Monday, December 10, 2007


September 1st 2007-

With the loss of Tucker, Lillie was able to choose a kitten for her own. Each of the kids have been able to choose a pet at the age of 6, so it was Lillie's turn. I took her out to look at almost 40 kittens. Her first choice, a cinnamon grey tabby had been adopted and we didn't know it. It was a tense few minutes when the inevitable meltdown of disappointment happened but Lillie overcame it with her chin up.

Another hour later and we found the One. Although I had wanted another calico, Miss Maggie was chosen. (Her mother was a calico so that would have to do.) Her brothers and sisters were all pastel colors--a pastel orange, pastel orange and white, pastel calico, and a really nice torti calico. The others kept together and Maggie kept to herself.

She was quite shy when she arrived here and so very small. But let's face it, EVERY cat is small compared to Rosie the behemoth resident calico cat! Three weeks later, she can hold her own when Rosie hisses and our evenings are filled watching a really tiny cat chase a really big one.

So here we go--another baby in the house and years of unconditional love!!!

Sunday, December 09, 2007


July 1991-November 2007
Betsy was the last of our 'Austin' cats that included Tucker. She was born in Austin to a lovely black mama cat called BC. The woman who owned BC was the same woman who rescued Tucker from his abusive family and lived with her until that home became too crowded with other rescued cats. She followed her mom to our place where food was daily and plentiful and few other cats were around. Even though they were mostly outside cats, they were loved and cared for at their home away from home.
Betsy decided to live with us and ultimately was loaded up and moved to where we now live. She acclimated to the moves with grace and gratitude never letting the newer adopted felines forget she was the matriarch of the household (feline of course).
My fondest memory of Betsy in her heyday was that she never turned her back on an opportunity to chase a dog--any dog, any size. She chased terriers and huge labs. I don't think she hated dogs (she lived with several over the last 10 years) but truly enjoyed the chase (and possibly the resulting yelps of fear!). The memory of her 7 pound self walking back from the chase, black tail erect and full, faint smile on her face, will always be a cherished memory.
This spring Betsy made a true friend in the resident mockingbird. Every time she would go out, he would be there to welcome her into his yard. She would slowly make her way to the garden bench and he would escort her there every step of the way. As she would lay on the bench, he would serenade her with squawks and hisses often times landing mere inches away from her to bring home his point of allowing her refuge in his yard.
One afternoon, Forrest had the luck of being able to photograph their afternoon together. Betsy was taking an impromptu bath near a garden and the mockingbird was helping her in the only way he knew how by pouncing her repeatedly and often. The wondrous thing is, Betsy never flinched or wavered from her bath. The photo above is from one such pounce and mockingbird flying away and Betsy looking just a bit annoyed.
Betsy had a tumor on her thyroid that was detected by our vet a little over 3 years ago. That explained the rapid weight loss and lethargy (more than normal) that we had noticed. Daily medications suppressed her overactive thyroid and she rebounded within a week to her geriatric ways. Her prognosis was wasn't positive--the medication was hard on her kidneys and liver and even with surgery there was no guarantee of a long survival.
Three years later and after more medications to slow her accelerated heartbeat, Betsy was finally ready to depart. She came to me early one morning and gave me the earnest, tired stare that I knew to be the signal of her desire. She was tired of being sick and tired of being tired.
That afternoon, I took her to our wonderful vet. She never fought the trip, never once meowed, just wanted me to hold her paw, which I did with great sadness. She waved her paw as the medicines that made her sleep entered her body and was released from all of her suffering.
I brought her home and a small funeral service was conducted at the treeline underneath the cedars, hack berries, oaks, and native grapes and beside Heather and Emily, the past felines of the family. We used to walk this area years ago when there were fewer dogs and no back yard fence. Betsy would stalk the scents in the leaves and dirt, chatter at the birds in the trees, and lounge beside me when I would sit. She would chase after Emily through the under brances of the cedars. She was laid to rest in deep soil with desert sage and a washingtonian palm frond, facing eastward towards the rising sun.
Betsy is sorely missed, especially during the evening time when her presence on the arm of the couch beside where I sat is felt but not seen. Her purrs echo in my memory for they were louder than any cat I've known. We love you Betsy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

(tigger) Tucker

April 1996-October 2007

Tucker was rescued from abusive children long ago when we lived in Austin. He was just a kitten when we found out he was being used as target practice for teenaged kids with rocks; being thrown into the air to see if he would really land on his feet; and other sordid things I won't mention.

Before all of that, I was at the pool and he came around all fluffy and full of kitten goodness. I looked around and saw no one was with him or calling for him so I took him home. Soon one of the neighborhood kids came to claim the kitten and sadly we gave him back.

Not long after word got back to us of the antics I described above. Again, I snatched the kitten when I saw him and took him home. We had him for several weeks before he was spotted again by the neighborhood kid. This time we gave him back with the expicit terms of "if we see him again we keep him."

I told a neighbor about the situation. She lived not far from the kids and had a better view of their place (we lived in a townhouse adjacent to apartments--habitrail living at its finest.) One evening I received the call, "I've got him." Under the cloak of darkness the exchange was made--his freedom from abuse!!

In order to keep him (as we already had two cats in a tiny townhome--not to mention 2 small kids!) I offered him up to Brent to name. As his heritage was obviously tabby, his were unique markings. Instead of stripes going around him, his were in bulls-eye patterns on both sides. White sox and boots, and the biggest, fluffiest tail ever. tigger Tucker, aka Tucker, was born.

Tucker lived a very full life filled with children, other cats, dogs, sunshine... all the things that make live wonderful.

One story. Early one morning I called the cats in for breakfast. In good weather, they would choose to stay in or out. He stayed out that night. I called and called getting a little more frantic as time passed and no Tucker. Finally, I saw him come down the driveway.

Our next door neighbors had a pool. On warm summer nights you could walk out the back door and hear the frogs and toads talking amongst themselves. Some days would find out neighbor pulling yards and yards of frog eggs from the pool--something that was always a little creepy to see.

Tucker was coming down the driveway with a frog in his mouth head first, arms dangling on either side of his mouth, legs hanging down. I screamed for him to drop the frog and he stopped and looked for an escape. I ran towards him, juked him left, then right, and in all of his wisdom, he dropped the frog.

What a lovely frog too--a Leopard frog. Long, lean back legs built for swimming; gorgeous dark green and pine green stripes for camouflage. In my rubber gardening clogs, I hopped the neighbor's 4' fence (frog in my hands!!) and slunk through his yard to his pool. I slipped the frog back into the water and watched him glide to the bottom.... such grace.

There are a thousand times ten stories that illustrate Tucker's life. He is sorely missed by the entire famiy. Even Rosie (the large, raccoon sized calico cat) when she thinks about it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's all in the way you do things.

My co-worker asked how she could help me out. I was running about an hour or so behind so her offer was like a fulfilled wish. Cleaning the little skunks was the next big chore I has so I asked if she would mind doing that.

I continue feeding the animals outside and returned inside to the overwhelming smell of skunk. Someone had startled one. Asking around, I found out that the co-worker that was cleaning the skunks had indeed startled one and didn't want to return to the room. I quickly found her and traded chores with her. There was no reason for her to do something she couldn't stomach.

She told me the baby was in the bucket near his crate. When I walked into the room and saw which crate she had been cleaning, I knew right away which little one had 'skunked' the room. Bless his heart--he was the one I knew as 'Cranky' as he was never really happy. Even as an infant he would find something to complain about--the person feeding him was late, his bedding wasn't soft enough, it was too bright in the room... whatever. As he got older, his fur began to fall out. Not all over, just around his face and hands. We tried everything we could think of to remedy the situation from homeopathics to mainstream medicines. The baldness subsided but in the in-between state of his fur re-growing, his attitude remained less than satisfied.

I lifted the towel that covered the bucket and he immediately went on the defensive, tail raised, locked and loaded. I calmly reminded him in a soothing tone that it was me and I was so sorry he was startled. Gently reaching in and picking him up, I asked what had happened. Almost nose to nose, he began his story. Small little grunts and squeaks, a little shaking, and his story came to light. He had been startled as a stranger's hand had picked him up at his middle and as he didn't know what was about to happen, he got scared and it was an accident. He quieted with scratches to his bare face and ears. His bedding was fresh and he was gently placed back in his crate.

There is a certain knowledge that comes from caretaking animals from infancy and certain fears are relieved. Some would bluster that there is no way I could know what had made him spray. My response is how can you not know how a being thinks when you are with them almost every day, all day long? I would counter that it would be a sad situation for the animals if you didn't.

These guys are now outside acclimating to the ever changing Texas weather they will soon be released into. Those of us that took care of them will be forgotten, the innate wildness they posess will come forward, and they will live their lives as wild things. As it should be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

For Now

I made this collage in the spirit of Teesha Moore (visit for a swap. I loved experimenting with different layering techniques, colors, collage and journaling on one piece of paper. The face is Lillie's who, that particular day, wasn't feeling well and didn't want to perform for me and my new camera.

The hardest part was beginning the back ground. My normal technique revolves around vintage sepia tones and colors--a lot of browns, beiges, and other neutral colors. This background required color up front and lots of it. After the initial hesitation I didn't slow down. Everything came together so quickly. The journaling was intimidating--what if I make a mistake? Misspell a word? Hate the color I use? After the first line of writing I never looked back--just hoped there was enough room to tell the story.

I sent the collage on its merry way and hope whomever received it enjoyed it as much as I did creating it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back again!

After several months of battling with Blogger about how to post, etc... I took a break. Early on, you had to go through Firefox and while it was interesting to experience, I decided to uninstall the program and go with what I knew. IE might be some people's downfall, but for me, it works. I logged in today to see if I really could and yes!! I can!! Now I can tell my stories again!!

I've been an employee at the sanctuary now for 8 months (after volunteering for 6 years). During this time I've experienced the entire spectrum of emotion from overwhelming grief to the point of absolute despair to immense joy and hope. We've had a huge baby season this year. Many songbirds are still through as well as all other native wildlife from turtles to coyote pups. My favorite? I'd have to say that tiny orphaned possums have to render my heart mushy. There is no discounting minute pink noses and tiny barks of frustration at not being fed fast enough. Toddler raccoons are another favorite and remind me of kittens as they puff up, head down, eyes sqinted, growling and attacking whatever is nearby.

Possibly the cutest of all are the foxes. Their story, like so many others, began as a challenge.

A rancher trapped the Fox intending to kill. He saw her thickened middle and called Texas Parks and Wildlife who in turn called the sanctuary. MomFox arrived late one night. She was quickly transferred to a roomy crate and put in a quiet dark room where no one would bother her. First thing next morning I walked my rounds. Entering her room, I lifed the blanked that covered her crate and 6 tiny heads raised up. She was curled with her kits at her breast and she eyed me with pride. Against all odds, she had delivered her babies safely.

We thought it best for the family to be released as soon as possible so the crate was taken to the back of the sanctuary. There is an area at the back of the property called 'soft release' where healthy animals are taken to an enclosure, provided food and an open door to leave when they choose. Our hope was that MomFox would find a den nearby and transport her newborns to their new home. Unfortunately, she was so very stressed and when the opportunity arose, she fled, leaving the kits behind.

The kits were brought back to the clinic where they were initially fed every 2 hours. They grew far too quickly as most babies do. Sadly, one little girl didn't make it. Seizures racked her tiny body and one morning she was gone. Shortly after, another small male kit was brought in and blended beautifully with the orphans. As they grew far too busy for the small room they were in, a day cage outside was prepared for them. They were united with an older kit and since then they have been one rowdy Fox gang.

They have now been moved to a larger enclosure and have relatively little contact with people. As fall approaches and puberty hits, they will be released on a large property to live out their lives as wild animals. The way it is supposed to be.

Right now, baby season seems to be slowing down. First is was the possums, then skunks, then raccoons. Fawns have been consistanly coming in for several months. Songbirds are constant as they have up to 3 broods a year. We didn't have as many baby squirrels this spring, but, come fall, mama squirrels all over will have another batch of babies and somehow some will end up at the sanctuary.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Coop's 1, Dove 0

The afternoon was entirely beautiful for an early March day. About 65 degrees, clear, sunny with a slight breeze that still spoke of northern origins. But still, it was the best part of the day to be outside.

Lillie and I sat on the garden bench under one of the cedar trees talking of her day at school. Her favorite part of the day--me walking her in and dropping her off first thing. Her second favorite part of the day--lunch. You gotta hand it to her, she has her priorities.

She was in the middle of telling me a story about one of her classmates when we heard a ruckus in the cedar above our heads. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something land on the ground nearby. Fully looking through the garden immediately to my right and across the yard, I saw what had caused the commotion.

For the last several years we have been graced with the presence of a Cooper's hawk. A smaller sized hawk that differs from the larger hawks in that they hunt in the tree canopy. A larger hawk isn't able to maneuver through branches to chase prey, so the Coop's is a specialist. They also hunt in the open, but their legacy is in the trees.

I've seen him herd dove around the neighborhood and scatter birds from our neighbor's backyard feeder habitat. I've seen him fly by, not hunting necessarily, but sending up the warning calls from the resident feathered ones nonetheless.

He was perched on the white winged dove. As the Dove struggled, the Hawk had a tough time getting a good foothold. I asked Lillie several times if she saw what was going on. She did.

Finally, the Hawk got the hold that he needed and he proceeded to fly directly behind the house to the treeline. Lillie and I looked at one another, mouths open and eyes wide. We had been privy to something not everyone gets to see.

The we heard them. The Chickadees began telling the story. Then the Titmice joined in. Then the other small birds took up the story telling and gathered in the tree above where the Hawk landed with the Dove. The tiny birds were adamant about the story--they told and retold it. As they became more brave, they moved closer to the ground.

As Lillie and I approached the site, a pile of feathers was all that was left and an amazing spot of energy was fast evaporating. We stood silent mourning the end of one life and smiling at the life that would continue.