Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jolly The Christmas Cat

A few weeks before Christmas Melissa and I took Carter to see "Santa's reindeer" at Cheekwood, a Nashville botanical gardens that runs some excellent programs for children throughout the year. Carter was enthralled with the reindeer....they were named Jingle and Jolly.....and for days afterward all we heard about was how neat it was to see them and to sit in Santa's sleigh. When you are three years old doing these sorts of things with mom and dad is a VERY big deal. :)

Fast forward to the week before Christmas. Melissa and I had been talking about introducing some pets into our home for some time. We decided that Carter wasn't yet mature enough to handle a dog but for various reasons we thought a cat might be appropriate. One of Melissa's friends heads up a well run cat rescue in Nashville and she mentioned that there were two kittens being fostered at a rural home not far from the farm that were available for adoption immediately. Melissa latched onto this arrangement full on from the start. She set up an appointment to view the cats and within minutes  of seeing them they were on their way home with us. Interestingly one of the cats was already named Jingle; when we asked Carter for suggestions regarding the other one's name it should come as no surprise that he immediately suggested the name Jolly.

If one considers life from the viewpoint of an abandoned pet coming home with us would be the animal equivalent of winning the Powerball lottery. You're going to get top notch healthcare, every bit of preventative medicine we can throw at you, excellent feed, companionship when you want it or need it and as much environmental stimulation as it's humanly possible to provide. Jingle and Jolly took to this arrangement immediately. Within hours of their arrival they were running and playing through the house as though they'd lived here forever.

Jolly took to his new home particularly well. Jingle was justifiably nervous of Carter...every three year old on earth is loud and makes sudden quick movements.....and he tended to make himself scarce whenever Carter was around. Not Jolly.  Every day he was waiting by the door for Carter and I when we came home from his pre-school and he spent the entirety of his waking hours loudly purring while playing and interacting with Carter and with me. His purr never shut off. If Jolly was awake and not running full tilt he was purring. I'm not at all a cat person but it only took a couple of days for Jolly to win me over. Playing with Carter or sitting in my lap was the highlight of his life. I have never in my life seen a happier or more aptly named cat than Jolly.

About a week ago we noticed that Jolly was off his feed and appeared to be losing a bit of weight. We called the vet immediately and set up an appointment the following day for him and his brother Jingle. The vet diagnosed a heavy load of roundworms in Jolly....not an uncommon occurance in feral cats and kittens. This diagnosis made us all feel better. We started a three day course of wormer and brought the cats home.

In the days following Jolly acted exactly as you suspect a cat with a heavy worm load might act. He was normal most of the time but there were periods of decreasing length where he clearly didn't feel good. We figured it was a combination of the wormer and the internal worm die off and we were pleased that he seemed to be feeling markedly better as time went on. Yesterday was a good day.  His energy level appeared to be high and he was full of himself from morning through mid afternoon. He curled up on my lap with his brother and we all had a short nap in the early afternoon. When I got up to feed horses he and his brother changed laps and continued alternately resting and playing on and around Melissa.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from my crying wife just as I was finishing up chores at around four pm. She said that Jolly had been lying in her lap when he had a massive convulsion and fell to the floor so quickly that she had no time to react and stop him. By the time I got to the house....no more than thirty seconds after I hung up the phone.....Jolly was lying rigid on the floor and gasping for breath. I told Melissa that he was dying in front of us and that I would go get a gun to hasten his passing if she thought I should. She made the valid point that he may well be having a seizure and that seizures were treatable so we gently loaded him in the car and she rushed to the vet. Sadly I was right in my diagnosis and he died while enroute to the vet.

I've farmed all my adult life and I've been in the meat business for a good portion of it. I've seen....and frankly caused and/or participated in....enough death to have long ago realized that life isn't often fair. But it's always bothered me, and still does bother me, when well cared for young animals of any sort die for seemingly no reason. As such we asked the vet to do a necropsy. She called back this morning with the probable diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis. If that's correct, and I suspect it may be, we can take some comfort in the fact that there was literally nothing to be done for Jolly. Simply put, he was unlucky.

I'm sad for Carter and I'm sad for Melissa and for me but mostly I'm sad for Jolly. He should've had better than he got and he never got a chance at it. Most of his short life quite frankly sucked...abandoned, fostered, finally adopted into a loving home and then died in pain, though thankfully fairly quickly, a few weeks later.  In spite of his circumstances he was.....Jolly.....all the time and right up to the very end. His contented purring filled our house right up to the second he had the seizure that killed him. This is his story. He touched this tough old farmer in ways few animals ever have, and the least I can do is share it and never forget him. RIP Jolly.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hiring Travails and Human Nature

One of the things I've been doing with my spare time is working through a pile of candidates to fill an open part time position on our farm. Most farm jobs are not high paying positions, especially in this part of the world, and the type of candidate low paying farm work tends to attact is not the sort of person we are going to feel comfortable employing to work with our horses. For that reason, as well as our personal conviction that those who work with us ought to be able to hold their heads high when somebody asks them what they make, our starting rate of pay is far above the local average and when someone has proved themselves their wages and hours worked can go up considerably from there.

This strategy has yielded excellent results. Most farms measure employee turnover in weeks or months and we measure ours in years. Still, when we have a position to fill, as we do right now, we seem to sift through a pile of resumes and conduct a pile of interviews. In spite of our best efforts at weeding out the chaff several times we've managed to start candidates that seemed very promising on the front end only to have them fizzle out a few weeks, a few days, or even sometimes a few HOURS into the job!

Between candidates, employees and customers I thought I had seen quite a cross section of human nature and behaviour and I have but I recently ran across TWO situations that are still bothering me and that I'm still working through in my head. In essence it's the same story repeated twice so I will repeat it here as a single instance. We had two candidates who seemed like excellent fits for the position right up until I started talking about wages and hours. Both already held part time jobs. Both told me they were looking for more income and more work.  Most people have been very pleasantly surprised when we got to this part of the conversation so imagine my surprise when I saw deep frowns develop on both candidates face. I was so disconcerted that BOTH TIMES this happened I stopped talking and asked if everything was all right. The answer I got...the same answer twice....stunned me. The candidate's both told me that this job could never work out unless we paid cash under the table. If they took the position at the starting wage we offered and worked the hours we wanted and actually reported the income...as we have to if we're going to deduct it as an expense.... their benefits....I assume government benefits but I don't know that for sure....would be clawed back or cancelled.

I've tried to work my way through this and I'm still struggling to relate. I've been taught since I was a child that it was up to me to provide for me and my family AND ALSO to be a good citizen who reports all his income and pays his share....I wish I thought it was fair.....of taxes to the government. If it required working eighty hours a week to get this done then that was my burden to bear. I've done it for extended periods and I can attest that it's not much fun. In my working life I've always contributed far more to the government in taxes than I've ever received back as services. I'm blessed that I've been able to do so but it's also never occurred to me that there was any other way to live one's life.

It's easy to say that these people are lazy degenerates that just don't want to work. That may well be true in some cases but since both were already working I don't think it applies in either of these cases. In fact the underlying emotion I sensed in both these cases was fear tempered by perhaps some shrewdness.....not laziness. I don't know enough about either person's personal story to be able to make further comment without becoming incredibly judgemental so I'm not going to do so. There are certainly plenty of situations out there where I can understand why someone wouldn't want their benefits trimmed back.  Equally there are others that I'm sure would leave me asking some very hard questions. I don't have answers, only questions.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch I've still got a position to fill. Hope everyone is having a great day today.