History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Feline Yin and Yang on Fort Hill

Two of three rescued kittens.
We've buried more than our fair share of stray cats.  It's usually during a harsh winter.  Sometimes it has been after a collision with an automobile in the summer.

It's never pretty.  It's never easy.

In the winter, one has to pick a location, clear the snow, and hope the digging isn't too difficult.  It can be a hard job of work to break up the frozen ground with a pickax or mattock.  Never mind the trouble shoveling through the damned Roxbury rocks.

In the summer, the grave has to be dug deep enough to discourage Nature's  recycling scavengers from picking up the scent, digging up the carcass, and settling down to a tasty, foetid bite to eat.

In summer or in winter, after rigor mortis has set in, it is hard to sensitively balance respect for the remains of the deceased cat with digging a reasonably sized hole for the grave. In the absence of rubber gloves, and in a howling wind, fitting the furry body into the too-small hole using only the business end of a shovel...is...well, emotionally taxing.

As we said, it's never pretty; it's never easy. And, we always hate it.

So, when Mother Cat and her litter of three kittens showed up on our porch, it seemed necessary to do the right thing.  To treat with respect the feline co-inhabitants of our little square of green space in the city.  To reduce the chances of another mid-winter burial.

And, to return thanks for the colony's work to thin out the verminous squirrel population:  three carcasses, and counting.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's a Zoo on Fort Hill

A couple of comments at UniversalHub tell us that it's a Zoo on Fort Hill, with raccoons and skunks.  We've seen opossums, too.

And cats.  Feral cats.

A jet black mother cat was zonked out on the back porch the day before yesterday afternoon.  She had three rambunctious kittens who were alternately nursing and batting at the foliage being driven to and fro in the strong winds.  The mother was so sound asleep that we were able to approach within three feet to set down tuna and a water bowl.

By the time we returned with dry food and the camera, the mother cat was up and about, hissing and walking to the other end of the porch, attempting to draw our attention away from her litter.

Wanting to be responsible fellow urban mammals, we withdrew to watch.  Holy moley.  Nursing cats need a lot of food, for Mother Cat inhaled the tuna and then went to work with a vengeance, wolfing down the dry food.

Graduating from urban mammal to responsible urban citizens and thinking that three more fertile cats were not the best demographic addition to the neighborhood, we consulted the internet to see what we could read about feral cats.

Perhaps we could squeeze out a low-effort post to Jonas Prang, decorated with a few shameless kitty pics.  Hopefully we could figure out what to do about these cursorial carnivores.  (And, perhaps take our minds off yet more human carnage in Roxbury.)

After two hours of reading, we put the hope of a low-effort post to rest.  And, the hope of low-effort action to do the right thing by these...well...kitties.

TNR:  Trap, neuter, and return [ASPCA web site] seems to be the fashionable response to feral cats.  Trap and kill—the run-of-the-mill response to vermin—causes a vacuum effect.  Destroying a stable feral population merely invites new feline neighbors to move in to replaced the ones recently slaughtered.

A modest amount of googling for feral cats yields a stunning amount to read.  In an American society besotted with dogs and cats, why were we surprised?

So, to conclude this post we will provide just one more shameless kitty pic of our new neighbors.  And, we'll give a lightly annotated list of pages that seem useful for learning what to do about feral cats.

  • Commonwealth Cats, with a Peabody mailing address, may be what we need if we can bestir ourselves to trap this mom and her kits.
  • The resources page at Commonwealth Cats yields a link to the band-width-heavy web site of Alley Cat Allies a 501(c)3 organization with $4 million annual budget and net assets of $2.8M.  Perhaps they would make a small contribution so Jonas Prang can get these cats neutered.  We have to give them credit, though, for they make it easy to read their annual reports from FY 2003 to FY 2009. [3.4MB pdf]  And, they offer to send you their IRS 990, useful to see how 501(c)3s are overpaying their executive staff.
  • Drop Trap Design is a blog that tells how to build and operate a drop trap.  It also tells that cats are apparently so stupid that one can trap them over and over and over again, and they never catch on to the scheme.
  • Neighborhood Cats is pleased with its design for Tomahawk's Feral Cat Trap.
  • There is the sweetly-named, local, Jamaica Plain HubCats, though this site hasn't been updated since March 2008.
  • Here is STOP Clinic (Stop the Overpopulation of Pets), operated out of Weymouth.
  • And finally, there is the inevitable Wikipedia article on feral cats
Oh, and one more thing:  It seems mother cat has her own trap 'n' kill program, for skin and bones laid out just a few cat steps from the nursing cat are all that remain of one of the resident squirrels.

Make that trap 'n' kill 'n' eat.
Two days later, the bones are gone and only the pelt remains.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Refuge Church of Christ

The former Fellowes Atheneum in March 2010.
The Refuge Church of Christ at 46 Millmont Street, opposite the Lambert Playground, has a new (to us) sign out front.

The sign announces that the church has received a matching emergency grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund. The recipients and amounts from the current grant round 16 (Award selection June 9, 2010) have not been posted to their web site.

Other grant recipients in Roxbury from this fund have been the Roxbury Presbyterian Church (round 11) and Hibernian Hall (round 10).

The National Trust for Historic Preservation made a $5,000 grant [page 14 of a 44-page pdf] to the Refuge Church of Christ in their fiscal year 2009.

Beyond the pestilential aggregator advertising sites, the Refuge Church of Christ has no web presence.  Their fundraising consultant Jillian Adams, Building Legacy, features a picture on her web page and displays a short testimonial quote on her Results page.

The comprehensive Emmanuel Gospel Center Church Directory does provide a telephone number and an impressive list of personnel for the Refuge Church: Bishop R Lawson (founder), Bishop Theodore Hester Sr, Rachel Adams (Secretary), and Jo-Ann Gay (Secretary).

McGinley Kalsow of Somerville is listed on the sign as the preservation architect.  It appears this is their second project in Roxbury after the Shirley-Eustis House, and they give several projects in close-by neighborhoods on their impressive portfolios page:  the Union United Methodist Church in the South End; St. Brendan's and the former St. Margaret's in Dorchester; and St. George Cathedral, St. Vincent de Paul, and Gate of Heaven in South Boston.

Jack Aniceto is the masonry contractor.  He has worked on a number of significant local projects and his skill with masonry restoration vastly surpasses the poor quality of his German-based web site.

Refuge Church of Christ Phase 1 Emergency Stabilization.