Friday, May 25, 2012

The Kitten Nursery

I am frequently asked exactly what working in the kitten nursery entails. So here’s the short answer. It entails a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun.

The first kitten nursery opened in 2008 and was the first of its kind in the US, which surprises the hell out of me. It was designed to provide an environment where abandoned kittens could get a chance to go on and have a long and happy life.

Our litters come from the large colonies of feral cats that roam all over the bay area. Mom cats know to run from the people that they fear but, sadly, that means leaving their kittens behind. Without a mother kittens stand no chance of surviving. Kittens require a lot of care. They need so much care that the shoestring staff, which makes up most shelters just cannot handle them. So we have an all-volunteer crew whose sole job is to take care of these little guys, freeing up employees and the vet staff for other tasks.

There are three shifts per day, every day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each three hour shift is responsible for syringe feeding each kitten, cleaning their kennels, tracking any medical problems, and (best of all) giving them love and play time so they are well socialized and, therefore, more likely to be adopted.

This year marks our first full year at our new shelter. The kitten nursery is a large and sunny room with windows out into the corridor so visitors can watch the kittens and see what it takes to keep them going. It also marks the first year where we actually have two separate nurseries. The main nursery is where most of the kitties are housed. Behind the scenes, however, we have a quarantine nursery.

The QN is set up like the main nursery but there are two separate rooms for sick kittens which, for a variety of reasons, can’t be put in with the healthy kits. Sometimes it’s something minor, like getting rid of fleas or lice. Other times it’s something serious, such as ringworm or panleukopenia (feline distemper). The latter is a serious and contagious disease, which, sadly, means the litter, will probably not make it. Our amazing vet staff does everything possible to keep our kittens alive but the sad fact is that we do have to euthanize a few litters each season. That’s the hard part.
The work in the nursery itself can be tiring. We are scrupulous about procedures designed to keep each litter healthy and happy. So in between litters we bleach down the tables, scales, even the floor. Litters are never allowed contact with other litters to minimize the chance of infection. We spend a lot of time scrubbing kennels, taking old laundry out and bringing in fresh towels, and making cozy nests for our charges to nap in.

This year the nursery opened last month and will probably run until October. And our record is pretty damned amazing. Last year we helped approximately 125 kittens find homes – kittens that would probably have been put down if we didn’t have a dedicated nursery to care for them. This year’s goal is 150 kittens. And I think we’re going to make it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Tearing up snapshots to forget a handsome face
is what movie queens do. Elegantly.
But this woman, shredding 3 x 5s at the window all night,
doesn't feel grace.
And she remembers everything.

There are winter nights
when even the street sweeper seems thoughtful
under the falling rain.
And this woman, framed by white curtains
like a postage stamp
on a package, waiting to be delivered,
seems to release moths into the air.

Just erasing the pages of her diary
won't free her from history.
She imagines the pieces of paper float together
in some proper order, that her life can be solved
like a puzzle.
Like the crossword the handsome man used to sulk over
on Sunday,
in bed.
When she was still called "wife"
and lived with a smile in the window of his billfold.

She no longer studies squares of light
staring from other buildings. Nor pigeons
sleeping wing to wind beneath the eaves
painted a color she'd always hated.

She's about to turn away from the window with her hair in spikes,
to look into some camera and paste down a picture of that look.
Which says she's scared.
As humans tend to be when they feel something
flying from their fingers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy MLK Day
For the past few years I've turned MLK Day into my personal day of doing goodness. One year I took some gloves and garbage bags and randomly cleaned up along one of my favorite walking paths. Another year I went to the grocery store, bought a a couple of bags of food, and put them in the food bank bin. Last year I just did extra hours at the shelter. This year, well, I didn't do anything.

I'm still getting over being sick. I still have the energy of a 20-watt bulb and get winded just making myself some tea. I hate feeling this weak and not being able to do my shelter time. It's an actual physical ache how much I miss being there. But I'm eating a bit more each day and that's making a huge difference. Between that, rest, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and generally taking care of myself, I hope to be back at the shelter next week.

But today, it's MLK Day.

I find it inconceivable that in my lifetime it would have been illegal for Husband and I to have married years ago. Just because I'm white and he's bi-racial, it wouldn't have been possible. Why? Who could be against us?

And yet today it's still illegal for my friends to marry. My gay and lesbian friends, who are as committed and as in love as Husband and I, cannot legally wed. It doesn't matter what your religious views on the word "marriage" means, discrimination in any form is wrong. Forget the concept of getting married. Is it fair that a couple that owns a house together, live together, pay bills together, love and are committed to each other cannot file a joint tax return? Is it fair that they pay more in taxes than husband and I because they are not legally married?

OK, so today I can't do any personal goodness in honor of Dr. King. But I can, once again, get on that damned soapbox and ask the world to stop discriminating against the people I love ... just because of the people they love.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Well since the world is, apparently scheduled to end this year I thought I should be more diligent in documenting my dull life. Last week was not dull since it involved yet another ER visit followed by a 4-day admission due to Pancreatitis. Lots of lovely drugs (2 mgs. of Delaudid every 2 hours) but no food or liquid by mouth for 48-hours. That bit? Not much fun. I'm on the mend now, home, and doing my best to get better. I have been ordered by my doctor to gain weight, which I find hilarious. Me. The always pudgy kid is now being ordered to gain. I lost 5 pounds just in the past week and am down to 112. I'm 5'4 so I'm not anorexic or anything, but they would like me to put that 5 pounds back. Hard to do since I'm also ordered to stick to a low-fat diet. Yeah, all those bananas and chicken broth are really gonna pack on the weight. I got dressed this morning and realize I have gangsta jeans that come halfway down my ass unless I belt up, so I think I need to go shopping. Oh yeah, and I can't wear my wedding ring because it falls off.

So, on to better news....

- After taking way too much time off, I've applied for my radio show again so hopefully I'll be back on the air soon.
- My in-laws, two of the coolest people on the planet, gave me THE BEST Christmas present ever! They sent a box of supplies for the shelter cats. Toys, beds, all kinds of goodies to give our kitties a little extra fun and comfort. I love my in-laws tremendously.
- Read Louise Penny. Start with her first book Still Life and go from there. The best new author I discovered in 2011 and a fabulous writer. Lyrical, almost poetic, great mysteries full of good characters and a charming setting.
- Listen to Songs from an African Farm the latest release by Ladysmith Black Mombazo. It's worth it just for their version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."
- The Niners are in their first post-season game in 9 seasons. Thank goodness we have an actual team again.
- That's about it. I hope your first few weeks of the new year are happy, healthy, and full of love. And I hope this year brings all of you joy.