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Author Topic: My Skinny Bones's story  (Read 14782 times)
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BW
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« on: September 18, 2009, 03:50:59 PM »

Over in the memorial section, I mentioned my Skinny Bones's story.  Skinny was my recently deceased Barkley Peeperton's mother. I have an exceptional story about how she helped me to trap her babies when we were in Gitmo.  I was told I could put her story here in the Den. 
I just looked at the story which I wrote a few years ago after her death, and it is 6 pages long. It's a microsoft works document.
Could someone tell me if I should just paste it here in this section, or is it too long to do that way.  That would be the easiest for me to do, but I don't know how long these messages are allowed to be.  Shall I try it?
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BW
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2009, 04:18:58 PM »

Skinny Bones’s Story

I believe that animals are sentient, at least cats.  I believe they experience emotions similar to those of humans.  I believe they are self aware, intelligent, and capable of reasoning and planning ahead.  I have had no personal experience with other animals, but I believe they all are.  Here is why I feel this with such certainty about cats.

Back in 1990, shortly after arriving at Gitmo, I found there were many feral cats wandering around the BOQ.  Some of the officers were feeding them. These cats were the descendents of the military dependents’ pets, which had been abandoned on the base during the Cuban Missile Crisis evacuation.

After a short while, I singled out a rather pathetic, scrawny little female tabby whom I started feeding by my door.  I had a full-length living room window and I could watch her eat as I sat on my couch.  She would come and place her little paw on the glass, looking very forlorn, and I would go and give her food.  She was quite wild and wouldn’t come anywhere near me.  A neighbor military man used to take her sister into his apartment and feed her there, so she was rather tame, but he told me that my little girl was the nasty one, and so he didn’t let her in.

After a while, I began calling her Skinny Bones because she was so pitifully skinny.  She had a big chest bone, which stuck out because there was so little meat on her bones.  When I was a little girl, I had been very skinny too, and my nickname had been Skinny Bones, so that came to mind when I talked to her.  After a while, I became very fond of her, and looked forward to seeing her little face at the window. How I wished I could reach out and caress her skinny little chest.
When I went away for 10 days at Christmas, I got a neighbor officer to put out food for her, but I worried about her and was happy and relieved to see her sitting by my door when I arrived home, back at the base.  Twice I had to leave her when I went away for school holidays, and she was always there sitting by my door when I returned.  Back then I was never able to get close enough to touch her.

Well, finally Skinny became pregnant.  She was only about 6 months old.
One day in Dec. or Jan, I don’t recall which now, I opened my door and there on the doorstep was a tiny, furry ball of fluff. 
To my amazement Skinny had brought me her first baby.  To make a long story short, I brought him in and raised him with a little bottle.  When I first brought him in, I was able to get her to come in to look for him.  I’m sorry to say that I kept her in the apartment that night, being too ignorant to realize she may have had more little ones who needed her protection somewhere.
She was very upset all night and wanted to get out. Now I realize she probably wanted to go to her other babies. In the morning I let her out, but it probably was too late, because I never saw any other babies. There were lots of big feral males out there, who might have killed her little ones.

 I continued to feed little Tommy, with a tiny doll's bottle, and hid him in my closet during the day when I went to work, because no pets were allowed in the BOQ apartments.  As soon as possible, I flew him back to NJ for my son to care for until I returned home.  There is a story attached to this experience with Tommy, but I won’t go into that now.
Eventually, a few months later, Skinny became pregnant again.  I had never been able to trap her to spay her.   This time, a neighbor told me that she had seen Skinny with some babies.  So I set out to try and find them so I could help her feed them.  It was unbearably hot at that time, reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit around noon.  I felt sorry for the poor little thing trying to care for her babies in that unbearable heat.  But despite all my efforts, I was unable to find where she was keeping her little brood.

By this time, I had been forbidden by the military to feed Skinny outside my door.  This is another long story. However, I had finally, after 7 months, gotten her to come inside to eat her three meals a day. She was so timid that she couldn’t always fight the bigger cats for food; sooooo I had begun feeding her in my apartment on a regular basis, always with the door open so she knew she could get out.  Even though she came into my apartment to eat, I was still never able to touch her.  Skinny kept coming into my apartment to get her food and after having her babies she ate enormous quantities a couple times a day.  Still, she looked so skinny she didn’t look like she could possibly have any milk, but must have had some because her babies survived till I started feeding them.

Finally, I secured military permission to feed her down the embankment by the gigantic air-conditioning units for the BOQ.  It was about 15 steps down the cliff, and this turned out to be a good place to feed her and her kittens.
 At first I never saw them, and only saw that the food was gone in the morning.  But eventually, after hearing her call them one day, I saw two little fuzzes come sneaking around the air-conditioners, and then after several days, I counted FOUR little darlings come tumbling down the hill for their meal.  I fed them there for several weeks, and then finally came the word about the trappings.

One day, to my horror, I was told that if I wanted to save this little family, I would have to get them into my apartment quickly because the new commander of the base didn’t like cats and was having all the feral cats they could find trapped and killed.

I realized I had to move fast, but didn’t have the faintest idea how to proceed.  A nice neighbor suggested I begin carrying a pillowcase around with me in my pocket because I could always use that to put a kitten in if I were suddenly presented with the opportunity. Everyone who would have helped just happened to be away on little vacations at that time.  I was beside myself wondering how in the world I could trap Skinny and her four totally feral little babies all by myself when I didn’t even know where she kept them.  I felt alone and desperate. 

First of all, I had to find out where Skinny’s lair was. Catching the babies would not be easy.   From my observation of them, I knew they were all old enough to run like the devil, in all directions at once. 
By following her after meals, I finally located her lair right on the very edge of a cliff behind the BOQ.  She had done a terrific job.  It was nearby the feeding area, very well concealed, within a large, sturdy, bushy plant.  I was quite impressed.  I couldn’t get near it because of its precarious location on the edge of the cliff.  I would have had to hang onto a wire fence with one hand and then crawl along a bushy incline, which is kind of what I had to do even to find it.  In any case, after I finally found it, I realized that if I ever did approach the lair door when they were in there, they would all go shooting out in all directions, or worse still out the back door and go tumbling down the steep cliff.  Clearly that was not the method to use.  I was bigger and smarter than they were, I thought, so if I could get close enough to them when they were up on the grass behind the building, I could probably grab one at a time.


The next day, when I saw Skinny at the top of the cliff, I sat down on the grass by her and told her that her babies were in danger and I wanted to help them, and told her that she should go and bring me one of her babies. Go get it by the back of the neck, I said, never believing that she would, after all I still couldn’t touch her.   She looked at me very seriously.  It was about 100 degrees and humid.  She looked very tired and hot, but proceeded to walk down the 15 steps, disappeared a minute, and then slowly climbed back up with a tiny baby suspended in her mouth.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.
 
Then to add to my amazement, she came over to me and dropped it right in front of me.   I made a desperate grab, but the little devil shot away and ran off into the bushes, leaving me sitting there with my mouth hanging open.
 I couldn’t believe it.  It should have been so easy.  He was so close.
Skinny just looked at me in disbelief.  Embarrassed, I told her she had to go and get another one.  She turned and slowly started down the long flight of steps.
Once again, she trudged back up carrying another of her little guys.
And again, she brought it over and dropped in on the ground in front of me.
And again, I grabbed for it desperately, but to no avail. It also darted quickly away, like greased lightening. Well, Skinny looked at me with such disgust, if a cat’s face can show disgust, I think hers did.
Feebly I told her to try again, but she just walked off and lay down under a shady bush.  We both knew it was kind of hopeless.
I think Skinny was totally disgusted with me and my clumsiness and inefficiency.  I was pretty hopeless as a trapper.

The next day, at my wit's end, I sat down with her out on the grass and just told her that there were some really, really bad men who wanted to catch her babies and that I wanted to save them.  I told her that because her babies were so fast, and because I was so clumsy and slow, the only way I would possibly be able to catch her babies was if she put them in a place where they couldn’t possibly get away from me.  I had no idea where that would be, and I was really depressed about the whole situation. She just sat and looked at me, and then slowly walked away. She was very tired and very hot, and still very skinny.  Poor little thing. I felt totally inadequate to help her and her babies.  Then I prayed and prayed that if the dear Lord wanted me to save them, he would provide a way, despite my clumsiness.


The next day, when I awoke, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the day.  It had to be today or never. I felt it so strongly that I called and reported out from school.  After my coffee, at 7 a.m., I heard a scratching on the door. I opened it and it was Skinny sitting there.  She cried at me and walked away, but I didn’t follow.  She came back and cried again, and so this time I started following her.  Slowly she led me down the walk and around the corner into the next building; the door was open.  She led me a little ways up the hall to the utility room where we all did our laundry.  It was filled with washing machines and dryers.  Again, the door was open.

When we arrived at the laundry room, she entered, stopped and sat looking at me expectantly.  Well, I still didn’t have a clue. She stepped outside the door and sat down, again watching me. Suddenly, something made me go over and peek down behind the washers.  There huddled in a bunch were her four babies!!!!!
Stunned, I rushed to the door and closed it.  They couldn’t get out!! I had them!!  But how to catch them and what in?  I had come unprepared.
BUT I had the pillowcase in my pocket.  I looked around and there was a tall garbage can sitting in the corner, and a broom.  Now to figure out how to catch them, but at least they couldn’t get away; I knew this was it.  This was my chance and I must not blow it.

I began by trying to coax them out, then by reaching behind the machines to urge them out without really frightening them too much, but that only made them scamper back and forth back there without coming out where I could get my hands on one.
At one point, a poor woman tried to come in to do her laundry, but I chased her away yelling, “I’m trying to catch some wild kittens in here.”  She looked alarmed and said that I should be careful because the mother was sitting right outside the door.  “Oh, that’s ok” I said, “She’s helping me.”  Looking really confused, the woman said she would come back later. 

After many clumsy attempts, and over a half-hour, I finally devised a plan to lay the garbage can on its side by the end of the washers, and then use the broom to chase them down and around the corner and hopefully straight into it.  And indeed they did!  Alarmed by the broom, they came careening around the corner of the machine and ran right into the can.  I grabbed it and stood it up; it was very tall, and they were way down in the bottom, and couldn’t climb out.  AHA!  Praise be the Lord!
I covered it with the pillowcase at the top.  I had them!  I opened the door, Skinny was still sitting outside guarding the room, <smile> and she followed me back to my apartment while I dragged the garbage can back there and inside into my bathroom.  Success!!

Well, they lived there in the bathroom and in my bedroom till I left Gitmo a couple months later. (Another long story)  Needless to say, I brought them all home with me to NJ when I left in June.

Skinny had indeed found a place to put her babies where they couldn’t get away from me.  Say what you will, she understood exactly what I had asked her to do, and she had done it brilliantly!  I would never in the world have thought of the laundry room, nor would I have known how to get the kittens in there.  She had carried them, one by one, up the 15 steps and down the hallway to the utility room.  And then she had come next door to my building and gotten me.

Right now Skinny is sleeping in the chair behind me. She is far from skinny now.  Her babies are distributed all around my living room, all sleeping peacefully, with the exception of my dear, gentle Galvin who passed away last year and I who I hope is watching us all from his new home across the Rainbow Bridge.
(My most precious, quite exceptional friend Skinny passed away a few years ago now.  I will always love her, admire her, and miss her. She taught me so much.)






 

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Mandycat
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2009, 04:35:59 PM »

BW,
     Thank you for sharing the beautiful and amazing story of Skinny Bones and her babies.  It brought tears to my eyes, but not of sadness, but rather of happiness that a wonderful little kitty family was saved and able to live a good life in a forever home with you.  Bless you!
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lesliek
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2009, 04:48:55 PM »

What an amazing story,thank you for sharing it ! You must miss Skinny very much.
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2009, 05:02:18 PM »

This is an astonishing, heartwarming story!  Thank you so much for posting it, BW, and thank you for caring so much and working so hard to save this cat family. I too believe that they experience emotions similar to humans (it makes sense--their brains are very much like ours, particularly in the emotion areas).  Skinny Bones' trust in you was amazing.

How did she and her family like being house cats, after their start in life as ferals?
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BW
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2009, 05:48:16 PM »

Catbird,  They adjusted very well indeed.  It took the kids a few months to let me touch them, and then slowly they got to trust and like me.  Eventually, they turned into real cuddle bugs, sweet as could be and very loving.  Skinny had to be spayed, which she didn't like, of course, but afterward she also became very tame and was very loving and affectionate to me.  They all adjusted beautifully.  The trip home from Gitmo, involved two different flights, a stay at a motel in between connections and was quite an adventure. :-)
It was all worth it.  They were the dearest, most affectionate cats I have ever had share my life with me, and I have had quite a few.  I am so glad I brought them home. 
When my vet first saw the babies, he said he could not believe how young they were, and that they had the skeletal and musculature of cats a couple years old, they were only a little more than 2 months. He kept saying, just feel those muscles, feel those bodies.  They feel sturdier than their mother.  I had to show him the Gitmo records so he would believe their age.  Must have had really strong fathers.  I had never had kittens before, so didn't know what to compare them with.  Now later, I realize that indeed they did not feel like normal kittens I have held since. Well, Gitmo is a harsh environment, and I supposed over the years, in order to survive, cats had to toughen up quickly to survive. And who knows what genes were in the mix.
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bug
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2009, 05:56:19 PM »

Wow! What an amazing story. I'll bet that if you put that entire story, along with the story of the first cat that made it to NJ and all of the stuff that was left out because of space constraints, you would have an excellent book. Maybe a short stories book or a children's book, but boy, would I love to read it!

There must have been so many adventures for these cats and yourself -- I'd love to hear them all.
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catwoods
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2009, 09:55:13 PM »

That was just amazing, BW, thank you so much for telling that story here! I certainly do believe that Skinny Bones understood that you would help her and the kittens and that is why she brought them to you, just as you've said.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2009, 01:45:06 PM by catwoods » Logged
JJ
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2009, 10:34:49 PM »

Just love the part about chasing the woman away from the laundry and her telling you to be careful because the momma cat was right outside. Your reply - 'that's ok, she's helping me" brought such a smile to my heart. Right then I knew you would all be a family forever.
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2009, 04:35:48 AM »

That's such a wonderful story. What lucky kitties!
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JoMax
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2009, 10:18:40 AM »

BW - thank you so much for Skinny's story - it heartens me to hear such a fulfilling outcome.
Your determination to save her & her kits shone through - must be what she understood & responded to.
I look forward to hearing more stoires about Skinny & her family.
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2009, 02:27:14 PM »

What a beautiful and wonderful story!  Thank you for sharing it.
I know that Skinny is looking after all her kitties now.  God Bless them all.
Peace to you, BW.
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BW
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2009, 07:20:04 PM »

Jo Max, and Spartycats,  thank you so much for your kind messages.  Yes, I hope that my Skinny is indeed taking care of all her babies now that Barkley Peeperton has moved on over the Rainbow Bridge.  I hope he has found his family.  I had dear Barkley the longest, almost two decades. I feel a whole chapter in my life has ended now. 
I named him Barkley Peeperton because he could not Meow, he could only peep when he was young.  And I named all the family after the service men there who supported me in caring for them and helped me get them to the plane to come home, well, except for my Skinny Bones.  As you know Jo Max, it is very empty now without our babies to care for.  No more lactated ringers, nor all the other daily tasks for my Barkley, nor for your Max.  It seems really empty now.  But it will get better.  Thanks again, and all my prayers.
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BW
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« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2009, 03:36:13 PM »

Here is a photo of my dear SkinnyBones just after I brought her back to the US.  Not only had she just had an horrendous journey by two connecting flights, with a couple scarey experiences in the cargo hold, plus a stay overnight between them in a motel, but she has also just been spayed, and is unhappy about the cone.  You can see why I named her SkinnyBones.  I will try and send a photo of her later on after she had gained weight, but I am having a lot of trouble uploading my photos.
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BW
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« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2009, 03:38:57 PM »

I will try again to send the photo, I don't know what is wrong.


* SkinnyCone2 cropped smlr.jpg (123.32 KB, 1276x1034 - viewed 332 times.)
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