Generosity and George the Cat

It has been a whirlwind of emotions since taking #GeorgeTheCat in for his annual check up. What began as a routine wellness exam (that we could barely afford) and a rabies vaccination (because we live on Vancouver Island and raccoons, rats, and bats are a thing) ended up being a financial crisis.

For anyone who doesn’t know, George the Cat was abandoned at the house we eventually purchased in the south end of Nanaimo in November 2017. When we took over possession, there was garbage, clothing, used needles, human feces, rat droppings, and much more in both the house and the garage where George had been sleeping.

Olivia and I spent all our free time hauling out industrial sized bins of debris, old appliances, flooring, a toilet that had rotted through the floor, and tents from squatters set up in the backyard. The modest money we had set aside for renovations was depleted within the first 30 days.

We began feeding George, then known only to us as The Cat, before we put an offer in on the house. He was left behind by the previous owners and had no food or clean water. We immediately purchased cat food that we kept in the car and went back daily to feed the cat. I honestly think he’s part of the reason we took the house.

After getting possession of the house October 31, 2017, we began the deconstruction. The Cat would come to the front and sniff whatever we were hauling out but never came close enough for a pet or a conversation. Until three week’s in, when we were sitting outside having a lunch break, he let Olivia pet him. Of course I was jealous, who wouldn’t be? This adorable chunky cat.

It took us a full year to get him to trust us enough to come indoors. Once we could, we took him to get flea medication and get a check up. That was last year. We discovered that he needed a broken tooth removed and deep dental clean. That bill cost 1700 total start to finish. At the time we figured that The Cat, who a neighbour advised us was named George and had been in the neighbourhood for at least 11 years, deserved to live a happy life and die of old age after being abandoned.

Flash forward to last week when our friendly neighbourhood vet advised us that a second tooth on the same side of George’s upper jaw was causing him pain, my heart felt like it was in my stomach. I have been off of work for over a year due to mental illness and had only begun a seasonal part-time job in effort to test my ability to go back to work. Olivia works a seasonal job that sees annual layoffs around December. There was no way we could afford another large veterinary bill.

We had a hard conversation that if we couldn’t come up with the money, we were going to have to surrender George the Cat to the SPCA in effort to get him the help he needed. George is now 14 years old. He’s bonded with Lottie, the kitten we adopted in August, and is indoors 95% of the time. He has lived at this house his entire life. George went from running and hiding under the bed at every noise, to actually playing and cuddling with us and his sister Lottie.

Olivia, George, and Lottie

The last thing we wanted to do was break up our family. We feared that George would die of heartbreak or stress if he couldn’t remain home with us, but we also knew there was absolutely no way to pay for his care. I had $1.51 in my account at the time, and Olivia had $150. Our credit cards are locked in a drawer while we pay them off. I’m making student loan payments to the tune of $400/month on top of regular life expenses. We use the food bank bi-weekly and when we do need new clothes, we shop exclusively at thrift stores. There was absolutely no wiggle room.

I felt weird about it, but knew I needed to try something. So I started a Facebook fundraiser for the cost of the procedure and George’s most recent vet bill. In less than 72 hours, from just eight donors, we had the entire bill fully funded. George the Cat gets to stay with his family. His surgery is booked for November 28th. As long as there are no complications, we have enough to cover the bill. I even put a down payment with half of the raised amount.

If you would like to contribute to the cost of aftercare, or keep up with George’s recovery, I’ll be posting updates to the fundraiser page here.

We are nowhere near finished the house, but it is comfortably liveable and safe for the cats. We are all warm, dry, and fed.

Thank you to everyone who helped us keep our grumpy old man cat at home with us.

I’m 32 and also living paycheque to paycheque

I read an article today on #HuffingtonPost titled I’m 37 and living paycheck to paycheck. As I read, I realized how familiar the author’s story was. You see the pressure to go to events to support friends and loved ones is real—even more so during the holiday season. Many of us are just one or two unexpected expenses away from not making it.

This year we had to replace a furnace to the tune of 6000.00. (We DID get a rebate and it decreases our heating costs…but that’s a huge chunk of money that was supposed to be spent over time on other house related things.) Then, we chose to keep the cat that came with our house. This meant that he needed to see a vet pronto and get all his shots, that was 300 bucks…shortly after that appointment he required an emergency visit for dental issues and some other stuff. We decided to try and save him (to the tune of 1200.00). This all happened during a period of time where Olivia was indefinitely laid off from her long-term job and I went back to school for my final year. Our budget was tight! Then, Olivia found some work, but now it’s winter and she’s facing another potential lay off.

Due to the lay off over the summer, my minimum wage job just covered expenses and we were not able to save anything. This is the reality for most folks. What’s more is most folks don’t have the ability to put unexpected expenses on credit. We thankfully did, but now we have balances to pay each month on our already taxed budget.

Please know I’m not sharing this to whine, but for the folks who find themselves in a similar situation. We see you. You are not alone. If all you can do this Christmas season is to tell people how much you love them, please don’t feel guilty. AND if you’re hard up for food, reach out—there are plenty of resources available in Nanaimo where we live (and other communities if you’re not from here), and you can always come to our house for a modest dinner if you live close by. The challenge is to escape the shame of poverty. If so many of us are (or have been) in a similar situation, why are we reluctant to be honest and to access resources available to us?

This year when people ask what we want for Christmas we have two answers. First, we cheekily reply home depot or PetSmart gift cards (because the cat and the house are eating all our money). Second, for those who are closest to us, the reality is we need time with the people we love that has no financial cost…this can even include gas costs. We’d love to come to see you, but we can’t afford the gas bill—we need it to get to work.

A Story about a Cat?

Hey there friends!

I am currently enjoying a rainy weekend away from home and the troubles that lay in that area. I needed to come up with a clever and original story this weekend for next week’s short fiction class.

My friend suggested I write a story about his cat, so I did, and I’d like to share it with you. Hope you have a laugh and a smile.

Francis

 

Today will be the best day. I know what you’re thinking—Francis, you say that every morning when you wake up. Seriously though, I mean it this time. Not only is it my favourite time of year, where the autumn leaves are various shades of fiery goodness, but they cascade in such a way that one cannot help but pounce on them. In my neighbourhood, the weather is a comfortable ten degrees Celsius with a gentle mist. This is magnified by the rejuvenating sleep I was blessed with last night. To accentuate my joy, it’s Saturday, which is the best day of the week.
            After a hearty breakfast of gourmet salmon and herbs prepared by Jack, I will spend today balanced between lounging at the viewing window and enjoying the general splendor of creation. This sounds like I’m lazy, excessively leisure, let me assure you—this is not the case. You see, this weekend I have a house guest. She’s been here once before, and though we did not get off to the best start, I quite enjoy her now. On her first visit, it was clear that her habits would disrupt my daily routine. She caused Jack to stay up later than usual, which delayed my bedtime.
            To understand the significance of this offence, I must explain mine and Jack’s relationship. He is my faithful and loyal companion. Each morning, he prepares my meal and makes sure that I’m doing well emotionally and physically. He’s almost like a personal assistant but we have a deeper connection. You see, in a way, he rescued me from a hard life. If one does not have the right people, it’s very easy to get lost down a dark alley or be attacked in the street—homelessness is a very real problem where I come from. I’m at an advantage over my peers to be so well off and taken care of. Over the years, Jack and I have become family. It makes sense that this unwanted house guest had me on edge when first she arrived.
I’ve been used to the peaceful quiet companionship that Jack and I have; she wanted to chat with me incessantly. She even put her suitcase in one of my favourite places to sit. The nerve! How is one to be hospitable when a guest so clearly disregards boundaries and civil propriety. By the third day, I realized that she was anxious to make a good impression and we stayed up late playing games in the living room. Regardless of her and Jack’s early morning the following day, we laughed and enjoyed one another’s company into the early morning hours.
            This week’s visit was much more acceptable. I greeted her as an old friend, though I’ve only known her a short while. She shared with me her newest purchases and I tried to model them for her—but our sizes are not at all the same. I fancy that I looked adorable in her turquoise snowboarding jacket. Ever the generous guest, she opened up her suitcase and allowed me to revel in its contents. Books, clothes, trinkets and gadgets, all neatly packed into a carry-on bag. I wondered to myself how long she’d be staying with a load like that, and she assured Jack and myself it was just until Sunday afternoon. She would spend today writing stories and scripts whilst I went about my business, but that’s not why she came.
She’d been invited to perform some of her art at a local place of worship. I, myself, do not attend. I don’t much like traveling beyond my neighbourhood. It’s far too much work and the anxiety of myself (and Jack trying to manage my anxiety), is really not worth it. I will get to listen to her practice today. Her musical ability brings me joy as I observe the coming and going of residents through the viewing window. Cars drive alternating in each direction, there’s a man with a wool jacket and a blue umbrella, behind him walks a grandmother with a toddler in a shiny red raincoat. The soundtrack of her soprano voice, accompanied by the brass strings of Jack’s borrowed guitar, lull me somewhere between waking and sleeping. I am content. I stretch and sigh and fall asleep for a short while.
“This is what Saturdays are for.” she says. “Lounging around and being creative.”
Silently, I agree with a sleepy nod and go back to sleep. As long as she continues to play, I rest. In a few hours, Jack will return and regale us of his adventures in town. Until then, this is my peaceful companion. She reminds me that people are not always what they seem. I remind her that neither are cats.

~Cheryl

p.s. Yes, I am the “she” in this story. And this is Francis.img_1515