Friday, November 25, 2011

Turn Tiny Paw Prints into Christmas Cards

Every Christmas I follow a fading tradition of sending a physical card with a handwritten message to friends, family, and colleagues.  This lets the recipient know I took extra time in this increasingly hectic world, to think about that individual person or family. Who doesn't smile or skip a heartbeat when they see a personal greeting card sitting in their mailbox amidst a pile of negativity--bills! It's the first mail piece to be opened, or ripped open. I know I love to receive a greeting card and cherish it by displaying it across my media center.

Since I discovered Tiny Prints earlier this year, I no longer have to expend valuable time and gas money to drive to crowded parking lot of a store and stand elbow to elbow with other customers scanning the dizzying rows of Christmas cards. Tiny Prints is an online card service where you can easily choose from an organized selection of cards and  personalize each individual card including the name of the recipient, the photos, and anything else you choose to have printed on the card.

I now use it for my nonprofit effort in raising awareness about homeless pets, especially cats. For every donation over $20, I customize a card for the donor and Tiny Prints will mail it directly with the stamp. Convenience and customization.

So instead of being a chore, selecting and designing my Christmas cards or any card is so much fun!

So which card did I choose this year? First I always choose the folded card. This way it's easy for the recipient to stand and display the card. Usually this catches the attention of other visitors, family members and guests.  Remember this is also a solicitation card for donations. So the upper, inner flap tells the story of Johnny Walker and thanks the recipient for their past and continued support.

Then as the chairperson for raising awareness of the plight of black cats and dogs (the least adopted and most euthanized in shelters) I am constantly finding ways to overturn misperceptions and elevate the black cat and dog. Last year, right after Christmas, my home still lingered with white poinsettas.  Fortunately a foster cat, Johnny Walker appeared in a perfect pose behind the white poinsettas. With my camera nearby, I tiptoed back to the balcony and captured the ideal photo. So I'll be ordering 50+ and add a written message for that extra personal touch.

Searching through Tiny Print's abundant selection of holiday cards, I found this beautiful card titled "Fancy Snowflake" which balanced the gold and black colors of my photo. Hence the photo above! Remember you can customize the salutation and closing, the greeting and even include other photos and/or messages inside and the back of the card! To complete the presentation, Tiny Prints also offers complimenting address labels and party invitations.

So enjoy this new outlet for ordering and sending Christmas cards or greeting cards, party invitations for any occasion!

Merry Christmas!
Christine for Riverfront Cats

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's Been a Tough Year...But I'm Thankful

Christine here.
It's a tradition. Every Thanksgiving I sit down and write out what I'm thankful for.
Then I put it down and reread it after feasting on an abundant meal.
Every year when I sit down to write my Thankful heart opens.
This year...has been an especially challenging year for me in many ways.

As someone who looks after homeless, helpless, voiceless animals, several of our dedicated volunteers moved out and two of us carry the load--shopping for cat food and feeding 21 cats daily.  But we gladly carry that cross for the cats are all happy and healthy but...
One of our Riverfront Cats was found dead, electrocuted. Nikki, was a special kitty.
One of my cousins was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully she beat it for now.
And most recently another dear person I knew, died suddenly of a heart attack, at young age of 37.
So this morning when I sat down with my cup of coffee, my tablet and pen I wasn't sure what to expect. I labeled the top...
...and then I just stared blankly at the page.
Eventually, like it had a mind of it's own, my hand made its way to the paper and...
Then I started to write...and write...and write.
The only thing flowing faster than the ink from my pen were my tears of happiness and joy.
As I was writing I realized that I have more love in my heart and more to be thankful for this year than I can ever remember.
After pouring out a record of over 3 handwritten pages...I felt like something was missing.
It didn't take me long to figure out what it was...
So I freshened up my coffee (coffee happened to be on my 2011 Thankful List) bolted like a kitty who's tail had been stepped on to my office a few feet away, Sat down at my trusty computer and I am now sending this note to YOU.
I am so thankful that our paths have crossed. Thankful for your friendship, for your interest and well wishes for me and the Riverfront Cats.  It's a labor of love. The hardest work I ever have done and nonpaying, but it is the most rewarding and uplifting experience. The cats are grateful and they show me!  Without your emails, Facebook comments, your moral support and other kind acts, I don't know if I could make a difference.
Wow! I feel totally complete now! Thank you for listening and letting me share.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and I pray you find your thankful place no matter what challenges you may have had this year.

Christine Michaels
Now on Facebook

You read all those sad stories about homeless pets but you can't rescue or foster them. You feel frustrated and helpless. But you can make a difference! This Christmas a small donation of $20 or even $10 goes a long way to helping the voiceless and homeless animals. Thank you for giving back.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Cat is Electrocuted

I wonder in reading this, if anyone would react? Would anyone really care? Would your heart feel a pinch? Would your eyes get misty? Would you imagine a lifeless body with tips of ears, paws, fried like edges of burnt bread? Would anyone just pull out a credit card and donate the cost of a cocktail? Less than $20 bucks. A Starbucks mocha latte? Less than $10 bucks? The cost of fast food hamburger or milkshake? Less than $5?

I wonder...

It is with great sadness and tears that we report that one of the sweetest, stray, black cats with stunning green eyes, Nikki, was found dead in the substation room of FPL--Florida, Power & Light in downtown Miami last week. She was four years old. Also the mother of Audrey "Tiffany" Hepburn awaiting adoption.

How did this happen? The cats seek refuge in the substation during heavy rains and when the weather starts to cool. Sure enough just when temperatures dipped in the 70's last week, Nikki found warmth in this former haven. This is NOT the first time this has happened. Years ago when another colony of cats resided there, one was electrocuted and FPL hired a trapper to capture the remaining cats which were presumably killed. Little did FPL know it doesn't solve the problem and creates a "vacuum". Hence Nikki quickly made FPL her home at that time. She filled in the empty nest.

When asking the FPL employee how to seal the room to prevent this from happening, his voice stoic and lowered, "I don't think anything can be done".  With binoculars, I viewed this death camp from my balcony. He was right. The structure has gaping open at the corners and bottom. But there is ANOTHER SOLUTION! First spay & neuter. Second, retrain cats to find refuge in roomy cat houses!
Many weeks ago, Christine had sent an email to a PR rep at the main FPL office in Miami asking for their involvement to have cats on their property spayed and neutered. She never received a response. Three emails were sent. Employees end up paying for the spaying/neutering  out of their pocket.

It's now time to escalate this issue and encourage FPL to take an active role in the community to prevent this unnecessary suffering and to stop stray cat population from growing.

FPL borders the Riverfront condos. To prevent the cats from coming in and residing inside the valet car garage where cars zoom in and zip out, we feed them on empty grass strip inbetween Riverfront condos and FPL lot, although the cats climb over and under the fence to go back and forth between the two properties. The cats are fed on the condo side but well secluded. It's actual an ideal place for stray cats--no traffic, people or dogs.

To the left is FPL lot, to the right beyond fence is Riverfront condos.
The columns support the Metrorail. This is secluded area, ideal for stray cats.
But they need a safe, dry shelter!
(Those are two black cats, Sonny and Chaz, and Lion King on right)

It has been very challenging finding a carpenter to build a cat house to say the least. After a few offers and agreed upon price, people never came through even though we offered to pay. The alternative was to buy a dog house, have it modified into a cat house but it was even harder to find someone to modify the cat house and with a truck (long story).  After the tragedy of Nikki, something had to be done. So Christine found this sturdy, large cat house, MADE IN USA, designed with two doors specifically for otudoor cats. The additional deck/porch will serve as feeding station, covered from rain. The price tag is $565 from Yes, in conducting research, the shipping alone is close to $100 because of the weight. But we are DESPERATE.

This is an all Cedar house (no insulation) built in the USA with stainless screws.
The porch/deck was additional but will serve as feeding area when it rains.
The Riverfront cat house will not come with name plate.
  We really need concerned and animal loving residents to step up and to help anyway possible! We could use a reliable handyman to assemble the cat house once we get some donations and order it. If you would like to contribute financially to this effort, you can easily pay with credit card or PayPal by clicking on the Donation button on top right. The cost is pretty steep for an effort primarily funded by two volunteers. But this tragedy required immediate action. But we still need small, wall-less cat houses to be built and placed in bushes for the other locations.  So we still need a reliable handyperson or carpenter!

If you have other ideas, please send us email to

Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey

A book review by Christine Michaels

Announcing...the release of a new book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey. I am honored to have had the opportunity to read this book before the official release today and share my review. 

This is the first book written by author, Deborah Barnes. Deb shares a story that is enchanting, engrossing, educational and uplifting. The cover alone and subsequent pages filled with photos and artistic illustrations are stunning. I anxiously await more stories or to follow Zee and Zoey's journey on Facebook and Twitter.

For animal lovers, dog owners and feline philes, read on! This is a personal diary and a romance with lessons in life amplified by two cats, the main characters, Zee & Zoey. The lessons are numerous about responsibility, the fruit of hard labor, love and respect, the bond between human and pet, and how the ordinary is truly extraordinary. Deb writes with a warm, conversational and light-hearted tone it reads like a Disney story.

The book begins with Deb's life as a child and her home full of stray animals and pets. Entering adulthood, that love grows but she also realizes the responsibility in caring for a pet, similar to a child.  This is the first lesson to a reader who is considering a pet--it's a permanent, lifelong commitment. In one chapter, Deb adopts a kitten from a place that looked and smelled like unchanged cat litter--a bad sign. (As a side note, Deb quickly clarifies that having multiple cats does not mean a home should wreak like one. ) As expected, the kitten suffered an infection. But she did not return the kitten like a clothing item that had a tear or stain.

Due to his sickly condition, in retrospect, I could have probably taken him back to his previous home and gotten a refund. But as any parent knows, a child is a child is a child.  You love them as they are, sick or not...The thought of exchanging him was something too cold and callous to even contemplate...

An underlying story but great lesson--dogs and cats can get along.  Deb initially had a parade of dogs and a rabbit followed by a menagerie of cats. And while they may not all have been bosom buddies both canine and feline respected one another and on occasion shared the same bed or sofa.  Imagine a world where humans follow this example. Less conflict, more peace, more happiness.

Oh the adventures of four-legged children that would fill a scrapbook and many journals.  The chapter on Deb's home renovation reads like an action-packed Disney movie.

Speaking of escapades, it is at this point in the book we learn more about the principal character, Zee. What makes this cat so special you ask? Appearance-wise if there is a cat that can make a grand entrance and turn heads, it's a Maine Coon cat with their long luxurious coat like a regal cape. 

The almighty Zee

As a cat caretaker, I'm all too familiar with the range of personalities exhibited by cats. Zee is no exception and also demonstrates his cleverness and intelligence. So much that he was placed in "time out". Yes Zee, like a typical mischevious little boy, intentionally disobeyed and was punished. Shockingly, when Zee was scolded he understood the repercussions that something fascinating occured I don't want to reveal in this review. Read the book! Another sign of the intelligence of cats.

Then the much anticipated introduction of Zoey, a Bengal cat. I recently learned about and was intrigued by this type of cat on the Animal Planet channel. So upon learning that Zoey is the descendant of a wild Asian Leopard Cat with gorgeous leopard markings called "rosettes", I savored every sentence and description as if I were admiring a Picasso masterpiece.  While Zee may win the "beauty" contest, Zoey's sinewy body and fluid motion would certainly qualify her for the Olympics in presentation and athletic ability.

Zoey--just look at those eyes!

Then Zee meets Zoey. Their "love at first sight" rivals that of Romeo & Juliet with an intense passion. It's a whirlwind courtship and mating that is abruptly halted. Now while Deb is an advocate to spay/neuter, Mother Nature pulled rank and before anyone knew, Zoey was pregnant. The ensuing gestation period of three months and delivery of the kittens inspired awe, laughter and tears of joy. It's during this chapter that Deb and Zoey are in constant communication. Now if you have never owned a cat or even a dog, you may consider this odd or another attribute of a "crazy cat lady". My dear reader, this is a fallacy.  Just like long-married couples, the gestures, sounds, meow pitches and body language speak volumes.  Deb Barnes knew her cats well and understood catease and even their specific dialects.   So when Zoey alerts Deb she's about to deliver, like a supportive mother, Deb is by her side every minute ensuring Zoey's bed and surroundings are suitable and comfortable. The birth and growth of the kittens is another series of comical adventures.

Now for my fellow cat rescuers and educators who struggle finding homes for countless, homeless kitties, do not fret. Deb acted responsibly and had  Zee, Zoey and the kittens spayed/neutered. More importantly, she ensured the kittens had a safe, loving, permanent home. Three kittens remain with Deb and one, Zeuss, went to a friend who still cherishes the cat. Zeuss now has a following on Facebook and Twitter.

So how does Deb juggle seven cats?  Let's just say the key is routine. And her home? Immaculate. Unless you see a cat scamper across the floor or climbing or jumping onto the sofa, you would have no idea cats occupied this house and would think they were decor fixtures.  This is the modern cat lady.

Deb in Leopard Cat Glam
 Throughout the book is a recurring theme and the most important lesson of all. It is simple but powerful: Through out life's trials and tribulations especially in this gloomy economy we are easily dragged down, on the verge of plunging into a dark abyss. Deb learns from her cats, creatures who are confined to a finite space and world, that a simple event can be extraordinary. They remind her to take the time and "smell the roses" and life is all the better.

I also know with all certainty that I will continue to learn from my beloved Zee and Zoey who have given me the invaluable gift of teaching me how to re-examine how I perceive the little moments in life.  By sharing my time with them, they have taught me to slow down a bit and to really embrace what I already have in my life--to revel in the everyday ordinary and reinterpret it to make it extraordinary...I am not implying the traditional, over-the-top meaning of the word extraordinary that evokes images of bungee jumping...Just imagine for one brief moment that you are Zee and Zoey and you happen to glance out your dining room window and an unsuspecting squirrel happens to be within your eyeshot. For them, just like that, in  a mere split second, their lives become extraordinary as they immerse themselves in the excietment of that unexpected little change in their otherwise ordinary day.

A true cat person knows this secret. As a caretaker of 21 outdoor cats, some friendly, some feral, I have never been more thankful of my life than when I feed these "houseless" cats. Living outdoors, in extreme heat, sticky humidity, daily summer thunderstorms, mosquitoes and ants, these cats are grateful for a little food, attention and sometimes affection. Every night while making rounds even in the pouring rain, to witness these cats that jump out of hiding and come prancing to greet me is the most uplifting part of my day. To have a book written that so eloquently and precisely explains this concept is a testament to Deb Barnes as a talented author and will do wonders to further raise awareness about the magical essence of cats and their connection with humans.

Speaking of magical, The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey is an ideal read and gift for the Christmas season! This book is a page-turner and a must-read for anyone who claims "I'm not a cat person". With an open mind and heart, you will fall in love!