Friday, July 29, 2011

How To Build A Jungle Gym For Your Leopard Lounge....

The first thing you need to build a Jungle Gym in your Leopard Lounge is a Handy Friend with a Chainsaw. And Tree Skills. High on the list of things that are really cool about being involved in Derby (and it's a long list, but that's another blog) is chances are there will always be someone on your team who has skills you lack and you rarely have to look further than your teammates for help. Meet Arm and Slam'er. (Hereafter referred to as simply "Slam'er. Good name for her. Trust me, when she hits you....Oops digressing again)

And you need a tree. A nice big old dead one.

This has got to be one of, if not THE most Zen Chainsawing pictures ever taken, if I do say so myself. Clearly, it's an art form.

Now, the next step involves some pondering. You can't just take the whole Tree Beast, you need to cut it up into manageable portions. That's Stunt Double on the left. Boss has been to only the one Bout so far, but she is definitely his favorite skater. He still talks about her. (Boss is a fine judge of skating. The women, hereafter referred to as SD, can SKATE. Stopping there or I'll risk this turning into a Derby blog. Again)

Once you have your Tree Beast cut up into manageable, creative, interestingly shaped pieces and loaded onto your handy truck, the real fun starts.

The Bengals were very involved, of course, in the process. That's Madame Mim there, running about, while Slam'er and SD begin to build. I tried to be helpful, but there was a certain, um, feeling, going on that perhaps things would go better if I didn't help so much. No worries, I have other skills and did fine with taking pics, making lunch and bringing beers. SOmeday I'm going to chainsaw something tho...

Venus does a lot of disapproving some days, especially when anything changes, but I think she is liking this. This is her first venture out onto the branches.

Venus is a later generation Bengal, an F4, which means she is four generations away from the Asian Leopard Cat. Even four generations away from Leopard is a LOT of cat. There's a saying with Bengals that once you have one, you don't try and make them adapt to your house. You adapt for them. That's the way it works. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy. Not every Bengal is going to need a Leopard Lounge, many are quite happy as indoor kitties, but these wanted OUT. So I made it possible.

Mim knows what she wants. She's ready for some climbing. This entire project came about because Mim has some serious pee issues and was wrecking my Spooky House. Tried everything, and finally, got her on some Kitty Prozac, and built her a Leopard Lounge. It's working. I don't think tho that Bengals are any more prone to pee issues than any cat. I have five (The Royals, King Lear the Huge and Little Queen Mab live upstairs. They will get a Scream porch soon, and we'll do a feature on them)

Here's SD attempting to tie up a branch with some sisal rope. Venus is helping her. I love the expression on Venus's face "What? Me? Not doing nothing here..."

Bengals like to climb, and have no trouble with leaps up to 8 feet. Cat trees, entertainment centers, refrigerators are all favorite leaps. Once UP on something, they will regale you with entires dialogs about their amazing leaps. Non-stop. And where most cats are pretty much limited to "Mew", Bengals make a variety of sounds which vary from screams to bird-like noises. They TALK.

They like hiding too, and having places to lounge in. Indoor Bengals may and will, trust me, enjoy boxes. They will sit in them proudly. Defend them, and regale in the experience. Everything these kitties do is full on. You do not want them to be bored. They WILL find something to do.

This is Magic, he's an F1, meaning his Daddy was an Asian Leopard and Mum was an early Generation Bengal. You'll have to go back thru the blog to read his entire story, but it makes my heart so happy to see HIM so happy now, and able to be what he is, and also, know love. It took a long time.

I don't have any pictures of him climbing on the Jungle Gym, but just a moment ago, I took a break to show skater Jinx'd Karma and ref Hard Left the Leopard Lounge and they got to see Magic climbing for the first time. Amazing moment. Magic has NO claws. All four gone. One of the biggest problems with the Early Generation Bengals is that people decide to get one (and spend an average of $3000 on one) and DO NOT know what they are doing. No clue. It's the "Cute little kitty with spots" syndrome. When the Cute Kitty turns into a teenager and oh my, starts acting like a Leopard, they are not prepared. He gets a new home. And another. And ends up in a shelter, who won't take him, because, this is not an animal that is adoptable.

That's Magic's story. And that's where we come in, at Great Lakes Bengal Rescue. We save them.

We are now entering the Way To Many Bengal Picture territory, but as I have not yet heard anyone complain, we will go on....

And on....(I suppose this would be a good moment to insert the story of how I got STUNG in the "lower back region" by an Evil WASP, while hauling branches to the truck and ran screaming, tearing my clothes off as I ran, not at MY house where I have been battling Evil WASPS all week, but at Boss's, but I think we'll let that one go. All I can say is that they have some sort of WASP Instant Message thing going on, and they ARE out to get me.)

And on. Here's the three of them lounging. It was HOT today. Whole lot of sweat going on, and I can't thank Slam'er and SD enough for coming and building my Leopards a Jungle Gym. I've never seen Venus, Mim and Magic so happy, and I'm not sure they can know how wonderful a gift this was, for me and the Bengals. I couldn't have done it without them. Really, really couldn't have. THANK YOU! (Insert Derby Love Moment here)

Gentle Readers, I give you: The Leopard Lounge!

Love and Leopards,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Honey for the X County Fair!

Tomorrow is the day I take our Honey to the X County Fair for the Honey Judging Contest! We've won the past three years in a row, and have hopes for yet again, another Blue Ribbon. We must defend out title!

The bees this year are all new hives, as you will know if you've been following along with the Boss and the Birdchick. And it's been a kind of odd season so far. First it was a very cold spring, and things didn't start up with their pollinating quite as soon as they should have, and now the past couple of weeks have been HOT, and no one, even the bees, feels like doing all that much. Lots of days I see them just hanging out on their Bee Porches, fanning away. This means there is not a great deal of honey, so far.

Both the Boss and Birdchick being unavailable, I went, taking Kelly McCullough (who volunteered willingly, more or less) and Woodsman Hans (who had no choice, he works for us) down to the hives to see if there might be some honey we could steal.

(Longtime Gentle Readers will recall this was the reason I spent so many years opposing the hives in the first place, KNOWING Boss would be gone, and I'd be nipping out for a comb or two. I am still reluctant, but have overcome a LOT of Bee Fear thru sheer determination. Almost, I like it.)

The Hives out in the woods, pictured first, didn't have much, and I didn't want to take from them, so we closed things up, gathered our smoke and disappeared in a puff of it.. Here is the Garden Hive, which has been going at the honey thing like all tomorrows parties.

I think they Suspected Something. Angry bees, swarming around, flying, BUZZING and lots of bonking, which is Bee Talk for "Get the hell out of here now before we pull out the stingers" Yes, they knew what we were up to. We wanted their honey, and they knew this was no "Hey, here's another frame of supers" mission.

We only took the two, as you can see, they have been working overtime. I stayed calm, cool and collected and closed up the hive, (Lorraine talk for "Didn't run screaming") replacing the frames, of course, but left it to Hans to talk the bees into leaving the frames, while Kelly hooked up the Bear Proof Electric fence.

At the Fair, there are two Honey Categories: Extracted, and cut comb. Cut comb is most often in what's called a Ross Round, a handy round thingie bees can buildcomb in and pops right off, perfectly shaped, when one wants it. Sadly, none of the Ross Round Hives had anything going on in their rounds, so I had to try and cut some, and get it off the frame intact and perfect.

Pretty much worked, and I got about four little boxes of cut comb, one of which will sure to be perfect. Sticky Fingers crossed.

All honey tastes differently. I am trying to think how to describe this years. It's from the first of the Spring Flowers, so very light, tho not the pale white you sometimes get. Very golden, sweet of course, but with a hint of spice. I will solicit some opinions and let you know.

For the extracted honey, I use the high tech method pictured above. I call it the Bucket Method. Get some cheescloth to stay on top of a bucket with a rubber band (the most difficult part of the process) and scrape the comb and honey in, and Voila! (I think that's French for "there you have it") The honey drips thru, and you can then jar it up!

And then I take it to the Fair. Judging on Thursday, I believe.

One final bit, because it's a topic I love talking about, the Leopard Lounge is getting trees this Friday. We're all set with Truck, Chainsaws and Beer. (I use that word "we" rather loosely. I believe I help haul logs, and fetch beer. Quite possibly make lunch.)

To that end, I found this Tree, and am hoping it will work nicely (ie come down without smashing anything or killing anyone) as it has lots of crooks and odd branchlings and will make lovely places for the Leopards to lurk upon, basking a while in the sun, while waiting for prey, and, finally, playing Death Drops From Above.

Somehow it looks BIGGER here.

Ah well..

Love and Adventure,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First Day In The Leopard Lounge!

The Leopard Lounge is done! It still needs perches, and trees and a pool, but the Bengals are already enjoying themselves. It took them about 2 minutes to figure out the tube entrance and they seem to love sneaking along it.

For those of you who don't know them, Venus is the grey spotted, Magic the spotted one on the ground, an F1 Bengal, meaning he is mostly Asian Leopard Cat and Mim is the brown marbled Bengal.

It's much MORE than I had thought, when I first had they idea, and better. Mim seems happier already and didn't want to come in last night, even with the sky getting black and the sirens going off. My Builders did a wonderful job, it's perfect and very secure. They are now able to go OUT safely. (The Bengals, the builders were never in any danger)

The little shed is getting a new door, and we will, as I said, find the perfect dead trees so they can Lounge like proper Leopards. But for now, enjoy this video of the first day at the Leopard Lounge!

Love and Bengals,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You Can Rest Easy Now. We Found Your Cat.

Don't worry. We found your Cat!

We live out in the country, and have lots of fields and woods, and we'd seen her a couple of times this past week, so we already knew she was around. Unfortunately, last night our dogs found her and there was a bit of a fight, she did good tho, not HER fault she's not up to taking on two white German Shepards, and anyway, OUR bad for letting the dogs out in the yard, sorry about that!

(and no, no problem, sure I had a group of friends over, we were just hanging out, watching some Derby, that's what pause buttons are for, I was happy to leave them, rescue Kitty, tend her, bring her in, show her around, didn't interrupt more than an hour or so)

She's ok tho, one bite, and we'll get that checked out. The Dogs are ok too except for a few scratches, we'll take care of them too, and take them to the vet if they get infected, which hardly ever happens with cat scratches..

In fact, if Kitty's bite isn't infected and in need of serious attention, there's nothing much more she needs except shots, feline leukemia tests, flea and tick meds, maybe a spay, shouldn't run into much more than a couple hundred all together, we can take care of that, don't worry.

And if she is already pregnant, we can let her have the kittens and find them homes for you.

She was a little shaken when we took her in, but SO friendly, she purred, and was so very glad to be indoors. I'm sure you kept her in and didn't let her roam free, and don't WORRY, she's only been out a few weeks and seems to be adjusting to life in the house again just fine. And she sure does like people! You must have cuddled her and loved her and care for her, why, her entire life up to this point, which has been a while, since she's no longer a kitten.

And, gollee, I sure laughed, you trained her well, when I opened the can of catfood, she sure did know that sound and came running to eat. She ate three cans, one right after another! Guess she was tired of hunting and killing her own food, which is plentiful in the country, as you know, and cats, even ones that have eaten out of tins their entire lives, are just natural born hunters, I'm sure she's been eating just fine. She's a little thin, but hey, good for 'em, I say.

And I totally applaud your Plan of dropping her off out here in the country. The country is full of people like us, who can easily take in as many cats as find their way to us. I would never drop off a cat at the Shelter, I mean, how EMBARRASSING! Having to tell them you could no longer afford her, or were moving, or ho hum, were simply tired of Kitty. Cats do fine outdoors, way easier just to dump them.

I can see from her fur that she wore a collar, good on you for taking that off, so she didn't get caught on something. The care you obviously had for her is touching. And don't worry, I checked with the Shelter to see if she had simply wandered off and found herself 10 miles out in the country with no other houses nearer than a mile or so. I know how the little darlings can wander.

The Shelter, by the way, offered to take her, they've only got the 162 right now and need more. They were glad tho you had dumped her, as it is FAR more responsible than taking her somewhere she'd have to live in a cage until someone picked her. Sure, sometimes it's dangerous for Kitties that have lived indoors all their lives to suddenly find themselves in the wild, but hey, they adapt, and some kindly person will take them in.

I saw on the ASPCA website that it's estimated there are around 70 million stray, dumped unwanted and feral cats living in the US alone right now! That's just silly, I am sure there aren't THAT many, and anyway, most of them probably find homes, with people like us, who really, are just waiting to take in any Kitty that shows up at our door.

It's good to know YOUR plan, dumping Kitty, was a good one and that it worked.

So don't WORRY, we found your cat.

You can sleep well at night now, in your bed, rest easy, my friend.


Love and New Kitty,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We're Not Calling It A Cat House....

The Bengals are getting their outdoor Cat Run! (I was calling it a "Cat House" but that was creating problems of its own) I met with my Builder this morning, and we planned it all out. He'll build it next week for me. For us. This is looking out into the area where it's going to be.

Here's the view from the other side. It's going to enclose from the edge of the deck, completely enclose the shed, go off a bit into the woods, and up to the driveway.

They will have a Cat Door into the shed, where they can have a nice place to hide, and there will be trees for them to climb, things to perch on, a small pool, grass to stalk thru. It will be roofed, of course. These Kitties can CLIMB.

To get TO the Cat Run (Leopard Run?) there will be a Tube, running from just the left of the Garbage House, at rail level, out to about the end of the deck, where the enclosure will start. Bengals love running thru tubes and have several already inside the house, so this will be no big change. We'll watch Magic's diet so we don't end up with a Pooh and the Honey pot stuck situation.
Here's a view from Inside the porch. This is one of their current Scream Porches, which they get at thru a window, or the kitchen door, if it's open.

I've had this idea for a long time, and it's only partly Mim and her Pee Issues that is prompting it now. Bengals ARE bred from leopards. Small leopards, true, the Asian Leopard Cat. It is not always true, there are may Bengals who are happy as indoor kitties, but Venus, Mim and Magic want OUT. They can't roam free, it's not safe. Especially for F1 Magic who has NO claws on any of his feet. I want them to live as nearly as possible tho, to the way they would like to be living.

We, as humans, bred these guys. Good idea? Perhaps not, but they are HERE. It's something to think about if you decide to get a Bengal. Especially an early generation one. They aren't that far off from Leopards. What cat isn't tho? The Royals, King Lear the Huge and Little Queen Mab are happy as indoor kitties, tho they will be getting the second Scream Porch for themselves, once this is built, accessed thru a door in their stairs. (My Spooky House has a LOT of doors. I have not been thru all of them)

Great Lakes Bengal Rescue (and ALL Bengal Rescues) need homes for Bengals. Forever homes and foster homes. But don't adopt a Bengal on a whim. Don't consider this unless you are in a position where you KNOW you are going to be able to take care of one for up to 20 years. Wait until you have a home of your own, when you're done with school, when you can afford spay/neuter, shots, vet care. When you have a place where, if you need to, you can adapt it for their needs.

Because, trust me, that's the way it is. Not the other way around.

Until then, if you want to be with Kitties, Bengal or otherwise, you can foster. You can volunteer at a local shelter. You can cat sit.

Trust me. It will be worth the wait.

Love and Leopard Run,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lear, Mab and What Happened Before...

I recently got a letter from King Lear The Huge and Little Queen Mab's original owner, which affected me greatly. I wanted to share it. It's a lesson about being young, about adopting pets, facing many difficulties and how it, years later, it never quite leaves you. It's about wanting to do the right thing and how even with the best intentions, you end up unable to.

It's about growing up.

They're safe, my dear, and loved. And just as you remember them.

Here's the letter, and pictures she sent:

Hi Lorraine,

My name is ***, and I am the original owner of Queenie and Lear. I really apologize for this long email. I have to say that, ever since I gave them up for adoption (along with their massive collection of toys,, I was too afraid to look them up online because I was too afraid that they may not have found a nice family, or couldn't adjust to new fosters/owners because they were too loyal (especially Lear). There's not been a single week when I didn't think about them since. I still remember that the day they drove away from me, I felt numb and a little bit 'dead'.
Big Lear is fiercely loyal. He came from what I assume to be an abusive situation, and took to me immediately when I brought him home. I was originally going to adopt only Queenie from the breeder, but couldn't leave Lear when I saw that he was being ignored and somewhat 'abused' because the breeder couldn't find a buyer for a grown up cat like him. The condition was horrific in that breeder's house - I felt more like I was rescuing them rather than buying them. Lear has a huge heart - he would reprimand me for half a day until he would finally come to me and give me his signature 'head butt' on my forehead, which is like an "I love you" that really hurts because that boy has a thick skull. Queenie was always the prissy, quiet girl protected by you probably know by now.

Because they are especially curious and energetic cats, I remember making a lot of interactive 'foraging' toys for them, and even considered buying/building a cat treadmill wheel for them. I had adopted these cats when I was living with an ex boyfriend in a big apartment, but when we split, I moved into the teeniest studio. This was horrible for these cats - they were always just sitting around, not able to run (more like zoom) around everywhere anymore. I built this tunnel maze system for them which took up the entire studio floor, but that wasn't enough to keep them amused. They needed a wide open space. This...was the biggest reason for my letting go of them in hopes that they would find a bigger home with as much loving care as I could give them. The problem, of course, was that I couldn't find a single way to console the way I felt about letting them go because they were perfect to me.
After they were given up for adoption, I went through a horrific time - I was in college, and was diagnosed with lymphoma soon after letting the kitties go. I wouldn't have had the money nor an immune system to allow for Queenie and Lear to live with me. Because of this, I feel that the timing was fortunate for them to part ways with me, but they're a part of me that I really can't ever forget. Especially Lear. After I beat cancer, I started fostering cats and still do.

Today is an odd day. My fiancee and I are soon moving to White Plains, NY, for medical school, and I'll be working as a market analyst - my first 'real' job since graduation. I suppose I was thinking about how I could afford a stable living situation for an animal once again, and plucked up the courage to look up what happened to Queenie and Lear - with heart racing, hoping, wishing... Imagine my surprise when I found that you have an entire blog dedicated partially to them...and pictures...oh, how they look just the same!!!

I apologize sincerely for writing such a long, intimate letter to a stranger, but you've been caring for my dear cats for so long, and it really looks like things couldn't have been better for them. I miss them entirely too much, and I really hope one day that I can see them again. Most importantly, I hope you know how thankful I am for you.

Best wishes, ****

Love and Lessons,