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Apr. 14th, 2008

FRANKIE
 

A lady in south Florida arranged for her cats to come to Caboodle Ranch. She is moving in with her daughter, health issues making it difficult to live on her own.  She wants her cats to have a nice home. I have put them all together in an outdoor kennel.  It was still cold and I put heaters and tarping in the kennels to keep them warm, and beds of straw. The sides were wrapped in tarps to make it cozy for them.

 I was glad the warmer weather arrives, 2 months had passed. I gotten to know them all. I took down their tarps so they could get a better feel for their new surroundings. There were depressions in the straw where their little bodies slept. A few days later I opened the gates, and left it open so they could come and go as they wished.  I was a little concerned about 3 legged Frankie. An orange and white male, real sweet. I considered putting him in my place but he seemed happy at the kennel.  Frankie lays in his favorite place, I felt he’d be okay.  Evelyn calls once in awhile, missing her cats. I keep her filled in, so now her family is fine.

I went up one morning , no Frankie. I called, nothing.  No sign of him, I walked through the woods, still  nothing. Upsetting.  I should have put him in my place. This mistake has cost him his life what will I tell Evelyn?  Still more days had passed, and no Frankie. I look at the little depression on the straw where Frankie had slept. Each morning, I seemed to hold my breath, hoping he would be back, but no.  Five days had passed, he’s gone, dead I guess.  A rancher across the street had been losing a calf a week to the coyotes.  He had gotten some donkeys and they had killed more than 22 coyotes which was good news to me.  No wonder it had been so quiet at night.  Just still a few around.  I shook my head , disgusted with myself.

It’s my 60th birthday, I am getting ready to go out to dinner with family and friends. Evelyn calls, I tell her I will have to call her back, I was running late. God, what will I say. I ate at Texas Roadhouse and had the 36 oz sirloin and ate it all, had a few glasses of wine.  Once back at the ranch, well after midnight, I topped off feeders so cats wouldn’t be pounding at the door in the morning.

I got up to the kennel, and there’s Frankie!!! Back in his spot!! I grabbed him and gave him the biggest hug!  I held him so close to my chest and a tight hold for the walk back to my place.  Partway back, I tripped over a root falling hard to the ground, but not on Frankie. I felt a little stunned, still holding on to Frankie.

I laughed out loud.  60…I have fallen and can’t get up!  Maybe it was the drinks.  Frankie bedded down in my place feeling at home, answers to his name. All is fine, one happy birthday.

 

Ratcat                                                        April 6, 2008                                  


Dirty Rat escaped from the kennel, built special for the Texans, which had arrived from an awful 3 day trip in pet taxis. They were well cared for but had crap covered tails. I saw a streak from a tail that one dirty rat had made where she escaped , it was between the top of the fence and the aluminum roof.  The Dirty Rat greeted me, with a smile from ear to ear. I put her in another kennel, but why, she’s going to stick around I guess.  The other Texans were content, the fresh air must be great after 3 days in a van.  I was down in camp, the little Rat shows up. She’s young, orange, long haired, well used to be, before the crap. I am surprised she found her way to camp! Later I am in my place, she’s on my steps! I brought her in, put her on the shelf, she works on cleaning herself as I get ready for bed. She’s in for the night, the other cats don’t bother her.  In the morning, she’s out again, she’s in the office, she’s in the receiving center, she’s everywhere. Wherever I am, she’s there.  Little Rat cat, a new friend. Few nights she slept in the office , she sleeps in the kennel, she sleeps around. She joins me for coffee and doughnuts, and I couldn’t believe she was drinking my coffee. A tough Texan to be sure. Today it was raining, she’s in the office on the table, with a dozen others, snoozing away. I managed to clip some of the crap from the fur, I even turned her over and she let me get the underside.  She’s a clever, smart and funny girl. The Texans are all unusually friendly and special bunch.

 

 

Hear No Evil, See No Evil:                                                                                


I told you of Big Eyes, my riding companion who can’t hear. We went to Bike Week in Daytona last week. I carried him along Main Street, lined with bikes and wall to wall people. What’s funny, is when we stood on the sidewalk, watching the parade of passing bikes, his head would turn, to watch each bike pass. Sometime his head would turn and the big eyes would look up at me, as if to say “did you see that one?”  People took our pictures, vendors offered him meat, he was so relaxed in my arms.  We got back to the ranch at 2:30am, after a three hour ride.  We were both exhausted.  I tucked in Big Eyes and went about my chores.

 

See no Evil is not a pleasant story. This chocolate Siamese, here last than a month, sat in an open cage. He acknowledged me, I took him out and sat him on the floor. I had no idea he couldn’t see, one eye was missing. He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t drinking, I gave him fluids, but he wasn’t sick. I sat by the lake with him, he laid down in the grass next to me.  I looked at the other eye and the pupil was bigger than a dime.  Realizing he couldn’t see at all.  He had walked into several cats.  How sad I thought.  He spends his time in an outdoor cage in the yard. I call him the Inspector, it seems to fit him. He gets a lot of special attention and love. He  doesn’t seem to have much of a life, but at the ranch he does have life. 

 

Missing Peppy Le Pew                                                March 15, 2008  

My Peppy, like a beautiful person, was a beautiful cat, full of feeling. A gorgeous Burmese cat with amazing blue eyes. You could see it in his beautiful eyes. He last slept with me on a sat night.  There wasn’t a night that he wouldn’t come in and lay down with me, for a few hours.  When I walk up a trail, he would come out of the woods and join me. I’d say “Peppy!”. The tail would shoot straight up and he would trot up to me. There was no Peppy  Sunday or Monday.  I called, but nothing. 

After chores, on Monday, I went out thru the woods calling.  I was greeted by a black cat who was lost, after escaping from a cage which was left unlatched a week before.  This cat followed me about for awhile.  Finally, I picked her up and headed back to camp.  And back into his cage he went.  I didn’t feel much like working on projects, something is wrong. 

The next afternoon I headed out again., The last thing I wanted was cats following me. The next thing I know 14 cat are following me hearing me call for Peppy.  A couple were  kittens, a few were cats that don’t have much to do with me. Bear was there to help comfort me.  I laid down in a blanket of chestnut colored pine needles. The woods as beautiful as it is can be so deadly.  In pain, I wanted to scream out “Peppy!” I did. I got a moment of relief, like that would help.   But reality had a grip on me and my stomach was twisted in knots.  I wanted to just lay down and stay right there.  But I continued zigzagging, covering many acres, beyond my property. 14 followed me, making their way thru thick bush which was tough for me to get through. No Peppy, nothing. How could this be, he’d been with me five years, he knew these woods as well as I. 

I had to get back to work on the kennels, for some cats that would be arriving soon.  All my motivating seemed to be gone, I was being pulled down over the next few days. I went off for few more days, hoping to find Peppy, feeling so hopeless.  Another week had passed.  I found Peppys decomposing body in a make shift little shelter lying on a bed of straw.  I don’t know why she couldn’t make it home, I don’t know how she died. She appeared to have wounds  to her head.  I buried Peppy in front of a new monument. Touching her body wrapped in plastic, one last time.  So often I have been to funerals and have seen people touch the body of a loved one.  Never giving it any thought to why they would touch them. But some how I realized that it was last time they would touch that body . So I buried Peppy and I said “I will see you again”. It was because of you guys that I built this place. And I’m not done, you can’t leave.  Peppy’s death continued to trouble me. The beauty of Caboodle Ranch was gone.

After a few weeks while walking up to the kennels, a deadly rattle snake was coiled and ready to strike at me. I took out my 44 handgun, firing a single shot,  putting a bullet between his teeth  .  A few near by cats that were almost in harms way, levitated off the ground at the sound of the shot.  Examining the snake, the snake had 7 rattles and was 40 inches long.  That’s how my Peppy died.  Peppy must have suffered a horrible death. Life goes on at the ranch and things are a lot safer. Freedom can come at terrible price. Their worst enemy is still man, which I manage to keep them from.

 

 

The Two Bears                                                                                          

People visiting the ranch have been greeted by a cat named Bear.  He’s quick to win hearts following us on the tour of the ranch.  We have written about Bear in the past now there’s  a new Bear in town and we call it the ‘Bear Show’.  What’s really neat is they both have the same personality and they both look alike, even with the one collapsed ear but on opposite sides.  When they face eachother Bear must think he’s looking in the mirror.  They both join me for coffee and doughnuts at the lake and seem to hang around together, butting heads and sleeping  together. So when you come to visit the ranch you will see the Bear show!

 

One Little One                                                                                         

I went up to the kennels one morning and  saw one little one. A little tuxedo cat running from me,  right into the fence of the kennel.  This little cat was released from the hotdog stand about a month ago and makes her home up the back.  It wasn’t until she ran into a few bushes that I knew she was in trouble and couldn’t see.  I went to camp and grabbed the fish net and spotted her again in the brush.. The chase was on.  The poor cat just kept running into things and even fell into a turtle hole.  We were both tangled up in the brush. 

I thought she’d be impossible to catch.  Once we got into open trail, she appeared to be using more caution which slowed her down enabling me to finally net her.  She was viscous under the fish net, all I saw was teeth.  I just didn’t know how to handle her and how to begin to pick her up. So I took my shirt off and wrapped it around her, and picked her up still in the fish net.  I had a real death grip on her as I made my way to the receiving center.

I was able to get her in a cage where I let her calm down.  I completed some of my chores and went back to check on her.  I reached in the cage grabbing her by the scruff. She was hissing at me but couldn’t see.  I peeled the crust off her eyes and nose and she seemed happier to be able to breath again but she still couldn’t see. I gave her some meds right away and  ointment for her  eyes and gave her an IV and fed her. She was at least for now safe and must have felt a lot better.   I kept a close eye on her over the next 4- 5 days.  Finally on the 3rd day, I began to see her eyeballs, the red inflammation was clearing up  .

 I was so worried she wouldn’t be able to see again. And her nose is clearing up too. I expect a full recovery. She has gotten used to me now, the once feral cat is now my friend, this one little one. 

 

Garage Kitty                                                                                                       

This kitty came to me from St. Augustine. His owner had passed away and he wasn’t well cared for, being alone in an empty house and fed every 3 days.  He looked pretty underfed.  The cat was placed in a cage in the receiving center for about 4 weeks. He had a bit of a mean streak in him.  I finally decided it was best for the both of us to let him out of his cage. He hung around the receiving center and started putting on weight. He appears to have some problem with his gums and drools. He needs to have moist food everyday, but he is getting along very well now, he has even started making friends. Today he purred for the very first time, and likes to be scratched behind his ears.  He has had a tough life but he has been given a second chance at the ranch.

 

 

Wobbles                                                                                                             

Wobbles is a wonderful little girl. She copes with her disabilities very well. Having neurological problems she walks all over the place and often falls but that doesn’t stop her from running and playing.  Wobbles became pregnant, which was amazing.  She turned out to be the most amazing mama cat. When she was close to giving birth, she followed me everywhere, talking my ear off.  I got a large kennel ready for her to have her babies in with a new bed. She made her little nest and on the next morning, my birthday, she had four little ones!  When checking on her newborns, I noticed they were in a big pile. Turns out the umbilical cords were tangled and the babies were in knots. My assistant and I took them to the office and carefully snipped away the cords one by one until each baby was free.  In the time it took us to walk the trail to the office and help the babies, Wobbles was at our feet climbing up worried for her little ones. And considering how she walks, it was no small feat to get there that fast. The babies and mama were put back together and they started nursing right away. Wobbles sighed and nestled her little ones.

 

Wanna-be Cowboy:                                                                                         
That’s me.  I’ve always loved western movies. Grew up watching Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger. I also watched the old black and white westerns that came up on TV just before Captain Kangaroo.  When the Beatles era hit,  cowboy boots were in, they had a sloping heal.  I had a black pair in a half boot.  I kept them hidden at a friend’s house and would change shoes on the way to school, my dad wouldn’t allow me to have them.

 

 Late 60’s, I went into the Navy, while in boot camp I went to a movie downtown Chicago.  The Good, Bad and The Ugly was playing, Clint Eastwood became my hero.  I loved the sound of the gunfire which had changed from earlier westerns.  I had settled down into a family life, raising three children, twenty years seemed to fly by.  I had an opportunity to drive a U-haul truck for someone to Tennessee.  I just happened to take a break getting off an exit in Nashville.  I stopped in a little country diner, cowboys were eating.  I’m from the north, no cowboys, no country music. It was the late 80’s by now.  When I left the diner, the cowboys walking down the street only needed side arms and this would have been a real live western.  They went into a store that had sold western wear.  I went in and I was like a kid in a candy store.  I bought boots and a big trench coat called a duster.  I just needed a horse.

I was told about Opry Land Hotel, so I stopped by on my way out. There were well dressed gentlemen in Western and business suits, boots and hats. I’d never seen anything like this.  Back in Rhode Island, I wore my new outfit including my duster. It wasn’t cold out yet but I felt good.  I think people just laughed.

Just before this whole thing started, I was hitting the club scene at night.  I went to a place called Crazy Horse. This is where I first heard the term ‘want-a-be cowboy’, yeah, that’s me.  I took line dancing. I saw guys dancing with pretty dolls in western wear.  This place felt right.

Soon I had a few cats at home, a few more, and a few more. I had to move. I started with five acres then ten and so on.  Over ten acres is considered a small ranch in Florida.  My daughter Cindy gave me a cowboy hat as a gift and I purchased boots. She also named the ranch ‘Caboodle Ranch’. My son Rob gave me a shot gun for snakes and some protection. I found a beautiful cowboy gun, a 44 cal revolver. My son let me borrow his leather holster which I lined with bullets. I strapped on the holster, put on my hat, walked down the dirt road out front (I’m the cowboy living that dream).

Maybe someday I’ll have my horse, but for now, I have my hands full tending to my herd. The cats lead me to a better life. I can pretend to be this cowboy and live this dream.  You can laugh now, I don’t care.