Monday, July 25, 2011

On Injured Stray Cats and Community

Last night was heartbreaking.

It was late, about 11:30pm, and I was just about to brush my teeth when I heard this terrible noise from the parking lot outside my condo. Something was crying - it sounded like a cat was trapped somewhere. I went outside and pinpointed the sound to under my neighbours SUV. I spied a black cat crying under the car, and it looked like it was drooling. I ran back inside to get my phone and a flashlight. It was still there, still crying, when I got back, and was indeed drooling pretty badly.

I call the ER vet, which is actually only a few blocks away. They said they couldn't do anything unless I brought the cat in. At this point I couldn't get the cat out from under the car, and I wasn't about to touch it. Maybe that's insensitive, but I have my own cat (who recently recovered from cat cold/eye infection) and I wasn't about to touch a strange, drooling cat incase it had some disease or something. They recommended I try get ahold of animal control by calling 311 (Edmonton's info line).

So I called 311. They said they couldn't do anything because animal control was closed until 8am the next morning. They recommended I call 911 because protocol says the Fire Department rescues cats stuck in trees so maybe they could help.

In the meantime the cat moved to under another car, and then over to under cars in the parking lot of the neighbouring condo building.

I was apprehensive about calling 911, as I didn't want to bother them or tie up the line in case a 'real' emergency happened. I've actually called 911 a few times before (and once in the UK I called 999 too). The poor cat was still crying, and by now I'd noticed while it was walking/running around ok, it couldn't seem to close it's mouth, hence the drooling.

I called 911 and they said Fire couldn't do anything unless the cat was actually trapped somewhere. They did put in a page to emergency animal control and told me to keep an eye on the cat while waiting for animal control to call.

It was after midnight. I just stood there, feeling so helpless. The poor cat kept crying.

By this time two girls from the neighbouring condo building had come out, woken up by the crying noise. They said they thought the cat belonged to a woman in the condo building across the alley, as she has two cats who wander about sometimes. They came out of the building and one identified the cat as probably belonging to the lady across the alley.

Unfortunately, the cat ran across the road, through the park, and into the bushes across the field area. We had lost it.

The girls thought we should try tell the lady about the cat, so we knocked on her window. Yes, this was not really a good idea and kind of creepy, but I think we were a bit panicked and not sure what to do. There was no answer.

Two other people were on their balconies, watching this whole ordeal. They did nothing.

Finally animal control called me back, but she said unless the cat was trapped she wouldn't come out as it would take her an hour to get there. Plus the cat had ran off. She said the drooling and inability to close its mouth probably meant it had gotten hit by a car, but the fact that it was able to move around ok and cry meant it would probably survive awhile, until it got hungry. She advised us to call animal control in the morning if we saw it, and to contact the lady in the morning.

So, many mosquito bites later, we went home.

I was so sad, almost on the verge of tears. It was so heartbreaking to see the cat in pain, and to not be able to do anything. I was also very sad for the lady across the alley, who likely just lost one of her cats. I came back and cuddled my own cat before going to bed after about 1am.

In the morning, I wrote a note to tape to the lady's window. I walked across the alley to her window, and there was a black cat just sitting inside, looking at me! So either the cat came home and was healed (unlikely) or the injured cat was a stray or belonged to someone else. I took a walk around the park to see if I could find it, and even talked to the playground leader to see if she had seen a cat during her site search, but no one had seen it. I couldn't find the cat.

I hope it went home, or was picked up by someone else. I hope it got help. I feel so bad - I hope it's not in pain.

Two lessons came out of this experience:

1. Keep your cats indoors, or on a leash. Seriously, why would you take the chance? I've always had indoor cats and they don't miss the outside. I've thought of getting a collar and leash for Molly and taking her outdoors for some playtime. And that reminds me, I really should get Molly to wear a collar even while inside, just in case she does get out.

2. Community is important. I'm glad the girls came out to help, but those 2 other people just sat there and watched. I think it's important to get to know your neighbours. But how do you do that? I'm very curious to get to know all the people in my building, and have been told a condo board meeting will be called soon. But what about my neighbours from the other buildings? Wouldn't it be great if we had an alley party or something? How does that get organized? We do have a community league, which I've been thinking of joining, but even that doesn't necessarily help me get to know my neighbours around the. It just makes me sad. People don't often hang out on their balconies, and I rarely see people about, unless they're going from their buildings to their cars.

I'm not sure what to do about the lack of community in my little corner of the neighbourhood. Any ideas?

Poor cat. So sad.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Balcony Garden: Post Holiday

I just got back from a week long trip to Montreal. During that week, some 'interesting developments' have occurred on my balcony.

First, my beans grew red blossoms! I've never eaten or even seen scarlet runner beans before so I basically bought the seeds because everyone said they were pretty while they grew and it's true. There's lots of little red flowers on the runners and the entire lot of beans are climbing the balcony railing nicely. Even my dad said it looked pretty from the parking lot.

My basil, which was not doing very well, seems to have perked up, though one of the four plants died. The swiss chard is big now too, and the chives are doing great!

And then there's the zucchini. It's taking over the balcony! When I left there were three baby zucchinis, and when I returned there's about ten! I already ate one (basil zucchini pizza anyone?) that was about 5 inches, and there will be one or two more ready next week. I plan on eating them small, I really don't need a big fat zucchini.

On the downside, one of my little viola plant died, and one of the flower pots seems to have either grown too heavy or had some storm damage, as there's a gaping hole in the middle and all the plants are leaning. I pulled up my spinach because it started to bolt. I think it was getting too shaded by the beans and wasn't getting enough light. Also, there has been no change whatsoever in the blueberry plant since I bought it. Possible experiment fail?

And on the super downside, my strawberry box is invested with fungus gnats! There's also some in the chard and beans, but the strawberry box is just full of them. They look like slightly bigger fruit flies, crawling all over the soil. Either the damp weather attracted them or there were already eggs in the soil. Regardless, it's icky. My mom recommended spraying the soil and leaves with dish soap water, and that helped a bit, so I'll keep doing it over the next couple weeks. Apparently peppermint tea repels/kills them too. Otherwise I'm going to have to buy some insecticidal soap, which I don't want to do because I do want to eat the strawberries eventually.

That's another sore point - I don't have any strawberries yet! I had a tiny red one when I left but the gnats or the birds got it as it's gone now. All the little blossoms tried to grow strawberries but they're all dead and dried up now. I'm not sure what the cause is. They have been well watered (I had people checking them while I was away) and have nice big leaves. Perhaps the box isn't deep enough? Oh well, lessons learned.

I'm already contemplating "return on investment" and what I'll plant next year.

I also bought a couple new house plants. My colleague convinced me to get a jasmine plant, which so far has only produced one flower, but adds a bit of green to my living room. I bought a huge purple pot from an apartment sale so I bought a tree-ish plant, a marginata, also called a dragon tree. It's supposed to be toxic to cats, which I was trying to avoid, but it seemed a good fit and is supposed to clean the air. So far I've been able to keep the cat away from it. It seems to insist on leaning though.

This whole growing thing has been an interesting and fun experiment! I can't wait to see what happens next!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Balcony Garden: One Month Old

My balcony garden is about one month old and almost everything is still growing. The spider plant was mostly dead and then Molly yanked it out of the pot so that's the end of that. One of my four basil stems died, but the others seem to be doing much better now after I moved them into the full sun side of the balcony.

All the flowers are open on my orchid. Pretty. I hope it lasts forever.

The swiss chard is flourishing. I've cooked with it a couple times and it tastes great - how come I only discovered this vegetable this summer??

My first strawberry! And there's plenty of flowers on the plants, so I should definitely get a couple handfulls this summer, unless Molly beats me to it.

The beans are starting to shoot up and snake along the balcony. Molly likes the spinach more than I do. I should probably pull it in the next few weeks to give the beans more room. Lesson learned: don't crowd the pot.

Here's the problem with the beans - I think they are getting sunburned. Unfortunately this is the only spot I can put the pot that will give it enough room to grow around the balcony rungs, unless I swap it with the blueberry (but I'd rather have sunburned beans than a dead blueberry bush). I might rethink this before the runners get too tall...

Coming soon: zucchini!!

Um, so no one told me zucchini plants would get THAT big. 

Seriously, the leaves are huge. If it gets much bigger it's going to take over the balcony! I guess I wont be putting a chair out there.