Cliff notes: I wrestle with cat beds, Mama Su works the mike and a bunch of cats get fixed.
Part 1: The Paradox
Most evenings I finish up at work around 1:00 AM or so and head home for one last lap of litter boxes, water bowls, trash cans and washer/dryer before evicting groggy cats from my side of the bed and calling it a night. More often than we admit, Mama Su and I pass each other on the road home—I’m heading from the grind that generates income to the other that consumes it, and she’s off to meet friends for a papaya salad or glass of wine after too many hours of kitten drama. It’s a proven routine, and one that prevents an onsite collision of two tired, hangry rescue types at 2:00 AM.
If Mama Su stays home, the site of the crash is usually the laundry room—a 24/7 operation at House Kirkland—with her chiding me for overfilling the Jee Yees—“You should just buy another washer for when you ruin this one…” or me grumbling about our crew’s commitment to the Cat Bed Paradox. As every rescuer knows, the Paradox states that the more awkward the cat bedding is to launder, fold and stack, the more likely it will be employed in kennels and end up in the hamper. Unstructured fleece kitten hutch with heart-shaped insert? In the hamper. Child’s plush sleeping bag with a teddy bear pillow? Hamper. Fitted flannel Cal king bottom sheet that wads up into a hellish fireball of static electricity with knotted core of soggy towels? In the hamper. Any of the dozens of easy to wash white towels I’ve purchased in the last five years? Uh, no…
Su’s go to response to my griping about cumbersome items—“Babies love them”—is as unapologetic and final as a paintball to the forehead or walk-off home run. What sort of heartless cretin would deny furry orphans such simple pleasures in favor of his own convenience? And besides, everyone knows if you leave the oversized items on the laundry room steps, at some point, they disappear and return cleaned and sorted in see-through trash bags like magic. Oh, and forget about solving the problem by throwing the items away. They’ll just resurface in some other reincarnation, “donated” by someone else tired of trying to launder them. The only luxe and lumpy item that doesn’t end up on the laundry room stoop is Louie, and that’s only because Mama Su won’t let that squish pillow out.
Part 2: The Howling
But enough of my rant. The other night when I returned home from work, Mama Su’s car was in the driveway, but she was nowhere to be found. I figured she was in one of the outbuildings and our paths would cross soon enough, but as I was transferring yet another maddening item from the washer to the dryer—“Just breathe…”—I was startled to hear what sounded like two tomcats squaring up in the upstairs TV room. Wait, what? The TV room is one of the few spots at House Kirkland off limits to cats—a clean-smelling hideaway with furniture you can plop down on without checking for fur or worse—yet from the howling, a couple of lifers had breached the sanctuary and were seconds from a savage brawl.
As I bounded up the stairs, I noticed that the caterwauling sounded like something I’d heard before but couldn’t quite put a claw on it, and when I ran into a curious line-up of cats and Jackpot huddled at the base of the still closed door to the den, it dawned on me that the source of the cacophony might not be feline. I opened the door like I was walking in late to church, crept past the massage chair and peeked into the TV room to see Mama Su, one hand raised to the sky and microphone in the other, howling out what the lyrics scrolling on the TV suggested was Everything I Do, I Do It For You, by Bryan Adams. What the!
Turns out, a few nights earlier while looting my side hustle for supplies, Mama Su had stumbled upon an abandoned karaoke unit behind catering equipment and other party supplies. In my experience, Asian women value the karaoke mike above all else and true to the demographic, Su responded like you or I might an unattended toddler at Target or a kitten sitting on a concrete freeway barrier, stuffed the neglected Grail into her car and rehomed it to House Kirkland. And despite her usual disinterest in anything more complicated than a Feliway diffuser, Su had assembled the set-up, synced it to the TV and was now in diva mode with Jackpot as her audience.
“There's no love, like your love…And no other, could give me more love…”
From the lyrics, I knew the song, but I had never heard such an avant garde arrangement of rhythms, pitches and keys in a pop cover. The capitalist in me sensed opportunity—Yoko Ono started her career recording primal screams and ended up with thirteen #1 dance tracks and a good chunk of the rights to the Beatles catalogue—so I eased open the door, led with my phone on video and held it steady until one of my furry accomplices burst past my feet into the room exposing the effort.
“Aiieee! Stop it!,” Su shrieked, jumping up and charging me from the room. “Delete that!”
“ That was awesome! That was SO good!” I encouraged.
Alas, performance anxiety isn’t gender-specific, and despite my efforts to coax her back on the mike—“I’m serious…this will go viral…”—Cat Lady Cabaret was done for the night. So far, my effort to sell Diva Su on a Tik Tok channel to pay the vet bills has fallen flat, but if you visit House Kirkland late don’t be surprised to hear coyotes joining in to the Whitney Houston or Chris Stapleton melodies coming from the kitchen or garages.
“You’re as SMOOOOTTTTHHHH as Tennessee Whiskey…You’re as SWEEE…EEE…EEE…EET as strawberry wine….”
Part 3: The Updates
In between laundry and scaryoke, we’ve been busy. We funded roughly 300 spay/neuters over the last month, onboarded too many litters and helped dozens of little ones get out of scary situations or get badly needed medical attention.
We pulled GutterBawl from a storm drain, Finn and Troubles from freeways to Mama Su's delight—“If you die, I’m leaving!”—and Cyril, from rush hour traffic on a Fresno cross street. All are now safe with us or fosters. As are the Garage 5…
The vets repaired leg fractures (stray tortie, Seer, Tootsie) and Xena's degloved lip, completed masterful skin grafts on Woody (face) and Tom the Cat (legs) and repaired polydactyl Lucky’s butt from horrific lacerations.
We got Abby help with her miscarriage and jaundice and she’s back living her best life with her besties.
Little Stella lost an eye to foxtails, another little rascal had one pulled from his mouth by Brandi Can resulting in a gruesome pus geyser, and Bobo lost a leg and half his fur to the scourge but is now far happier than he was two weeks ago.
Bugsy, Erika and others lost eyes to URI, but Gatsby kept his—“That might just be an abscess…”
Little Willow’s growth plate settled—she’ll keep her leg and rule Kisha Hunter's social media feed for the next decade. Chick and two other little ones joined Team Tripod, but romping around an airconditioned foster home on three legs is WAY better than dragging your bum leg around out in the heat.
Cassie Garcia and Sarah Hueck are working on two kittens with leg birth defects. Pretzel’s legs were crossed until we consulted a therapist/druid and Mama Sarah crafted a brace from a shoe insole to keep his legs in alignment. We suggested a wine cork, but Sarah overruled us and Pretzel’s ready for adoption because of her better judgment. Lotus’ legs/knees were twisted in utero, but the vets are hopeful that she may regain their use with therapy. Oh, and both are using the litterbox and purring…so there’s that.
Dexter, the cat who swallowed thread, underwent surgery to remove even more from his digestive tract than first thought. He’d be dead but for the relentless concern and curiosity of our go to vet. “There’s something else going on him. I’d like to open him up.” We greenlit the work—Doc was right—and Dexter’s alive today because of it.
Milo and Lily entered FIP treatment, and Sherbet, Posey (adults) and Scribbles (kitten) were treated for facial trauma, the last doing better than the former two.
But it’s rescue so there’s sadness. Garth survived a bullet wound and FELV only to fall to FIP. Stephanie Yeats Cymanski gave Holly the four best months of her life before cancer ended their love affair. We lost Uncle Creepy to bladder issues, Mama to kidney failure, a Siamese kitten to anemia and other bottle babies to Mother Nature claiming them for her own. And we attended humane euthanasia for others that deserved better than life gave them but knew love and comfort before they passed.
There were litters and lifers—with 300+ in our network, it's hard to keep them straight!—and there’s a story behind all of them. If you made it this far and saw anything you’d like to know more about (GutterBawl or Dexter or Pretzel?), stroke our ego and we’ll flex a witty recap. If we helped you, post an update in the comments, and if we overlooked you, remind us with a photo!
Finally, thank you to our dedicated staff, fosters, rescue partners and finders who engaged, and our generous donors and PetSmart Charities for allowing us to do what you would if you could.
GutterBawl, Troubles, Cyril, Tootsie, Seer, Xena, Tom, Lucky, Stella, Bobo, Bugsy, Erika, Gatsby, Willow, Floppy, Pretzel, Dexter, Lotus, Milo, Lily, Sherbert, Scribbles, Mama Su on the mike…and Louie, because, well, Louie.