Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rusty the Golden Boy

 It was a Sunday May 19, I was actually going to light the prayer lamp at 7pm, but since I had only eaten a light lunch, I decided to get some dinner at the Chinese restaurant near my apartment. 

The square in which the restaurant is located, is familiar territory to me as I usually go there for my meals. That evening as I entered the square, I heard a cat meowing very loudly, I looked around, but there was no cat to be found. 

As I approached the restaurant, the meows got louder, it was then that I saw a little orange kitten sitting a few feet away from the restaurant, meowing at the top of his lungs. From the distance where I stood, he seemed fine, I assumed that he was probably looking for his mother who must be in the vicinity.

At this point, one of the restaurant workers came out and was about to kick the little fellow, but the kitten swiftly hopped down the stairs near the back of the restaurant. I went to the stairs and peered over the railing, I noticed two plastic bags at the bottom of the short flight of stairs, one had shredded meat, and the other water.

The kitten moved towards the plastic bag with the shreds of meat, and started eating. Looking at the food and water, I felt that the little fellow would be OK. So I entered the restaurant to have my meal. 

Before I left, out of curiosity I decided to have a peek at the little one, he was lapping up water from the other plastic bag, but would stop to stare each time someone passed by. 

He seemed rather small and lost, too young to be separated from his mom, or at least that’s what I thought. I toyed with the idea of bringing him back to my apartment, as the guards and residents were rather cat-friendly. One time they kept several young kittens in a box near the guard counter until they were old enough to venture out on their own. 

At this point the little one noticed me. He started to scurry up the steps towards me, as I didn’t have anything with me to carry him in, I decided to go back to the apartment to see if anyone had a box. I am not used to cats, and didn’t see myself carrying him in my arms for the walk back to the apartment.

But to this day I remember the look in his eyes as I walked away, he looked disappointed. There was something in that look that seemed to say that he needed to belong to someone. 

Once back at my apartment building I asked the guards if they had a box, they replied in the negative. I went upstairs and started looking around for something to carry him in. I even contemplated putting him in a pail! However as it was already 9-ish, I decided that it was not wise to venture out again that night. 

I decided to go look for the kitten the following day after work. On Monday, I left work at 4pm to go look for him. The plan was to see if he was still there, and if he was, I would hop over to Giant and get a nice spacious basket to ferry him in. 

When I went back to the area, he was nowhere to be found, however there was a fried fish with bones in a plastic container left at the same place. I looked around the whole square and the surrounding area, but no sign of him.

A big fried fish will not do for a kitten, so I went to the Giant supermarket and bought some kitten food, plastic containers and mineral water. I went back to the place I last saw him and left some food and water in the containers, in case he came back.

As I left, I wondered if someone had adopted him, but as I reached home, I started to feel a sense of guilt and discomfort, I remembered the way he looked at me the other night. Small and hopeful. 

For some reason I started to think of abandoned children, of how so many people I know desire children of their own. I also thought of how some children have everything from the moment they are born, called prince and princesses by their doting parents.

While on the other side of the divide there are those who have the odds stacked against them from birth. The little orphaned girl or boy who kneels by their bedside asking God to send them parents is not a myth. It is a reality. Sadly many of these children will never have their wishes fulfilled. 

Adoption is usually the last resort of most couples, after they have gone to great lengths to have a child of their own and finally decide that it is not a possibility. Somehow the little orphaned kitten got me thinking these profound thoughts, and I decided that I was going to go back and look for him again.

He’s Rusty

The next day when Kristene came to the office, she asked how’s Rusty? The day before I had told her of the little orange kitten who was the same colour as the orange-ish pavement near the restaurant.

That evening I went back to look for him again. There was no sign of him at the area where I left the food, though some of the food was scattered on the ground. I combed the whole area and was about to leave when I heard loud meowing, the sound seemed to be coming from the opposite end of the square. 

At the end of the square, there’s a corner where motorcycles are parked, he was crouched there, bawling his lungs out. Each time people passed by, he would come out from behind the bikes and meow piteously, when they left, he would go back and crouch.

Those who saw him expressed pity, but none stopped. So I went forward, and it was then in broad daylight that I realised he was rather skinny and had mange on his ears, forehead and above his eyes! I was not able to see this on Sunday night because of the dim lighting.

There was no way I could bring him back in that condition to my apartment as the other cats there might get infected. So I quickly brought the cat food from the earlier location. At least while he ate, I could go get the vet.

When I put the food before him, he ran forward and started eating. Luckily the Kelana Jaya Veterinary Clinic was just a short distance away. My plan was to get someone from the clinic help pick him up and board him for treatment.

When I reached the clinic, I spoke to the vet who happened to be at the counter. She immediately got her carrier and followed me. We walked the short distance back, and found that the kitten was back to crouching at the corner, but continued to meow loudly. 

The vet picked him up and said he was suffering from mange and was likely about two months old. She agreed to board him for the night after treatment, but said it was not advisable to board him at the clinic for the duration of the quarantine period – about two weeks plus.

As we walked back to the clinic, Rusty continued to meow loudly. The vet said he was probably very uncomfortable and distressed because of the itch. Back at the clinic I called Moon who said she would ask around if anyone would be willing to foster Rusty for a bit. I also called Kristene who said she would pass the word around. We have several animal friendly folks back at the office.

Rusty meanwhile continued to meow in distress, even when he was removed from the carrier and placed on the examination table. After his injection, he expressed his ire loud and clear and would not stop even after being patted and placed back in the carrier.

However after he was placed in his cage to be boarded for the night, he became quiet and looked rather reflective. As I left, he was gingerly sniffing at his food. 

Tired from all the walking back and forth, I went to Chayo which is next door to the restaurant where I found Rusty to have a quick bite. Moon got back to me with the good news that Suraya who runs Katzen Cat Sanctuary would be willing to board Rusty until he was better.

When I got home I called Suraya and we ironed out the details. She would pick him up in the morning and after work I would drop by the vet to settle the bill.

After picking him up, Suraya texted me to say she got him and that he was a noisy little kitty alright! A little while later, she texted to say that Rusty was all quiet and calm, content in his little box/cage at the sanctuary.

The orphaned and distressed kitten of a few days ago had found home and family. He had found contentment and soon he would show just what a personality he had!

Suraya kept me and Moon updated on Rusty’s progress. He recovered, was let out to play with the other cats, looking at this picture I presume he formed affectionate bonds.

 Later we got to know of Miracle, whose limb had to be amputated because of an untreated infection. Miracle nearly lost his life, hence his name. He survived, but as a result of the trauma he suffered, was rather quiet when he first arrived at the sanctuary.

The first time he was let out to play after his quarantine period.
 As Suraya tells us, Rusty who was by now a friendly rambunctious rascal soon got Miracle out of his shell. In Suraya’s words he turned “social worker” of sorts. To be honest, my interaction with this little fellow was minimal at best, but I was rather proud of him, he was “paying it forward”.

When I visited Katzen sometime after with Moon and Patreen, I almost did not recognise Rusty. He was soo…..different. A far cry from the skinny little kitten who meowed and meowed non-stop. He was mischievous and kept goading Miracle into a friendly tussle. More importantly, he seemed so happy!

Rusty was friendly and affectionate
 Suraya told me that finding a home for Rusty would not be easy, as it would have to be a truly loving family that would give him the best. However little did we know then, but Katzen Cat Sanctuary would be the only family that Rusty would know in his short life.

Even after our visit, Suraya kept us posted on Rusty via Facebook. We saw his aww…..so cute photos and learnt that he was one “manja” little boy. I assumed that in time he would be adopted. That however was not to be.

Rusty's favourite lepak sport is where people work.
 Last Tuesday (July 30) Suraya greeted me with the sad news that Rusty passed on in the early hours of the morning. He was suffering from a bout of flu.

When he got sick, he stopped eating and had to be force-fed. He seemed to be recovering on Monday. She put him in a carrier with the intention of bringing him home for some extra care. However when she checked on him, he was no longer breathing. Rusty was about four months old at the time of his passing.

Rusty a week before his passing. 
 Sad as I am at his passing, I realise that though Rusty lived a short life. He lived well despite his rough beginnings.

He had the best care, he was surrounded by family, he was a joy to those who knew him, especially Miracle.

The message Rusty brought

I am not an animal rescuer, to be honest I don’t even know how to handle them. Those who selflessly undertake rescue work would definitely have seen worst cases than Rusty. 

The night I saw Rusty I missed my evening prayers, little did I know that I was venturing out that night to learn two very important lessons.

The first is the spirit of community. If not for the help of those mentioned in this note. The happy life of little Rusty would not have been possible.

My heartfelt thanks to the vet who dropped everything and came with me to rescue Rusty; Moon and Kristene who made calls and scouted around for someone to foster Rusty and to Suraya who took him in and gave him love and family.

The second and most profound lesson is that your real children don’t necessarily have to be born to you. There is no difference between ‘real’ child and ‘adopted’ child. And adoption does not have to be the second option, it can be the first.

The night I saw Rusty, the look of hope in his eyes seemed to speak for all the abandoned ones, human and animal alike.

RIP Rusty, the lesson you brought forth was worth its weight in gold.

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