Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Purrl--Part Six

My raccoon kit has her suck reflex back, making it entirely easier to feed her. She downs half a bottle in just a few minutes. And she loves her nest I made her in the kitchen with that sack loaded with grain that can be heated in the microwave. I wrap it in a towel so as not to burn her.

Today after her second feeding, I recommended she stretch her legs and take a walk around the kitchen. On this tiny, springy legs, she maneuvered herself, trembling as she crawled across the tiled floor. When her nose hit the garbage can, she started hollering, screeching bloody murder. I ran over, saw that she was safe and told her so. She immediately calmed down and began another lap around the kitchen.

What a difference inher attitude and appearance since the night we rescued her from the exhaust pipe of the bathroom fan. She's perky, her skin is a lot looser on her--not dried onto her body--and she has started to act normal. In fact, I can say that she appears normal altogether--as in what is normal for a raccoon. She loves to snuggle in a person's neck, and her nose inspecting my skin never fails to give me goosebumps.

All in all--I'm enjoying raising Purrl. I can't wait to take her outside and show her how to climb a tree. But that must wait a few more weeks. Right now I just want to insure her good health, which she seems to have now.

Thanks for listening. And I will get back to you on Louie Jay.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Purrl Pics--Part Five

Purrl Pics--Part Four

Purrl Survives the Night--Part Three

I rushed downstairs early this morning to check my raccoon kit.

He was sleeping soundly atop his towels. I was ecstatic to see that he had made it through the night. Perhaps we hadn't rescued him too late at all.
"Come on," I cooed. "You need your breakfast."
I put the titty bottle in the microwave as he crawled up to my neck, my other hand stabilizing his tiny butt. After thirty seconds, I took out the bottle and put the nipple to his lips. Though he didn't open his mouth on his own, the jaw moved with more suppleness--not as dried shut as last night. I pried open his mouth, inserted the nipple and squirted the fluid into his mouth. This time, the mouth opened and closed, almost as though he was trying to chew. I remembered that with Rustle, I squirted once and paused to let him swallow and get his bearings on being force-fed. Then, I squirted again and waited. It took a while to feed Rustle this way, but at least I hadn't overwhelmed him with the process.

Coffee in hand, Edgar came over to watch the nursing routine. I looked up and smiled grandly. He said, "Some birthday present, huh? You always said you wanted to raise another raccoon, and here you have him. Hey, we didn't check to see what sex it is." So, I held the kit while Edgar checked under the tail. "I believe we have a little female here."

"Oh," I said. "Well, then I can't call her ''Rustlelina' then. I've been thinking: let's name her Purrl, after Purrlicue (Purrlicue was our twenty-year-old cat that died last year). The kit was calling to us with not quite a purr but with more like a chirping, twittering sound, but it sort of sounded like a purr. But I'd like to honor Purrl, too, by naming this raccoon after her.

Edgar smiled. "Purrl it is." He watched me giving Purrl her bottle. "You're in heaven, aren't you. Well, again, you've got your work cut out for you. Looks like this is going to be The Summer of Purrl."
If it's anything like The Summer of Rustle, we're all in for a treat."
"You betcha!" I said.

Purr Lives--Part Two

I whisked the raccoon kit downstairs, opened the freezer, and took out the tin of KMR or Kitten Milk Replacer. I sifted through another cabinet and found a new pet bottle still inside its original container. Then, I got out a shaker for making mixed drinks, read the directions and proceeded to make the kit a long-overdue supper.

As I was mixing the KMR with water, I noticed how the kit almost looked dried up. His fur was icky, and his skin seemed almost adhered to his body--like no space between the skin and the body proper. He was extrememly dehydrated. His attitude revealed his lack of moisture, too, because he acted as though he couldn't see, and it didn't help that one eye was pasted shut with eye matter. So, even before I tried to feed him, I got paper towels, wet them with warm water, and began stroking him all over. My towels rapidly turned yellow--probably from his sitting in his own waste for such a long time. I think the washing also helped stimulate him back to reality a bit, for he began to move his head slightly, almost as though he was analyzing his surroundings.

I out the KMR solution into a bottle and put it to his mouth. When I had done that with my first raccoon kit, he immediately began sucking on it. This kit, however, was in dire shape: he didn't even know that there was a nipple bottle at his lips and that milk was running down his chin.

A chill went through my body: had I only thought, when I first heard the noise in the fan, that some critter needed rescuing, he might not be so worn out and dehydrated. The kit may have lost his suck reflex. Losing a suck reflex is not a good prognosis for a baby animal. Still, I was determined he should have liquids.

I put a fingernail between his upper and lower jaw and pried the lower jaw loose. It was like a creaky chest that hadn't been opened for years. When I had it open, I stuck in the nipple and squirted the good milk into his mouth. It dribbled out the side and down his chest.

I was worried. Was he so far gone that he couldn't even swallow? This wasn't looking good. "Edgar! He needs fluids. He's all dried up--can't even drink anything."

Edgar went for the fluids and gave him five cc's under the skin in two places. I had already washed his eyes and put opthalmic ointment in them. But I had to try to get him to participate in the feeding. I could jam as much liquid into his mouth as possible, but if he couldn't swallow, all my attempts at saving him would be lost.

I warmed the KMR in the microwave, put the nipple to his lips--nothing. He just hung limp in my hands: too far gone. I cursed myself for ignoring his cries the previous day. I tried again--squirting the liquid into the back of his mouth. This time I saw his mouth move, and as another squirt went into him, a tiny, broad tongue lapped at the juice. He wasn't sucking, but he was licking the fluid.

For an hour I worked with him, Edgar helping to steady him in my arms. His head was almost as long as his body, and he kept twisting it away from me as though he didn't like bing forced to drink. After half the bottle was empty, I squeezed his belly: it was taut.

I held him against my chest, and he made a feeble attempt to crawl up to my neck. I helped him--shades of Rustle dancing through my head--and he made it to my hairline where he burrowed his head. While he lay on my shoulder, with one hand steadying him, I made him a nice raccoon nest out of a cardboard box and towels. Then I heated in the microwave a sack of birdseed that people use on sore body parts and wrapped it in a towel.

I put him in the box on top of the heated pouch, and he fell right to sleep. My only worry was that we had rescued him too late and that he wouldn't survive the night.

Precious Purrl--Part One

No one could have given me a more precious birthday present. Sent from the insightful goddess in the clouds, I received my gift with open arms and a gigantuan smile. To hell with diamonds, donuts, dollars, and any other gift starting with a "d". This was a moment to cherish. My prize is sitting in the kitchen right now, and I pass by it every few minutes just to stop and stare--and to marvel.

Last night I had disrobed before taking my evening shower. Again this chirping noise was coming from the ceiling fan--for the second night. I stood, naked, underneath it, squinting at the grates but could detect nothing. I yelled, "Hey! Who's up there? You're not supposed to be in our attic." No answer. So, I turned to step in the shower. But, just as I opened the door, the sound twittered even louder. There was no mistake: a wild animal was up in the ceiling fan. I could not fathom how an animal could have gotten into the fan, but regardless of my perplexity, something was definitely up there.

"Edgar!" I yelled, stark-standing in the archway of the living room. "Some animal is caught in the ceiling fan! We have to save it." He rolled his eyes and dislodged himself from his comfy, over-sized chair.

He said, "How am I going to walk in the attic because of all the insulation we had blown in there?"

"Use boards," I said. "Place one board, crawl on it, place another, walk on it, and pick up the first one and lay that one down--like we did for Lowell when we took him to the TV station. (Lowell refused to walk on slippery tile, so we had to lay sections of carpeting down before him as he walked on stage).

While I got dressed again, Edgar drove to the farm, retrieved two boards, and with my help, hoisted himself and the boards into the attic. But when Edgar got to the guts of the ceiling fan, all he found was a closed metal box with a three-inch tube going from it to the wall of the house. Out of breath, Edgar backed out of the attic. We re-grouped in the bathroom, staring up at the ceiling fan from which issued the sounds of desperate chirping. "The poor thing," I said. "I've been hearing that noise yesterday and this evening, but I never thought that an animal could be trapped up there. Yeah, I thought a critter was in the attic, but I didn't think it was caught there. I'm certain it can't get out: why would it stay in that one place for two days--just chirping all the time?

We developed a new plan: get a ladder and remove the fan from the bathroom. I raced downstairs for a ladder while Edgar found the right-sized screwdriver. As he removed the facing of the fan, held on by two long screws, I stood ready with a cardboard box and Edgar's heavy work gloves. We didn't know if, when he took off the cover, what kind of animal--young or adult--would drop out of the ceiling. I held the box like a fireman with a net.

Carefully, Edgar drew away the cover. I held the box underneath it, but nothing fell out. I lowered the box. "What the hell? Where is it?" After dismantling the electric wires, Edgar poked his bare hand into the fan's guts, but he found nothing. Yet the chirping was louder.

He said, getting off the ladder, "I'm gonna have to get a wrench to pull off the fan gizmo. It's definitely in there somewhere, but I don't see it." Minutes later the fan was off. Still, no animal.

I took Edgar's place on the ladder, which I had repositioned, and there, in the exhaust pipe, I could see a body on the other side of the plastic flapper or valve that opens when the fan works. How in the world an animal got inside that three-inch pipe, we may never know. But it was there and had been there for at least two days, perhaps even more. "It's behind this thing!" I yelled. I can only push it a little--not enough room to get it out. You'll have to pull out that flapper-thingy."

So, Edgar crawled up the ladder, pulled the flap out of the tube In that instant, a little head appeared.

It was a raccoon kit!

Edgar laughed as he took it out of the pipe and handed it to me. "I can't believe it! Right around the same time as we rescued Rustle--this time in May of 2005. How's that for a birthday present! You've got another raccoon to raise."

I was speechless with joy. I don't remember who I was telling recently about the summer of 2005 when I raised a baby raccoon. I told them it was the best summer ever and explained how I and Rustle played games on the front porch, went for golf cart rides, and how he helped me do chores by riding around on the back of my neck all day--even in the stifling-hot weather. I had told the person that I'd give anything to be able to do it all over again.

And now I had my chance!

Friday, May 14, 2010


Chico was one of the pigs we rescued about three years ago, he and his roomie, Sniffer. Sniffer, however, was with us for only six months before we found him dead one afternoon in his house. Just that morning Sniffer had eaten his usual big breakfast. Hours later he would be dead.
I've never witnessed such complete gratefulness as I have from these two pigs. A couple was divorcing, and the two pigs actually belonged to the wife. They were her pets, said the husband, but when she moved out in spring, she left the pigs behind, leaving her husband, who never wanted them in the first place, in charge of their care. Typical of couples splitting, animals left behind are often neglected, as were these two.
The day we arrived to see these pigs in need of a new home, we had to reach them with a four-wheel-drive truck. Right away I doubted that the husband had made the daily trek up the windy steep path--especially in winter--in order to feed and water them. I was right in my assumption. The two pigs were deathly thin and up to their shins in mud and manure. Inside their enclosure not one weed grew. Probably as soon as a green shoot peeked through the ground, the pigs gobbled it up before it could grow; they were starving. On top of a hill where I'm sure they suffered winter's blasts, ice storms, and snowstorms, these pigs existed on next to nothing.
I was shocked at first sight of the animals--so skinny, so cake-scaled with dirt. The one who appeared to be mostly white underneath all the mud, had a prolapsed rectum--typical of an animal that has been starved; the digestive system tries to work and keep things moving, but there's nothing to push out but one's own guts. And it wasn't bad enough that there was nothing for the pigs to eat inside their pen. What was worse was that there was no water--not even a bowl for water.
I was so angry with the husband and the wife, who had left months ago and with no regard for her pets, but for Edgar's sake and the pigs, I kept quiet, except for, "We'll take them."
I gave them water and cut some grasses growing tall just beyond their pen so that they could at least have dinner before we picked them up the next day.
We brought them home to our pig paradise where porcine people are treated with respect and cared for as they should be. I was really concerned about the white one's prolapsed rectum, but Edgar assured me that as soon as it had some real food passing through the gut, it would disappear inside where it belonged. For as much neglect as these pigs endured for at least what had to be several months, I was awe-stricken by how accepting they were of me. When I got close to scrape the mud from their hides, they voiced objections but didn't run away or try to bite me. After all that people had done to them, they didn't resent my species. But I expected that eaction because the pig is Goddess's magnanimous animal-child.
Forgiveness is a trait common to pot-bellied pigs. They don't hold a grudge as my cats do and dogs. And it's not that they don't have stellar memories, because they're highly intelligent. Perhaps their intelligence allows them to realize goodness in another being, even though she may be a human. Walking around in their field of grass, the pigs knew somehow that someone had been instrumental in giving them a new life.
These days Chico lives a good life here with our other ten pot-bellies. He's healthy: his little butt-hole crawled back inside where it belonged, which is always a good thing. Chico spends his days walking the patch in search of goodies: dandelions, poison ivy leaves, and acorns. He tolerates my digging the dirt out of his eyes and grunts his appr9val and gratitude. One thing I know for sure: Chico is happy here.
And I am happy to have him as part of my pig family.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to Mom's of Pets

My agent sent me a Happy Mother's Day email, even though I don't have human kids. My "kids" have four legs; they are humans in fur clothing, except for the fish in their scales. Her note rekindled memories of all the things human moms remind, threaten, and warn their kids about during their younger years. For example, I distinctly remember my mother warning me to wear clean underwear in case I was in a car accident. Silly, huh? What difference did clean undies make if my head was hanging on by a string. Then, as a teenager, I got the, "So, if your friend jumped over a cliff, you'd jump, too? I just couldn't say "Yes" to that question, not if I had one ounce of brain cells. My mother's comeback would be, "Well, then, why would you even think of doing blah, blah, blah?" Ah, yes: mothers' proverbs.

As a mother of different species of animals, I have my own warnings, threats, and pet--no pun intended--phrases I use to keep them safe or feeling silly or guilty. I'm breaking them down into "cat"egories for you because different species require different warnings, tones of voice, and expectations.

For the cats:
1. If you don't come into the house right now, I'm not calling you again. Then, you're gonna be stuck out all night. You'll be so-o-o-orry.
2. Don't eat so fast: you're gonna barf.
3. NO! Don't barf on the rug! Go into the kitchen.
4. Take this medicine; it's good for you.
5. Okay, Sucky Face: I'll give you five minutes on my neck.
6. Lyla! Off my pillow!
7. No fighting!
8. Could you please lie somewhere else other than on the computer keyboard?
8. What beautiful pussies!

For the pigs:
1. Lowell, get up! Get UP! Don't pee on your blanket!
2. My Lowell.
3. Out of the garden, Skippy. Yes, you! Yes, I do see you in the flowers. You're a pig, and, no matter how still you stand, I can still see you. Out of the garden! NOW!
4. Out of the pachysandra, Skippy. Yes, you! Don't look shocked. Is there another 'Skippy' around here?
5. Let's check your belly for ticks. Roll over. There is one! HOLD STILL!!
6. It's okay. Mommy's here.
7. No, you don't smell pork roast.
8. Don't eat so fast; you're gonna barf.
9. Good little piggies stay home.

For the horses:

1. Stop bullying Lola before she kicks you into the middle of next week.
2. You never listen: one of these days you're gonna get hurt.
3. You never listen: one of these days I'm gonna get hurt.
4. No running in the barn.
5. Whoa! Damn it!
6. Bite me, and it'll be your last bite.
7. What a handsome horsey.

To all the animals:
Sleep tight: Don't let the stinkbugs bite.

To all mothers of animals. Every day is mother's day: taking the bad with the good. But the good our animals brings us is worth every irritation, cleaning chore, and unending vigilance. We are the luckiest of moms. Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010

two more winners in peacock-naming contest

Today is the deadline for naming the winners of the peacock-naming contest. Stella Dora Von Swineburg has won with her names for the females: Apeagail and Ashpea. But I need one more name for the male bird yet. Then, I'll have all four: Cindy Sproles' "Peater," and Stella's "Apeagail" and "Ashpea."

I just need one more perfect one with "pea" in the name for the other male bird. If I get no response by the end of the day, I might have to come up with something myself.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. We still do not have the birds yet--are arguing over where to situate the pen--but when we get them, I'll let you know and post pics.

And I have yet to talk with Louie Jay's mom yet to see how he is doing with his new wheels. That will likely be my next post. Thanks, again.