Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Funkengroovin Wednesday Not! - I'm A Loser!

I'm a loser, haha, two times now. (1) I submitted a photo essay to the National Geographic Photo Contest, and I lost! (Sorry I don't know any monks from Nepal. Why are monks so popular anyway?) Sorry for the non- Funkengroovin Wednesday post, but (2) I had difficulties with the photos I loaded. A couple of weeks ago Blogger (not me - the Internet program) had a problem with enlarging photos. Well, it didn't end there. There were also problems with the photos that were uploaded during that time period. You know like the "Would You Buy This Truck" post. Since I had gone through my links, and then the photos, which weren't working late last night, I just gave up. Give Vagabondblogger a break - It's Christmas, or Eid, or Hanukkah, for God's sake! The holidays warrant a drippy story, and this is just one of millions and billions. I will reload the photos (and the truck ones too) in a day or two, and post a belated Funkengroovin post. Ergo, I am posting my pathetic, sappy, embarrassingly lame photo submission for a diversion.

So, here it is "The Story" I submitted to National Geographic: (As usual click on the photos for a larger view, and descriptions are below the photos.)

While at a souvenir shop in Cairo, Egypt, I asked to see several of the cat statuettes. The elderly shop owner said, “Misses please do not call them cats. It is disrespectful. They are Bastet! The goddess of pleasure, joy and dance.” I told him of: how I was a dog lover, how my dog had passed away in Cairo a few months earlier, and how I was getting a new puppy to bring back with me. He retorted, “please, please don’t get a new dog. Loosing something so important in your life leaves a great hole in your heart. If you bring another puppy here, you will loose it too, and you will have another hole.”

Two weeks before my dog passed away, a young feral cat showed up on the porch ("The Golden Boy"), and much like the tale of The Three Bears, stole my chair. He had been hanging around the apartment building, near the garbage can, but eventually found my private little niche on the side porch. As I was about to clean out the dog food bin, I thought, instead of throwing it out, the young cat might appreciate it. At first I dropped handfuls on the porch, then eventually fed him from plastic bowls, calling him to the front porch with a "psst." Our secret relationship lasted about two weeks. The message had gone out to the neighborhood ferals, "new feeding station now open for business." One thing led to another, and as I got to know him, I learned more about the feral cats in my neighborhood, of their personalities, and how they survive in Cairo. It might be just another feeding hole to them, but for me, it has been a healing experience.

King of the Porch
The Golden Boy in all his glory, sleeping on my chair. A non-aggressive cat, flight before fight type, he survives by evasion.

Golden Boy’s pregnant girlfriend started to show up for feedings too, always bumping heads when they met. Still a small kitten herself, with all the markings of a roughed up street cat, she’s the only cat who rubbed up against me, and allowed me to pet her. Patient and kind, until her pregnancy progressed, she has now disappeared.

The Bad Ass Cat
This one followed Girlfriend over then fence, into the yard. Afraid of nothing he seemed to have been around, seen it all, and is quite the whiner, albeit usually ignored by the others. He is not posing for me, but focusing on the cat lying underneath the car directly behind me.

Cat Fight
Immediately before the joust, a lot of caterwauling takes place. This garbage bin bully, who has become quite a nuisance, goes after every cat he encounters, and now confronts Bad Ass Cat. Pickings during Ramadan are slim during the day, and that's when this extremely aggressive cat arrived. Fighting is one danger, but the municipality sanctions the use of poisoned food, and shooting strays. A practice considered inhumane to The West, but common elsewhere in the world, it has become a local controversy, as of late.

Once the smell of food gets around, other cats start visiting too, including nursing moms. Some people provide food for the cats, but they are mostly expats, who come and go throughout a cat's lifetime. This mom hides out at a villa that had been a well-known source of food. That expat family has now moved on and the new family has chosen not to feed them.

Once trained, the kittens are literally abandoned, aggressively rejected, and Momma has actually resorted to violence as the young grey, whimpering, kitten approached her. This may be the feral cats' version of tough love. Unwanted, they care for each other. Here the bigger male, spoons with his sickly smaller sister, who cries constantly for her mother.

Blue Eyed Sex Maniac
When Mom goes into heat, all sorts of males show up (as if the food isn't enough of an invite.) Obviously not afraid of a human hiss, he stares, demanding lunch.

Eventually more pregnant cats come by, but are shocked when I show up to size up the feeding situation, sometimes inadvertently scaring them away. This one was quite startled.

Deep Thoughts
A far away gaze - perhaps wondering where he hid that feather he stole from me? A cat’s life in Cairo is a hard one. The Golden Boy has a moment of deep concentration, and I wonder what thoughts go through his head. He often sits by the screened doors, looking in (as if, with a bit of desire) and watches me, like we humans watch animals in a cage. He will enter the house, but only to investigate, and then scampers away.

The Come On:
The Golden Boy, at ease on the porch, has since become a helpful caretaker to the two abandoned kittens. Here he lays back, in his “come on, let’s play” pose. Although I realize we have a connection, we will never be able to live together. He will always be a feral-wild and independent, never a pet. But he has opened a new door for me, one of respect for cats, and most importantly, he is the bastet who helped close the hole in my heart.

As of this post, according to The Boss Man, The Golden Boy has not been seen for days. The two kittens are still around, but I will know more when I actually get back to Cairo in late January.

More information on Egypt's policy towards stray cats and dogs, as well as their slaughterhouse procedures from SPARE - Society of Protecting Animal Rights in Egypt:
Amina Abaza's Article in The Adelaide Advertiser Newspaper

The world may not be so wonderful right now, but we can always wish, dream, and hope.

What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

1 comment:

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