Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5-14-13 RMB Young and Fragile

5-14-13 RMB Young and Fragile

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers was a quick and enjoyable read. It sneaked in out of order because I couldn’t resist it anymore. I am not a cook, but I will try some of these recipes for the fun of it. 

The animal tips were an unexpected plus, the anecdotes fun and the fact that these beloved animals were rescues from the SPCA was heartwarming. I loved the story of the goat eating the interior of your brand new truck. Sneaky Pie should do another book, a tell all book about Rita Mae Brown, ah the things that cat..and his predecessors…must know.

I like the recipe: Goat’s Milk for Orphaned Kittens and Puppies. I can picture you bottle feeding a kitten and later two litters of motherless hound pups. Cute image (accompanied by minor swooning on my part).

The exceptional dog Lady once rescued a litter of kittens. I was cleaning up an empty house. Lady began to bark, insisting on attention. She ran in and out of the house. I petted her and she continued to wear a path from where I was to the back door. Finally, with a big mental “Duh”, I said “Oh, you have something to show me outside?” She took off like a shot. She spoke English better than I spoke canine.

Outside the back door was what I thought to be a squealing rat on its back, sopping wet. Lady pranced happily at my discovery of her treasure. I shooed her away and looked closer. It was not a rat, it was a white recently born kitten covered in slobber and dirt. I don’t know why Lady didn’t bring it all the way into the house. Maybe she knew how fragile it was. It looked like she had pushed it though the dirt to get it to the door, but couldn’t push it up the step.

I looked around for a mom cat or some sign it had a home nearby. No sign. Not a cat person, I was clueless about what to do, but knew my friend’s mom would know. She was raised on a Kentucky farm. I wrapped up the critter in a wash cloth. It fit in one hand with room to spare. 

When I tried to get Lady on her leash, she would not come. She went to a trash can and barked at me. I thought she was goofing off, happy to have found something I obviously valued since I praised her and picked it up. I started to scold her for not coming, but she jumped up, put her front paws on the trash can, looked inside, then looked at me and barked some more. I wonder if some of those barks included “Helloooo, can’t you see I’m still trying to tell you something!” 

I walked over to the trash can and wiggling inside, amid weeds and debris, were three more kittens. They were dry and as tiny or smaller than the dirty white one. There was no nest, no indication they were gently placed there. Someone dumped them there to die. I gathered them up and then asked Lady “Is there more???” She went and sat by the door, ready to go, no more barking. 

In the weeks that followed, the kittens were given vitamins and a formula prescribed by the vet. All but the runt, aptly named Wimpy, survived. As the other three grew, Wimpy fell behind, only half the size of his siblings. Yet with his big heart he left as much of an impression, after only weeks of life, as the others that lived between 16 and 18 years. 
Several of us pitched in to care for these tykes. The friend I followed, her Kentucky mom, my mom and I all took turns so the kittens would always be with someone and fed around the clock. 

Once the three remaining kittens could climb, Rowdy, Tamale and Ashes were impatient for each meal. They would leap up on our pant legs, not strong enough to climb up, but strong enough to hold on as we heated the formula.

This took some finesse, walking with three whining accoutrements swinging like mini Tarzans from pant legs, while heating formula and preparing the bottles. During feedings we were always outnumbered. There were more kittens than hands to hold them, even if two of us happened to be there. 

Finally, they were weaned. We had kept them hidden from landladies as none of us were supposed to have pets. My friend, with great reluctance, took them to the shelter. She gave them to the attendant and explained that they were abandoned and none of us caring for them could keep them. With teary eyes she readied herself to leave. 

The attendant assured her “Don’t worry, they won’t feel a thing. 

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well they are too young to keep. They require too much care so they will have to be put down.”
And that is how Rowdy, Tamale and Ashes became a part of the family…permanently.

The group effort it took to keep the kittens alive reminds me of your father and aunt traveling across country in foul weather to fetch you from the orphanage, depending on strangers for warm milk on a freezing cold night to keep a tiny five pound baby Rita Mae alive.  

Bless those that pitch in to rescue, feed and care for the babies left behind. What a wonderful gift Lady gave to our make shift family. What a wonderful gift those strangers along the road, in the early days of your then fragile life, gave to us all. 

Sleep well,


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