The Yard – Got the Jimmy Legs

The Yard

For your entertainment

Let's catch up! We have been busy with cats and landscaping projects (which are, not coincidentally, cat-related). We took a bunch of cats to the new Glendale, Queens, ASPCA spay/neuter clinic, the newly-opened facility that replaces the mobile clinics. In order to better provide mobile spay services to the public, the ASPCA decided to stop running concurrent vans for both regular folk as well as us feral cat enthusiasts. I guess it makes sense, but there is a big learning curve for the new system, for both us and the ASPCA.


Empire building

I can't believe how hard a time we're having in finding a home for Spike, the white Angora cat we took in a little while ago. We keep getting weirdos who string us along for weeks and then disappear right at the moment they're supposed to come meet him in person. I keep thinking it's one person who keeps using different email addresses, but unless they're spoofing IP addresses all over the city, it's separate individuals. Super lame. I think people think they will respond to an adoption ad and then, minutes later, go to an undisclosed location to pick up their briefcase full of kitty. Come on, people, we've got to at least attempt to establish some background before handing out cats. Oh well, try, try again.

I wouldn't mind so much but you see, we're all full up with cats. I know I've said it before but summer hasn't even begun and we've got cats everywhere. Two of the back yard cats who were presumed to be feral have turned out to be more tame and friendly than the indoors cats! So we gotta find them homes as well.

And then there's Haley, a young cat we trapped a little while ago. We'd never seen her before the night she turned up in the trap. She also turned out to be very friendly, but was skin and bones and sporting a hugely infected abscess which manifested itself as a big hole on her shoulder. She recovered from her injuries at Empty Cages Collective, and once she was well enough, we brought her back home to finish her convalescence. She still needs to be vaccinated and spayed so she's kept separate from the other cats. It looks like we'll have to wait until the end of the month to get her spayed; we could get fixed sooner but it would require getting her ear tipped. And I don't wanna do that anymore if at all possible, not for tame, adoptable cats.

Meanwhile I have been having a helluva time getting this guy to come out and give me an estimate on replacing our back door, but he finally made it over yesterday (2 hours late). We're also probably putting a fence in, and THAT guy has been giving me the runaround for weeks. This is not even mentioning the first fence guy who came over, duly measured the yard and discussed options, only to never ever call me back with an estimate. What's up with that? So I called Skilled Fencing they are a lot more professional and came out and installed the new fence. In an effort to bridge all my problems, I am in the process of teaching the cats to build a fence and replace a door. Results have been mixed so far, they have a lot of energy but I'm having trouble finding tools small enough for them to hold.

I'll be back when I have something interesting to report!

Digging in the dirt

This isn't the tent he gave me, but I assume it looks like this.

I'm trying to get organized and live up to the secret pact I made with myself that go me through the winter. During the cold months, when there was work to do on the house, I comforted myself with the thought: "I'll do it when it warms up."

Then this weekend comes along with 90-degree temperatures. Great. Unable to put it off any longer I went into the back yard with the intent to half-ass some yard cleanup then retreat to the TV again. Over Christmas we refinished some floors in the house, which produced a whole lot of scrap wood. Instead of dealing with it at the time (see above), I just piled all the wood in the yard. The Plywood, 2x4s, Masonite and old wood paneling have shuttled around the yard over the months, coming to rest against the neighbor's chain link fence. It somewhat resembles the barricade in Les Miserables.

I figured I could put the smaller debris in contractor bags and lash together the longest wood boards together in preparation for sawing them into bundles small enough for the trash guy to pick up. This still would leave some huge plywood sheets that would need to be cut repeatedly but there was no way I was doing that for now. I busied myself with the easiest of the tasks, bagging up small garbage, breaking down some of the thinner panels and whatnot. Meanwhile, my neighbor a couple yards over was puttering out back as well.

He struck up a conversation with me, noting that he had just dug up a bunch of dirt from his yard while working on his latest project, which appears to be a sort of gazebo structure (he described it as a 'cabin' and admitted that he's sort of winging the plans, making it up as he goes along; I like him already). Anyhow, he had a bunch of dirt, and he knows we have all these cats running around (his son learned to say "gato" before "Papi," I was somewhat chagrined to learn). The cats love to 'play' in the dirt, as he put it, so it could help keep the cats in my yard if they had more dirt to 'play' in. So I said sure, gimme the dirt.

Herein lies one of the awkward issues of yard-having in Brooklyn: we can't enter each others' yards. My next-door neighbor and I have no fence between us, but nearly every other yard is fenced off. So dirt that needed to travel some 20 feet would need to be carted through the neighbor's house, out the door, down the sidewalk, and through my living room just to get over here. He suggested an alternative: he would fill up sandbags with dirt and hand them over the fence to me.

For the next couple of hours, he shoveled dirt into reinforced bags, dragged them over to a ladder next to the fence, climbed up and gingerly dropped the bag into my waiting hands. I don't have a lot of space to dump extra dirt, but we do have a sizable plot in the back of the yard and a sort of narrow median down the center. We filled up every inch of available dirt-space, and there's still some dirt leftover. Part of his motivation was that now he won't have to pay to have the dirt hauled away. I don't know how much that costs, but he seemed grateful. It must be expensive, cuz I was exhausted and my muscles are all sore from the hauling and dumping; he did all that PLUS the shoveling. He even gave me a new gazebo tent that would have gone unused by him since he was building the permanent cabin thingy. Wow.

I admit I don't interact with my neighbors as much as I should. I talk to the next-door neighbors, since our houses are identical, so we feel like we are sort of related or something. But we're on head-nodding level at best with most of the other neighbors. So it was nice to have an excuse to speak to him, especially since his family is just about the only other family on our end of the block to use their back yards much. I'm hoping we keep talking, I'm racking my brain to find something I can give to him in return, but I'm pretty rusty in the ways of Neighbor Gifting. If I can't find something I would otherwise throw out he might find useful, should I bake him some cookies or something?

But they're never gonna see another one like I had with you

Mugsy is not gonna win any Cat Fancy awards, but he's one of our favorite feral cats. He's gotten a lot sweeter since we callously trapped and castrated him, which makes me think we should start doing this to people who bug us as well. It's tough love! Anyway, he usually hangs out in our yard with his boyfriend George. He has his own chair under the gazebo tent, a disheveled patio chair with a hair-matted cushion on it. He comes by every day. Or I should say, he did come by every day.

Last Tuesday he abruptly stopping showing up. George still came by to eat, but he seemed like half a cat without Mugsy. Of course, he's a feral cat and by definition they don't have a home and are therefore sort of entitled to wander wherever they want. But it seemed increasingly strange that this one wasn't showing up. Frankly, where would he go besides our yard?

So I climbed through the fence in the back yard and started looking for him. It was a dumb idea, like a feral cat is gonna just sit there and wait for me to walk up, o hai. But I thought maybe I could get some idea of what had happened to him. A feral's life is hard, often brutal and usually short. I half-expected to find his dead body in the bushes, guarded by George.

Behind our house there is a run-down rectory and a recently-resurrected church (bad economy = holy rollin' weekends). The rectory house appears to be unused and we often joke that the cats live inside it. Beyond the church, the rest of the block is houses in a variety of styles; right next door is a 6-family frame house. I crept behind the church, simultaneously trying not to attract attention and acting like I was supposed to be there.

I went past the church to the 6-family house. It's in a pretty sorry state, the best thing about it is the relatively new plywood panels boarding up all the windows (still I'm not entirely sure that people aren't living there). Just as I rounded the corner, I saw what appeared to be George's distinctive tail disappearing under the corner of the house. I knelt down and could see a hole just below the aluminum siding, just big enough for a cat to fit through. All joking aside, these feral cats have their own damn house!

I didn't have a flashlight so I couldn't see much more. But I figured if George was in there, then Mugsy was probably also there, if at all. There wasn't anything I could do but hope he would show up again. Just over a week later, Mugsy did return, his eyes crusted mostly shut from an upper respiratory infection, but otherwise unharmed. I can't figure out how he survived all that time, but there's probably water in the house, and who knows, maybe he was catching mice.

God help the local cats if the economy recovers enough that somebody fixes up this neighborhood, where will all the cats live? Don't answer that.

Goin' to a place where the tough guys go

In the Pokey, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

I can't wait for this week to be over! so much annoying stuff going on with my job; I think some of my coworkers spend all day, every day attending meetings. They do nothing else, just go from meeting to meeting, all the time. This is my theory, anyway. They don't mind meetings that stretch on for hours, they never need to take a breath, they just keep on talking. And god help you if they get near a video projector. Anyway, that answered a lot of questions to me as to why it takes so long to do stuff around here: everybody is in meetings all the time. Or conference calls. It's unbelievable.

Meanwhile, the TNR train keeps on truckin'. Our 7 ferals are back on the street, and seems to be no worse for the wear. Some, like Grumpus, even seem friendlier than they were pre-surgery. Last night, Grumpus was eating by the window, I reached out and petted him. He didn't even flinch! Makes me think he may not be a real feral, which is sort of sad. But he's got food and he's got shelter (storage tub!), so he's doing all right.

Traps are being set again, to catch whoever we can in advance of Saturday's TNR action. BARC is again hosting the Snip Truck, and can take a lot of cats, so we're gonna try to catch the few remaining stragglers fixed. This will be run much like the Mobile Spay Unit Days, if you have a non-feral cat, you can get it clipped for $25. The cats have to be there by 9am Saturday, no food after midnight Friday. They truck will be there, so let's fill it up. I suspect 15-odd cats we've altered so far may not in fact be all the unfixed stray cats in Brooklyn.

Ironically, I find all this cat-trapping, carting around, and urine-cleaning to be less stressful than my day job, even though I get to sit in front of computer, hardly moving all day. Except when I'm running from one meeting to the next.

email me jimmy at if you need more info about fixing your ferals or house pets. I think they do dogs, too.