It's funny how it's always the tiniest things that have the strongest grip on your heart.
Tigerlily came into my life on Saturday, 14th August, when I was at the SPCA shelter.
It was late in the afternoon, and the staff and vets have gone home. I had finished bathing and tickwashing the dogs in Kennels D and E and was in the midst of cleaning and disinfecting the cat enclosures in the front area when a lady and her son came to our gates to surrender an orphaned stray kitten that they found at the roadside the same morning.
The kitten was a tiny calico which appeared to be around 1 - 2 weeks old. The lady had the best of intentions when she prepared a saucer of milk for the kitten, but of course the kitten was too little to lap and unable to digest processed cow's milk meant for human children. The lady was at her wit's end and finally surrendered the kitten to the SPCA in the evening, either to be put to sleep or to be put up for adoption.
I took one look at the kitten and was smitten. I made an immediate decision to foster her. I took down the lady's particulars and issued her an official receipt for the donation she made to the shelter, and hurried through the rest of the cleaning in order to bring my latest ward home. I decided to name her Tigerlily on impulse (both because she looks like a tiger cub and because we're into rock stars and their offspring at the moment).
It has been a week of satisfactory progress, where Tigerlily is concerned. Tigerlily is growing stronger on Kitten Milk Replacer, Hartz Cat Vitamins and Benebac and has been eliminating waste on cue. She doesn't cry as much as she did on the first day anymore, as she is no longer hungry and cold. I have been bringing Tigerlily with me wherever I go in order that I may attend to her needs and feed her every 2-3 hours.
Bringing Tigerlily to work wasn't the challenge I had thought it would be. Many of my colleagues have fostered young animals at the office before and management seems to be quite blase about it by now. I hid Tigerlily's carrier in the guardhouse with our distractingly handsome Nepali security guards, who were very obliging and informed me that they "also very much love cats".
I would make or warm up a portion of milk every 2-3 hours and go out to the guardhouse to bottle-feed Tigerlily and clean her up with toilet paper and warm water. At 1700 hrs each day, after official work hours, I would bring Tigerlily in her carrier into my cubicle, where I could keep a constant eye on her and respond to her requests for more milk or a cuddle.
Conventional wisdom would have one believe that having a kitten in one's office would naturally reduce productivity at work. On the contrary, knowing that Tigerlily depended on me for comfort, warmth and sustenance motivated me to work faster and better as I now had new goals. "Hang in there, Tigerlily", I'd say. "I've give you your next feed as soon as I complete drafting this particular report".
Tigerlily having her fill of milk in my office.
Tigerlily loves me right back!
In the days before I had Tigerlily in the office with me, I would fritter away time talking trash with my colleagues and watching appalling and pointless videos on YouTube such as "Banglar King Kong" in the evenings. Now my workmates crowd around me and watch me feed Tigerlily instead, and offer me things like toys that Tigerlily has no use for, or make unhelpful observations such as "She is so tiny" or "She looks fragile". Gee, thank you, Captain Obvious! Tigerlily is two weeks old -- what do you expect?
I hope that Tigerlily will continue to grow stronger and healthier and that I will be able to find her a good home in 3-4 months. I hope to rehome her with friends in order that I will still be able to visit her and play with her, or have her board with me during the holidays. That Special Someone has been an amazing pillar of strength to me and I have him to thank for all his guidance on bottlefeeding and caring for orphaned young animals.
Tigerlily aside, my days are packed with work, social and volunteer commitments. Now that I am the Vice Chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society (Selangor Branch), I have to devote a certain amount of time each month to administrative matters, drafting letters, reviewing policies and papers and plowing through academic papers and journals.
Also, my proposal to conduct a periodic volunteer induction programme at the SPCA for new volunteers went down really well with the secretariat and committee.
Here are the objectives I listed for the programme:
1. To encourage more members of the public, especially young professionals and college/ university grads/undergrads, to volunteer with the SPCA.
2. To build up a pool of volunteers with expertise and abilities in different fields, and to capitalise on their strengths and interests.
3. To create a network of support for the SPCA.
4. To help animal-lovers develop animal care skills in order that they may pursue their own rescue and fostering initiatives in future, thus benefiting a larger number of needy animals and reducing the burden on SPCA's resources.
During a recent discussion with one of the SPCA officers, I tried to put forward my arguments in favour of getting volunteers to do hands-on feeding, bathing and cleaning work. However, the said officer believed that volunteers shouldn't have to get their hands dirty doing hands-on work. In my proposal, I held forth on my reasons why I wanted hands-on work to be part of the induction programme:
1. It is precisely because new volunteers are not allowed or encouraged to do real work such as bathing dogs and cleaning kennels and catteries that they feel their services are not needed and they do not return.
2. (In relation to safety concerns:) All volunteers have the potential to handle even difficult or aggressive dogs and cats, and treat minor injuries and ailments, provided we equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to do it.
3. Volunteers need to know that everything they do helps animals directly. A clean shelter helps improve the health and safety of animals, and increases the animals' chances of adoption, i.e. visitors stay longer if a shelter is clean and pleasant-smelling.
4. Volunteers need to know that everything they do changes lives permanently. As an illustration of this, I refer to the time Reve and I gave a long-haired black mongrel a haircut and a bath. The dog had been in the shelter for months. Within 10 minutes of bathing and grooming the dog, someone took a shine to him and adopted him. So volunteers create chances.
5. There is no shame in doing hands-on work. It keeps us grounded and aware of what is going on in the lives of the animals and helps us develop analytical and practical skills that we can't acquire through reading/observation alone.
6. Doing hands-on work helps volunteers develop the skills and confidence needed to be fosterers and rescuers in future. Volunteers who are never encouraged to clean cages will feel squeamish about the idea of cleaning out the cages and litter trays of animals that they intend to foster and may begin to believe that they will not be able to 'cope with the work'. Hands-on volunteering will provide them with sufficient practice and confidence.
The committee and officers recognised the merit in my argument and plans are now under way to draw up a volunteer induction SOP. Things seem to be going really well so far at work, MNS and SPCA.
Sometimes, though, my delusions of invincibility are tampered by reality. I had a little health scare recently. I underwent my annual medical examination yesterday and learned that my blood pressure, at 130 over 90, is a little on the high side. I was aggrieved and indignant. I don't know what I have done to deserve high blood pressure. After all, I don't smoke, drink, eat meat or live with my parents. Why should I have high blood pressure? My colleagues averred that they had the answers:
"Because you're always drinking coffee or Red Bull."
"Because you eat fries and chips almost every day."
"Because you're not getting enough rest."
"Because you work too late".
"Because you have too many things on your schedule."
"Because you're always running from one activity to another".
Their candor would be appreciated if only it weren't so painfully accurate. I acknowledge that I have to start taking better care of my health. And it begins with running around the neighbourhood park for half an hour every evening when I get home from work, without taking a break for ice cream or thosai.
The reason for my sudden determination to exercise is not due to any alarmist concern over my health, which seems okay to me for the time being, thank you very much. It is that I have just registered to participate in the Malaysian Nature Society Post-AGM full hike up Gunung Ledang in September, despite the fact that I am out of shape and in no state to complete a 14-hour hike up a 1,276 metre-high mountain. Guess it's time for me to oil those joints and get those muscles in gear. The road beckons. So long, until we meet in cyberspace again!