Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Still a Mystery to Me

Minutes after I opened the door to let the cats out I heard an agonizing yowl. I rushed to the door and listened. It came again and I slowly walked to the van. Beneath, Rosie was twice her size, growling, hissing, and looking above her. Betsy walked towards the van, cautiously and beginning to fluff out. She too looked startled. Rosie screamed again, hissed, and still wasn't sure which way to run, or to run at all.

On my hands and knees. Nervous cats surround me. I strain to see into the darkness that is the transmission of my van, and can't see a thing. I rush to open the hood and can't move the latch. Finally, I open the hood in time to see a tiny black kitten, wide-eyed and wanting no help from me.

He wound his way back down through the engine towards the ground and hestitated for only a second. During this time I want to grab the tip of his tail, the only part of him that is showing. With one more scream he's off, a black blur, straight to the chain link fence. He hits the fence wrong, bounces back, shakes his head, then proceeds through the tiny diamond. Across the neighbor's yard to the bushes. I jump their gate and run towards the bushes, bare footed across nearly dead grass.

From his tiny size I guessed he's maybe 3months old if that. And just where did he come from? I left early this morning, pulling out of the garage and away from the house around 7:30am. I dropped Lillie off at school, grabbed a latte, and headed to Kendalia, where I parked the van until nearly 1pm. I drove to Blanco for lunch, came home, showered, picked up Lillie from school, and straight back home. The incident happened just after Lillie and I were home.

I looked for the kitten in the bushes and headed around to their back yard, where 3 large dogs lay asleep. I couldn't imagine a kitten going that far--he would most certainly end up dead. The neighbor came around the front side of the house after I rang the doorbell and helped me look for the kitten after I told him the story. He got a good look at the kitten behind their pool pump and said the kitten was shaking and looked scared.

He dashed one more time towards my end of the bushes and when he saw me he darted towards the pool. I held my breath--not in the water! Then right behind that thought I figured if he did go swimming I would definitely be able to catch him then. He skirted the pool and dodged under the shed. The end of the chase.

Not long after, I watched him head towards the neighbor's house one more time. I jumped the fence and tried to cut him off as he darted down to the dry creekbed and the treeline.

My question is this--where did he come from and how did he end up in my engine???!!!

*Update 30 Oct 05
I have seen the kitten again in the neighborhood. He seems to like the back yard area of a neighbor up the street--the same yard that the kitten from a previous story (that had to be put to sleep) was found. I wonder if he is a litter mate. He is well and seemingly happy living as a young feral kitten.
I suppose it can be said he was roaming our front yard when the cats were let out and his only recourse was the engine of the van.
The mystery seems to be solved, and I'm glad that it is--can you imagine thinking you drove across 3 counties with a kitten in your engine??!!!

Monday, October 24, 2005


No one knows where he came from or how he got there. All that is known is that the guy that hit him was going just 60mph. Enough speed to send the animal flying 15 feet and break off one antler.

The 'accident' happened at 4am and here it was 11:45am the same day. I had loaded up the kids to surprise them for lunch and slowed with the traffic to gawk at what was going on at the side of the road. There was a remote news van, several trucks, and one truck with a trailer pulled near the fence. I read the sign on the side of the truck and immediately pulled over--our local wildlife rescue organization was on the scene.

As I was walking back towards the truck, a police officer pulled up beside me in his cruiser wanting to know what I was doing, cautioning me to leave and be careful because they'd already had several near-miss wrecks from people slowing down. I told him I was a volunteer and was going to see if they needed help. At that time, Suki walked over and asked if I had been called to help and I explained that I had just been driving by. She then told me about the animal that had been injured--a cudu (a very large member of the antelope family). She led me over to where he was. A huge being was laying on his side. Sand colored and majestic. His hide was covered in slashes, cuts, and punctures. One horn looked to have been torn off and was a bloody stump. The other spiraled in cypress grey. His eyes were wide even though he was sedated and blood had poured out of his nose and mouth and had splattered over the ground and surrounding grasses. He looked to be built very chest heavy while his hips were slimmer... no doubt his weight would show about 500-600 pounds.

I can only guess at what his thoughts were--surrounded by people, voices, and all matter of vehicular sounds, all entirely foreign and by nature he was supposed to get away. Now he wasn't able to as sedation was setting in and planning on how to transport him to the sanctuary ensued.

I stayed to help in whatever capacity I could while Forrest and Lillie made due in the van. Eventually, David brought out ropes and tying of the legs of the cudu began. Care was of utmost importance and everyone went quiet. Legs were tied, then a rope around the horns was next. The cudu's head was covered to alleviate any more shock. That rope was fed to the trailer.

Eventually, after what seemed like hours of pulling, pushing, grunting and replanning; and with the help of WRR personnel, David and his assistant, myself, two police officers, and a helping passerby, we finally got him into the trailer.

He was taken to the sanctuary and the plan was to release him of his bindings and be allowed to exit the trailer on his own. There was a fear of a broken left front leg, so x-rays while he was still sedated and medications to give were planned for.

My last glimpse was of the trailer going north headed to the sanctuary. My prayers of healing and huge hopes for recovery followed.

Sadly, the cudu died not long after arriving at WRR. He was able to exit the trailer on his own and was able to see he was in a safe environment, but his injuries and shock were just too much for his system.

I am so saddened that this animal, this majestic animal, who by birthright should be browsing and grazing the plains and brush of eastern and southern Africa, was slain in an environment so removed from his native habitat. He was a victim many times over--of the exotic animal trade that stocks 'ranches' with these animals so that "hunters" can shoot, eventually kill, and mount their heads as trophies. He was a victim of a driver with NO ability to drive safely at 4am. That stretch of roadway is well lit and to not be able to miss a 600 pound animal is neglect in any realm.

I am also saddened that the only way I was able to see this animal was because, like so many other animals, he had been hit by a car.

So tragic and so terribly wrong.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Garden Companion

She doesn't even know she isn't human. Maybe she does but doesn't really care. Whatever the case, she makes my time working in the clinic gardens so much more interesting than they would be without her.
The other black vultures float on the hill country winds high above the sanctuary as many as 25 in a kettle. Every once in awhile she will tilt her head and watch them circle but seems to have no desire to join them.
She has joined me the last several times I have gardened. One time I was working on the now defunct sprinkler system and her curiosity got the better of her. As the water only trickled out of the top of one of the spouts, I patted the water in order for her to see what I was doing. She lumbered over and began to grab at the water with her bill, not to drink, but to play--vultures play.
She was interested in the water as long as I played with her. As I moved about in the gardens, she followed to see what I would be doing next. Most of the time she just watched, or stayed in the shade with wings spread wide open to cool herself. There's nothing like seeing a black vulture up close and personal with their wings spread wide.
As a feather collector I have learned over the years to recognize where a feather came from by sight. To see the feathers on a live bird and where each resides was a secret look into the life of a feather for me.
I really like my new gardening companion.