"Southpaw", my novel, is now available to order in print
and on Amazon.co.uk at
Tipu Dog and I get better royalties from CreateSpace than from Amazon....
Hope you buy a copy and enjoy it
A percentage of sales will be used to help fund an operation for Tipu Dog of "Give A Dog A Nose" (see my post from 21 July below).
Argh, look, it's happened again! Another tiny kitten thrown over the wall into the garden of us village-idiot-animal-lovers again...
[Apologies for posting this twice on both personal and writing pages, I had to put it on this public page too to help us find a forever home for him].
Why don't people just come to the door? This kitten was thrown in the rain yesterday, and when we found him - beside the 5 beach dogs who were very good to ignore him - lucky kitten - he was wet, ...cold, covered in bottle flies, mud, fly eggs, fleas and ants (one of the big Goa ants had its pincers clasped into both his nostrils like a nose ring... it was hard to get off), and had his left eye stuck closed with dirt and pus.
We gave him a warm bath and hot water bottles and syringe food, treated his eyes and cleaned all the black from his ears, removed the fleas and he ate and fell asleep for hours. Batches of fly eggs had been laid all over him like glue, so we removed the worst by careful shaving, scissoring and tweezering. Still more to do today.
But he has survived the night and all bodily functions are functioning! Very friendly kitten when awake, he even gave us a little purr this morning. We have nicknamed him Sid The Not Vicious.
The pink ruler beside him in the photo is 3 inches long!
Animal lovers! India lovers!
Only £18 / €26 / US$28 / AUS$38 more needed to get this fund to the magic half-way mark. If anyone would like to help buy food to feed hungry dogs and cats on Agonda beach, South Goa, India, even if it's just £1, it all adds up!
The German Shepherd in the photo below (Tipu/Nosey) is one of the dogs who depends on this monsoon food supply. He has no nose (old injury), and no owner and having got very thin and lonely, he's now getting a variety of food four times a day in Agonda to feed him up, plus lots of human company. He needs and eats a lot of food (he costs just over £1 a day to feed)! He also been wormed, bathed, de-flead and de-ticked in recent days.
Thanks, purrs and woofs!
Update! (28 July) All these kittens have now found caring homes
Original post, 10 July: Well look who someone dumped in our garden today... one of the hazards of being known as the village animal lovers/idiots I guess.
Three dead sea snakes in 100 metres of Agonda beach today, and all different types. They looked like a Yellow-belly Sea Snake, an Ornate (or possibly Short) Sea Snake, and a Dwarf Sea Snake. All Venemous. iD photos from an Indian Snakes Database below. Actually, the Dwarf Sea Snake was sort of still alive, so I got it on the end of a long bamboo, put it back in the surf (and then ran away from the surf), but when I came back up the beach later it was back crawling around on the sand so I left it alone.
Apologies for the ongoing delays to the next post in my "True Animal Stories From Goa" series, but most of the interruptions involve animals... how surprising. Firstly, I got distracted by launching MADCAP (Monsoon Agonda Dog Cat Animal Provisions) / DAFT (Dogs Agonda Feeding Trust) - we're still working on the name - a monsoon feeding programme - linked below, to feed starving dogs and cats during monsoon (please donate if you can, we're almost a third of the way to our goal...).
Secondly, very unfortunately, our beloved Bogley cat has been poisoned by rat poison (probably from catching mice who had been exposed to the poison) and has been on her sick bed for three days. It is likely she will be there for a few weeks. She has experienced a lot of pain. The effects are very upsetting to see in an animal you love so please don't use poisons. No method of rodent culling is pleasant but poisons filter outward uncontrollably, unlike other physical controls. We don't use rat poison, we use a cat for rodent control. Unfortunately someone else used rat poison and our princess's life is now compromised because of it. Ironic, isn't it. Please don't use poisons. Thank-you.
Help me provide 1200 to 2000 meals for dogs, and 600 to 1000 meals for cats in my home village of Agonda, South Goa, India over the next four months of monsoon - direct from my hand! All of the animals who will be fed are homeless and hungry as there are no tourists here and very few restaurants open to feed them.
It is also a personal project as I will walk for about two to three hours a day to bring food to them. Who knows, I might get fit in the process
True Animal Stories from Goa
4: An Interruption To Normal Service To Bring You News From This Year's Monsoon.
I saw a dog being swallowed whole by a wave yesterday. He was one of five dogs walking home with me down the beach - or rather racing and tangling and playing in the surf together as I stayed on the sand. At some point he ran into the sea and stood facing landward as the waves lapped his flanks. A larger wave approached behind him, rose up his full height - and he dis...
True Animal Stories from Goa
3. Bogley Arrives.
As I write it is Wednesday 10 June and monsoon arrived in Goa two days ago. India's waters have broken, its yearly parturition of saturation. It rained all night.
I missed the official announcement of monsoon arriving in Goa on Monday. The onset came quicker than expected, three days earlier than the predictions I was following, a stormy depression over the Arabian Sea driving it north from Kerala faster than anyone expected. ...
True Animal Tales From Goa
2. The Accidental Pussycats.
First came Philip Cat.... hiccuping outside our beach hut.
Read the story at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/…
True Animal Tales From Goa
2. The Accidental Pussycats.
First came Philip Cat. When I originally met him, in November 2013, he was sitting hiccupping by our bea...ch hut. His comical expression (the first of many, as we got to know him) made me giggle, and I called hello to him, but his own hiccups had startled him and he hurried away. We had just moved in to the beach hut. He had just been eating a fish-head. For his after dinner constitutional, he had come to see who the new residents were. He didn't stick around that day, this scrawny, flea-ridden, black and white tomcat with his short coat and distinctively fluffy tail.
The next time he passed our hut, on his tomcattish prowls, I offered him a terracotta pot of curd to lick. And in anticipation of his next visit, I walked to the fisherlady over the little bridge and bought 10 rupees (about 10p/15 Eurocent) of fresh sardines for him.
Philip started to visit everyday. He'd meet me at the hut, follow me to the bridge, wait in the scrub while I crossed the road, and, once I returned, run meowing at my heels to the hut as I carried his bag of sardines. Some days he'd run ahead, eager for me to hurry up, to plop his sardines onto his roof-tile plate.
We de-flead him with ayurvedic flea powder, wormed him with a small slice of a human worming tablet that was also suitable for cats. We fed him rice, naan bread, vegetable curry, yoghurt, sardines, the scrapings from chicken and fish bones. Anything left over from our dinner. He slept on our porch, our chair, our table, our bed.
He brought with him one day to our hut a black and white female with a tiny black and white kitten. She too was skinny and so we gave her some of Philip's sardines. Even her people-shy kitten ran away with one, needling through it with his razor-sharp baby teeth.
We called her Mummy Cat and the kitten, Davey. Mummy Cat turned out to be a super huntress and a dedicated mother. She once leapt four feet straight up in the air and swiped a bat clean out of it. My instinct was to run and release the bat - which I did, only later remembering that bats can carry rabies and can transmit it to humans through a bite. She would bring her Davey Kitten empty crab shells from the beach in absence of anything else to eat. One evening she brought him a piece of orange peel. Arriving yowling for him through the night as if she had found chicken fillet. Davey came running. That is why we fed them, they were willing eaters, and in our eyes too thin. They soon fattened up.
After his breakfast, Philip would follow me to the restaurant next door and lie flat on his back on the table, purring, resting his head on my laptop for hours as I wrote.
After a month or so, with tourist season in full flight, Philip became known, among tourists at our end of the beach as "the biggest cat in Goa", "the monster", "the maharaja of cats", "the king". There were no cats around as healthy. Passing tourists - both Indian and foreign - would photograph the three black and white cats - the big, the medium and the little - sleeping in the sand outside the blue hut.
People particularly loved Philip because he was so large for a Goan cat, and had become silky, shiny, fat and healthy. It was ironic. The skinny, threadbare, needy cats got chased away from the restaurant tables whereas this fat icon of Goan felines was welcomed and fed tidbits and had cameras pointed at him as he flirted with these tourists at their tables until they threw down a prawn or a piece of buttery naan for him. He grew even fatter. His coat more lustrous.
Our landlord arrived slightly hesitantly one day and said that the widow next door was wondering where her three black and white cats had gone. Well, she knew exactly where they had gone: to our hut. That was how we found out they were "owned". He said she had asked him to tell us that she was happy for us to let one of her cats live with us at the hut, but not all three.
The woman turned out to be financially poor, but her life rich with family and animals. She had many cats, many dogs, many cows, many of whom had no home until she opened her door and sacks of rice to them. Our friends had in previous years come to know her as "The Dog Lady" for the number of dogs she supported throughout the monsoons when all the tourists had gone home. Every day she'd feed the cats on fish heads, left over from preparing the evening meal, and the dogs on rice and curry.
So it was time to send the cats home to her. But we couldn't convince them to go. They liked to sleep on our bed. They liked scrambling up our hut's wicker walls. They liked the fact they had no other cats around to compete with. But most of all they liked the 10kg sack of Whiskas Adult Cat Biscuits, and the 5kg bag of Whiskas Kitten Biscuits that we had bought them in the town 10km away. The cats were addicted.
Even if we didn't let them in the hut, and refused to feed them, which we tried for a few days, they'd scale the walls and come in through a gap under the tiled roof to get at the food, search for sardines and to sleep on the bed during the heat of the day under the cool of the fan, or through the cold nights of winter against the warmth of our legs.
Mummy Cat also had eye problems - chronically blocked tear ducts that left her with weeping eyes and recurring eye infections. We were treating them three times a day with antibiotic eye drops and we didn't want to stop before they had healed. Our friends nicknamed her Elvira for the constant rings of black ooze under her eyes (they've also got doted-on dogs with interesting names like Fat Slag and Wally, but more on them in a later post...). Elvira/Mummy Cat liked Lays crisps (potato chips) and was particularly fond of Sour Cream flavour, so I had, over time, negotiated a deal with her, I would put eye drops in her eyes three times a day - which she hated - but she would get a few crisps to eat after, so she learned not to run away as soon as she saw the eye-drop bottle come out.
So how would we return the cats to the owner we had inadvertently appropriated them from? We came up with a solution. Instead of feeding the cats at our hut, I'd bring the cat food to the owner's house and feed them there. The cats would learn to stay at home and they would still get their daily fix of Whiskas. It turned out to be a bit of a moot effort. The cats would all stay at the hut anyway, and they'd follow me to the Dog Lady's house, eat the food I brought with me, and follow me back to the hut.
But we became friends, me and the Dog Lady, in the curious way you can, even when you don't share a language. She told me (through her daughter who translated her mother's Konkani to my English) that all three black and white cats had the same name: Diamond.
Philip's ancestor was a Persian, she said. A long-haired pedigree imported from Europe to Goa by a relative of hers many years ago. This perhaps explained Philip's extraordinarily fluffy tail and rabbit-soft hair when most of the Goan cats have quite wiry hair.
The Dog Lady had a pride of other cats at her house, including a soft white ball of fluff which looked distinctly semi-Persian. However, she said that this female was not related to the Persian by blood, but had once accidentally suckled from one of it's daughters as a kitten, so inherited its long-hair through the milk, not through bloodline. It wasn't my place to point out the genetic impossibility of this. I quite liked the story as it was.
As the Dog Lady told me these things and as I fed her three Diamond cats and a muddle of other cats and kittens that occupied every corner, chair and nook of her courtyard and porch, and as we both whooshed away opportunistic dogs and puppies and chickens, hungry to get a fix of addictive Whiskas cat biscuits (I should add that we had been warned by a local man, weeks before this all happened, never to feed the local cats commercial cat food as once they tasted it they'd never happily go back to their staple diet of rice, fish, curry and other scavengings. Later on, in our Bogley Cat's case, this turned out to be completely true. She won't even touch fresh sardines anymore, even though she was raised on them.) Anyway, as all this happened, among a swarm of dogs and cats and chickens, the woman would give me sweet chai tea accompanied by a saucerfull of boiled sweet potatoes. (The first time she gave me a boiled sweet potato, I wasn't too sure what to do with it, what was the polite way to eat it. She diligently watched me eat the first one, munching it like an apple, only afterwards gesturing that I should have first removed the skin).
Through her daughter she told me that the cats start disappearing at the start of every tourist season, hanging out with the foreigners and scavenging at the restaurants for the dry season months, then returning to her for monsoon. During the rainy season she also inherits hungry and tourist-less dogs, who turn up at her house where she often laments they eat "too much rice, too much rice".
Tabby Tom Cat had lost half his front leg. I mean, it looked as if he had just lost it, moments ago... bone was sticking out above where the knee should be and red flesh was staring out. We were not far up the road from our hut when we saw him, returning from a local shops in the early afternoon, but he was in such a panic that there was nothing we could do. He ran from us. We couldn't catch him. We went back to the hut feeling sick.
My mind didn't want to get involved with another animal, but my legs walked me back up the village road at dusk, after the shops had reopened from the Goan siesta ("lunch" as it is called here), and I found myself asking people who owned him.
"Cat, three legs, missing leg, sick, you know owner?"
The first person I asked turned out to be the owner. The cat had lost his leg ten days before and she didn't know how. A dog, a car, who knows? The wound hadn't healed and was still painfully jagged, but she had kept flies and maggots away with local medicines. I told her about a vet nearby. Said he could help, if she could catch the cat for him. She said the cat came to her house at nine every night for food and medicine and she could put him in a box then. I explained that she may have to pay something to the vet, but only what she could. She said she was happy with that, as this was her favourite cat, and she wanted him to recover.
The next day, Tabby Tom Cat went off to animal hospital. But things don't always turn out as you hope... I'll continue the story in my next post.
Two themes run through my encounters with animals here on this serene beach in Goa:
Firstly, many dogs and cats here are nomadic, moving not between countries, but between different houses, beach huts, restaurants, resident locals and transient foreigners - according to the season and the available food and shelter. They also migrate between monikers, different foreigners and different local families knowing the same animal by different names.
For instance, the three cats called Diamond, we know as Philip, Mummy Cat (also 'Elvira') and Davey. Charlie Dog is also called Brownie and Nehru, depending which restaurant or hut or house or person he visits. If I am searching for him, which I sometimes am, I have to remember to use the appropriate name at each house I ask for him at.
Mama Mia Dog is also called Poopie, Blackie and Sindy by different people and nationalities. Sindy was once Barbie and Barbie was once Sindy, they got muddled up during monsoon. Tipu Dog (the dog with no nose, more on him later) is also called Nosey. Fat Slag Dog is also called Pat. There are no doubt other names for them that come and go with the changing people and seasons.
Secondly, it quickly become apparent when you stay here for a while that many people - the fish wallahs (sellers), fishermen, the poorer families, even some of the richer families - look agog at us tourists spending good money on expensive imported pet food or wasting whole fishes on a cat when the fish could feed humans or sending animals to hospital for spaying, neutering, cataract and cancer operations, or for crying over them when they disappear. I remember the day the vet's van arrived in the village and came to our house. After he had departed, four or five of the locals asked me what he was here for, and when I told them they simply giggled, in a fond but perplexed kind of way.
It's not that the locals don't love their animals - a lot of them do. When the Dog Lady's white calf went missing last year, and her family couldn't find it despite miles of searching on foot and scooter, she cried all day. It's just that us tourists lavish expensive foods, attention, time, money and medicines on animals in a way that many Indians can't even afford for themselves and their human families.
Next post: "3. Bogley Arrives." Bogley arrives during a monkey fight. Tabby Tom Cat comes home from hospital, but all is not well.
True Animal Tales From Goa
1. Mr Toad Leaves
Last night, my cup of tea paused midway from table to mouth, I hesitantly watched Mr Toad appear around the corner of the sitting room, as he always does after dark, and hop across the floor. I had a sinking feeling I knew what was coming.
Mr Toad, a handsome golden and rust-coloured toad, has lived in our house for perhaps three months now. He slipped in under the front door one night during dry season and ended up staying. He spe...nt the days sleeping under the spare room bed or beneath sarongs on the floor, and latterly under a plastic trolley in the damp cool of the bathroom. (Solar Kitten often snoozed there too, on the lowest trolley shelf, millimetres above his head.) He occupied his nights by hopping between rooms and hoovering up any ants he could find. Sometimes he'd even slip under the front door, go outside to hunt, and later return. We put a bowl-pond for him in the bathroom and he'd sit in it in the small hours, and even one night sat in it and chirruped his toadish-song.
But it was the first day of true and regular rains here yesterday and the smell of it was in the air and earlier I had heard toads croaking outside. The day had come when Mr Toad may want to leave.
Indeed, last night, Mr Toad hop-walked to a corner in the sitting room, as usual, backed into it, and surveyed the room for a few minutes, looking for ants. But he stayed there a far shorter time than normal. Seemingly distracted, he left the corner, and hop-ran towards the open back door. After a moment I got up and followed him. On the back doorstep, I was just in time to see him lean over the side, pause, then leap out into the darkness.
I have a feeling he won't be coming back this time. It is breeding season and nature - and other toads - call. Time will tell.
Mr Toad is one of the more recent characters in a long line of animals who have entered and left our lives here in India, or stayed in our lives, or crossed our paths, or whose paths we have crossed over the last two years.
So let's start from the beginning, in November 2013, at a time of arrivals, not departures.
[To be continued in... "2. The Accidental Pussycats."]
7 June 2015.
4 days before the (updated) predicted arrival of monsoon in Goa.
The beach! What a transformation overnight!
After the storms of last night and this morning, half of its width, seaward side, has been chewed away. The sand that has been eaten away has been thrown up at the furthest inland reach of the surf.
The waves swoop up the newly steep incline they have made, meet a one-foot cliff of sand, then peel back. The beach now peaks in a mound above this cliff, th...en dips again landward. In this linear hollow a knee-deep ribbon of lagoon has formed, running unbroken all the way from Agonda Kura Kura Beach Huts and Whitesands to the river estuary at the north end of the beach, some 300 or 400 metres perhaps. To get from land to sea, or sea to land, you have to wade through it, then emerge on the beach again.
The sea is no longer blue, but whale grey. Fishermen throw nets in the green water of the river mouth that meets it, catching little today but small crabs and small fish. Between their houses, women with pickaxes hack gullies into the earth to channel floodwater away. An eagle perches on a beach volleyball net. Boys play cricket on the sand. After the storms the forests exhale breaths of mist on the headlands that top and tail Agonda.
The air is crystal clear. All dust rinsed away.
The winds were so strong this morning they recreated the noise of the ocean in the palms. An entire tree, fat with coconuts, toppled beside my husband as he went to buy milk this morning. The shopkeeper, his customers and his family spilled out from the shop at the sound of the crash. Everyone is excited by the rain and the things it does. Loose and ripe things are being shaken down. Coconuts, palm leaves, mangoes, whole trees.
The power goes out for five hours - my husband has to shave by candlelight. It returns, goes out again for an hour, returns, continues to flicker. Thirty-foot high bamboos, pregnant with water, bow over our garden, framing in an arch the river which is in spate for the first time in nearly seven months.
6 June 2015.
3 days before the predicted arrival of monsoon in Goa.
Monsoon has officially reached Kerala, and here, 570 miles north in Goa, thunder has finally coaxed some rain from the patchy cloud. At first it fell as light as dust, catching in the sunlight as dust motes do, then poured, gathering puddles into the concavities in the garden and dogs into the porch.
After the rain came butterflies. Great big clumsy bumbling beautiful things. In the kitchen, Solar Kitten catc...