Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bye Until October 4th!

Well, I am admittedly more apprehensive about this trip than others, but I have a strong sense of adventure, a passionate love for Africa and for wildlife, and a real desire to see lemurs in the wild. Certain types cannot survive in captivity and you have to go the Madagascar to see them. Only 10% of Madagascar's forests are left, and they are not all protected. What' s left is left because it's hard to get to.

I will be visiting three very different types of terrain, and sometimes staying in a hotel or bungalow, sometimes camping. I am currently struggling to get my carry on down to the required 11 lbs, and I'd like to make my checked bag lighter too. But what to give up? Not bug spray, sleeping bag, or sunscreen....there's a long list of "must haves."

If all goes well, I'll be back online October 4th with, hopefully, some great photos and stories of adventure.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Terrestrial Leeches

As I am gearing up for Madagascar, I'm really fearing terrestrial leeches. I just recently found out they have them there, apparently en masse, and I am not too thrilled about it. In a book about Madagascar I'm reading a woman described hearing them come towards her in the bushes. Wow. That is likely to freak me out. I am going to psych up for it. I was sort of afraid of bats and then in Kenya when I found them whizzing around me I was calm about it and it wasn't as bad as feared. So, if the leeches get me, I really hope I don't get an infection, they don't give me any diseases, and they aren't too itchy. I came across this woman's travel tips on leeches and found it informative, but it added to my fears more than anything else - I had no idea leech proof socks existed or that leeches could penetrate regular clothing. OMG! There is also apparently a terrestrial leech repellant, which I do not have time to research or purchase. Eeeeek. Usually I love the sound effects of animals when I travel, but hearing leeches crawl towards you is like something out of a horror movie!

Frankly, I was so busy this summer I didn't have much time to research the nitty gritty details about Madagascar, or to do my normal amount of pre-travel reading. I also forgot to get my rabies vaccine in time so I have to go without it. I didn't think it was that big of a deal but then I read the US State Department warning and it's recommended! Bummer! It also says there are lots of stray dogs. Normally I would pet them, but given the rabies prevalence and my lack of vaccine, I believe I will try not to.

I have also learned they have the plague there, and several types of fever there isn't a vaccine for. Oh my goodness. I hope I come back healthy. I know enough not to walk on the beach, thanks to a friend who did so in Tanzania and told me about getting sand fly larvae in her feet that had to be cut out. I am not going to let the earth touch my feet at any time.

I spent a week making sure my first aid kit was really stocked, only to then read about someone else's that made mine seem inadequate. (She packed syringes, 4 kinds of antibiotics, Flagyl for giardia, etc. Makes my Cipro and over the counter stuff seem paltry!) I actually began to feel unprepared instead of my usual calm before travel. I am a really light packer usually, and this trip I am still struggling to get down to the weight limit - I have to remove 11 lbs of stuff. I don't know what I can give up, as this trip I have to take a sleeping bag, etc. to camp out.

I hope that it's not nearly as rough or as infested with disease as I've been reading. I am up for the adventure, but I admit, I am feeling apprehensive right now! I am sure I'll get over it with the first lemur...but gosh, terrestrial leeches, eeeeewww! I am always a little nervous about traveling alone, and I fear Madagascar may prove to be easily my most difficult trip ever. I am worried about even the availability of safe drinking water and food. I packed some power bars. I hope I get there and find all my worries were for nothing and it was a smooth trip. I'll let you know in about a month!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mouse Rescue

My cats hunt in a pack. It's fascinating to watch. Sometimes they hunt all four together, and sometimes just two or three. They do solitary hunting too, but it's amazing to me the coordinating they have to do when hunting together. They seem to have a good, silent system of communication or a well-rehearsed plan. Watching them encircle a target and sneak up on it from four directions is pretty amazing. I wonder how they decide who gets to strike first and who moves where. Last night I came home to find Ophelia and Lizzie tag teaming a mouse, taking turns tossing him around.

My cats are well fed, and hunt only out of instinct. Birds and mice. I have bells on them to give the birds a chance, but they still get several magpies a year, and once in awhile a mouse. Once I pried Oscar's jaws open and an unpunctured bird flew away. The mice I receive as gifts from the cats are always perfectly intact, unpunctured, so they must die of fright or internal injuries. I love all animals so I hate to see any dead ones, but I have come to accept owning predators means a few of those lower on the food chain die. Nature is harsh, especially on the little guy. I can't keep the cats indoors because they are miserable in prison. The manx cats in particular INSIST on going out and are utterly miserable if not allowed to do so. The rule is they have to come in before dark so they don't get eaten by the local fox or get in any alley fights.

Anyway, last night's victim, a rather chunky mouse, was still alive, but appeared to be in shock. I removed the cats one at a time and put them in the house, then went back to assess the mouse. I picked him up, tried to calm and reassure him, and waited to see if he'd revive. Mice are so darn cute. I petted him and waited for him to recover his senses. After a few minutes he wanted to be released so I set him in a safe location and watched him scurry away. I hope he makes it - it had to be a terrifying experience, but I saw no outward injuries. He did seem stunned for a few seconds but then okay.

Poor little guy. Ophelia and Lizzie were just being cats and were quite pleased with themselves. I can't blame them for being true to their instincts. This is the third mouse rescue this summer. There were two who didn't get rescued and were presented as gifts. It's a fascinating thing that domestic cats will hunt in packs, and will gift their kills to their owners. Very interesting animal behavior indeed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Abandoned Cat?

It must be the weekend of lost pets. Saturday the neighbor pointed out an orange tabby kitten, who was wet, but smelled vaguely of shampoo. We assumed it must have a home as it was very friendly, and freshly shampooed. But, we kept an eye out and it stuck around all weekend. By Monday night it was meowing loudly outside my door, so I decided if it did have a home, something had gone wrong.

We have a family of foxes and one of raccoons in the neighborhood, which can pose a threat, plus male cats can get into fights. I wasn't sure if the kitten, which appeared to be 4-6 months in age, was spayed/neutered or not. I decided to at least feed the kitten, and it ate so much it was clear it hadn't eaten in awhile. (It put away more food than any of my adult cats can). It didn't want to be back outside so I decided to let him stay in overnight, hoping he was litterbox trained. He seemed to be leery of the dogs at first and then generally accepting of them. He didn't interact much with the cats but seemed willing to.

I noticed some eye discharge Saturday morning and by Monday night it was a lot worse. Tuesday morning the kitty was having difficulty breathing and the eye discharge was severe, accompanied by sneezing. I was pretty sure it was a respiratory infection, and that left untreated it could lead to severe secondary infection. I decided to take him to the vet as I had an appointment for Simon anyway.

It did prove to be an infection. I made sure the kitten was HIV and feline Leukemia negative. He was neutered and micro-chipped, so I tracked down info on the owner - supposedly he was from Meridian. When I called the owner, she said she'd "loaned" her cats to a friend and she was out of state. She said they (there are supposed to be two) should be in Caldwell. She took my name and number and was going to call me back, but she hasn't. I told her the cat was sick and needed medicine but was okay. I am concerned about her parenting as it appears very poor.

Bad news - the kitten had fleas, so ALL the pets had to take a dose of Frontline. Bummer. And, antibiotics and eye ointment for seven days, and I'm leaving the country in five. I don't want to stick my very patient boyfriend with a sick cat that isn't ours ("Tiger," apparently). But, at the same time, the cat needs medical attention ($300 worth so far). If the owner can't or won't provide it I can't let the cat suffer, and I can't turn it over to the Humane Society ill as they can't take him. I have to segregate him from my cats, so he is in the upstairs guest bedroom. I put out food, toys, a litterbox, water etc. but I am sure he's lonely up there. I hate isolating animals, because you can never tell them why.

Sigh. Why can't people look after their animals? While some do, some just don't, and it's sad. This kitten is really sweet with a great personality. I hope he gets better, and I'll be wondering whether he will still be living here when I get back from Madagascar.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Rocky Canyon Ride

Esmae, Buster and I went for a great ride today, the first in several weeks. We rode to this Rocky Canyon, which is probably only a 5 to 6 mile ride. It's located in Eagle, Idaho, where I usually go to ride on a friend's ranch, where I can learn the trails without having to deal with a lot of traffic. The horses are a bit out of shape. They will be going to training while I'm in Madagascar. They go to a trainer in Kuna is very good with them, and stay in a stable there, so I know they'll be looked after. Every time I go riding I wonder why I don't make it happen more often; I think I like nothing better.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lost Bunny!

Last night I opened a garage I keep full of hay for the horses. I rarely open it in the summer, but on Friday I had opened it briefly to grab some horse treats. Apparently a bunny hopped in, because when I opened it late last night, after almost 48 hours, a bunny hopped out. He/she (not sure how to tell) seemed very, very thin, quite thirsty, but very nice. He/she had no objection to being picked up, was happy to come home with me and drink loads of water, and then snack on some fresh organic lettuce. Doug raced out for rabbit pellets, which the bunny initially declined but then went for. It was obviously a young bunny and dehydrated, but either used to being held or really open to the idea.

The Humane Society was closed, so I called West Vet and looked on the internet to see what to do. All I could learn was that the bunny was exposed to way too high heat in the garage, and that sometimes after they get dehydrated they don't make it. But, I gave water in intervals of every few minutes until I thought the bunny would be okay with controlling its own intake. He/she loved the lettuce and probably ate 2 cups of it right off. Overnight the pellets were consumed too. The bunny had good energy and I held him/her for a long while yesterday and this morning.

The cats were super curious, as were the dogs. The bunny touched noses with all of them and seemed overall happy to have been found. I'm leaving the country in a week so I can't adopt a bunny. And, I can't really justify taking on a 9th pet anyway. But, this was a REALLY sweet rabbit and it was hard to take him/her to the Humane Society today. I hope that someone deserving and very kind adopts the rabbit, and for now I feel awful leaving him/her there.

I contemplated keeping him/her through the Labor Day weekend so he/she could continue to get fresh greens and snuggles, but then it would be harder to say goodbye on Tuesday, and I think they hold them a period before putting them up for adoption to allow reclaiming by an owner if it's a lost pet, so why not get that time running and get the bunny into a home soon. I hope the Humane Society gets him/her into foster care. Such a sweet animal should not be kept in a cage alone.