Even with bright spring sunshine streaming through the windows, it’s been a gloomy weekend in our house. It’s never fun when you’re on a death watch … even if it’s only for a cat.

For the past 14 years, Merlin has been the scourge of birds, chipmunks and unfamiliar visitors to our home. And, often, me. But now his reign of terror is coming to an end.

Merlin’s story begins about 12:30 a.m. on a warm spring night in 2003. As a newspaper editor, I’d just put Sunday’s edition to bed and headed out the employees’ entrance at the loading dock. As usual, more than 100 vans, pickups and cars jammed the parking lot, their drivers eager to pick up bundles of papers for delivery to carriers in a three-county area.

Jan, a security guard and occasional smoking buddy, was in the designated smoking area outside the door, playing with a tiny kitten. I crouched down and scratched him behind his ears. “Cute kitten,” I told Jan. “Is he yours?”

“No,” she replied. “He just showed up a few minutes ago.”

I figured he’d escaped from a driver’s car, so I picked him up and brought him around the parking lot for the next 15 minutes. Nobody knew anything about a missing cat, so I came back to Jan. Eyeing the idling vehicles, I knew the kitten was sure to be squished if he was roaming freely as the drivers made a mad rush for the loading dock when the papers became available.

We already had two pets — Sydney, an Australian terrier, and Loki, the Best Cat in the World — so I sure didn’t want to bring the little critter home. But when I asked Jan to keep the stray, she said her apartment didn’t allow pets.

I had no choice. He went into the car with me, and wound up spending most of the trip home on my shoulder. All the while, I wondered how my wife, Shirley, would react to our guest.

I shouldn’t have worried — Shirley was immediately enthralled by him. But her enthusiasm seemed dim next to daughter Sandy’s response. We were still up when Sandy’s alarm went off at 4 a.m. She fussed over him so much she was nearly late for her 6 o’clock work shift.

In the next day or so, he got a name, Merlin, based on his mysterious and magical appearance at my workplace. Shirley and especially Sandy spoiled him terribly. Sandy carried Merlin everywhere; at one point, Shirley chided her: “If you don’t put that cat down, he’ll forget how to walk.”

But while Merlin was bonding with the ladies, he began shunning me. Maybe it was because Sydney was my dog, who usually occupied the space next to me on the couch and sometimes my lap. Merlin got along very well with Syd and Loki — once they put him in his place — but he barely tolerated me.

Merlin’s kittenhood passed all too quickly, and he grew. And grew. He finally topped out at about 16 pounds of bone and muscle. Our research showed he was probably at least part Maine Coon Cat, and he proved to be a skillful hunter.

Without a doubt, he was the handsomest cat I’ve ever had, with his sleek, thick coat and huge, bright eyes. But he also was the stupidest cat in creation. Outside of hunting, he never showed any sign of typical feline cleverness. I came to refer to him as “a cinder block with fur.”

Merlin and I endured an uneasy truce. For the longest time, I tempted fate by trying to pick him up or pet him. Too often, my reward was teeth and claws jammed into my hands and arms.

But something funny happened after several years. He discovered that I actually knew how to hit a cat’s sweet spots with scratches and massages. When I was sitting on the couch or  a chair, he would approach and nudge his head against my hand, demanding a scratch.

When I gave in, I got a real reward: the deepest, loudest purr I’ve ever heard. It was like sitting next to a furry mini-Harley. It was so loud that it would wake up Shirley when he came to me in bed and I’d scratch under his chin.

Still, he’s always been Shirley’s boy, and I appreciated him mainly because he brought her so much joy.

Except for a urinary tract blockage in 2012, Merlin has always been in fine health. A couple weeks ago, however, I realized he had lost a lot of weight. He wasn’t eating so much of his dry cat food, so we broke protocol and bought him some cans.

Despite gobbling down the canned food, he was becoming so lethargic that I decided to take him to the vet, who had given him a clean bill of health at his checkup in October. Shirley and I were stunned to learn he had lost three pounds in five months and weighed less than 10 pounds for the first time since 2004. An X-ray showed no problem, but the vet drew blood for testing.

The news was not good Friday morning. The vet called and said the tests showed Merlin apparently has lymphoma. Shirley and I had discussed such a diagnosis in advance and decided we would turn our home into a hospice. As long as Merlin shows no sign or pain or even discomfort, we’ll keep him here and cater to his whims. If things turn, the vet will make sure he doesn’t suffer.

Merlin is growing weaker by the hour, and we don’t expect him to last the week. The canned food still tempts him, but he can manage only a few bites before giving up. But when we fondle and scratch him, he still has that awesome purr.

The approaching end has caused me to shed some tears despite my best efforts, but I still have hope.

Because of my faith, I firmly believe in heaven. Theologians might disagree, but I believe paradise also awaits cats and dogs, too. Of course, nobody knows what comes in the afterlife, but I like the idea put forward by some scholars that death brings us unity with God for all eternity, and we are embraced forever in His almighty splendor.

To the Maker of All, mankind is special, created in His image. But all life bears a sparkle or hint of the divine. The bridge between people and their pets is vast, but it’s a only an atom’s span compared to the inconceivable gulf between man and God. In His infinite compassion for His creations, He surely wouldn’t condemn the tiny spark of a soul in a cat or dog to everlasting darkness.

I pray that Shirley and I earn a place in heaven. But it wouldn’t truly be paradise if Merlin doesn’t pull himself away from Shirley every now and then and come up to me and demand a scratch. I’ll be ready to give it.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I wrote on this blog a couple of weeks ago about the excellent work the Cajun Relief Foundation is doing in helping Louisiana’s flood victims get back on their feet as the politicians dicker over who will oversee the $1.6 billion in federal relief dollars.  As of this date, none of that relief money has been disbursed to flood victims to help rebuild their gutted homes.

Cajun Relief Foundation now has their crowd-funding site set up to where you can donate everything from dish towels to stoves to those people who are trying to recover after the August 2016 floods.

Consider the case of flood victim Judy Hood:

[Judy] currently rents a mobile home near her Holden Residence. Her home has been family owned since the ’60’s. Although it was devastated by 4′ of flood water, she’s grateful to God for the safety of her elderly parents.

Upon her return home, she discovered that little was salvageable. Among her greatest losses were Bibles, yearbooks, photo albums, and industrial art furniture pieces designed by her brothers. After the flood, Judy discovered “cotton balls” in which a friend quickly revealed was mold. Staying in the home profoundly impacted her health. Judy is a cancer patient. Unable to eat for two weeks, her health declined and she fell ill with a bacterial infection. Although her health has improved, she remains on a breathing machine. Her home has been gutted and treated for mold; however, reconstruction has yet to begin. Judy has $15,000 in funds to complete the work. Her brother is eager to help, but without supplies, he’s concerned, as labor costs alone would quickly deplete the funds.

There is a list of items you can donate through the site to help Judy: she needs towels ($25), a dryer ($300), dishes ($50) all the way up to building supplies like sheetrock and insulation.

Another case being worked by Cajun Relief is that of Mr. Nate:

At 70 years old, disabled, diabetic and blind in one eye, due to a failed cataract surgery, he just took life as it came and enjoyed being with his neighbors. The great flood of August 2016 was unlike anything he’d ever seen before and turned his once relatively easy going life, upside down.

When the August storm hit the water began to rise quickly. A friend tried to get to Nataniel by truck, but the water was starting to come up into the truck cab. After parking a distance away on higher ground, Nathaniel’s friend was able to reach him and pull him to safety through waist deep water. For six months after the flood Nathaniel was displaced and stayed with his sister. Everything in his home was lost.

In spite of losing many of his neighbors who were displaced due to the overwhelming devastation, Nathaniel has kept is positive spirit. Even surviving with no stove, no hot water, and no refrigerator, he remains active in service to those around him.

He needs silverware ($30), a water heater ($700), refrigerator ($600), pots and pans ($60), etc.

There are many other cases on the Cajun Relief crowd-funding page.  If you can help any of these people rebuild their lives and make a donation, by all means do so. If you can’t, just sharing it on your social media can help.

Go here to read about the crowd-funding and about Cajun Relief Foundation. They’re doing the hard work of interviewing and documenting all of these flood victims and their needs.  A caseworker is assigned to each flood victim and that caseworker follows up on needs, talks to the person, ensures items get delivered to that victim, and serves as an advocate for that person’s needs.

The easy part is clicking the donate button.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Malone: You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.

The Untouchables 1987

Leonard: …Sheldon, you can’t train my girlfriend like a lab rat.
Sheldon: Actually, it turns out I can.
Leonard: Well, you shouldn’t.
Sheldon: There’s just no pleasing you, is there, Leonard? You weren’t happy with my previous approach to dealing with her, so I decided to employ operant conditioning techniques, building on the work of Thorndike and B.F. Skinner. By this time next week, I believe I can have her jumping out of a pool, balancing a beach ball on her nose.

The Big Bang Theory, The Gothowitz Deviation 2009

Over at IMDB there is an interesting story concerning Johnny Weissmuller the gold medal swimmer concerning his early days as the silver screen’s most famous Tarzan:

When Weissmuller was introduced to the first Cheetah in his Tarzan films in 1931 (he worked with 8 chimpanzees altogether), the chimp’s trainer told him to show no fear or the animal would attack him. As Weissmuller, dressed in his Tarzan loincloth and hunting knife, walked up to the animal, it bared its teeth, growled at him and lunged as if to attack him. Weissmuller took the knife out of the sheath and held it in front of the chimp’s nose, to make sure he saw and smelled it. He then slammed the animal on the side of the head with the knife handle. He put the knife back in its sheath and held out his hand to the chimp. It glared at him, bared his teeth again, then changed its mind, grinned at Weissmuller and jumped up and hugged him. Weissmuller never had any further problems with the chimp–although other cast and crew members did–and it followed him around like a puppy dog during all the pictures they worked together.

This is a perfect example of risk/reward, note that the Chimp didn’t change his nature, he still gave problems to the rest of the cast and crew, but when it came to Weissmuller the risk of the whack in the head outweighed the reward of giving him grief.

This perfectly illustrates this story out of LA concerning the arrest rate:

an Assistant Chief with the LAPD tells the Times the number of arrests has continued to decline. Similar declines were seen in other big cities including San Diego. The result is that the overall number of arrests in California is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years.

Now given the increase in the crime rate the drop in the arrest rate would seem rather odd, but if you consider risk and reward, it’s not odd at all.

But others say it is inevitable that some officers will pull back, taking care of necessary work while not engaging in the “proactive policing” that could lead to more arrests — and to more encounters that turn violent.

“Not to make fun of it, but a lot of guys are like, ‘Look, I’m just going to act like a fireman.’ I’m going to handle my calls for service and the things that I have to do,” said George Hofstetter, a motorcycle deputy in Pico Rivera and former president of the union representing L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. “But going out there and making traffic stops and contacting persons who may be up to something nefarious? ‘I’m not going to do that anymore.’”

A police job carries a good pay, good benefits and a fine retirement package (at least until the unfunded pension issue bubble bursts) that is to compensate for the risk to life and limb, but it’s not just a physical risk anymore, it’s a social and reputation risk that enters into it

LAPD officers are troubled by contentious demonstrations at Police Commission meetings and by public criticism of their colleagues for using deadly force, said Robert Harris, a police officer on the LAPD union’s board of directors.

“Suddenly, you feel like you can’t do any police work, because every opportunity that you have might turn into the next big media case,” Harris said. “Of course, you’re going to take stock a little bit more, I think, before you put yourself out there like that.”

Why on earth are you going to risk your financial security protecting people who are going to demand your head if you put yourself out there to protect them?  Particularly in a city and/or state governed by a party actively antagonistic to police officers and silent when they are targeted as illustrated in the last presidential campaign:

while President Obama and the Democratic candidates vying to succeed him are putting America’s police departments on trial in the court of public opinion in response to a rash of deadly police shootings, the murder of police officers on America’s streets is being met with a “deafening silence.”

“I cannot recall any time in recent years when six law enforcement professionals have been murdered by gunfire in multiple incidents in a single week,” National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Craig W. Floyd said in a statement Friday. “Already this year there have been eight officers shot and killed, compared to just one during the same period last year and represents a very troubling trend.”

The relative silence on officer deaths contrasts with the Democratic candidates’ often fiery language on police brutality against African Americans. When it came to the issue of law enforcement at Thursday night’s Democratic debate, the candidates focused almost exclusively on “police reform.” Vermont Sen. Sanders said he’s “sick and tired” of seeing unarmed black people shot by police, likening heavily equipped departments to “occupying armies” – a reference to Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere. Hillary Clinton hit similar points.

And why would they act otherwise?  Given the supermajority of Democrats in the state, an electorate willing to reward them for attacking police and their lack of personal proximity to the areas of increased risk there is absolutely no incentive for elected Democrats to act otherwise, nor for professional liberals in academia:

If officers think twice about approaching people, some situations where police use force might be avoided, said Melina Abdullah, a leader of the local Black Lives Matter movement and chair of the Pan-African studies department at Cal State L.A.

“If police are more cautious about making arrests that might be controversial, making arrests that might elicit protests, then that is a victory,” Abdullah said. “We want them to begin to check themselves.”

who I suspect,  outside of an organized march wouldn’t be caught dead in the areas where crime is increasing as the police back off.  Victor Davis Hanson has these folks nailed:

The American progressive elite relies on its influence, education, money, and cultural privilege to exempt itself from the bad schools, unassimilated immigrant communities, dangerous neighborhoods, crime waves, and general impoverishment that are so often the logical consequences of its own policies — consequences for others, that is.

And of course while the negative reinforcement is being delivered to police the opposite message is being delivered to criminals, as the risk of arrest and punishment decreases, the incentive to engage in criminal behavor increases.  thus the rewards for everything from petty theft to intimidation and threats of violence increases for the criminal class while at the same time the incentive for a potential victim to call the police decreases.  Why bother calling the cops if they aren’t going to follow through?  Much better to keep your mouth shut and hope the gangs, the druggies and the thugs just leave you alone.

And this isn’t just confined to the cities, Hanson again:

Let me narrate a recent two-week period in navigating the outlands of Fresno County. A few days ago my neighbor down the road asked whether I had put any outgoing mail in our town’s drive-by blue federal mailbox, adjacent to the downtown Post Office. I had. And he had, too —to have it delivered a few hours later to his home in scraps, with the checks missing, by a good Samaritan. She had collected the torn envelopes with his return address scattered along the street. I’m still waiting to see whether my own bills got collected before the thieves struck the box. Most of us in rural California go into town to mail our letters, because our rural boxes have been vandalized by gangs so frequently that it is suicidal to mail anything from home.

No wonder the rest of the country doesn’t want to be ruled by California.


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Olimometer 2.52

If you are not in the position to kick in your funds we’ll always accept your prayers.

In 2 months, Lord willing, our fourth child will be born. He won’t be like the previous three. He has a rare heart configuration that essentially has his aorta and pulmonary artery switched up. There’s also a hole in the wall that separates the ventricles of his heart. His is a situation for which many parents would choose abortion.

They wouldn’t necessarily be perceived by society as cruel for doing so. It’s not like they would be doing it for the frivolous reasons that so many potential parents invoke in modern America. They would be doing it to prevent the child as well as their current families from having to suffer through expensive health conditions, multiple operations, and a life restrained by circumstance. There’s something noble about sparing someone from living a hard life, right?

No. There’s nothing noble nor humane about taking a human life at any stage of development. If given the choice in retrospect, would you rather go through the new challenges of a deformed heart that hampered you, the operations that constantly put you at risk, and the burden that comes to you and your family? Or, would you rather have never been born at all?

You or I can make this hypothetical choice because we’ve already been given the opportunity to live, to learn, and to grow in this world. I would challenge any God-fearing American’s honesty if they would have chosen a life cut short over a life of hardship.

Unfortunately, many couples or individuals in our situation would believe they were doing the humane thing by preventing those challenges from encompassing another’s life. They would likely be made to feel justified by their doctors who all-too-often condone or even encourage abortions when faced with the prospects presented to us.

Our doctor is different. She’s extremely caring and hopeful. She has never pushed us in the direction of abortion though she’s acknowledged that the option was on the table. Once we made it clear that the option wasn’t on our table, she never brought it up again. Today, I’ll be going in with my wife for our monthly checkup before the next phase of ongoing testing and monitoring begins. We’ll soon know some of our options on procedures to repair the heart or redirect blood flow. These are decisions that we’ve never had to make, but by the Grace of God we’re not discouraged. This is His child. We are here to bring him forth and to help him grow.

When abortions are done for frivolous reason, the lines are clearly drawn with very little doubt on either side of the aisle. When they’re done for reasons such as rape or incest, the line can be blurred a bit for some in the pro-life movement. In situations like ours, the lines are barely visible. Pro-life parents may feel justified to abort for the sake of their families and to prevent the pain and struggle that their child is certain to experience. To those of you in similar situations, please understand that everyone regardless of situation or condition has the right to live their lives. This isn’t a question of politics. It’s a cultural battle to define the God-given right of life itself even when that life is going to be hard.