Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Newest "Fugitive" On The Feline Underground Railroad

I call my back porch "The Feline Underground Railroad".

The first "Fugitive" or cat to show up was Riley. He appeared in September of 2007, four months after we moved into our newly built house. He was a buff-colored, teddy bear-like sweetheart. He lived with us until he passed away in May of 2010.

Shadow arrived a month after Riley. Shadow is a big, black, tomcat. He was very skittish at first. Now he loves to be petted and when you talk to him, he chatters back. He comes and goes at will, as tomcats are wont to do (we would like to have him neutered one day, but are afraid if we put him in a carrier and take him to the vet, it will traumatize him and we may never see him again. Why can't the vet be like James Herriot and make a house call?).

The railroad had a little dry spell until Sweetpea, a gray tabby, showed up in January of 2008. She appeared to be "heavy with kitten" so we took her to a feline, no-kill shelter so that she could be cared for and adopted. I was not ready nor willing to take on a mama cat and her kittens.

Then Grady showed up in March. He was a little shy at first. We were finally able to get him into a cat carrier in June and take him to the vet. Sadly he tested positive for Feline FIV, a fatal disease and highly communicable, and had to be put down.

In April, a dog showed up on The Feline Underground Railroad. She was a Miniature Pinscher. She had a wounded foot and was wearing a collar so we called the number, only to find it was disconnected. The little mite showed up on a weekend (of course) and we had to take her to an emergency vet. We left her there at the vet's, they would see that she was placed with a new family.

Another little dry spell for the railroad until January 2009 when Charlotte showed up. She is a sweet and gentle cat. She is a light gray tabby and her beautiful green eyes look like they have eye liner around them.

Now, two and a half years later another cat shows up.

Yam has named her Luna, after one of the characters in Harry Potter.

We believe Luna is one of the cats who belonged to our elderly neighbor. She had four cats and a dog at one time. We would see the cats sitting in her windows. Our neighbor was removed from her home very recently as she was unable to live by herself and was suffering from dementia.

We are not sure how Luna found herself outside. Did she escape when the old lady had a door open or was she thrown out to fend for herself. We had seen one of the other cats around the neighbor's house too. Shortly before the old lady was removed from her house, Animal Control visited her house. We believe that her dog and other cats were taken at that time.

The Colonel spotted Luna on one of his nightly bike rides. She was near the very busy road that is at the end of our boulevard. He called to her and she came to him straight away. He then called Yam and I to bring some food for her. She was starving. We coaxed her back to our house and into the garage and fed her more. Shadow and Charlotte sniffed and checked her out. No major hissing or fighting.

At first Luna is an unusual looking cat. She is definitely part Siamese. She has the blue eyes, an angular face, large ears and long legs. She is also a Manx, meaning she has no tail, only the stub of one. She is also a calico. She has three colors, white, beige and light brown. Yam and I thought Luna's body looked goat-like. Her fur is very soft, almost rabbit-like.

The more we saw of her and got to know her personality, the more we liked her. She loves to be around people. Loves to be held and petted and she "talks" up a storm (that is the Siamese in her). Luna is very curious and likes to know what's going on around her. She is a bit nosey.

Yam and I took Luna to the vet yesterday. We did not know how she would react to the pet carrier. The Colonel put her in the carrier for us. No problem. Luna laid down as soon as she was put in. On the way to the vet she never meowed, she just laid in the carrier.

When we were in the exam room, Luna was very curious but relaxed. There was no hissing or growling as she was poked with needles and thermometers. She was easy going when the vet shaved her belly looking for a spay scar (none there) and when he was performing an ultrasound to look for any possible kittens (none there, thank you Jesus).

The vet said he thought Luna was about 3 years old and probably once had kittens at one time. Her blood tests were negative for FIV and she was generally in very good health.

Luna was left over night at the vet's for a spaying. I do not wish to have any kittens around the place (remember, Shadow is a tomcat with all of his parts intact). All of the vet techs fell in love with Luna. They couldn't get over how relaxed she was and how pretty she was.

The vet's office called this morning to say Luna went through her surgeries with flying colors.


As Luna was sedated for the spaying, the vet felt something in her right back leg. It was hard and round. What he removed was a BB. Apparently Luna had be shot during her time outside. Poor baby. She really needed The Feline Underground Railroad's help.

Yam and I picked Luna up from the vet this afternoon. As expected she was a little loopy and her pupils were dilated. Per the doctor's orders we have to keep her indoors and quiet for 10 days. We have her in the cottage. The Colonel, Yam and I are taking shifts to look after her. We are to give her pain meds every 12 hours for three days.

Luna is not being completely quiet. She is poking around and jumping up on things. Thank God for her pain meds, they can make her a bit sleepy.

The jury is still out on whether we will keep Luna (If no home can be found for her then we will. We have left a picture of her at the vet's and it says she is free to a good home). I am sure that The Feline Underground Railway will see more cats (and possibly a dog or two) in the future and as much as we would like to keep each and every cat, we can't. The most we can do is feed and shelter the "Fugitives" for a while until they find a new home.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Next Best Thing To Being There

Darling-Sister-In-Law, who lives and works on the Space Coast, called yesterday to tell us her name was pulled in a drawing for a ticket to watch the final Space Shuttle launch.

The ticket was a "vehicle ticket" which allowed her to drive her vehicle, with passengers, to a viewing site. She called to ask if we wanted to be some of those passengers.

There was a chance that the shuttle lift-off would be scrubbed because of weather conditions and if it was scrubbed, the lift-off would be pushed to two days later. So, The Colonel and I checked the weather situation and it did not look good. We hedged our bets that the launch would be scrubbed. We planned to make the 3-hour drive this weekend to watch the shuttle launch on Sunday. We lost the bet (blast it all)...the Space Shuttle Atlantis had lift-off as scheduled, today at 11:26 AM.

Since we weren't going to watch the launch in person we did the next best thing...Yam and I turned on the NASA channel. We also hit record on the DVR, as The Colonel was not at home to watch with us and we knew he would want to see this historical Space Shuttle launch. I grabbed my camera so that I could take pictures of the television screen (I knew I would need them for this blog entry...ever the Blogger).

30 years and 135 missions have gone before this final Space Shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center. This is the 33rd mission for the Space Shuttle Atlantis and its first was on October 3, 1985.

Atlantis' 4-person crew will be on a 12-day mission. They are heading to the International Space Station and hauling a module packed with nearly 10,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. One-third of that is food. These supplies will last the International Space Station through next year.

An estimated one million people were watching the launch at the viewing sites. Yam and I looked for Darling-Sister-In-Law on the television but didn't see her. She called us after the launch to tell us it was cloudy there and some of her pictures were not as good as she would have liked and she was stuck in lots of traffic with everyone leaving the viewing areas.

I had no traffic to fight and I think I got some pretty decent photos of the launch considering I snapped them from the television screen. Sitting at home, I was able to get close up shots of Atlantis.

The launch.

I also got shots of Atlantis in space. Here is one of the booster rockets separating from the shuttle.

This is a shot of the shuttle separating from the main booster.

As soon as we saw Atlantis leave the launchpad, Yam and I ran outside to see if we could see the shuttle in the sky from our backyard. We have seen launches in the past but not today, it was too cloudy.

Huge expenses to maintain and fly the shuttle fleet has caused some to think the fleet has outlived its usefulness. Some argue that the shuttles should be flown until something new was in place to guarantee our nation's leadership position in space and human access to space, not to mention the thousands of jobs lost at Kennedy Space Center (better get more of those "Shovel-Ready" jobs ready Mr. Obama).

When Atlantis returns to Earth its new home will be a $20 million building at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex.

Atlantis is scheduled to return on July 20th, G-Pa's (aka My Favorite Father-In-Law) birthday. On the same day in 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Just thought that was a neat bit of trivia to share.

I would have liked to have seen this historical shuttle launch in person, but watching it on television was the next best thing to being there.

This is what an end of an era looks like from where Yam and I sat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kayaking Freedom Swim 2011

The Freedom Swim takes place here every Fourth of July. This year was the 20th annual swim. In 2008, MSNBC.com named the Freedom Swim in its Top 10 Quirky Fourth of July Activities list.

Hundreds of people make the one and a half mile journey across the river. Not everyone swims the Freedom Swim.

We have watched the Freedom Swim for four years from the the river's edge (or standing over the river on a bridge) and last year The Colonel and I made plans to participate in this year's swim.

Our plans never included actually swimming the Freedom Swim, only kayaking it. We made good on our plans this year.

The morning of the Fourth of July dawned with clear skies and The Freedom Swim would begin at 9:00 AM.

G-Pa (The Colonel's dad) and Yam were going to kayak with us too. G-Ma and Darling-Sister-In-Law were staying on dry land to watch and take some pictures.

With the truck bed loaded with kayaks, The Colonel, G-Pa, Yam and I crossed the bridge to get to the north side of the river where the Freedom Swim would begin. Coming off of the bridge, we could see that the roadsides were littered with parked vehicles and people making their way to the river's edge. Some with kayaks and some without. We had a place further up the road picked out to park the truck, but I began to wonder if that would be too crowded also.

There were a few parking spots left.

Once we were all in our kayaks, we paddled our way south to the starting point of the Freedom Swim, at the base of the bridge. Once there, we saw hundreds of people in the water. There were 300 swimmers (by newspaper accounts), several kayakers, a few paddle boarders, one paddle boat and many regular boaters. We were all waiting for the swim to begin.

At 9:00 AM the starting horn sounded and all at once the swimmers began to splash their watery way across the river.

Those of us not swimming had to be very mindful of the swimmers (it is the Freedom Swim after all). There were shouts of, "swimmer behind you" or "swimmer to left or right of you". I had one swimmer call to me and ask a favor of me.

"Hey, could you tell my friend way over there, in the black swimming suit, that she needs to veer to the left? The tide is taking her away from where she needs to be heading."

I broke away from my little kayak pack of The Colonel, G-Pa and Yam to deliver the message. The girl in the black swimming suit (sounds like a Dutch Masters painting) was very grateful.

Message delivered, I rejoined my family.

Kayaking across the river, in the middle of the Freedom Swim, was fun. The river wasn't choppy, so the paddling wasn't tiresome. It was interesting to see the different swimmers and how they chose to swim across the river. Some swimmers wore masks, snorkels and fins. Some had only goggles on. One lady swimmer said it was hard to see where she was going because her goggles kept fogging up. Some swimmers used kick boards to swim with and some used noodles. One man had hand swim fins that made him look like he had webbed fingers to help him through the water.

I saw all kinds of swimming methods deployed by the swimmers: Butterfly, Breaststroke, Sidestroke and Backstroke.

I saw young swimmers and old swimmers. One young girl about 16, asked me if she could hold onto my kayak for just a couple of minutes. I said of course. She needed to fix her goggles before she and her friend could continue swimming.

The newspaper said that a 65-year old man from Michigan, who had had a heart attack just three months prior, participated in the swim. He told the reporter that he had someone in a kayak following him and she had his Nitro-Glycerine tablets with her in case he would need them. I think I passed that man in my kayak. I remember seeing an elderly swimmer and thinking, "I sure hope he can make it, he looks tired, and he has a ways to go." He was being closely followed by a female kayaker who looked as concerned as I felt.

Through the entire swim there was a helicopter overhead, keeping an eye on everything. There were also Coast Guard boats present.

Halfway across the river I passed these people. What a way to travel, being pulled behind a paddle boat, lounging on an inner tube, listening to music and drinking a beer.

The current was a little stronger mid-river. It pushed The Colonel, Yam, G-Pa and I a little beyond where we wanted to land. So we had to paddle just a little harder for a bit. The swimmers were all heading towards the wharf of Fisherman's Village. That was the finish line of the swimmers (a 16 year-old boy came in first with a time of about 30 minutes and was followed a couple of minutes later by his 15 year-old sister) and my little kayak group headed just east of the finish line. Other kayakers had the same idea in mind.

G-Ma and Darling-Sister-In-Law were waiting for us as we paddled our kayaks to the little boat ramp. Darling-Sister-In-Law took a few pictures of us as we paddled in.

Our Freedom Swim kayak trip took us about an hour and a half to complete. We all agreed that kayaking across the river was a great experience and lots of fun.

It wasn't the quirkiest activity I had ever experienced on the Fourth of July...that would have to be celebrating the holiday with some British friends in the Florida Keys. As we were writing our names in the air with sparklers I told Graham, "We are celebrating the day we took our country back and we kicked you guys out." and he replied with, "No, we are celebrating the day we got rid of you lot."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Historic Melons

The Colonel put in a little, raised-bed garden this year. In his garden he has red bell peppers, Tabasco peppers, cubanelle peppers, sweet potatoes, a tea bush and two kinds of melons, the banana melon and pineapple melon.

His grandmother used to grow and sell banana melons (18" long, yellow with juicy orange flesh with a banana flavor) when she was a a young girl, so The Colonel wanted to grow some too. I'm looking forward to trying them.

The Colonel was reading about Thomas Jefferson one day and discovered that T.J. (who was quite the Foodie) grew pineapple melons. The Colonel wanted to try his hand at growing some too.

One of the pineapple melons was about the size of a large softball when the vine it was connected to shriveled and turned brown. We picked it.

I cut it up and we all tried some. The melon is supposed to have a pineapple flavor to it, this one didn't. It tasted more like a honeydew melon and it had an onion-like aftertaste to it. We think it was not quite ready to be harvested but with the shriveled vine we couldn't let it sit there and rot. There are a couple more in the garden we hope will mature properly so that we can taste what Thomas Jefferson tasted.

I am also looking forward to the sweet potatoes. I like them, The Colonel doesn't but he let me plant some in his garden anyway, what a sweet guy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Spud: Big Man on Campus

Spud is now an actual college student. His first class was on Wednesday, June 29th.

The trip to becoming an actual college student literally started with a trip...a 6-hour drive to Jacksonville and the University of North Florida (UNF) with a stop, half-way, at Darling Sister-In-Law's (DSIL) house for an overnight stay.

Spud had a move-in time of 9:00 AM to Noon on Tuesday, the 28th and we opted to stay the night at DSIL's house the night before so that we would only have a 3-hour drive ahead of us on move-in day instead of a 6-hour drive from our house. It worked out nicely. Thanks for the use of your home DSIL. Thanks also go out to G-Pa and G-Ma (The Colonel's parents) for the use of their vehicle for the trip. It allowed us to make the trip in roomy and cool comfort (The Colonel's truck has been without functioning A/C for a couple of years now and the leg room in back has gotten less "roomy" in proportion to the increase of Yam and Spud's ages).

Move-in day we were up at 5:45 AM. DSIL was up with us and offered to make us a hot breakfast. We told her we appreciated the offer but that we would get something on the road and that she needed to get back to bed. She had come home around 1:00 AM that morning from a work-related trip.

After our goodbyes, we stopped in at McDonald's for a quick breakfast and hit the road for the second half of our trip up to Jacksonville and UNF.

We arrived on campus around 9:30 AM. We pulled into the crowded parking lot of Spud's summer dorm, making sure not to run over students and their parents who were shuttling their things from car to dorm. We noticed that many students were using a big cardboard box atop a little dollie to shuttle their belongings. The dorm had supplied them, but the number was finite. They were all in use by the time we arrived.

After safely parking, we followed Spud into the dorm complex which looks like a huge luxury hotel (with a "Lazy River" and a swimming pool in back). We walked into the large, crowed atrium. There was a very long line of students and parents with cardboard box-dollies that started in the atrium, ran down a long hall before terminating at three elevators.

Spud's room was on the fifth floor, the uppermost floor. He had to check-in up there first and get his room key. All elevators were busy, so we climbed the five flights of stairs and Spud checked in.

With key in hand, we went to Spud's room. He has his own private bedroom, but he and his three roommates share two bathrooms and a kitchen area. His bedroom is a nice size with a bed, desk and chair, and a chest of drawers with a wire shelf and hanging unit above (not shown in the picture, but is just around the corner from the door).

After checking out the new digs, it was time to start bringing Spud's things in from the vehicle. There still were no cardboard box-dollies available and the line to the elevators was still very long so we would have to carry things up the five flights of stairs by hand.

We made three trips up to the room. Thank goodness Spud did not have too much stuff and the boxes were not overly heavy or cumbersome. When it came time to bring Spud's fridge to his room there was a dollie available. Thank God, because it was a bit heavy and awkward for us (The Colonel and Spud) to carry up five flights of stairs.

We didn't help Spud set up his room. I think that is part of the fun of the whole experience...setting up your room the way you see fit...plus it gave him something to do once we left him.

Before we left, we visited the campus bookstore where Spud picked up a book for one of his summer classes and to do a little shopping for G-Pa and G-Ma (they were feeding Charlotte and Shadow, our outdoor cats, while we were gone) and then we ate lunch at the student union before finally taking a tour of the campus, so that Yam could see where Spud would be going to school.

We said our goodbyes with kisses and hugs and then began the long drive back home. During the drive I would look at the clock on the dashboard to see what time it was and I would wonder what Spud was doing just then. A few times I got a little twinge of sadness, knowing that my baby was being left behind with many miles between us.

We got a call from Spud the next day. He said he had a good first day of class and that he liked his professors. He also said that on his floor of the dorm there are only eight guys and the rest were girls. "That's nice", he said.

And so begins Spud's life as a college student.