My Greek kitty crew

Thursday, February 24, 2011



- there's maybe not much more than a tiny little bee in the middle of this top image to represent the animal bit in this post but I just really wanted to share these delightful images of a beautiful old almond tree in full bloom. I pass it every day driving to and fro my home on a little hillside and yesterday I just had to stop and stick my head and camera inside it to enjoy that pale pink essence raining down on me. Sweetly smelling and buzzing everywhere with bees - I just stood real still with my camera so as not to disturb them in their business.

Just a little bit further up the road there's a beekeeper with white beehives (maybe you can spot them in the background). I dream of one day buying a fresh jar of honey from him. I'm sure his is more likely to be thyme honey (also wonderful) but how about a jar of almond blossom honey. How sweet would that taste!? Anyhow... just wanted to share a few images to those of you dear friends who live in parts of the world where it's still freezing cold and where trees in bloom is still a while away. 

Images ©Joan Rachlitz Bowell

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prophetic beginnings

Newcomer Mr Moggles - doesn't understand the word NO in any language but he is a complete charmer!

Two years ago today I started this blog with a simple image and text. The image was a holiday shot of a couple of cats having just been fed by a caring soul on a little Greek island. I'd been traveling to this particular island for some years and always thought how I would love to get my heart and soul into doing something for the cats on this island. Little did I know that I would be living here two years later (I really didn't know!). But... here I find myself today living on this very island and I'm happily immersed in feeding two colonies apart from a sweet little one appearing in my own garden.

This blog is about my overall love for animals and was never intended to be solely about cat stories, but as you can imagine it's a bit difficult to not write about what's in front of my eyes. In the end it comes down to the same issue - tender loving care and inclusion of all God's little soulful people. So I will continue to share whichever animal story - as and when it appears.

Kitten Molly arrived in the garden with the recent torrential rain. 
Molly doesn't miaow she squeeks... so sweet.

But today is a particularly great day. I believe I've been part of kicking up enough fuss for local vets to tend to the cat problem - way way too many cats and way to few who wants to look properly after them. Properly to mean food, water, shelter and vet care when needed. And that's just the basics before some loving human interaction. When you come from a culture (as I do) that consider cats "a proper pet" it's hard to get around the fact of each cat not having all that a pet should have (and a warm bed at night... yes, I'm a major softie when it comes to those furry bundles!!).  SO... this week the local vets have agreed to volunteer the entire week to neutering cats and this is BRILLIANT news! The turn out of this week will probably be something like minus the birth of about 1000 kittens (just for the coming season) and that will seriously keep 1000 new cats from a miserable existence.  

This is a good way to celebrate a two year blog birthday... being part of making a little difference! 

Images ©Joan Rachlitz Bowell

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mine was the privilege

The welcoming committee!

When we had our last bad rain fall and the local road washed away I was asked by a cat acquaintance if I would look after her beach cat colony for a while. I live in walking distance so this was a pleasant ~ and may I say very gratifying little task to take on. Every day I’m met by happy cats who runs towards me as I approach and a jolly cacophony of miaowing ensues.

On rare occasions other caring individuals drop off some food for these cats. This morning as I approached from a distance I saw a man pull up in his car and went to the boot and pulled out a big bag. The cats went straight towards him with happy tails and all their usual signs… the sweet anticipation of full tummies. I felt a bit like “Bummer… missed out on the privilege this morning.” But… that is not quite what was happening. As I came closer I could see a big bag full of a selection of riffles. Turns out that I live in an area where hunting is allowed in the winter season (had I known I don’t know if I’d ever want to move here). Apparently these sorry souls hunt for wild rabbits and game. As I started my good mornings with the cats he quickly vanished (I guess the emotional connection with animals was not quite the warm up he was looking for!). So solely mine was the privilege again... the darling welcoming committee and happy cats with full tummies.

Image ©Joan Rachlitz Bowell

Monday, February 14, 2011

That's when you know...


When you become quiet in your heart and mind... everything in life makes purrrfect sense... and there's nowhere else you would rather be. Have a happy one!

Image ©Amy O'Neil

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The paws that walked into my heart for good

We’ve had a few weeks of on and off horrible storm and rain, which escalated in a torrential rain (the equivalent of an entire winters rain fell in a few hours) and washed away cars, mountainsides and our local road. Some days in advance I’d gone to Tiny and Ninja’s new hide out, where they’d been led by mommy cat. It was a place of (certainly seen with my eyes) many dangers. A field they walked through had just been sprayed with weed killer and they gravitated around a very picturesque old well full of nesting pigeons - “oh so interesting” to watch when you’re a little kitten but “oh my God” when you’re the human trying to care for those kittens! On top of it all a vicious cat had sniffed out that there were new little “runts” in the neighbourhood which had to be annihilated. 

I watched this for a few days and saw that kittie mom began to reject the kittens. She would lash out if they came too close to her food and there was no longer any mommy to the rescue when they got attacked and whined like little piglets. Weather and all taken into consideration it was no wonder that they one day had disappeared from this new hide out and was nowhere to be found (once again!).  I’m sure you have your own experience of how difficult it can be to not let your human emotion get in the way sometimes, but I have to admit that I had come to feel responsible for these kittens. That night I prayed they would return to the same spot and decided I would try to catch them and bring them back and try to semi-domesticate them. The next morning they were there!! (the power of sincere prayers are REMARKABLE) – I popped some food in a transport box and they both walked in. They spent the next week in a small apartment on their own – in the warmth with a soft blanket in a great cosy dark hide out (under the sofa!). They very quickly got the hang of toys, regular meals and me playing with them several times every day. A week later they were released into the garden – and oh what a delight to see their joy at rolling around on the ground and once again rumping around and being up to kitten mischief. Now they stay close – they’ve got a small open window to the downstairs apartment where it seems they disappear to at night-time. They appear at our kitchen door for breakfast, lunch, in-betweens, dinner and playing time.

Tiny ready for a round of games...

Well, there are so many cat tales to tell… but this is one in particular that I’m very fond of. At least I consider that I’ve done what I could. They are getting bigger and stronger by the day and I now believe they know where to come for food should they decide to venture into the wilderness of their own volition. 

Image ©Joan Rachlitz Bowell

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who is watching your back

Christopher Hill and Verde

There is something deeply warming about stories of humans rescuing animals in need. Sometimes you find stories of sick and broken animals whose soul has been rescued by a compassionate human - but it also happens that you find extraordinary stories of an animal rescuing the sick and broken spirit in a human. Here’s one such wonderfully moving story. It’s just an excerpt of a longer article called “Someone to watch over me” found at HSUS (The Humane Society of the United States).
Sleep—like air and water—is something people rarely think about until they’re unable to get any. Then, abruptly, sleep becomes a grail, its absence anguishing, affecting all elements of an insomniac’s life. Lack of sleep impairs the brain’s ability to learn, to grow, to process thoughts and emotions. And when those emotions are already in turmoil, a human being can experience a perfect storm of trouble.
That storm hit Christopher Hill hard. The Marine staff sergeant had a raft of reasons for the insomnia that began after his first deployment to Iraq in 2003. He’d survived two more tours, all in heavily contested Fallujah, when during his fourth tour of duty in April 2004, his camp was subjected to an insurgent attack. A rocket propelled grenade exploded nearby, killing four people. Hill was thrown into the air and landed on his back on a concrete barrier.
After the initial shock, he thought he was fine. “I figured I was good to go, no bleeding from the ears, no broken bones. I was sore, but I’d gotten kicked up in the air like Charlie Brown, so I figured I was gonna be sore,” he says. But back at Camp Pendleton in California, the longtime bodybuilder was in the gym doing bench presses one day, and when he racked the weights and tried to get off the bench, he couldn’t move.
Tests revealed a spinal cord injury, and Hill, who’s now retired from the service, has been living with constant back and leg pain. Diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he was angry all the time and couldn’t sleep—“I was doing a three-days awake, one-day-crash sort of regimen”—and he’d holed up at home, not wanting to see anyone, lack of sleep feeding his anger and rage fueling his lack of sleep. “I was basically a walking injury.”
Hill was in and out of treatment centers, but none of them seemed to help. A four-month stint at the National Center for PTSD in Palo Alto, Calif., helped for a while, but a few months after Hill left the hospital, he says, he was miserable again. The Marine Corps sent him back to the center.
Hill was not optimistic, “really not wanting to be there, you know, thinking that I’ve failed the first time around and so this is gonna be a waste of time,” he says. But he noticed that the environment at the center seemed a little different on his second visit. And some of the men at his group sessions seemed different, too.
“When a guy has PTSD, he has this look,” Hill says. But in registering each face around him, he saw some anomalies: “It’s sort of scowl, scowl, scowl … no scowl. Scowl, scowl, scowl…no scowl. “I’m like, OK, what’s going on with the guys who really look like they don’t need to be here?”
Hill soon realized what the happier-looking patients had in common: They were the ones with dogs by their side
(Then there’s a section in the article about the U.S.Department of Veterans Affairs conducting pilot programs examining the effectiveness of treating veterans suffering from PTSD by letting them help train service dogs for their disabled comrades and researches into occupational therapy programs examining the effects of animal-assisted therapy on soldiers’ moods and transitions to civilian life (and it looks very promising!).
After finding out about the dogs Hill started participating in a dog training program and it marked a fundamental shift in his long recovery process.
And nobody needs to show Christopher Hill the research data; he has his own.
“The pharmaceutical companies don’t want to hear from me,” says Hill, who—like many of the service members who’ve worked with animals—has been able to reduce his medications and wean himself off several of them after working as a trainer and then getting his own service dog, Verde. “They would be out of business if these programs were expanded.”
Even at the National Center for PTSD—a place where sleep disorders are a dime a dozen—Hill’s ongoing insomnia was legendary at the nurses’ station. Every morning brought the same accounting as they recorded the sleep habits of their patients: Patient X slept through the night. Patient Y slept through the night. Patient Z slept through the night. Christopher did not sleep.
In combat, Hill says, “having somebody by your side with a weapon who’s watching your back in a really stressful situation is a great comfort. Well, when you leave that environment, that person is no longer there. You’re on your own.… It’s like you can’t sleep because you [feel like you] have to be up standing your post. And you can’t sleep on your post; that’s endangering everybody’s lives.”
It’s a state of mind, he says, that would likely have taken him years to gradually ease away from. But the first night he had Verde in his room, when a nurse checked to see if Hill was sleeping, the dog let out a tiny growl. To Verde, Hill says, the nurse’s stealthy approach seemed sneaky, and he was letting her know it wasn’t a good idea to sneak up on his buddy.
It wasn’t even conscious, Hill says, but “once he did that, I was like, ‘Hey!’ I just mentally picked up that somebody’s watching my back.”
The result was immediate and dramatic. Within the next few days, four doctors had gathered outside of Hill’s room, all puzzling over the new development, wondering what magical medicine could have caused this astonishing notation in the nurses’ log: Chris slept.
Image ©HSUS