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Saving All The Mr. Browns

I had to call Kathy about my cat Mr. Brown; I needed her expert advice. I’d been looking for him because of the heat; he is that silly he won’t come in even though the back door is wide open, and there was no water in the bowl outside. I hadn’t seen him for hours, he hadn’t come around for food when I fed my other cats, even when I made my food sound, and I was worried.

I found him, in terrible condition, under a table below my bedroom window. I bathe my cats every month before applying their flea drops, yet he looked mucky, like he’d been rolling in oily dirt, and he was hot. His nose, always runny, was completely blocked with mucus, and when I picked him up he began yowling through his mouth. I brought him inside, washed his face, cleaned his fur, then gently deposited him in his cat bed. Then I called Kathy.

Kathy Powers is a volunteer with the Feral Cat Coalition. I met her five years ago through my grandmother. Kathy’s other job, the one that pays her bills, is working as an occupational therapist; she had been coming to my grandmother’s house to help rebuild strength in her arm after a break. There was a large colony of ferals living around the property which my grandmother had been feeding for years. On her visits, Kathy often stopped to observe the cats as she was leaving; she was partial to cats, but these scraggly beasts wouldn’t come near her, no matter how much she tried to coax them. On one of her last visits, Kathy said that she would try to find a way to help my grandmother with her ferals. I thanked her for anything she could do.

Months went by; I assumed Kathy had either forgotten or had changed her mind. One day, out of the blue, she called. She told me that the reason she had taken so long to get back to me was that she had a long list of colonies she worked, and she just went down the list until she eventually got to me. She also told me that virtually every block in the city has a feral colony; the work is often overwhelming, and sometimes when I talk to her, bless her heart, she sounds exhausted and dispirited. I had read encouraging news on the Feral Cat Coalition website. “Statistics from the San Diego Department of Animal Control as of 6/30/97 show That while the number of cats adopted or claimed by owners has remained fairly constant over the years, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in the number of cats impounded and killed as compared to 1992 (when the FCC clinics started). Before the FCC was formed, the number of cats impounded and killed had been going up 15% per year!” When Kathy gets down, usually during kitten season, I remind her that the situation has gotten better because of people like her, and that if she wasn’t doing what she was doing, imagine how many cats would suffer, and die, because no one cared or tried to do anything to help.

To get back to that first phone call: Kathy explained that she hadn’t forgotten, she was getting ready to come and trap four of my grandmother’s ferals that following weekend. She told me how she would do the trapping, and when she would pick up the traps. She, and the other volunteers, would take the cats they had trapped to a clinic; veterinarians who had volunteered their time would examine the animals, treat the ones that were ill, in some cases put down the ones that were too far gone, spay or neuter the healthy ones, nick their ears to identify them, then return them to the volunteers. In the case of my grandmother’s colony, only one had to be put down, a new stray who had a contagious fatal disease; fortunately, the other cats had not yet been infected when she trapped that cat.

After each clinic, Kathy takes the cats to her house for a night’s recovery. If a cat is tame and doesn’t have a home, she keeps and adopts it out. The cats that are feral and have a “home” like my grandmother’s ferals, are returned and released, unless they’re sick, then she keeps them and nurses them back to health. At her first visit, Kathy told me she could take pregnant ferals anytime, but otherwise was limited to a certain number of ferals per clinic; she would work my grandmother’s colony once a month until she had gotten as many of them as she could. On her trapping visits she would also bring donated bags and tins of cat food to help my grandmother feed her ferals. Kathy doesn't just do that for my grandmother, she brings food to anyone who has a colony and agrees to feed the ferals.

I had mentioned to her that I also had a small herd at my house, four indoor/outdoor cats, and three indoor cats. When I had moved five years ago, I had brought five kittens with me from a stray mother cat that had died; the other two were kittens someone dropped off in my yard. None of the cats were fixed; it was all I could do to keep the little buggers in food. My daughter and I had tried going through various organizations to get help, but every time we called, their funds were depleted. Kathy offered to take the four in/out cats to a feral clinic, which she did; the next month, she took the other three innies and had them fixed and vaccinated. One cat, Chamuco, showed up one day with a large abscess on his head, Kathy took him to a vet, but he had to be put down. As for the remaining cats, thanks to Kathy, Cookie Dough, Cutie Pie, Tye Dye, Templeton, Mongoose, and Mr. Brown, will not be adding to the cat population. One day I called her when one of my grandmother’s ferals left a baby kitten on the porch; she came and picked it up, took it to a mother cat who raised it until it was big enough to adopt out. She told me to call her whenever I found kittens and she would pick them up; kittens were easy to adopt out.

Kathy had noticed Mr. Brown’s breathing when she had taken him for neutering; I told her he had been congested, and sometimes had a runny nose, ever since he was a kitten; she thought it was a virus. When she brought him back from his neutering, she brought me some antibiotics and told me how to dose him. When Mr. Brown didn’t get better that first time, she brought stronger medications. She tried, again and then again, to cure him. Finally, she said that some cats just can’t shake the virus and the best she could do was bring him meds when he was really run down. When she came back to check on him, Kathy noticed another cat was ill and brought medications to treat her condition. Whenever I found a sick cat, or abandoned kitten, I would call her and she would come out to get it. Eventually it was understood between us that whenever I had a problem with any cats, mine or someone else’s, I should call her and she would try to help. Kathy didn’t mention money; at first I assumed the vets were doing the work, and letting her have meds, free or low-cost. I figured out after a few things she let slip, that she often paid the cost for exams, tests, surgeries, medications, and vaccinations out of her own pocket.

When I called Kathy about Mr. Brown, I told her what his symptoms were and that I felt he was really sick and I didn’t want him to suffer; we both knew I was meaning he should be put down. We discussed taking him into the Animal Hospital in Mission Valley, turning him over as a stray, and they in turn would call Animal Control and have him taken in and put down; I dreaded doing this. I didn’t know how long it would take for Animal Control to come for him, how many other trips they would take before they finally brought him in to be euthanized, and all that time he would be alone, sick, among strangers. I wanted to be with him when he was put to sleep, but Animal Control doesn’t permit it. But there seemed to be no other choice; this was a Sunday. To take a cat to a vet on a Sunday is to incur at least two to three hundred dollars in expenses, and vets don’t bill. Even Kathy, who rarely mentioned money, talked about what it would cost to have a cat seen, and put down, on a Sunday.

And then she said, “I’ll come get Mr. Brown and take him to my vet. He’s open today.”

I was floored. “What? Kathy, you can’t do that, that’s way too much money!”

“No, I’ll do it,” she said. “I’m willing to do it for you. You do so much to help me.”

I couldn’t fathom what she was talking about. But she wouldn’t stay on the phone to talk about it. She would be at my house within the hour to pick up Mr. Brown. I argued, feebly, against her offer, but my heart wasn’t in it; Mr. Brown was suffering, we both knew it. “Listen, okay, but you gotta let me pay you back. No, I mean it, you have to.”

“We’ll figure something out,” she said before we hung up.

As I waited, I tried to figure out what she had meant by my helping her out. When my grandmother’s house caught fire and she had to move out, I took on going over every day to make sure her ferals had food and water; I’ve been doing that for nearly a year now. When Ginny, the older lady who had cared for a feral colony in the middle of my own block, moved away, I offered to go over and feed them every other day, and check on their welfare. When Kathy needed someone to help her translate at a woman’s house, we went together. We’ve gone to a few locations to rescue feral cats. I had helped her a few times to trap cats. We have also rescued dogs from abusive or neglectful owners. I put out the word at the community meetings I attend, and through my newsletter, that she’s available to help with feral colonies if they call her. In comparison to what she does every day, day after day, my “help” is microscopically infinitesimal.

On top of her work trapping ferals and picking up strays, every morning, and at the end of each day, Kathy tends to a garage full of cages of sick cats that need to be taken care of, giving them meds, cleaning their wounds, applying ointments and bandages, there cages and carriers and litter boxes that need to be cleaned, healthy cats that need to be fed, loads of towels that need to be washed. At one time she told me she had something like forty cats in her care; cats that don’t get adopted out end up being one of her own cats. I remember one Christmas she was hurrying to get as many cats adopted out as possible; her family was coming to visit and they were worried that she was turning into one of those “cat hoarders” you sometimes see in the news.

It isn’t like that; Kathy spends her time and money caring for cats, as many cats as she can help. But she is also practical; there are so many cats and only so much she can do. Her pockets are incredibly generous but they are not bottomless. One of my in/out cats developed gum disease and was doing poorly, and she counseled putting him down, even though he was an otherwise healthy animal. She said that cats with gum disease often cost hundreds of dollars to treat and the outcome is iffy. Her view is that, with so many cats and so few resources, it is better to spend money on cats that have the best chance of a good life. Among her own cats, she has chosen, regretfully, to put down cats who are lingering and have no chance of recovery. I am continually amazed by her ability to love each cat, to care for them, and yet let them go when it has to be done; I couldn't deal with so much grief, each little cat’s death like a stone stuck inside my heart forever. But with the support of the other FCC volunteers and others she meets who also do rescue work, she manages to keep going.

Kathy arrived and quickly looked Mr. Brown over, put him in a carrier she had brought, and whisked him off to the vet; she wanted to get there when the doors opened so he wouldn’t wait. But she didn’t leave before taking a minute to check over one of my other cats she had been helping treat for sores the cat had developed due to severe flea allergy. Mongoose was fine, absolutely the picture of health, silver fur glowing over her fat body, the result of hiding her pills in scrummy tuna. When Mongoose was abandoned in my yard five years ago, she was a sick kitten with an eye full of pus; I managed to save her life, had I known Kathy back then, maybe the sight in her eye could have been saved, too.

Two hours after taking Mr. Brown, Kathy called to tell me what the doctor had done; exam, IV fluids, antibiotics. His lungs were very congested. She was going to pick him up and bring him back to her house; as she was speaking to me on the phone, she was preparing one of her bathrooms for him to stay in. Mr. Brown was still a very sick cat, and they couldn’t say yet whether he would survive, or would need to be put down. But he had shown some tiny signs of improvement, enough that the doctor had not felt he needed to be immediately put down. Later that evening, Kathy called again to tell me that she had given Mr. Brown baby food and Nutracal, fluids, antibiotics, put down clean bedding, and left him to sleep. She said he was looking a tiny bit better, and she would call to tell me how he was progressing. I thanked her again and told her what a relief it was to know he was in her care, knowing she would do everything she could to help.

She anticipated that she would be keeping him for a while, and if she had to take him back to her vet, she would. It was easier to have Mr. Brown there in case she had to take him back to the vet. Oh yes, did I mention that? Kathy lives all the way out in Eastlake. I live in Memorial. She came all that way, on a Sunday, to help me with my scruffy little guy.

What more can I say?

POSTSCRIPT: Since posting this entry yesterday, Kathy called me with the sad news that Mr. Brown had to be put down.

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Bike paths, bike lanes, cycle tracks, vehicular bicycling, sharrows, road diets, e-bikes

San Diego has so many possibilities for two-wheelers

I had to call Kathy about my cat Mr. Brown; I needed her expert advice. I’d been looking for him because of the heat; he is that silly he won’t come in even though the back door is wide open, and there was no water in the bowl outside. I hadn’t seen him for hours, he hadn’t come around for food when I fed my other cats, even when I made my food sound, and I was worried.

I found him, in terrible condition, under a table below my bedroom window. I bathe my cats every month before applying their flea drops, yet he looked mucky, like he’d been rolling in oily dirt, and he was hot. His nose, always runny, was completely blocked with mucus, and when I picked him up he began yowling through his mouth. I brought him inside, washed his face, cleaned his fur, then gently deposited him in his cat bed. Then I called Kathy.

Kathy Powers is a volunteer with the Feral Cat Coalition. I met her five years ago through my grandmother. Kathy’s other job, the one that pays her bills, is working as an occupational therapist; she had been coming to my grandmother’s house to help rebuild strength in her arm after a break. There was a large colony of ferals living around the property which my grandmother had been feeding for years. On her visits, Kathy often stopped to observe the cats as she was leaving; she was partial to cats, but these scraggly beasts wouldn’t come near her, no matter how much she tried to coax them. On one of her last visits, Kathy said that she would try to find a way to help my grandmother with her ferals. I thanked her for anything she could do.

Months went by; I assumed Kathy had either forgotten or had changed her mind. One day, out of the blue, she called. She told me that the reason she had taken so long to get back to me was that she had a long list of colonies she worked, and she just went down the list until she eventually got to me. She also told me that virtually every block in the city has a feral colony; the work is often overwhelming, and sometimes when I talk to her, bless her heart, she sounds exhausted and dispirited. I had read encouraging news on the Feral Cat Coalition website. “Statistics from the San Diego Department of Animal Control as of 6/30/97 show That while the number of cats adopted or claimed by owners has remained fairly constant over the years, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in the number of cats impounded and killed as compared to 1992 (when the FCC clinics started). Before the FCC was formed, the number of cats impounded and killed had been going up 15% per year!” When Kathy gets down, usually during kitten season, I remind her that the situation has gotten better because of people like her, and that if she wasn’t doing what she was doing, imagine how many cats would suffer, and die, because no one cared or tried to do anything to help.

To get back to that first phone call: Kathy explained that she hadn’t forgotten, she was getting ready to come and trap four of my grandmother’s ferals that following weekend. She told me how she would do the trapping, and when she would pick up the traps. She, and the other volunteers, would take the cats they had trapped to a clinic; veterinarians who had volunteered their time would examine the animals, treat the ones that were ill, in some cases put down the ones that were too far gone, spay or neuter the healthy ones, nick their ears to identify them, then return them to the volunteers. In the case of my grandmother’s colony, only one had to be put down, a new stray who had a contagious fatal disease; fortunately, the other cats had not yet been infected when she trapped that cat.

After each clinic, Kathy takes the cats to her house for a night’s recovery. If a cat is tame and doesn’t have a home, she keeps and adopts it out. The cats that are feral and have a “home” like my grandmother’s ferals, are returned and released, unless they’re sick, then she keeps them and nurses them back to health. At her first visit, Kathy told me she could take pregnant ferals anytime, but otherwise was limited to a certain number of ferals per clinic; she would work my grandmother’s colony once a month until she had gotten as many of them as she could. On her trapping visits she would also bring donated bags and tins of cat food to help my grandmother feed her ferals. Kathy doesn't just do that for my grandmother, she brings food to anyone who has a colony and agrees to feed the ferals.

I had mentioned to her that I also had a small herd at my house, four indoor/outdoor cats, and three indoor cats. When I had moved five years ago, I had brought five kittens with me from a stray mother cat that had died; the other two were kittens someone dropped off in my yard. None of the cats were fixed; it was all I could do to keep the little buggers in food. My daughter and I had tried going through various organizations to get help, but every time we called, their funds were depleted. Kathy offered to take the four in/out cats to a feral clinic, which she did; the next month, she took the other three innies and had them fixed and vaccinated. One cat, Chamuco, showed up one day with a large abscess on his head, Kathy took him to a vet, but he had to be put down. As for the remaining cats, thanks to Kathy, Cookie Dough, Cutie Pie, Tye Dye, Templeton, Mongoose, and Mr. Brown, will not be adding to the cat population. One day I called her when one of my grandmother’s ferals left a baby kitten on the porch; she came and picked it up, took it to a mother cat who raised it until it was big enough to adopt out. She told me to call her whenever I found kittens and she would pick them up; kittens were easy to adopt out.

Kathy had noticed Mr. Brown’s breathing when she had taken him for neutering; I told her he had been congested, and sometimes had a runny nose, ever since he was a kitten; she thought it was a virus. When she brought him back from his neutering, she brought me some antibiotics and told me how to dose him. When Mr. Brown didn’t get better that first time, she brought stronger medications. She tried, again and then again, to cure him. Finally, she said that some cats just can’t shake the virus and the best she could do was bring him meds when he was really run down. When she came back to check on him, Kathy noticed another cat was ill and brought medications to treat her condition. Whenever I found a sick cat, or abandoned kitten, I would call her and she would come out to get it. Eventually it was understood between us that whenever I had a problem with any cats, mine or someone else’s, I should call her and she would try to help. Kathy didn’t mention money; at first I assumed the vets were doing the work, and letting her have meds, free or low-cost. I figured out after a few things she let slip, that she often paid the cost for exams, tests, surgeries, medications, and vaccinations out of her own pocket.

When I called Kathy about Mr. Brown, I told her what his symptoms were and that I felt he was really sick and I didn’t want him to suffer; we both knew I was meaning he should be put down. We discussed taking him into the Animal Hospital in Mission Valley, turning him over as a stray, and they in turn would call Animal Control and have him taken in and put down; I dreaded doing this. I didn’t know how long it would take for Animal Control to come for him, how many other trips they would take before they finally brought him in to be euthanized, and all that time he would be alone, sick, among strangers. I wanted to be with him when he was put to sleep, but Animal Control doesn’t permit it. But there seemed to be no other choice; this was a Sunday. To take a cat to a vet on a Sunday is to incur at least two to three hundred dollars in expenses, and vets don’t bill. Even Kathy, who rarely mentioned money, talked about what it would cost to have a cat seen, and put down, on a Sunday.

And then she said, “I’ll come get Mr. Brown and take him to my vet. He’s open today.”

I was floored. “What? Kathy, you can’t do that, that’s way too much money!”

“No, I’ll do it,” she said. “I’m willing to do it for you. You do so much to help me.”

I couldn’t fathom what she was talking about. But she wouldn’t stay on the phone to talk about it. She would be at my house within the hour to pick up Mr. Brown. I argued, feebly, against her offer, but my heart wasn’t in it; Mr. Brown was suffering, we both knew it. “Listen, okay, but you gotta let me pay you back. No, I mean it, you have to.”

“We’ll figure something out,” she said before we hung up.

As I waited, I tried to figure out what she had meant by my helping her out. When my grandmother’s house caught fire and she had to move out, I took on going over every day to make sure her ferals had food and water; I’ve been doing that for nearly a year now. When Ginny, the older lady who had cared for a feral colony in the middle of my own block, moved away, I offered to go over and feed them every other day, and check on their welfare. When Kathy needed someone to help her translate at a woman’s house, we went together. We’ve gone to a few locations to rescue feral cats. I had helped her a few times to trap cats. We have also rescued dogs from abusive or neglectful owners. I put out the word at the community meetings I attend, and through my newsletter, that she’s available to help with feral colonies if they call her. In comparison to what she does every day, day after day, my “help” is microscopically infinitesimal.

On top of her work trapping ferals and picking up strays, every morning, and at the end of each day, Kathy tends to a garage full of cages of sick cats that need to be taken care of, giving them meds, cleaning their wounds, applying ointments and bandages, there cages and carriers and litter boxes that need to be cleaned, healthy cats that need to be fed, loads of towels that need to be washed. At one time she told me she had something like forty cats in her care; cats that don’t get adopted out end up being one of her own cats. I remember one Christmas she was hurrying to get as many cats adopted out as possible; her family was coming to visit and they were worried that she was turning into one of those “cat hoarders” you sometimes see in the news.

It isn’t like that; Kathy spends her time and money caring for cats, as many cats as she can help. But she is also practical; there are so many cats and only so much she can do. Her pockets are incredibly generous but they are not bottomless. One of my in/out cats developed gum disease and was doing poorly, and she counseled putting him down, even though he was an otherwise healthy animal. She said that cats with gum disease often cost hundreds of dollars to treat and the outcome is iffy. Her view is that, with so many cats and so few resources, it is better to spend money on cats that have the best chance of a good life. Among her own cats, she has chosen, regretfully, to put down cats who are lingering and have no chance of recovery. I am continually amazed by her ability to love each cat, to care for them, and yet let them go when it has to be done; I couldn't deal with so much grief, each little cat’s death like a stone stuck inside my heart forever. But with the support of the other FCC volunteers and others she meets who also do rescue work, she manages to keep going.

Kathy arrived and quickly looked Mr. Brown over, put him in a carrier she had brought, and whisked him off to the vet; she wanted to get there when the doors opened so he wouldn’t wait. But she didn’t leave before taking a minute to check over one of my other cats she had been helping treat for sores the cat had developed due to severe flea allergy. Mongoose was fine, absolutely the picture of health, silver fur glowing over her fat body, the result of hiding her pills in scrummy tuna. When Mongoose was abandoned in my yard five years ago, she was a sick kitten with an eye full of pus; I managed to save her life, had I known Kathy back then, maybe the sight in her eye could have been saved, too.

Two hours after taking Mr. Brown, Kathy called to tell me what the doctor had done; exam, IV fluids, antibiotics. His lungs were very congested. She was going to pick him up and bring him back to her house; as she was speaking to me on the phone, she was preparing one of her bathrooms for him to stay in. Mr. Brown was still a very sick cat, and they couldn’t say yet whether he would survive, or would need to be put down. But he had shown some tiny signs of improvement, enough that the doctor had not felt he needed to be immediately put down. Later that evening, Kathy called again to tell me that she had given Mr. Brown baby food and Nutracal, fluids, antibiotics, put down clean bedding, and left him to sleep. She said he was looking a tiny bit better, and she would call to tell me how he was progressing. I thanked her again and told her what a relief it was to know he was in her care, knowing she would do everything she could to help.

She anticipated that she would be keeping him for a while, and if she had to take him back to her vet, she would. It was easier to have Mr. Brown there in case she had to take him back to the vet. Oh yes, did I mention that? Kathy lives all the way out in Eastlake. I live in Memorial. She came all that way, on a Sunday, to help me with my scruffy little guy.

What more can I say?

POSTSCRIPT: Since posting this entry yesterday, Kathy called me with the sad news that Mr. Brown had to be put down.

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