Cats and Other Critters

We have three cats. Butterfly is a 16-year-old cantankerous old female. If she had her way the other two cats would disappear. If she was younger and still in fighting condition, she would make that happen. Our other two cats are mother and son, a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old. The mother is Daisy. The son is Shady.

We used to have four cats. Several months ago Shady lost one of his eyes in a cat fight. The cat that attacked him was his own father, Grady. There was too much competition between these two neutered males and we decided that one of them had to leave. We found a great home for Grady. He is the only cat in his new home, but shares the three acres with a dog and a bunch of chickens. He is very happy there.

With the help of a vet, Shady recovered from his injury very well. I thought having lost his 3-D vision might curtail some of his hunting, but I was wrong.

Recently, I was awaken by a persistent click-click noise. I figured it was some sort of critter, dragged in by one of my cats. My first thought was a bird, but I had never heard a bird make a sound like that before. I got out of bed, followed the sound and ended up in the livingroom. I turned on the light and found Shady lying on the couch, facing the wall, his focus near the ceiling. I followed his gaze and saw what he was watching.

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Shady’s prized capture escaped to the top of the livingroom curtains.

Perched on the curtain rod a few inches from the ceiling, was a little furry fellow about 4 inches long. He was dark-gray with a white face. His pink hairless feet grasped the fabric of the curtain. I even saw his curled up pink tail. I recognized the species right away. This little cutie was a baby opossum, except down here in North Carolina we say ‘possum. He appeared unscathed and seemed rather content on his perch. I’m sure he was relieved to discover that cats don’t climb curtains. At least, not this one.

Obviously, Shady’s plan was to wait patiently for the possum to come down from its safe haven. My plan was totally different. I wanted it out of my house, but alive and safe.

I couldn’t just reach up and grab him. I would surely be bitten. So, I considered my options. The best idea would make use of his instincts, and that meant coaxing him onto another perch. A broom handle was long enough, but too slippery for him to grip. I didn’t want him falling into the jaws of the ever vigilant Shady. I needed to give the handle some texture.

I remembered a roll of shelf lining that I bought recently which is designed to prevent dishes from sliding. It has a mesh design and would be easy for this little guy to grip.

I cut off a few inches of the fabric and wound it around the broom handle. Then secured it with rubber bands. Voila! I had my extraction tool.

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It was such an awesome moment when the possum curled his tail around my finger.

Now, the hard part, convincing this little critter to move onto the stick. I climbed onto a chair to meet him eye to eye. I spoke to him in a soft voice. He was already calm, I just didn’t want to do anything that would change that. I dared to touch his fur and allowed his tail to curl around my finger. This just might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

He was quite calm for a critter who had climbed the curtains to avoid being eaten. Yet he seemed to trust me not to eat him. I positioned the handle next to him and gently nudged him from behind and he slowly moved toward the broomstick. It took only a few moments before all four feet were securely gripping the handle. He remained calm the entire time. I think he recognized me as his rescuer.

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The little critter held on for dear life as I transported him to a safer environment.

It was time to transport him to a safer place. I carried the handle horizontally through the house and through the backdoor, careful not to make any sudden moves. I considered the cat too late. I should have locked him in a bedroom. Because, now, he was following me with his eagle eye on the possum, just waiting for it to fall.

Shady followed me the good long distance I walked from the house to one of our smaller trees. It was actually harder to convince the critter to move onto the tree than it was the broom handle. All the while, Shady was watching and waiting for a mishap.

The critter finally moved on to the tree and clung to a branch. I said good-bye and good luck to the precious little creature, saying a silent prayer for his or her safety and a family reunion by daybreak. I then picked up the cat, carried him to the house, and scolded him for bringing home yet another critter.

I then locked the pet door so he couldn’t run back out to the tree that our little friend was clinging to. I was determined that the poor little thing would be safe for this one night, at least.

I never saw the possum again. I checked the tree. If I ever see it again it would have been because Shady had found it. It may not fare as well a second time. I like to imagine that the little cutie found its mother and siblings by daybreak.

~~~

Not surprising, this episode did not end Shady’s hunting. Early this Saturday morning I took an injured bunny away from him with the faint hope of nursing it back to health. But, sadly, its injuries were too severe. It died less than 24 hours later.

These adventures don’t always end with a “happily ever after.”

Can Fred, The Singing Sailor Keep Putin Away?

In October 2014, Sweden accused Russia of operating a submarine in its territorial waters. However, an investigation by the Sweden military discovered that the object suspected of being a Russian submarine was actually a Swedish vessel.

Yet, the Swedish government still decided to spend nearly $112 million on its defense, due to fears that Russia might increase its military presence in the Baltic Sea.

And now, neighbor Finland is concerned about three cables that were discovered recently on the bottom of the sea in their territorial waters.

Two of these cables were identified as hydrophone cables. These are specifically used to detect submarines. The Finnish Maritime Border Guard says these cables are a mystery. They were not placed there by the Maritime Border Guard.

Finland has not outwardly accused Russia, yet, but behind closed doors they probably suspect they placed the cables. The entire Scandinavian region is on high alert, fearing a Russian threat in the area. In this region of the world, Russia would most likely arrive by sea.

The Finnish Maritime Border Guard investigated another  incident in late April that allegedly involved a mysterious underwater object, believed to be a submarine in the Finland’s territorial waters. Alas, they were not able to determine the origin of the suspicious underwater sounds they detected. The investigation was closed, and the case will not be taken to the prosecutor’s office. However, the military said they cannot rule out the presence of a submarine or other kinds of underwater activity.

All this heighten fear (hype) of a Russian intrusion has precipitated a call to action by a Swedish peace activist organization. In May, members of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) used Puten’s opinion of the Gay movement to discourage Russian submarines from arriving on the shores of Sweden. This organization’s motto is “If weapons had functioned as a conflict solving method there would have been peace in the world a long time ago.”

SPAS placed, into Swedish waters, a subsurface sonar beacon they have named “Fred, The Singing Sailor,” Fred is a neon character. He dances and sends out a morse coded message that can be detected by any underwater visitor nearby. The message welcomes one and all to Sweden with the following message:

THIS WAY IF YOU ARE GAY

The idea behind the message is that Russian sailors would make a quick u-turn and avoid Sweden because of Putin’s animosity towards the gay lifestyle.

Take a look at their video. It’s really quite entertaining.

You May Never Look At Chocolate The Same Way Again

Abdul, a young Syrian man (not his real name) was trying, once more, to escape the Syrian civil war. He had made seventeen previous attempts to sneak into the U.K. and failed seventeen times. He learned from his mistakes every time he failed, but no two attempts were identical. There was always something unexpected that foiled his plans. He figured by now he had experienced it all. The eighteenth attempt would surely be a success.

Abdul, six other men, and an experienced smuggler all gathered at a truck stop outside of the small village of Coquelles, France. Earlier this evening truck drivers had pulled in, parked their loaded rigs, and settled down for the night, sleeping in their cabs. In the morning, some of these drivers would be delivering their trailers to the train station loading dock where they would be loaded onto flat cars. The freight train would then transport the trailers the rest of the way to England by way of the Channel Tunnel. This routine never changed and that made the smuggler’s job easy.

The smuggler, a Kurdish man, originally from Iraq, had been organizing these refugee operations for years and knew that tanker trucks were never x-rayed for stowaways. So he checked the tanker trucks for their destination stickers and identified a tanker that was destined for the U.K. The smuggler, Abdul, and the six other men quietly approached the tanker so as not wake the driver.

First, the smuggler climbed the ladder to the top of the tank and used a bolt cutter to remove the padlock on the hatch. Then he signaled for the refugees to climb to the top of the tank. The contents of the tanker were not identified. If it turned out to be something dangerous or toxic, they hoped it would be obvious before they ventured inside.

The moment the hatch was opened a familiar aroma permeated the cold night air. Chocolate! Seven men were going to sneak into the UK in a tank of liquid chocolate. It was near freezing that night, so as they climbed down into the warm chocolate it felt great, like a chocolate hot tub. The smuggler then closed the hatch, leaving a little gap so they could breathe and eventually escape.

Abdul stands 6 feet tall, but he still couldn’t touch the bottom of the tank with his feet. They were all holding on to the rim of the hatch with one hand. If anyone had lost their grip and gone under, the others would not have been able to rescue the fallen man.

It didn’t take long for the men to realize the chocolate was becoming uncomfortably hot. The heat was actuallly becoming unbearable. The seven men could do nothing else but cling to the hatch rim in a tight circle, submerged in chocolate up to their necks. They had to keep moving their legs to keep from getting totally trapped in the heavy chocolate.

They naturally began to consider their dilemma. The trip to the train should take no more than 30 minutes. Once they had passed the checkpoints they would be able to escape their chocolate prison. Unfortunately, the truck wasn’t moving. They had now been in chocolate limbo for more than two hours. The men were careful to remain quiet, but under their breaths they cursed the smuggler for putting them in this, now precarious, situation.

Some of the men wanted to give up and escape the chocolate. But Abdul wanted to stay with the original plan. Seventeen attempts under his belt—would he never complete his personal pilgrimage? He felt so close to freedom that he could taste it (and it tasted like chocolate). If just one of them left, all of them would have to leave. Whoever left would leave a trail of chocolate all down the side of the tanker. Anyone staying behind would be discovered, for sure.

The situation was not getting any better. In fact it was becoming serious and two of the men started to cry. In the end it was unanimous. It was time to leave while they still had the cover of dark. The chocolate was heavy and slippery. It was almost like a game of tug-o-war. It took the entire group to help push or pull each man, one at a time through the hatch. The last guy struggled the most. It was difficult to extract against the pull of the chocolate. He finally had to kick off his shoes and allow them to drop to the bottom of the tank.

All seven men, exhausted, but safely extracted from that unforgiving chocolate, began the long, cold, hike to their tent hidden deep in the nearby woods. They were covered head to toe in chocolate and as they walked, they left seven sets of chocolate foot prints, one of them shoeless. In the frigid night air the gooey chocolate hardened and cracked on their clothes and skin. They chipped off pieces and ate the chocolate. They all agreed, it was very good chocolate.

Abdul did eventually make his way to the U.K. He avoided tankers and instead stowed away on a trailer loaded with new truck cabs. He found one that was unlocked and hid inside. He was granted asylum in the U.K. and found a job at an Arabic restaurant in Sheffield.

To this very day, whenever Abdul gets a whiff of chocolate, it reminds him of that cold winter night when he and six other grown men nearly experienced Death By Chocolate!