How Hemingway’s six-toed cats in Key West survived Irma unscathed

When Hurricane Irma did a direct hit on the Florida keys last weekend, it could have been very dangerous for the colony of 54 cats that live at the Hemingway House and Museum in Key West. Many of the cats have six toes and are reportedly descendants of Snowball, a six-toed white cat given to Hemingway by a ship’s captain in the 1930’s.

But as you know, cats are very smart. The Hemingway cats knew when it was time to take shelter in the museum, along with 10 people. All the cats and people made it through Irma unhurt.

You can find out more and see more pictures in the article at the Washington Post website – Hemingway’s six-toed cats survive Irma, still have nine lives

 

 

 
 
 
 

A Reader’s Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

Trisha has written for us before. She’s charming young lady who’s always got something to say. This time it’s about her experience as a volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter with some tips on how a volunteer can ease the load for employees so they can get more done.

As a former volunteer I’ll add a bit about how being a cat shelter volunteer has hidden perks for people. During my orientation at the San Francisco SPCA they said that many volunteers reported that their time there was better than therapy. I took that to mean: “Walk in depressed, walk out happy and at peace.” One high school aged girl who was trapped at her abusive parent’s house until she turned 18 said she could tell the cats all of her problems which became less of a burden because the cats listened. Others said that it gave them a mental health break from their own mind’s chatter. And dog walkers reported significant weight loss.


My Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

By Trisha Miller

For the last 8 months I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering weekly at a no-kill cat shelter near me, called Simply Cats. Due to time constraints I’ve had to stop volunteering for the time being, but I enjoyed every second of it. If you have a few hours of your day to dedicate to a shelter in your area, I highly suggest that you do so. Even if on a small scale, I knew that I was making a difference in these cats’ lives. I was helping to provide them with a safe, clean home and did my best to provide them comfort. What’s more, I helped to relieve some of the full-time staff so they were able to attend to critical matters that demanded their attention. If you’re wondering if volunteering is right for you, I’d like to share my experience with you and hopefully help you form your own conclusion.

Why Volunteer?

I started volunteering at my local shelter simply because I’m a cat lover and I had a free day each week with nothing to do. Why not help out some cats and make the lives of the shelter employees a little bit easier. In addition, one of my two cats is a rescue cat, and sadly was not living at a no kill shelter. If I wouldn’t have chosen to take him home I’m afraid the worst possible imaginable scenario might have taken place. That being said, I have a soft spot in my heart for rescued animals.

If your local shelter is anything like mine, then you’ll agree that shelter employees have very little time to do so many tasks, and can really use the help. Running the shelter, greeting guests, accepting cats, and trying to organize events is more than enough to make an employee feel overwhelmed, I’m sure.

On top of all of that, my local shelter has about 20 individual rooms that house cats in each. These rooms need to be attended to twice per day. When you have, on average, two or more cats in each room, the room gets messy in a hurry. They need someone to clean up the mess and to just be with the cats and comfort them during their stay.

My Job Duties

My assignment at my particular no kill shelter was to clean the rooms of the cats. As I mentioned before, this needed to be done twice per day. So, I stepped in for an earlier shift on my off day, which only took up about 2 hours of my day. I would scoop litter, clean all surfaces, sweep and mop, and make sure the cats had fresh water. After I was done making sure their living area was sparkling clean, I was able to just enjoy my time with the kitties, play with them, and pet them (the best part!).

As volunteers we also had the opportunity to spread awareness about the shelter via social media and throughout the community. My shelter has regular events that we were encouraged to attend in order to help raise funds to keep the shelter open and get the cats all the necessities for maintaining a fulfilled and happy life while they are at the shelter.

What You Need to Know

A friend of mine recommended that I volunteer at the shelter because she is currently a volunteer as well. We discussed the possibility back and forth and among my many other delights, I was especially happy to volunteer for a no-kill shelter. However, even if you choose to volunteer at a no-kill shelter, you should prepare yourself for some things you might see or learn during your stay.

Some cats do come from hoarding or abuse situations. My local shelter has a veterinary staff on hand to help any kitties that need medical attention. You may come into contact with cats that have illnesses or impairments due to their neglect or abuse. So, you’ll want to mentally prepare for that before you walk in the door. As heartbreaking as it is to see, all of the cats that I encountered with illnesses or impairments were completely healed, thanks to the dutiful veterinary staff, and were as full of life as any other cat I came across in the shelter.

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful experience that I am sad has come to a temporary close. I plan on volunteering again as soon as my schedule opens up again and I suggest that you do the same if you are able. There is simply no experience like it. It is extremely gratifying, fulfilling, and rewarding!

Have you volunteered at a shelter? I’d love to hear about your experience 🙂
 
 
 
 

All About 3-Legged Cats

One of our favorite customers, Kelleen (Kelly) has a feline-family of 4 “tripod” cats a clever name for cats who have only 3 legs. She was delighted to share their story and photos with our customers and readers. Here’s her story about her tripod cats!

Read more:



 
From Kelly: Elixir

 
 

Tripod cats have a special place in my heart, and a big place in our family. Between myself and my daughter, we now have four three-legged cats – as well as one four-legger!

In our minds and theirs, our tripods are just cats – active, curious, playful, and loving. Missing body parts or no, these resilient little beings are amazing, gorgeous animals, each with their own distinct personality, deserving of love and pleased to give it in return. They don’t have any pain related to their missing limbs, and are not bothered at all by their differences, still approaching everything with a cat’s “can-do” attitude.

Living with tripod cats is not much different from living with their 4-legged counterparts, except they are perhaps a bit noisier as they thump around the house and scrabble to climb things. There are a few factors to consider, though, when deciding to adopt one (or if your cat is injured and loses a limb). For example:

  • Litter boxes need to be larger because they can lose their balance and go outside the box – but at the same time, the sides can’t be too high because they need easier access.
  • It’s important not to overfeed tripods, as too much body weight will make it much more difficult for them to remain active and navigate their surroundings on 3 legs.
  • It is more difficult for three-leggers to run or climb to get away from predators, so it’s best for them to be indoor-only cats. I built a fully enclosed catio outside my back door so my four can spend time in the sun being cats – chasing snakes and voles, watching birds, climbing tree limbs, and relaxing in the grass – while they remain safe from our resident eagles, raccoons and neighborhood dogs.
  • Some toys are better – for example, all three of mine, who are each missing a rear leg, love the Kitty Kicker-style toys that they grab with their front legs and kick at with that extra-strong back leg of theirs. They love ground-level scurrying toys they can “catch and kill” also. Toys that dangle in the air are not so enjoyable because with only one rear leg tripods can’t stand up and swat or jump up to bat them out of the air.

Not all tripod cats are the same, of course, or have the same needs. Cats missing a front leg are sometimes more likely to hide or to use their teeth – just as cats who have been declawed may – because they feel they can’t protect themselves or communicate their displeasure with their claws. Cats missing rear legs have a harder time climbing, balancing on narrow walkways, and “landing” gracefully when they jump. There are also differences between those who lost limbs as adults and those who grew up already missing a limb. Our three who lost limbs as adults sometimes still try to jump/climb on things that they can’t handle because they seem to forget that the leg is missing!

The wonderful characters of our quartet of tripods and the enjoyment they have brought into our lives make it well worth the bit of extra thought and work involved in creating a fun, healthy, safe environment for them. They may be missing some parts, but they make our family whole!


Here is some background on our tripod family:

Our family’s very first cat was a tripod who lived in a home with too many animals that bullied and terrorized the little 3-legger who couldn’t get away or fend the others off from his food. My daughter, who has always had a soft spot for the underdog (or undercat, as it were), asked the family if she could have him, and brought him home so he would have a loving, quiet home where he would be protected and cherished. Although I had always been a “dog person” (who liked cats but had no particular interest in having one as a pet), I soon fell in love with little Prince Arcane and was on my way to becoming a “cat person” as well!


 
Arcane

 
 

Because Arcane was officially my daughter’s cat, I adopted a lovely little silver tuxedo girl of my own (who still has the use of all four of her legs), but Juju was not a very feline-social cat and wanted little to do with Arcane, who always wanted to play with her. I watched him trying to play, and her rebuffing him and simply removing herself to someplace he couldn’t get to, and I always felt badly for him. When I saw a feisty young male flame-point come in to the shelter who needed to have his back leg amputated (it had been broken in multiple places and the previous owners had tried to set the leg themselves instead of taking him to a veterinarian), I thought how perfect it would be for both of the tripod boys to have someone to play with, so Ozymandias joined our family. The two boys became fast friends and wrestling partners, thumping around the house after each other and taking each other down with WWE-like body slams.


 
Juju

 
 


 
Ozymandias

 
 

Since then, my daughter moved out with a roommate, taking Arcane with her. I knew Ozzie would drive Juju crazy chasing her around wanting to play, and wanted a playmate for him. Since I already had the house catified and the catio designed for the needs of 3-legged cats, it was a given that I might take in another tripod if the right one happened along. Coincidentally, a litter of 4-month-old kittens had been brought in from a local feral colony a couple of months before. The entire litter was ear-tipped and placed into the shelter’s barn cat program, but one was found to have an injured leg that would not heal and had to undergo amputation. Although she was still very skittish, she could not go to a barn home due to her missing leg, so one of our cattery volunteers, knowing my setup at home, suggested I meet her. Though my plan had been to get an adult male cat as a companion for Ozzie, I could not pass on little Alchemy once I met her. She came home with me, and after an extended introduction period she and Ozymandias are the playmates and bosom buddies I had hoped they would be!


 
Alchemy

 
 

My daughter noticed that Arcane seemed at a loss alone at their new home, and her roommate had always wanted a cat of his own, so when just a few months later another laid-back young black male cat had to undergo an amputation of a shattered rear leg, I immediately offered to help the kids adopt him. Elixir is now comfortably ensconced in his new home and gradually becoming friends and playmates with his “brother from another mother.”
 
 


 
Elixir

 
 

 

 

The Rescue Dogs of 9/11: the last remaining one passed away this year. See how she and the rest of the last 12 looked in 2012.

(Update for 2016)

Loving and courageous Bretagne, the last remaining 9/11 search dog, passed away this year just before her 17th birthday. You can read about her last year and her passing at the Today Show site – Never forget: Last 9/11 Ground Zero search dog dies just shy of 17th birthday
 
 

(Update for 2015 – Sweet and brave Bretagne is now 16 and still helping kids learn to read.)

Look at those sweet gray muzzles! What cuties! And so very brave. These hero dogs helped search for people in the rubble following 9/11. In 2012 when we first posted this story there were 12.

Only one of these dogs is still alive. Bretagne, a 15 year old golden retriever, still works as a service dog helping special needs kids by listening to them read out loud. For more on Bretagne here’s an excellent article on the Today Show site – “Last known 9/11 Ground Zero search dog still lends a helping paw”. Here’s a current picture taken by her 9/11 handler and current companion, Denise Corliss.

Her she is with Denise working at the World Trade Center site in 2001.

In 2012, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas traveled to nine states to photograph the 12 remaining dogs, then in their golden years, at their homes. She produced a book of the photographs titled “Retrieved.”

Here is the story and their photos. These are from a wonderful article written by Charles Mayfield. Unfortunately, even after much Google searching, we can’t find the original source. Below is the article that includes pictures of 2012’s 12 surviving dogs.

Wishing you a day of reflection on the lives lost, the hearts broken, but the spirit of everyone who was touched by the events on September 11, 2001 remains strong. The rescue dogs who have crossed The Rainbow Bridge are surely held in the highest esteem, and we like to imagine that they are being given lots of love and treats by those who perished on that horrible day.


Nearly 100 dogs worked at the trade center ten years ago; only 12 are left. THESE OLD WONDERFUL FACES SAY IT ALL… These are the surviving dogs that worked the trade center that are still alive but retired, they are heroes too.

Their eyes say everything you need to know about them. Just amazing creatures. True heroes of 9/11 still with us today.

 

Moxie, 13, from Winthrop , Massachusetts , arrived with her handler, Mark Aliberti, at the World Trade Center on the evening of September 11 and searched the site for eight days.

 

Tara, 16, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived at the World Trade Center on the night of the 11th. The dog and her handler Lee Prentiss were there for eight
days.

 

Kaiser, 12, pictured at home in Indianapolis, Indiana, was deployed to the World Trade Center on September 11 and searched tirelessly for people in the rubble.

 

 

Bretagne and his owner Denise Corliss from Cypress, Texas, arrived at the site in New York on September 17, remaining there for ten days.

 

Guinness, 15, from Highland, California, started work at the sitewith Sheila McKee on the morning of September 13 and was deployed at the site for 11 days.

 

Merlyn and his handler Matt Claussen were deployed to Ground Zero on September 24, working the night shift for five days.

 

Red, 11, from Annapolis, Maryland, went with Heather Roche to the Pentagon from September 16 until the 27 as part of the Bay Area Recovery Canines.

 

 

Abigail, above, was deployed on the evening of September 17, searching for 10 days while Tuff arrived in New York at 11:00 pm onthe day of attack to start working early the next day.

 

Handler Julie Noyes and Hoke were deployed to the World Trade Center from their home in Denver on September 24 and searched for five days.

 

Scout and another unknown dog lie among the rubble at Ground Zero, just two of nearly 100 search and rescue animals who helped to search for survivors.

During the chaos of the 9/11 attacks, where almost 3,000 people died, nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their brave owners scoured Ground Zero for survivors. Now, ten years on, just 12 of these heroic canines survive, and they have been commemorated in a touching series of portraits entitled Retrieved.

The dogs worked tirelessly to search for anyone trapped alive in the rubble, along with countless emergency service workers and members of the public.

Traveling across nine states in the U.S. from Texas to Maryland, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas, 34, captured the remaining dogs in their twilight days in their twilight years in their homes where they still live with their handlers, a full decade on from 9/11. Their stories have now been compiled in a book, called Retrieved, which was published on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. Noted for her touching portraits of animals, especially dogs, Charlotte wanted Retrieved to mark not only the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, but also as recognition for some of the first responders and their dogs. “I felt this was a turning point, especially for the dogs, who although are not forgotten, are not as prominent as the human stories involved, “explained Charlotte, who splits her time between New York and Amsterdam .” They speak to us as a different species, and animals are greatly important for our sense of empathy and to put things into perspective.”

Charles Mayfield

 
 

Fort McMurray fire hero who fed cats, bunnies, and dogs

Wasn’t that recent fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada just horrible! The photos were heart wrenching, and of course we always think about the plight of the animals. Thousands of people evacuated so quickly that many animals were left behind. Read this story about Lee Ellis, a very brave man who stayed, and using Facebook he was able to communicate with evacuees. They would tell him how to enter their homes and what animals to look for. In turn he’d post photos of the animals and their homes so they could see if there was any damage. In Lee’s charge were cats, bunnies, and dogs. We’ve read that Lee has gotten many marriage proposals! Not surprising! Real men do love cats!

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/british-columbia/kelowna-man-stays-behind-to-feed-pets-in-fort-mcmurray-1.3579610

 
 

Petting shelter cats might be better than therapy!

Many years ago I decided it might be fun and rewarding to volunteer at a local shelter as a “cat socializer.” The job of a cat socializer is to spend time with a cat one-on-one. Sometimes the cats just sleep when you sit with them. Some of them try to hide. Sometimes your visit prompts them to groom or eat. Some cats want to be brushed, some don’t. Some cats love being petted and some need you to back off and let them come to you. Some of those cats don’t trust humans so this quiet and gentle time is vital and allows them to overcome fear, adapt to people, heal from emotional abuse, and become friendly towards people. I saw most of the cats come out of their shell and shine.

During our orientation the leader said that working with cats can be like therapy. She related a story of a lonely and mistreated teenage girl who reported that she could tell the cats all of her problems and worries. She could cry into their fur. They’d look her in the eye and give love right back to her. Eventually she felt that everything would be ok and she overcame her past. She was as much a therapist for the cats as they were for her.

Being a cat socializer was truly rewarding, and certainly more fun than therapy! Just stroking them, talking to them about nothing in particular, feeling protective of them, and watching them blossom was doing me as much good as I was doing for the cats. It was almost meditative and Zen like sitting on the floor while letting a cat take all the time needed to approach me. They’d slowly check me out, sniff at my shoes, purr at me, meow at me, rub against me, all those darling things that cats do. There were no rules about how much time I could spend with each cat and I loved that. The quiet time was priceless for me. I found that hanging out and being silent was very meditative and problem solving. I left floating on air, my troubles dissolved, and I was ready to face anything.

When you look for a shelter talk to other volunteers and ask if the shelter’s paid staff treat their volunteers like the pieces of gold that they are, or if they are treated like they are a dime a dozen. Sadly I found that many of the volunteers, myself included, seemed to threaten the status quo with our enthusiasm and new ideas. This shelter was highly political with much game playing, back stabbing, and broken promises. They had a total disregard for the volunteer’s enthusiasm and time.

But don’t let that stop you because great shelters are there, and they want and need you. Once you find the right one dive right in. The time and effort that you generously give will come back to you in the form of peace and courage, as well as a deep satisfaction. You’ll see cat after cat find a good home. I still remember the names and faces of my favorite shelter cats just as I remember some of the beautiful people who adopted them.

Pet cats. Feel good. Get perspective on your troubles and cares. Let the love inside of you flow to the lucky felines who get to have you in their presence. They’ll become your feline therapists.