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.

possum 2

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.

possum 1

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.

possum 3

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.”

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Sing a Song of Singapore

Singapore is the fourth-largest financial center in the world. It ranks as one of the five busiest ports. Singapore ranks high in standard of living, education, health care, and economic competitiveness. It has one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the longest life expectancies in the world.

A trip to Singapore should be on your itinerary, but before you plan your visit, you would be wise to learn their customs and laws.

A sticky situation
One of the nastiest things to step into is a wad of gum. To avoid this problem, Singapore made gum illegal. The only gum allowed is prescription gum, so if you are chewing nicotine gum, you better be ready to show that prescription. Otherwise you can be fined up to $500.

Up in smoke
If that “gum ban” has you craving a cigarette, forget that. too. Their “smoking in public’ ban is quite strict. But it seems smoking is more tolerable than gum chewing. The fine for lighting up a cigarette is only $200.

You can trash this idea
By now you are probably trying to get rid of the evidence that you are chewing gum or smoking a cigarette. Whatever you do, don’t get caught tossing (or spitting) the evidence on the ground. Littering comes with a fine of $1,000 and possibly some community service emptying garbage cans.

Jiggle the Handle!
Believe it or not, there are people who check public bathrooms for unflushed toilets. If you are caught NOT flushing, you could be slapped with a $150 fine. If you must, jiggle the handle.

Don’t Call A Taxi
This advice assumes you are already out $1,850 in fines due to the indiscretions described above. Taxis are a bit pricey in Singapore, so to hold on to those few dollars you have left,. Instead, buy a Singapore Tourist Pass for the MRT (mass rapid transit) system. You can rest assured that you won’t have to worry about stepping on gum or inhaling anyone’s smoke. You also don’t need to worry about anyone spilling a drink on you. Food and drink are forbidden on the train. Fines can be up to $500.

Here’s Another Tip
Actually its not a tip, or better worded, don’t tip. You are not expected to tip,so why tip?

Thinking of Leaving Your Mark?
If you spray graffiti or carve your name on a park bench you could become the center of attention, in the form of a public caning. That’s right,  an old-fashion spanking. Foreigners are not exempt, in 1994 an American teenager got 4 whacks for defacing a car. In 2010, a man from Switzerland got three whacks and five months in jail for spray-painting a train.

Cover up
About the only time being naked is allowed in Singapore, is while you are showering. Otherwise its considered pornography. Hang the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door, make sure it’s locked, and close the curtains tight before you get undressed for your shower. Offenders pay a $2000 fine or spend up to 3 months in jail.

Highest price to pay
If you plan to tour the world, don’t make Singapore the next spot after Peru. That country has very lax drug laws, and maybe you experimented just a bit. If you arrive in Singapore high as a kite, it could mean serious trouble. A death sentence is not unheard of, even for foreigners.

It seems like Singapore might be a bad place to visit with all these laws. But in reality it is one of the cleanest, safest places in the world. If you can follow the rules, you will love it.

Mistake #1: Giving The Groom An Important Task

St Georges Hall

A bomb threat called in to St. Georges Hall  delayed the McArdle wedding.

Neil McArdle and his fiancee, Amy Williams had been planning to get married. Nothing elaborate, just a city hall ceremony with a few family members to witness the event.

The couple lived together, but getting married was still a big thing, especially for Amy. Neil later commented, that in the days and weeks leading up to the big day she talked about nothing else. She was so excited about getting married.So, with the constant daily reminders, watching Amy as she prepared and planned their big day, it boggles the mind that when the big day finally arrived Neil slapped his forehead and suddenly remembered he had forgotten to fill out paperwork at St George’s Hall that was required before the wedding could take place. Just a technicality, but a necessary one, for sure.

How could Neil face Amy and tell her the wedding would have to be postponed because he forgot a small, but crucial, detail. The day of the planned wedding, he tried to muster the courage to tell Amy, but she had gotten up at 4am and put on her wedding gown.

She looked amazing.” Neil later recalled. He just could not get out the words to tell her that the wedding would have to be delayed.

Not surprisingly, Neil panicked. If he admitted to being so forgetful, Amy would cry, get angry, maybe throw something at him. He’d never live it down. He needed to find a way to postpone the wedding without implicating himself and his forgetfulness.

Lots of crazy ideas entered his mind. But the one that made the most sense, in Neil’s panicked condition, was inspired by the recent bombing that happened only 11 days earlier at the Boston Marathon. He concocted a plan. On the morning of the wedding, he called St. George’s Hall from a payphone near his house and told the receptionist, “There’s a bomb in St George’s Hall and it will go off in 45 minutes.”

St. George’s Hall was evacuated and searched by the bomb squad. Nothing was found and it was deemed a hoax. After the building was checked, the staff tried to help Neil and Amy to go on with their ceremony, but it was discovered that no booking for the wedding had been made.

McArdle’s soon-to-be in-laws were becoming suspicious and the bride’s sister was overheard telling a flustered McArdle: “You probably done the bomb scare yourself.”

Police quickly traced the call and he was arrested the same day. He sheepishly admitted to his “embarrassment and shame.” He explained that he had panicked over bungling the forms and staged the bomb scare.

It was just a ridiculous thing I did,” McArdle told the Daily Mail. “It might be funny to other people, but not to me. It’s wrecking my family’s life. I’m still together with Amy, but she’s got high blood pressure and wants nothing to do with a wedding right now,”

McArdle pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

This incident occurred in October, 2013, so Neil has completed his jail sentence. But, now, he has to deal with Amy. This is one fairy tale that has not ended “happily ever after.”

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!