice, to live with abandonment or to live cloistered. to plead doctors to save you at all cost or to give them an advanced medical directive. us cats do not have that kind of control over our fate so these well-meaning moral wranglings about being free or free from suffering hold no real meaning for us. ultimately, survival and pain is just as much a part of life as everything else.

so if you have to make choices for us, we only ask that you make them with the conviction of your love. if you must keep us in, do it because you can give us your best. if you must help us along to a better place, let it be because you done your best. if you must allow us to hold on to this precious bitter sweet life to the very end, let it never be in darkness, away from your presence, your thoughts and your prayer.

already, to have you make any decisions about us makes us the lucky ones, over the many whose fates are left to blow in the wind.

saved from AVA, our community queen, Frazzle, still rules the roost.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bak Bak's legs

it's happening, as if losing one is not bad enough.

Bak Bak is losing control of his hind legs. while he still has sensation in them, they just won't prop him up anymore. it is therefore pretty amazing that with the partial lameness and blindness, Bak Bak hasn't once shown signs of being distressed. he eats, he is curious and he never fails to respond to affection. we wonder if he is oblivious to his condition. if the woman holds him up from behind, he will paddle his way around the house like it's any normal day, except that he has this clumsy person behind trying to keep up.

but we are not kidding ourselves here, the vet doesn't offer much hope...

so we take our blessings where they come. after the passing of our dear rabbit, Tuxedo rose to the challenge by making it a point to fill our rabbit's larger than life paws. he became the one who gave comfort to Bak Bak. it does present a painful dilemma. do we risk Tuxedo catching the virus? do we let Bak Bak live out the rest of his life alone? in the end, we let the two friends enjoy their time together as long as we dared. but Bak Bak is in his own space now.

Tuxedo is no doubt one of the least news-making member of this family. ever since they arrived as a bunch of kittens with a serious eye infection, he has lived in perpetual shadow of his sister, Calico. she was the one who needed more time and attention from being the more sickly and subsequently, from the sheer force of her personality. and Tuxedo remained the one who operated behind the scenes. he was Leafty's champion when most of the kittens have left or grown up and out of their childhood friend, he was and still is a giving big brother to a sister who isn't always appreciative. and now, he is an angel to a sickly Bak Bak.

being this quiet and unassuming makes it easy to get lost in this bustling household. when the more extroverted of us have tired of imposing ourselves on the woman with our chatter and antics, that is when he shows up to lie his head on her arm or leg. the woman makes it a point that his silent nudges for attention do not go unnoticed.

most of all, the woman will never forget how Tuxedo was the one that stood by her when she cried over Leafty and for that, he holds a very special place in her heart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

perils of a chain smoker

woman hears about an old feeder in the neighbourhood who chain smokes with cats in the apartment. apparently she will not open a single window in the apartment for a variety of reasons.

this news comes from *Wendy* who knows her from their nightly rounds to feed strays. she wants the woman to mesh up the old feeder’s windows to let in a little air for the cats. that is the easy part. convincing the old feeder is quite another matter.

for a start, the old feeder sounds like your typical hardnosed, mistrustful, paranoid, cranky old woman. when wendy brought up the issue to her, she burned her bridges and slammed the door on her long time friend. and then there is wendy herself, who is working herself into a relapse. she is extremely agitated, constantly calling and smsing the woman to belabour her few circular points. i. "the cats are going to die" ii. "the old feeder is crazy" iii. "you must help" iv. "the cats are going to die" v. "the old feeder is crazy"... you get the picture.

there is no walking away from this, of course. what is the worst that can happen? the old feeder will wreck the door slamming it and wendy will scream blue murder that the woman did not follow her precise instructions to the tee. can't be worse than not trying.

even without smoke, we can't imagine closing a single window at our place!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

last breath

thanks everyone for your kind words.

Leafty’s peaceful passing at home is a real consolation to us but brings back a lot of guilty feelings towards the passing of Bobby. in their mindless attempt to save him, he was put through a lot of treatments at the hospital and the worse part was that he died there alone in the middle of the night, before the man and woman could get to the hospital.

animals don’t know the good intentions of hospitals and drips, they only know if you are there with them or you are not.

when the woman finally got to the hospital to see his lifeless body, his tortured expression haunts her to this day. We know he is in a better place now, waiting happily and patiently for the reunion of the family. but on his last breath on earth, he must have been thinking, “where are all of you?”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the end of an era

the man and woman left Leafty in his favourite nook under Bak Bak's chin yesterday morning. that was their last memory of Leafty. he left us during the day.

it was his look of peace and quiet dignity that consoled the woman. the albino dwarf rabbit who arrived from spca with pee stains on his snow coat lived his life with his heart wide open and left it the same way, deeply connected to everyone around him. even ailing, he did for the kitten no less than what he had done for countless others before him. for Bak Bak, he showed that the cat's instinct to withdraw from the sense of our own weakness is no way to live at all.

and so your work here is done. rest now, little one.

Tuxedo stood by as the woman said her final goodbyes to that small bundle of love. Bak Bak has not gone back to the spot he shared these months with his special friend.

Monday, October 13, 2008

in preparation for their new journey

everyday now is a gift. another day to say goodbye.

both leafty and bak bak have taken a turn for the worse. we only hope that leafty will not see bak bak go first as he is our rabbit's final comfort.

Friday, October 10, 2008

joo chiat auntie

another old cat auntie has fallen on desperate times. a fire gutted hers and three other shophouses along joo chiat road, nearly burning her to death and taking away the lives of some 12 cats.

we can only imagine the trauma of this experience for the joo chiat auntie and her remaining animals. some of the cats are now in various stages of recovery. one dog is dying from smoke inhalation and exhaustion.

the woman spoke to the volunteer who has been helping this joo chiat auntie for the past 15 years. it is good people like her who have helped kept the sanity in this situation and gotten supplies enough to cobble up a decent existence for the auntie and her animals in a short amount of time.

but the sense of desperation and despair lingers, compounded by the fact that the auntie’s financial situation has taken an irreversible turn for the worse and finds it almost impossible to sustain the rent and food for the animals in the house as well as the ones on the streets that she dutifully feeds.

any financial help at this point will really make a difference. drop a line to the animal family if you can spare some loose change and we will hook you up.

this comes close on the tail of the old hoarder lady’s situation, which thankfully, has reached a kind of milestone with the clean-up, sterilization and rehoming. this massive exercise was able to build up a lot of momentum, bringing together a lot of people and seen tremendous results, for the condition of the flat, the many cats that went to good homes and the health of the remaining animals. mostly thanks to jaime, janet and lynn.

it did all end on a strained note over the tragic fate of Ezra. whatever lingering feelings of anguish, hurt and resentment, they do not take anything away from all the good that has come out of this collective effort. Ezra's loving nature won the hearts of all the people who came in contact with him. where he is now, he continues to smile down on ah ma and everyone that has been touched by him.

now, what is left for the living is the less glamourous task of maintenance. weekly visits and cleaning are still very much on the cards to give ah ma a few much needed pairs of extra hands as well as to keep her grounded and connected. there is also the question of where the next supply of cat and dog food will come from that will keep the animals properly fed and off the chicken heads.

heavy on the volunteer's minds right now is the unenviable task of bringing ah ma down to visit the last remaining cat at the vet’s. she screamed when she heard that Big Head will not make it. she has been shouting for the cat ever since.

the volunteers don’t know if bringing ah ma down is a good idea, but if any one of them were in her shoes, this would be what they would want, however unbearable the inevitable parting.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

3am call; foster needed

our eccentric neighbour *Wendy* woke us up with a 3am call railing about how her cats are giving her so much stress she is going nuts. in her unkind 3am 'you woke me up for that?!' state, the woman felt that NUTS was the operative word here...

against our advice, Wendy took in one more cat over the 3 she already has in the flat causing one of her existing ones to picket in protest by spraying her furniture any chance it got. at first, Wendy was appealing for the woman to take her offending cat in in hopes that we can toilet train before returning to her. but the cat is not losing its toilet training by accident here. as long as the new cat is in the flat, she is going to be upset and act up.

the woman's advice for Wendy is to give up one of the cats and is actively looking for a loving and patient foster right now who can give this distressed cat a break.

this and the case of the old hoarder lady really drive home the fact that more needs to be done for our old and alone. and not just to provide the basics like food, hygiene and shelter. their solitary lifestyles give them no release for their stress and grief and the result is an inward imploding state and a string of irrational bad decisions. gone on long enough, any well-meaning people who want to help can do little more than wade through their woolly self-seeking obstinacy to an uneasy friendship that is frustrating for both parties.

the question the woman would like to ask is, is there a way back from where Wendy and the old lady have wandered?

cleaning out the old hoarder lady's roach-infested cabinet the other day, the woman came across all her old photos, all smeared with roach droppings, and sees a life full of potential, with people, family and events. the old lady was anxious to remind the volunteers not to throw them away. so they are cleaned and stored, all these imprints of people that are no longer there. there was a full-colour laminated A4 photoshop-ed poster of the old lady and her 2 dogs which seemed recent. the old lady told her it was done by friends, but they no longer come to visit.

in the process of cleaning and painting the old lady's flat, the woman has seen both the soft and the cold mercenary side of the old lady, been exceedingly frustrated and been touched. the way forward is still fraught with uncertainties but the transformation of the flat has motivated the old lady to try in her own small ways to maintain it that way. she is also more willing to listen to the volunteers' suggestions and to let go of some of her animals. the woman hopes in her heart that this progress will not be undone by them becoming yet another collection of friends who no longer come to visit.

the woman wonders how many of us would turn out like this? the statistics on the solitary elderly and the mentally volatile are certainly against us.

the best counters the woman can think of are to build up our networks while we can, keep akin to this changing world, and break our hard habit for the material. in the old lady's cabinet are bags, jewelery, liquor, ginseng and clothes from all eras. they probably meant something at some point. now all they do is clog up her world and her mind with their irrelevance.

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