S'Dandi Shih Tzu
All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2008
Sally and Dick Watkeys
8235 Outer Drive South
Traverse City, MI 49684
Graphics courtesy of:
S'Dandi Shih Tzu
Just BePaws . . .
“Mom, Dad, we bought the farm!!!!”
“Finally, the horses will have their own barn and riding arena, the dogs will have acreage to roam, and we’ll have a bigger house.” Our son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Beth, were thrilled. After our first visit, I could understand their excitement, except this mama saw LOTS of work. That’s why God gave us youth. The young have the energy to tackle a project such as this.

What they really bought was…a large home built in 1878 that had been used until their occupancy as a bed and breakfast. It included horses, chickens, cows, 15 acres of land, 2 huge barns occupied by numerous barn cats, a chicken coop, carriage house with attached 3-car garage and a large swimming pool. Work! That is an understatement.

However, Beth was thrilled. Her four horses were just a few feet from the house where she could attend to them daily. They had been boarded when they lived in the city making frequent trips to the stable a necessity for their care. All three of their dogs were rescue dogs. Fancy, who looks like a Sheltie mix and the old lady of the group, had been found on a farm some ten plus years ago. Now, in her last few years of life with various geriatric problems, Beth was happy to return her to a farm to spend those years roaming the fields. She was a happy dog. Mac, a Black Lab mix and also older, was rescued from the Humane Society as a puppy. In a few days, he was a very sick puppy diagnosed with a severe case of Parvo. Hundreds of dollars later, Beth took him home, still a very sick puppy. Looking at him run the fields today, one would never know just how near death he had been at first. Then, there is Skully, a Border Collie who was to be put down the day the kids adopted him. He was very shy and fearful at first, but today, he chases the horses, is confident, friendly and beautiful.

However, Beth had not realized the responsibilities of the barn cats. To her every living thing is important and those cats needed attention. She makes trips to the loft, where they exist, twice a day with food and water. On one of those trips, she discovered babies. Not knowing what to do with these babies, she let the mama cat do her thing. But, mama was a very young cat and didn’t do it that well. By the time they were two weeks old, they were in trouble. They were malnourished, cold, dehydrated and a couple couldn’t open their eyes due to infection.

That was the state of affairs when we arrived late one fall afternoon. “Mommy Watkeys, will you please look at my baby cats? They can’t open their eyes,” pleaded my sweet daughter-in-law. We trekked out to the barn and climbed up in the loft to see the kittens. They were in trouble. Thankfully, the RV was stocked with all my doggie meds that included artificial tears and antibiotics for eyes. First, we bathed the eyes with a warm, wet paper towel to clear out the caked debris. Sure enough, there were real eyes under all that mess. The tears went in next followed by the antibiotics. So began the daily regimen of medicating the kittens. We moved them and the mama down in the tack room, put them in a doggy crate with bedding hoping that mama cat would take better care of her 5 babies. It worked for a couple weeks. Then, mama cat stopped doing her job.

Returning in two weeks, I wasn’t sure what I’d see. All five were still alive, one just barely. We moved them inside the house this time in the makeshift playpens from closet shelving and attached two desk lamps for heat. At five weeks, now, they should be able to start eating on their own. So, kitten formula and soft food were added to the pen. The little one still needed to be fed from a dropper. I’m was worried about him. He was just so small! Mac, the Lab mix, is their constant bodyguard keeping watch over the pen night and day. It is so sweet to watch him guarding his kittens.

Upon returning to the RV and my own babies, I thought how lucky we all were to have a clean place to raise our puppies, with mama dogs that are strong, healthy and capable of doing their job. As I kissed each fat, little baby on the head, I marveled at the will to live which seems to be inborn in all living creatures. These kittens were certainly a prime example. They were still alive against all odds.
Beth is hoping to keep them all alive, find them good homes, spay and neuter all the barn cats to keep this from happening again and get back to the task of unpacking. She has discovered just how much time it takes to raise a litter.

She also realizes the responsibility of taking care of the adult cats to keep the population down. One of the young men that help on this farm stopped to talk to us one afternoon. He told us that “country folks know these are just barn cats and let them do their thing never worrying whether one lives or dies.” Guess I’m glad I’m a “city girl” then as, even though I’m very allergic to cats, I had to help Beth keep them alive.

An acquaintance stopped by to see the kittens and their progress. “I’ll take one of them for my barn,” she said.
“Oh, no!” was Beth’s reactions. These babies are going to have real homes. They aren’t going to be “barn cats. Not after all this work!”
Some may say we are gluttons for punishment. These little things are nonessential in the large scheme of things, but when faced with any situation involving life, some decisions are just meant to be. As if to emphasize the importance of all this, that little one is going to make it. After another week, he is stronger, getting a little fatter and holding his own. It’s absolutely amazing to watch him.

Everything has its place? Ask my kids as they work through the everyday chores of a working stable. Life and its daily requirements prove that.
A Place For Everything