Gratitude

Last May, MC and I lost our dear furry friend to a rapidly progressing illness. We were both devastated. Our only solace was discovering My Cat from Hell and thinking about the happy memories we shared with our cat. We didn’t plan to adopt again soon, but we were convinced we’d be even better cat parents this time around because we had learned so much about cat behavior from Jackson Galaxy.

In late July, as MC and I were out for a weekend stroll, I happened to see what looked like a cat out of the corner of my eye in the window of a local pet store. This was miraculous for two reasons: I have terrible peripheral vision, and the pet store was the sort that only has fish and gerbils inside. I pointed it out to MC and, upon closer inspection, we realized there were two cats sitting in a crate in front of the window. The cats looked terrified, the crate was much too small, and their surroundings were filthy.

Over the next several days, we were drawn back to this window over and over again. Each time we visited, the situation seemed more dire. At night, the cats were left in the uncovered crate in the window with all the lights on. One slept in the litter box. They appeared weak, skinny, and sad. Though we didn’t feel ready for (up to 20 more years of) pet ownership again, we soon decided we had to adopt these two creatures, if only to take them away from this tortured existence, or the other – worse – possibility.

The two cats, a few weeks after moving in with us.
The two cats, a few weeks after moving in with us.

The pet shop was “fostering” the cats on behalf of a large animal charity, and after about a week of phone calls, we were finally able to adopt – or, as I often say, rescue – these two cats. After bringing them home, we learned more about their history. They were raised in what was described as a “hoarder house” with almost 40 other cats. They had been rescued by “a good samaritan” who soon after became ill and dropped them off at the animal charity’s shelter. From the shelter, they were brought to the pet shop as part of an adoption outreach program. They had been living for several weeks in the small crate under bright lights for 24 hours a day by the time we found them.

As you might imagine given their history, the cats were not well socialized. Their hygiene habits were atrocious. They never purred. They were emaciated and stunk – for weeks. Their claws were black and brittle and came out in chunks on the floor. They fought and wailed for most of the night and hid for most of the day. They growled at each other – or us – while eating. On top of that, they seemed disinterested in forming any relationship with us. Life with these creatures seemed a thankless task – we saved their lives and in return, we were forced to live with them. It only made us miss our dear Mr. Tubby even more.

tiny
Cappuccino.

After a few weeks, the cats gained weight and their fur looked glossy and healthy. The putrid smells also disappeared. The litter box habits improved (just slightly, though) and they came out more during the day time. We finally gave them names – Cappuccino and James Bond. But the interactions were still pretty bad and the nights were still filled with caterwauling.

BondCappucchino
James Bond and Cappuccino.

And then, in early November, it happened. I had the bright idea of getting a new toy to try and play with them. Perhaps, I thought, I could tire them out during the day so they would sleep through the night (or at least be quiet enough to let us sleep through the night).

Before I could even take the toy out of the package, Cappuccino became interested in it. So interested, in fact, that he repeatedly bit me – hard – in an effort to grab it. After several bites, he punctured through my finger. I was shocked, screaming, and bleeding. James Bond hid as Cappuccino continued to play with the toy.

MC helped me to clean the wound, which was painful and looked even worse. I was between health insurance plans and I didn’t want to spend the money to go to the doctor. Within a few days, though, it was clear that something was wrong, and, since the bite was on my right (dominant) hand, I needed to have it checked out. Of course, it was infected and I had to pay for treatment and medication.

Cappuccino.
Cappuccino.

MC and I were both angry. And, frankly, I was afraid, too, though I hid it well. (No one wants to be around an animal that senses fear, after all.) What kind of crazy cat would bite you over and over, while you were shrieking, and then play with a toy as though nothing had happened? The worst part was the feeling of isolation. Everyone we spoke to said we should take the cat back to a shelter. This would definitely mean he would be put down, and I couldn’t believe we had discovered these creatures, saved their lives, and spent a full quarter of the year with them only to split them apart and kill one.

I researched sanctuaries and no-kill shelters, and all had notes refusing to take cats who had displayed aggression against humans. It truly seemed like we were out of options and were doomed to be stuck with these dreadful cats forever.

James Bond.
James Bond.

And then, eventually, it started happening. The growling became less and less frequent. The crying over night decreased as they eventually learned to play with some of the toys we brought home. They stopped having stare downs with us and flinched less and less as we approached. This fall, after over a year of living with us, they even began to occasionally sleep on the bed.

MC continues to push Bond’s challenge line by picking him up (though he doesn’t like it) and blocking off his hiding spaces. I continue to carry Cappuccino around and cuddle him, which he now accepts as part of the deal that includes yummy food. Neither one purrs, which is just super sad. But, in many ways, they are turning into “real” cats. We can play with them and even trim their nails. They can fight with each other in a playful rather than terrifying way. They don’t display any aggression towards either of us, even if we move their bowls or approach them from an angle.

putties2

I’m sharing this today, which is Thanksgiving in the United States. My mother, who in a protective mode last November encouraged me to return Cappuccino to a shelter, thought I should tell our story on my blog so that other people who rescue pets will know there is hope.

It takes a lot of focused work and dedication, and I’m so grateful to MC for the many nights he stayed up with them and for all of the work he has done with them. I’ve come to love these creatures deeply, even if it isn’t returned in the way that I grew accustomed to with my other cats. There is something incredible moving about looking into the eyes of two creatures who know you saved their lives, and being open to the unique journey you will share with them.

NaBloPoMo

I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

FO Friday: The delivery

Back in June, I was the hostess of Crochetlist‘s monthly charity challenge on behalf of Bideawee, an animal welfare organization headquartered in New York.  My main job as hostess was to be enthusiastic about the charity during the month, and to collect pet blankets.  I also organized an ebook of 30 crochet stitch patterns suitable for pet blankets (for sale on Craftsy, Etsy, and Ravelry), which so far has raised about $150 for animal welfare organizations.  (I donate all the profits at the end of each month, so if you are feeling charitable, download a copy 🙂 – this month’s purchases will be donated to the Humane Society of New York.)

Through the kindness of Crochetlist members, I collected almost 70 pet blankets!

For six weeks each summer, I work extended hours four days a week with Fridays off.  Today is the last “summer Friday.”  I knew that if I didn’t deliver the pet blankets today, they might take up semi-permanent residence in my apartment.

This is what 70 pet blankets look like, in case you were wondering.

Of course, about 5 minutes before I left home, it started to rain.

You can sort of see the grayness in the background.

I managed to hail down a cab in spite of the weather and squeeze into it with my bags.

The bags took up two seats.

When I arrived at Bideawee, the rain was still pretty steady.

The staff in the Adoption Center were very friendly, and invited me to hang out with the kittens for a few minutes.

I couldn’t turn down a chance to play with kittens.

The black cat on the right is a superior hunter.  I hope he goes to a home with a supply of bugs to track down.

This little putty let me give some tummy scruffles.
This kitty was very serious and chose to sit in a box for most of my visit.

After hanging out for a little bit, I left, but not before taking some pictures of the mature cats in the front window.

Here’s one eating on a crocheted blanket.

If I didn’t have my very own alpha male at home, I would have brought a few of these putties home with me.  (Ok, I guess I would have had to ask MC, too.  It’s not good to make impulse adoptions!)

Nope, he’s definitely not welcoming in any new putties.

As soon as I left Bideawee, the rain got really bad, with heavy gusts of wind and those painfully strong “drops.”  My umbrella ended up getting destroyed, and I was completely soaked through, wet t-shirt contest style.  I managed to make it to the bus stop without destroying my camera (thank goodness).

But it was totally worth it, since I know these blankets will be used by the animals at the shelter.  I’m very thankful to the 15 group members who donated such lovely crocheted and knit blankets.  If it hadn’t been raining, I would have taken more pictures of the actual blankets so you could see all of the great colors and stitches.

For more finished objects, visit Tami’s Amis.

F.O. Friday and I Love Yarn Day!

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve been thinking for a while about how to celebrate I Love Yarn Day, since I first read about it on the Craft Yarn Council website.  The CYC has several suggestions about what to do to celebrate (and several projects from famous designers, too!).

My post for today is a celebration of my favorite yarns and also about yarncrafting for charity.  If you have been crocheting or knitting for any amount of time, you have probably found that we yarncrafters are a generous lot.  I even have some Finished Objects to share, in the form of charity crochet projects.

My Favorite Yarns

My current favorites are Cascade Eco Duo, Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love, Dream in Color Classy, Patons Classic Wool, and Spud and Chloe Sweater.

Top (from left to right): Eco Duo, Alpaca Love. Bottom (from left to right): Classy, Classic Wool (ombre) with Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool (solid), Sweater.

Cascade Eco Duo

Like most of the yarns on my list, I discovered this super soft yarn in my LYS, Knitty City.  As the name implies, Cascade Eco Duo is an eco-friendly yarn made of undyed baby alpaca (70%) and undyed Merino wool (30%).  Since it is undyed, it is offered in a relatively limited range of colors (mostly browns, blacks, whites – very gender neutral) and it is marled.  The softness is incredible and it is really nice to work with.  There is a kind of self-striping effect with most of the colors.  The one drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable, and since I hate handwashing, I only use this yarn for small accessories.

Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love

This is my favorite big box store yarn. Alpaca Love is also a wool (80%) and alpaca (20%) blend.  I love the feel of the yarn – a great combination of softness with firmness.  It comes in some very fun coordinated colors.  This yarn is very affordable (especially when purchased at Michaels using a coupon!).  The drawbacks for me are the handwashing issue again, and the limited color range.  I usually get around the handwashing issue by felting projects made with this yarn :).

Dream in Color Classy

Dream in Color Classy is another great yarn that I first tried out at Knitty City.  This yarn has recently made several appearances on the blog (in my crocodile stitch project and my yarn haul post).  Classy is a 100% superwash Merino wool yarn that is spun and hand dyed in the U.S.  The colors are variegated and are really fabulous.  The only drawback here for me is the cost, which means that I have to save it for slightly more special occasions.  At least there are 250 yards in each skein, which makes me feel a little less guilty when splurging!

Patons Classic Wool

Patons Classic Wool is another big box store yarn.  It is 100% wool and it is available in a great variety of colors, including both solids and ombres.  (A few colors are also available as tweeds.)  The  solids have 210 yards in each skein and are reasonably priced.  It isn’t the softest wool I’ve felt, but it isn’t scratchy, either.  It is a great, firm, workhorse yarn which doesn’t split.  The only real drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable.

Spud and Chloe Sweater

Sweater is probably the yarn in this group that I’ve worked with the most.  It is a blend of 55% superwash wool and 45% organic cotton.  I also found it at Knitty City 🙂 about a year ago.  I first picked up a skein of Turtle for a design submission which wasn’t accepted.  I loved the yarn so much that I submitted two more designs with it, which were both accepted.  The first was my Sunshine Blanket, published in the August, 2011 issue of Inside Crochet.  I am also in the middle of a top secret project using these colors for Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book, which should be published in 2012.  I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this yarn: the colors are great, it is machine washable, and it feels nice :).

You may have noticed that all of these yarns are worsted weight – yes, I am one of those American yarncrafters that prefers a heavier weight yarn!  You may have also noticed that all of these yarns are made with natural fibers.  I am by no means a “yarn snob” – I work with Red Heart Super Saver, too.  But recently, I have really tried to limit my purchasing of acrylic yarn.  I just don’t feel comfortable buying a yarn made from crude oil anymore.  This is my own personal choice as part of changes I’ve made in my life to be more environmentally conscious.  On the other hand, I can’t just let the existing acrylic yarn in my stash go to waste (that’s  not too eco-friendly either), and so that is where some of my charity crafting and experiments with freeform crochet come into play.

Charity Crafting

One great way to use up your stash while finding a home for some of your creations is through charity crafting.  I especially like to make items for infants and pets (because they are fast and cute, and because my very own special cat was adopted from the Humane Society).

I was inspired by the phrase “Think globally.  Act locally.” and decided to make up a list of local NYC charities that accept handmade donations.  I checked in with all of these organizations, and the list is current as of October, 2011.

Snuggles Project sites:

  • ASPCA, the first humane organization in the Western hemisphere, has a wishlist of donated items for their Manhattan adoption center which includes handmade bedding or toys.  Items can be dropped off during regular adoption hours.
  • Bideawee, the oldest no-kill animal humane organization in the U.S., welcomes Snuggles in any size for cats and dogs in its adoption center.  These can be delivered in person, or mailed to the attention of Lauren Bonanno at the Manhattan location.
  • S.A.V.E., a pet rescue organization in Queens, is looking for small or medium sized bedding.  Email the organization at savepetNY@aol.com to arrange pick up.

Knits for Infants is looking for hats, booties, sweaters, and blankets in soft, machine washable yarns for newborns and infants being treated at the North Central Bronx Hospital.  Having worked in the health care industry in the Bronx for years, I can say that families served by this hospital would really benefit from the donations.  They also accept yarn donations (no novelty yarns or “scratchy” yarns like Red Heart Super Saver, please).

For those of you who live in the U.S. outside of New York, some great organizations you might consider donating to are one of the organizations listed on the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation website (Oglala Sioux Tribe families and elders), Knit Your Bit through the National WW II Museum (scarves for veterans) and  The Red Scarf Project through Foster Care to Success (scarves for foster care students in college).  Internationally, you can find a participating animal shelter/pet rescue organization that accepts handmade donations through the Snuggles Project.  Of course, this is just a small sampling of organizations, and there are many more out there!

Finished Objects


Today, I’m showing off some of the projects that I’m donating to charity for I Love Yarn Day.

Six scarves for Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO).
Two scarves, a hat, and mittens for toddlers via Knits for Infants. I have two other hats in the works, too.
This is a close up of my snuggle for Bideawee. I plan to make a few more using scrap yarn (I doubt the doggies are too concerned about the colors).

My post yesterday was a reflection on my craft goals for the year, and I’m thinking that when I update them, I will add some charity crafting goals.  I used to donate a lot of projects to charity, and I would like to make more crocheted donations in the coming months.

For more finished objects, don’t forget to stop by Tami’s Amis!

A Final Word on Awesome Yarn

A few weeks ago, I won a giveaway from Danielle at A Stash Addicts Ramblings for my choice of sock yarn from her Jane & Michael Etsy shop.  This lovely skein arrived yesterday, just in time for I Love Yarn Day!

 

The colorway is called Emerald Forest.

 

(On a side note, I remember being totally confused by The Emerald Forest as a kid, since I was, of course, way too young to have any real sense of what the film was about!)

There’s a good chance that this may eventually transform itself into a gift for my mom.

Thanks, Danielle!

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.