Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rainy Weekend and Scrapbooking

I'm officially only three years behind on my scrapbooking! Hooray! I LOVE scrapbooking, and once I start it is hard for me to stop. I'm not actually 3 years total behind (I have scrapped some here and there events since then), but these are from 2008--a water park playdate and Sporty Spice at his art class. I have taken a vow this year and plan to stick to it to the very best of my ability: not to buy a single craft supply this year unless I absolutely have to have it to complete a very specific project. It's going well. I'm doing this because I have a LOT of craft supplies (a sick, unhealthy amount of craft supplies--the word hoarding is on the tip of my tongue). This weekend is the big Scrapbook Expo I have so enjoyed going to in years past. But instead of going this year, I instead took out some of the page kits I bought four years ago and haven't had time to use! (Sick, I tell you.)
The weather has been crazy this weekend and I am so lucky I had the flexibility this week, upon seeing the weather forecast, to switch up some of my training days. So I got my long ride and my interval ride in the bank before the real rain started. Did my interval run on the treadmill lastnight (a first for me, I think) and look pretty doomed to a two hour treadmill at the gym this afternoon. This is the first week of Build weeks, and with the volume coming down, it feels so oddly...I don't know, moderate? It's weird, and I'm almost having difficulty adjusting to it. I have forgotten how to do anything "half way", so to speak. But it's good.

My Dirty Little Secret

I have admitted to my crafting addiction.
I have been forthcoming with my un-natural attachment to triathlon.
I think it's time to come out about my "cat thing".

Quite simply, my "other passion" is for cats, namely feral cats and Trap-Neuter-Return.

What is a feral cat, exactly?
A feral cat is what some people might call a "stray" cat or an "alley cat". A truly feral cat is the result of a once domestic un-fixed cat...and at least one irresponsible human. The domestic cat is either lost or abandoned and it, and/or its offspring have reverted to a feral state, not knowing the love of or trusting a human. They eek out a survivial as best they can wherever they are, but left un-fixed, are able to reproduce up to four times a year (as are those offspring!) as early as four months of age. Not being easy to approach or catch, breeding goes unchecked. Overpopulation continues and suffering needlessly ensues. If these cats are taken to an animal shelter, they cannot be re-homed (unless they are caught at a very young age and rehabilitated) and are killed.

What is Trap-Neuter-Return?
TNR is the humane alternative. All of the cats in a group (called a colony) are humanely trapped, taken to a veterinarian for spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations and ear-tipping (a universal symbol indicating they have been neutered). Then they are returned to their home territory (where they were found) and a person (caretaker) assumes responsibility for providing them with food, water, shelter and monitoring for any newcomers to the colony.

Why is TNR the answer?
The bottom line, and what I tell people, is that when you encounter a feral cat or group of feral cats, there are simply 3 options.
ONE: Do nothing. Turn a blind eye and hope the problem will get taken care of somehow or just go away. Unfortunately, this option just results in unchecked breeding, and a problem that grows exponentially, with all of it's ensuing suffering, fast.
TWO: Trap-and-Kill, the traditional means of controlling feral cat populations. Trap them, take them to a shelter to be killed, and think your problem has been eradicated. Wrong. I have now seen it in action. Invariably, one or two cats will be left behind. They now have even more of whatever resources led the cats to this spot in the first place. And nature doesn't like a vaccuum, so these leftover cats will start to have even larger, healthier litters until the void is filled. Also, there is now room/resources for un-fixed cats from down the street to join in. So the colony will very quickly return right back to the number it started at.
THREE: Trap-Neuter-Return. Once the majority of the cats in a colony (and hopefully all of them) are fixed, the colony number stabilizes. The annoyance behaviors associated with mating (roaming, howling, spraying) disappear, the cats become healthier, there are no new kittens and the colony itself becomes a more cohesive unit, showing more assertion to it's territory, limiting un-fixed newcomers from this space. With the compassion of a caretaker, these cats are allowed to live their lives with quality and over the years, the number gradually dwindle naturally and the colony eventually disappears. It is the difference between life and a horrible terrifying death in a shelter for these cats, who are no different than our own pets.

And THAT, my friends, is how I came to start my spay-neuter program, Tri Valley Fix our Ferals ( Every 8 weeks I recruit about 10 veterinarians and about 40 volunteers and we borrow the clinic facilty at our local SPCA. We bring every last supply we will need, down to our own drugs, surgical instruments, autoclaves, needles, cottonballs, whatever we will need--and we fix about 80 or 90 feral cats that day brought in by concerned cat lovers who have trapped them for the clinic day. These cats lives are changed and improved immediately that day, and UNTOLD numbers of kittens are prevented. We just fixed our 2000 th cat. The math is mind boggling.

Now, back to my cute picture up there. These two kittens, and another young black adult male I found while stopping to pee behind a bush on a bike ride up near our mountain house last month. So, last weekend, I shlepped up 3 traps, headed from our house down the mountain at 4:00am both mornings, set my traps, and waited.....I got em! ( I swear, I should take up fishing.) Brought em home and they were all fixed on Friday. Now, the only other thing about Trap-Neuter-Return: if the cats look at all like they are going to be able to be socialized (which is a ton of work, I might add, and a very imprecise science based completely on the personality of each cat), you always TRY not to have to put them back if you think you have any shot at all at giving them a life somewhere as a domestic, loved, pet cat with his or her own human. This little siamese cross (he's a boy) is a total muffin and will have no problem. The black adult male is actually showing huge promise as well. This black and white one is a pistol! But I'm not giving up yet. So, if you know of any potential homes, I will be hot on the trail very soon for some and a little stressed out that I cannot absorb even one more here.

Besides my early morning trapping adventure, we had a wonderful day at Bear Valley Cross Country skiing...and I got to use my Skate Skis! I hadn't been able to do that since breaking my leg and was so pleasantly surprised that I could do it. The break being on the far right side of my right tibia at the knee, I was somewhat doubtful if that scar tissue would ever break up to the point of me being able to make the skate-ski motion again. So great!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What a Week

Last week was unbelievable. I thought I'd give a little narrative of the week of an animal rescue person/mother/triathlete. It was one of "those weeks". To help sort out training stress and life stress, I'll put training notes in italics.

Sunday, Feb. 27:
Clinic Day. Exhausting as always. We safely fixed 83 cats and it went really well. More on the clinics later, hopefully, but for now you can visit

Monday, Feb. 28:
Up at 5am, stretched and hit the pool. I'm on the third of three "on" weeks and am aiming to do what any trainer or coach in their right mind would say not to do: I'm going to make up 7 hours of training I missed last week before the clinic in addition to my planned 15.5 hours for this week. I know it's stupid, but I've done it before, and it works for me. Not the preferred plan, but it works.
I was scheduled to work in Sporty Spice's kindergarten class for the morning. I enjoyed it as always, but was there longer than I had planned and missed my Pilates class.
Related to training, I went home and did some cooking of some basic good foods, squash, quinuoa, to eat all week to stay on track.

Tuesday, March 1:
Rode, a 50 mile Palomares loop with a half hour transition run. Then hit the gym for weights.

My neighbor does dog rescue. She asked us to do an emergency foster for an 8 month old chihuahua corgi cross. Sounded easy enough. So she brings the dog down that night, and I'm quickly figuring out she may have had a "bit" of wine before coming over. The puppy is as cute as can be and is frolicking with Sporty and our was beautiful....for about 15 minutes until the dog went full-Cujo. And never turned back. So there we were at about 9:30 pm, with an inebriated rescue woman, a vicious chihuahua and a screaming six year old in my house. We finally coralled the dog and said rescue woman took her back home (at last report the dog is actually shaping up well with a lot of work with a trainer).

Wednesday, March 2:
Swam--speed workout.
Dropped off one cat at the vet for an ekg.
Hit the gym for an hour on treadmill and weights.
Picked up Sporty and got him to swim lesson.
Emailing back and forth with rescue group regarding three feral cats I saw near our mountain house and a plan for trapping and fixing them.

Thursday, March 3:
Wake up and start making Sporty's lunch and checking his book bag, where I find a letter from the school. This one I'm going to have to save for his scrapbook because I'm sure some day we'll laugh at it. He has been recommended for "The Rainbow Room", a "special place for kids going through stressful times" (like a divorce or big move...huh? animal rescue? ironman training?) where they will give him a "special friend"...who just happens to have a PhD at the end of their name.
Swam (drills)
made up Pilates class
Rode trainer one hour with tempo work
Half hour transition run
Picked up my "new cat" (hooray, I didn't have enough cats!) . Sporty's kindergarten teacher is moving and cannot take her 12 year old cat who has been having some medical problems. Welcome Princess Nephretite! Set her up in a cage for now and was up until 9pm doing animal chores.

Friday, March 4: (thank goodness)
Got up at 5, stretched, and did my long swim--2600 yards.
Came home and after animal chores, rode my bike allll the way to the tippy top of Mt. Diablo (including the last grade to the top parking lot--oh, yes, indeedy.) Very proud, as this is the first time since breaking my leg.
Picked up Sporty, grabbed a urine sample from one of the cats, and boxed up Princess Nephretite for a vet checkup. She turned up hyperthyroid. Translation: medications and then considering radioactive iodine therapy (I'll cross that bridge in a few weeks). On the way home, I go to the bank to make the clinic deposit and come to find out the bank has cancelled my clinic credit card as they have a new policy and I need a business-card. Hmmm. I get back to the car and my cell phone is ringing and it is the phonescreener team telling me the phoneline has already been shut down. (It got resolved, but not until Monday.) Raced to Target to get a birthday party present for a six year old.

Saturday, March 5:
Brushed out one of the bunnies, trying to be responsible, and put a hole in him, from which he is now recovering nicely.
Rode out Calaveras Rd. for a total of about 50 miles round trip; did a 10 minute transition run.

Sunday, March 6:
Had planned to do a 3 hour trail run but it was raining, I was tired, and I had a ton of loose ends from last weekend's clinic to wrap up--did the run the following day.

Bring on the rest week!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Last Christmas Crafts....I swear!

But first, my one Valentine's Day craft that actually got finished. I got these chipboard heart albums on a craft store clearance aisle last year..for 39 cents a piece. Score. I made several of them, a couple for teachers' gifts and a couple more for a friend and myself.
I just couldn't let go of my Christmas crafts I had planned. These little clay-snowman boxes had been on my to-do list for a couple of years, ever since I saw them during the annual Jolie Paquet ( holiday web craft-fest.

And speaking of Jolie Paquet, my wonderful friend Amy ( gifted me with this wonderful scrapbook kit at Christmas on our first meeting this past holiday. It too was from Jolie Paquet. I had such fun putting it together.

And lastly, my "sock-snowmen"! Copied from an idea I saw in an old Mary Englebreit magazine from years ago. Until next year...Happy Holidays!