Friday, March 30, 2018

Cat Tails: Heart-warming stories about the cats and kittens of RESQCATS by Jeffyne Telson (Spotlight and review)

Cat Tails: Heart-warming stories about the cats and kittens of RESQCATS

Jeffyne Telson

Publisher: Independent
Pages: 332
Genre: Animals/Cat Rescue

In 1997, Jeffyne Telson founded RESQCATS, Inc, as a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue, care and adoption of stray and abandoned cats and kittens.

In the ensuing 20 years, with the help of a small group of dedicated volunteers, Jeffyne has grown RESQCATS well beyond her dreams, into a highly respected rescue organization that has placed more than 2800 cats and kittens with qualified families and individuals.

And now, she has written a book about her journey of creating a cat rescue, the challenges and opportunities she has faced, and most important of all, the valuable life lessons the cats and kittens have taught her.


Tattoo, My First Cat

            As a little girl, I grew up with outdoor cats that were never allowed in the house. Perhaps that was what most people did with their animals back then or maybe my mother just did not want pets in the house. It was not until I moved out that Mother allowed our family cats to be indoors. I have no idea what changed her mind about having the cats come inside. Maybe she suffered empty nest syndrome and needed the presence of another living being besides my father in the house. Or perhaps by the time I left for college, people were becoming more educated about the dangers to pets left outdoors. Since then, our cats have been indoor cats. 
            My parents worked hard at making sure that I got an education. Their goal was to make me fully prepared for life and that meant I would attend college and obtain a degree. 
            My father paid his way through college, working three jobs while raising a family. My mother never went to college. When given the choice of having a shiny new car or going to a university, Mother chose the car. It was a decision that she regretted throughout her life. She attended business school and was employed as a part-time secretary. Her main priority was motherhood. Working reduced hours meant that she had to go to work after I left for school, complete the job and arrive home before I returned in the afternoon. Mother and Daddy worked diligently to ensure that my brother and I had everything we needed and almost all we desired. However, as with many middle-class families, money was always tight. They felt that a college education would insure that my financial future would not be as difficult as theirs had been.
            I graduated from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design. When I chose my college major, my parents were baffled. While both had always been supportive of my artistic talents, they did not quite understand what a graphic designer was or what one did with such a degree. So they encouraged me to get a teaching certificate in art. My mother felt that a teaching certificate always gives a woman something to fall back on after she has raised her family and needed to return to work. 
            In my best interest, my folks had my future mapped out in full detail. The plan was to get a college degree, find a good job, stay with the same company for years and climb the corporate ladder. 
            It was a great plan until I got married, bought a house with a white picket fence and had children. Staying true to the course meant mandatory time off to raise my kids. Once the children were old enough, I had the option of returning to work if needed. At this point, the teaching certificate came into play.
            Maybe this was how it was for women back in the 1950s. Perhaps that is what my mother could have done if she had gone to college instead of opting for that shiny new car. Regardless, their predetermined plan was not my plan!

My first job out of college was at Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas. The job description included fashion layout for newspapers nationwide and direct mail design. I also did freelance package design for Neiman’s epicure shop to make extra money. Designing cookie tins, labels for thirty-five different flavors of expensive gourmet popcorn and packaging for a variety of other epicurean delights was most enjoyable. The freelance projects and the creativity they inspired were more pleasurable than my salaried job. Specifying type and fitting fashion drawings into newspaper layouts for advertising was not what I envisioned myself doing forever. I desired a career that would be more graphic design oriented. So I set out to find another job. 
            After two interviews, Susan Crane, a company that designed gift wrap for national department stores, hired me. The job seemed more suited to my talents and the salary was even better. 
            I left Neiman Marcus on good terms. The art director assured me that there would be opportunities to continue to do freelance package design for them. I was happy to continue having that creative avenue available.
            My folks did not understand why I would leave a job after only a year. It was obvious to all of us that I had already found flaws in their plan. Our conversations were dominated by the fact that I did not have a teaching certificate on which to fall back. 
            Within a year of leaving college, I began my second job. My father felt this quick jump did not represent a good reputation in the working world. As my parents, they had always realized my free-spirited nature. Now I was proof in the making.
            My second interview at Susan Crane was generally an introduction to the other employees. It was then that the new boss introduced me to the designer I was to replace. The proposed schedule was for me to start in two weeks, allowing me to give the proper notice to Neiman Marcus. 
            The exiting designer was pleasant and incredibly excited about his upcoming job opportunity with a large advertising agency in New York City. However, he had a major dilemma. Her name was Tattoo. She was his cat. I do not recall why Tattoo could not go to New York with him. All I remember is that he begged me to take her. 
            So not only did I have a new job, I got a cat, too!

           Tattoo was two years old when we began our life together. She was an average-sized cat with short, white fur decorated with a multitude of various-sized gray spots. The name, Tattoo, seemed perfectly suited for my new spotted girl, so I kept it. Glistening yellow-green peridot gems best describe her gorgeous eyes. Tattoo was friendly and affectionate, as well as curious and confident; it took less than a day for her to adjust to my apartment.   At this point, I had been on my own for a year. I was single with my career ahead of me and entirely capable of taking care of myself financially. I owned my own car and rented a cozy, one-bedroom apartment. But it was lonely sometimes and Tattoo was great company when I was home. 
            Our weekday morning routine was always the same. Tattoo perched herself on the bathroom counter as I got ready for work. Watching me put on make-up was her favorite early morning activity. She gazed with curiosity as I applied blush and eye shadow followed by liner and mascara. After all, this was Dallas! And Dallas women wore make-up and dressed in the latest high fashion. 
            On an occasional morning, just for fun, I put blush on Tattoo’s cheeks and eye shadow above her lids. When my mother visited, she teased me, “Looks like Tattoo has been in the blush and blue eye shadow again.” Yes, admittedly, that was back in the days when blue eye shadow was in style!
 Tattoo’s favorite toys were the small make-up brushes. The last thing I did before leaving for work was to safely tuck them into the drawer, ensuring there was no chance that she could swallow them while I was away.
Tattoo must have missed me during my long days at work. Travelling time in the morning and evening was an hour each way…if traffic flowed well. Theoretically, I left at seven a.m. for an eight o’clock start time. The job was from eight to five, so I could be home by six p.m. 
            That rarely happened, however. After all, I was single! So after five o’clock, my responsibilities were purely social. There were aerobic classes to attend and guys to scope out at the fitness center, although I can tell you my experiences with any jocks at the gym were nothing to get excited about. The athletes were more about themselves, how much weight they could hoist above their heads and how many females they could conquer. 
             I remember a good-looking guy I met while running on the track. He was quite flirtatious, but seemed nice, so I accepted his offer of a date. 
            Our rendezvous turned out to be disastrous, at least in my view. Unexpectedly, from the moment I got into his car, he came onto me much too quickly. His uninvited advances continued throughout the entire evening and intensified upon our return to my apartment. At that point, throwing him out was my best move and that is exactly what I did! 
            He called the next day to apologize for moving so “fast” while vaguely admitting that he sensed my displeasure. I explained, without mincing any words, that I do not move that rapidly, especially on a first date. And you know what he said? “Well, I move fast because I'm a sprinter!” I replied, “Well, I’m a slow, long distance runner.” Then I hung up the phone. Needless to say, that was our one and only date!
            Other nights were all about “happy hour.” Many times, “happy” lasted more than just an hour. I often went with coworkers or met friends after work and cruised the most popular bars for singles. Half-price drinks and free snacks were more than enough for dinner. When the disco music started, we danced the night away…the whole night! I still wonder how I managed to leave the bars at two in the morning and be at work by eight a.m. (Of course, there were times I did not make it exactly at eight!)
            Sweet Tattoo met me at the apartment door every evening, regardless of what time I got home. Upon hearing the turn of the key in the lock, she would make it to the door by the time I crossed the threshold. I developed the habit of inserting my foot just beyond the cracked door to gently force her back inside and entered carefully. 
            The evening, or whatever was left of it, was spent with Tattoo under my feet or by my side.

            I should have realized that the days were lonely for her. Many times, boredom motivated Tattoo to unroll the toilet paper and decorate the entire apartment. Sometimes the delicate lace pillows on the bed appeared to have been tackled and kicked like a football into the living room and kitchen. More than once, she had discovered the loose lid on the Q-tips container and the swabs inside had mysteriously disappeared. I often wondered what she did with all of them. Years later, when I moved, I found at least a hundred under my couch! 
            Tattoo was always there to greet me and I could count on her to welcome me home with open paws…that is, all but once!
            I left work, stopped by the deli to pick up dinner and got to my apartment around six p.m. The plan was for a quiet evening on the couch with my cat and a good movie. 
            However, that night was different. When I opened the door to enter my apartment, I inserted my foot as customary, but there was no Tattoo to block. The apartment was eerily quiet. There was not a mew or a sign of life. I began a hysterical search. I looked under the bed, which always seems to be the first place people look for missing cats! Why is that? 
            The wardrobe closet was closed, but I inspected inside anyway. The bathroom shower was empty and so were the adjacent cabinets. 
            I hurried into the kitchen, running towards the pantry. Upon opening the cupboard, Tattoo’s gigantic, yellow-green eyes stared back at me through the dark. 
            “Tattoo,” I shrieked! “Have you been in there all day?!" I think she nodded. I felt horrible, "Oh no, I’m so sorry!” 
            My poor kitty had been locked in the pantry for eleven hours! What could she have done in there all that time? 
            I will tell you what she did. Tattoo managed to open the Crisco shortening and break a bottle of garlic salt. Thank goodness she was not hurt. Broken glass from the container covered the floor, but there was no sign of any blood. All four paws, however, were coated in Crisco and garlic salt. Her feet were a mess. 
            She jumped out and quickly trotted across the floor to her litter box. She left a trail of gooey shortening and stinky garlic along the way. My idea of a quiet night, dinner and movie were replaced with cleaning the pads of her feet, between her toes…and my carpet! 
            I felt so guilty about the incident. After all, it was my fault! The only comfort was in the fact that it had been a day when I returned home directly from work. I cannot imagine what the pantry would have looked like if I had gone dancing all night!

            I spent many weekends creating freelance designs for Neiman’s. Today, graphic designers have computer programs that can generate and alter graphics with the push of a key. But back in my day, design work was created at the drawing board or, in my situation, on the kitchen table. Transparent vellum paper enabled me to perfect designs by using overlays. Color changes were not made by a right or left click on the keypad mouse. We used color pens! Thin-tipped markers were for fine outlines and wide tips shaded large areas. I will boast here that I owned a marker in every imaginable color! 
            My little buddy was always there to help. Tattoo managed to find a spot on the kitchen table where I worked. She removed markers from their container and tossed them around like a soccer ball. Loose pen caps catapulted into the air with a quick flip of her paw. She watched them fall to the floor. Then she pounced! She chased and batted the caps throughout the apartment. 
            Needless to say, several made their way under the couch with the lost Q-tips, a treasure that I found much later! The expensive markers that had lost their lids during her escapade could only be salvaged by wrapping them in plastic wrap. When Tattoo tired from hunting marker caps, she returned to the table to sprawl out on top of my carefully designed layout. 
            I have no explanation for what came over me one day when working on a design for a butter cookie tin. Something possessed me to color Tattoo with the markers. Her pure white fur disappeared into a myriad of hues…red, hot pink, yellow-orange, turquoise, blue and purple. When the decoration was completed, she looked like a rainbow-colored cat. And she did not seem to mind. In fact, she liked the attention and we agreed that she looked absolutely beautiful. Grooming over the following days gradually turned the bright colors into a blend of soft pastels that resembled dyed Easter eggs.
Tattoo often joined me for dinner by placing herself in a semi-circle around my plate, as close as possible without actually touching it. Then, when she thought I was not looking, she swiftly swooped her paw across the plate and removed whatever she thought would suit her taste buds.
            Moving around the apartment took cautious maneuvering. Tattoo was like a third leg, constantly walking between my legs and under my feet. I am not complaining. My careful footfalls and high-steppin' were a small compensation for all of the time that she spent alone. She craved our time together.
            People who love cats are familiar with the phrase “lap cat.” Tattoo defined the term eloquently, without being particular about whose lap she chose. Any lap would do…mine, a friend, a date or a boyfriend. Of course, like most cats, she possessed a talent for picking the one person in a room that was not especially fond of cats. Given a choice, theirs was always the lap she chose! 
            Bedtime was a ritual for both of us. She carefully found a favored spot and snuggled tightly into a small nook of my body. Other times, she wrapped herself around my head and we shared the pillow. There was never a night that we were not together. And any overnight guests, if you know what I mean, had to share the bed with her too!

            Asking the landlord for permission to have a cat was not something that ever crossed my mind. It took five years for the management to discover Tattoo. 
            One day, a notice was posted on my door demanding that I contact the apartment manager immediately. The timing of the notice could not have come at a worse time. My fiancé had just ended our seven-year relationship, only eight weeks before our wedding date. This left me completely devastated. 
            I suppose the manager took pity on my plight as I sat in her office, sobbing, telling the story of my broken engagement and sharing the fact that Tattoo was my only true comfort. 
  The manager never asked me to leave or to find another home for Tattoo. I would have had an emotional breakdown if Tattoo had not been there for me. After that experience, it is easy to understand why I am so adamant in requiring RESQCATS adopters present landlord approval.
 Tattoo watched boyfriends come and go. She stayed by my side whether I was happy, sad, uncertain or with a clear vision. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what unconditional love was all about.

Tattoo welcomed Violet, a kitten I rescued off a busy highway, as easily as she accepted her new home with me. She and Violet made the cross-country trip from Texas to California in late 1985 so that I could marry the man of my dreams.

            At the age of twelve, Tattoo was diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease and was treated with a radioactive iodine treatment. Fortunately, the treatment was a success. I remember how difficult it was after her return home. The vet recommended limited cuddle time for two weeks due to the radioactivity that could be transferred from her body to mine. Somehow we got through it and she was back to herself. Once recovered, she acted like a kitten again.
 Two years later, however, Tattoo was diagnosed with bone cancer in her nose. Sadly, nothing could be done to save her.

            Tattoo was my very first cat. She was the first cat I ever loved. The first cat I ever had to euthanize. The first cat I ever lost. The first cat I ever grieved for. 
            She was my first for a lot of things. So it is no wonder that Tattoo has first place in my heart!

Order Your Copy!

Watch Jeffyne talk about RESQCATS!

About the author:

Jeffyne Telson grew up in Dallas, Texas but has spent most of the last half of her life in California. Although she has Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design from Texas Tech University, she has devoted the last two decades to the pursuit of her real life’s passion…caring for stray and abandoned cats and kittens.

In 1997, Jeffyne founded RESQCATS, Inc, as a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue, care and adoption of stray and abandoned cats and kittens.

In the ensuing 20 years, with the help of a small group of dedicated volunteers, Jeffyne has grown RESQCATS well beyond her dreams, into a highly respected rescue organization that has placed more than 2700 cats and kittens with qualified families and individuals.

Today, in addition to being the President of RESQCATS, Jeffyne and her husband, Mitch, share their Santa Barbara, California home with 14 unadoptable cats, 9 collies and 15 giant African sulcata tortoises…all rescued of course!



My review:

4 stars

Cat-tails: Heart-warming Stories about the Cats and Kittensof RESQCATS by Jeffyne Telson provides a lovely portrait of one woman’s passion and the lives she has touched while pursuing her chosen vocation. This is a fascinating look at the power one person has to change the world around her, and a tribute to her dedication to improving the lives of all of the felines that she has come into contact with. Each chapter goes into detail about a particular kitty (or kitties) who have been rescued by the author but also describes how each of those felines impacted on her life and taught her life lessons.

I was touched by the observations about human nature as well as cat behavior as various scenarios were described, and sympathized with the frustration described as the author shared some of the less desirable tendencies to treat a living being as a commodity to be discarded when no longer wanted or convenient. Fortunately, the heart-warming tales far outshone the negative stories, and the author’s determination to do the best for her charges—even at the expense of her own health—is readily apparent. I enjoyed learning about some of the cats who have enriched the author’s life, and cheered for those who found a forever home while marveling at the lengths the author was willing to go to in order to rescue a lost soul. This is a charming and inspirational book and it supports a very worthy cause and I can only hope that everyone can be inspired to follow such a beneficial passion and change the world a step at a time.

A copy of this title was provided to me for review

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