As much as I love cats, and kittens, and little black cats in particular, I was hoping that this year would be the first in a fair few that the library didn't end up hosting feral kittens. That hope was dashed by the appearance of one early last week - a little black kitten about six weeks old, living inside an outer library wall.

By "outer library wall" this is what I mean: It's a brick sheathing with a hollow space inside for running cables, and the holes the cables run through also allow a little climate control out. So over the years it's been a popular spot for feral cats because it's both sheltered and cool or warm depending on the season. One of the other librarians heard it mewing, and caught a glimpse of it; I likewise heard and saw it the following night.

I started making plans to catch it and take it to the local no-kill shelter. Keeping it wasn't an option; we already have eight cats (four of whom were supposed to be fosters until the people we were fostering for never took them back) and two dogs. I was willing to spay/neuter it and have it vaccinated, but then what? The shelter wasn't forthcoming about whether or not it could take the cat, which usually means they don't have room. (Though Laurie advised I push on through - take the cat there and make them turn me...and the kitten...down face to face.)

So catch-and-release seemed to be the only option if the shelter wouldn't take it. Which is a poor option, because kittens and small cats don't last long on this campus, nor do the domesticated cats dumped by students at the end of the school year because they have the idiotic thought that "It's an animal, it knows how to survive". (Or they assume someone will clean up their mess and take the cat - I even met someone once who dumped a cat because they knew Laurie and I rescued and they figured we would rescue that one too.) Wandering dogs kill these cats, diseases kill them, roadkill dropped food that's spoiled and rotting kill them, and running alongside campus is a secondary highway where half the drivers act like they race for NASCAR no matter what the weather. Most of the feral kittens I've seen on campus disappear, probably to one of these fates. A few of them I know did.

I wasn't particularly happy about the release idea, though doing nothing was a bleak option as well.

Then the mewing under the window disappeared for two days, and I feared that it was gone. Especially since a skunk had been roaming around, and skunks will attack kittens too. But then one of the library's student workers told me that a student she knows had managed to get the kitten and planned to give it to "a good home". I hoped the student who got the kitten was telling the truth; students aren't allowed to have animals in the dorms, and I was afraid maybe they were saying that to keep from getting busted. I passed along the message that if the good home fell through, bring the kitten to me and I'd take care of the surgery and shots.

My hopes rose when my library worker told me that the student got the kitten vaccinated.

But then, just a few minutes before I started writing this, she found out that the student took the kitten to the shelter. So - not the worst possible ending, or really even a bad ending so far, but not quite the best of possible worlds either. The shelter is good, it will do right by the kitten. But I also know that black cats are a hard sell around here - the two we have are proof of that. At the time, no one else would take them.

But who knows? Maybe this time will be different. But at least the kitten is indeed away from ravaging dogs, and skunks, and every other danger small creatures on this campus face.

In the meantime, I'll try trapping the mother if I can to have her spayed. I'd still feel bad about releasing her, though not as much so: she's an adult, so she's probably already learned the tricks to survive, and feral adults usually don't socialize well. She'll still have her little climate-controlled shelter, and with no possibility of more kittens. So there's that.

Animal rescue: wonderful work, but I certainly understand the quick burnout.
I've decided that worrying about kidney stone time bombs is silly. With one precaution I've started planning outings more distant than the nearest town, and it's a precaution I'd prefer to do anyway: Going somewhere with a companion or three. I like that better regardless of any other circumstances; I always enjoy outings more when they're shared.

With the hope that my newly-acquired reliable car will stay reliable (but getting AAA in case it doesn't), I've already started planning one such semi-distant outing: A trip with friends up to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway for scenic photo-shooting and a hike to the top of Humpback Rocks. A couple of invitees have already accepted just so long as we can plan it around work schedules. At any rate, I'm shooting to do this sometime in late June or early July.

More immediately, I'm also gathering a small group to go watch Star Trek: Into Darkness on the 17th. Much less ambitious but anticipated just as much.

As has been the case many times in the past--especially at this time of year, when students leave campus and dump their animals--a cat is living just outside the library. Our building is ideal for small animals wanting to hide, as the facing is built in such a way that they can go up into the exterior wall and stay out of sight. This time, though, the cat was pregnant, and there are now several few-week-old kittens living with her. Food is being left for them most days. Sad and infuriating all at once...though I caught sight of one of the tiny fuzzball kittens out of the wall and playfully hopping around, which was a highlight of my day.

Writing: I'm back to a shift going in at noon, which guts most of my usual writing time. Unlike last year, though, this isn't going to last for months, just most of May. Then I'll spend the summer getting used to writing at night again. At any rate, my word counts are lower but the writing is still getting done.


New Words: 1800 on chapter 9 ("Copper Heart") of Arizona. Ulpian Shively--former U.S. officer, former Confederate officer, now pistoleer-for-hire--arrives in Copper Heart and has a fateful meeting with the 13-year-old Gus Beckett that will put the latter on the road to eventually being a soldier in the hunt for Geronimo, a sheriff, a marshall, and an Arizona Ranger hunting Pancho Villa.

Total Words: 276,550.

Reason For Stopping: End of scene and getting ready for work, both days.

Stimulants: Today, An ice cream sammich.

Mammalian Assistance: Yesterday, Vegas guarded my lap. Today, none.

Exercise: Walking Tucker around the neighborhood.

Today's Opening Passage:

Yesterday: Two years before, the slab of mountain on the west side of the Verde Valley had been devoid of any human presence—not even Indians had frequented it for a generation or more, and certainly no whites. Except one, Will Beckett, seeking copper. Now there was a sprawling town across the eastern face overlooking the tiny ribbon of the Verde River far below, all at once looking as boisterously young as it was, but its terraces lined with adobe and brick buildings already showing some weathering as if they had been there since time before memory. Wind sweeping across the mountainside carried voices down toward the valley; Copper Heart was a town that never slept.

Today: Most saloons looked the same to Shively, and the Queen of the Mountain was no different: Like the better class of such places he’d seen, it had a long bar—polished walnut from who knew how many hundreds of thousands of miles away—a mirror behind the bar—which Shively always found useful in case anyone tried sneaking up on him—and a piano, which was unattended at the moment. No doubt there were whores upstairs, busy servicing the men who’d come off the night shift. The place was half full, including some women Shively didn’t bother making guesses about.

What he wasn’t expecting was the boy.

Darling Du Jour: But Beckett was not why Ulpian Shively ascended the mountain to Copper Heart. Shively was a hired shootist looking for work, and he loved mining towns. Most were new and wild and frontier enough that the rules hadn’t quite been figured out yet, and enough men took things past the line that somebody sooner or later would want Shively’s gun.

And often, if there was some legal presence in the town, they turned the other cheek on him. He still carried his law books, the ones his father gave him what felt like a lifetime ago, and they were more than just horse ballast. Shively wouldn’t kill anyone he felt had done no wrong. True, the punishment might not fit the crime, but there was always a crime nevertheless.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: Babylon Confidential by Claudia Christian; Paris by Edward Rutherfurd.



February 2015

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