Category Archives: al-Zill Photos

You in danger, girl!

Warm evening air greeted me as I stepped outside last night.  These little jaunts to the patio represent the only means of escaping my on-call hell.  Being tied to a computer 15 hours out of each day leaves no room for much else.

Yet feeling robbed of walks at the lake during such times doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy nature.  Living at an urban nature refuge means nearly as much life can be seen roaming about outside my own door as can be seen were I to venture to the lake itself.

Last night was just such a moment, an instance when nature came to me.  Albeit under stressful circumstances, and I don’t mean for me.

al-Zill lounged comfortably just outside the fence.  His attention seemed focus upward, toward or into the bushes I thought, although my view was limited and he just as easily could have been looking up into the sky on the other side of the hedges.

I had seen him leaping into the photinia bushes from time to time, something I assumed meant he was chasing one of the many birds or insects or lizards that use the foliage for hunting, for nesting, for off-the-ground transportation, and for camouflage.  The stealthy black feline always returned to the ground in that clumsy way for which he’s known[1], and always with empty paws and jaws showing he failed to capture whatever he was chasing.

The moment I stepped out the bedroom door and spied him, he turned, saw me, and came running.  This is the usual course of things; to wit, he dashes to my side the moment he sees or hears me, rubbing endlessly against me in an effort to give as much affection as he receives.

After a few minutes of petting and rubbing, him rolling around and giving me head butts the whole time, we had moved close enough to the food and water for him to realize his belly needed filling, so off to dinner he went.

al-Zill grabbing a bite to eat from the food bowl on the patio (20080322_02781)

My attention no longer diverted by this joyfully needy and loving cat, I stood, took a sip from my beer, and turned toward the fence.

I immediately saw Psiwa lounging beneath the tree inside the protection of the photinias[2].

Psiwa lying beneath the tree and behind the photinias as he looks up into the bushes (20080322_02789)

He likewise seemed to be watching the bushes intently.  Too intently.

Psiwa, seen from behind, as he looks up into the photinia bushes (20080322_02782)

I felt this warranted a closer look, what with two cats within spitting distance of each other who both appeared enraptured by something, something hidden amongst green and red leaves and the maze of limbs that supported them.

So I scanned the verdant growth looking for…  Well, looking for whatever they were so interested in.

It didn’t take long for me to find it.

A juvenile eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) precariously hanging on within the cover of photinia bushes (20080322_02796)

Precariously slipping from branch to branch, sometimes stretched to her body’s limit trying to keep herself as high as possible, a juvenile female eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) scarcely bigger than my hand clung to life by a thread, a thread represented by whatever protection the shrubbery could provide.

With two cats already aware of her presence, that seemed little protection for such a defenseless creature.  Felines are patient and skilled hunters.  An immature and frightened squirrel stands little chance of escaping.

I then decided I should intervene.

I went back inside and exited through the front door, walked around to the outside of the patio, and located the poor thing.  Even as I approached, it scrambled a bit, a clumsy attempt to remain unseen and safe.

A close-up of a juvenile eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) as she perches within the cover of photinia bushes (20080322_02802)

Despite its small size and cute visage, I knew trying to grab it was a poor idea, yet nothing else sprang to mind.  If I held it in my protective arms, at least then I knew it would not fall victim to predation by domestic felines looking for the enjoyment provided by the pursuit and capture of small darting prey.

But I had no intention of trying to grab it.  There is a great deal of nature that can be touched, from plants to insects to reptiles to arachnids to crustaceans to every other kind of life imaginable.  One need only know what is safe to touch and what is better left untouched.

A young frightened rodent is nothing to be trifled with, especially one who likely has been trapped in a hopeless situation for quite some time.

Yet what chance did a single human have to intervene when two killers had already marked the target, and the target itself possessed none of the skills necessary to escape, not strength or speed or intellect?

I stood silently[3] as close to it as I could without posing an imminent threat, at least one greater than the cats, and I pondered what course of action I could take.

Thankfully, a timely diversion bigger than me came around the corner, one that could not be ignored.

Someone across the road was receiving a large delivery of plants from a landscaping company.  The truck and its two deliverymen rumbled about making all sorts of noise, the lot of them finally coming quite near where I stood at the edge of the concrete.

The cats retreated long enough for the squirrel to leap from its ligneous hideaway and scramble beneath a nearby parked car.  al-Zill saw it, though, and he followed quickly.

Withing striking distance of the poor thing, me flailing crazily as I tried to divert his attention, the truck rumbled to life one more time to reposition itself for unloading.  That brought it right to the squirrel’s position.

The cat ran back through the bushes fleeing the giant monster, and the little gray visitor ran eagerly beneath the metal giant, out from under the other side, and quickly disappeared up a tree that gave it easy access all the way to the lake (from tree to tree to tree).

Did it survive?  While under my watch, yes.  I can make no other claims.

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] Having grown confident al-Zill does suffer from some kind of neurological damage, he tends to be less graceful than most felines.  Climbing into the shrubs around the patio is relatively harmless in that regard since he can’t fall far and has difficulty getting very high due to the dense limbs and foliage.

[2] I’ve said before that al-Zill and Psiwa get along.  That’s generally true, although not always.  This can be blamed on al-Zill and his mental issue(s).  Sometimes he greets Psiwa like an old friend, sometimes he ignores him entirely as though he’s not there, and sometimes he challenges him similar to the way one might challenge a home invader.  These dichotomous positions remain unpredictable, sometimes occurring within minutes of each other.

[3] Some might have provided soothing words to the poor little lass hoping to calm her racing heart and let her know help had arrived.  Those words, although comforting to human ears, might have been heard very differently by the squirrel.  Domestic cats, for instance, when in distress, are actually frightened and agitated by the soft tones and cooing verbiage we associate with peaceful reassurances.  Most people never realize this, and most people equally never realize those heartfelt gestures mean little, if not the opposite, to species other than humans and dogs.  While each individual will react according to its own personality, most animals receive little if no benefit from such acts.

[title shamelessly borrowed from “Ghost”]


The wound has healed nicely.  Fur now grows back atop his head—almost as though nothing happened.  Amazing how care and attention work magic in such cases.  Still, one need only look closely to see the old damage, the scars, the somehow misshapen contour of his skull.

His overall health and demeanor have improved.  Stable food and water, reliable affection, and constant shelter seem to bring out the best in life, seem to empower the recovering essence within every living thing.

He defends the patio as though it were his personal domain.  But only from violent interlopers.  Psiwa comes and goes at will, unchallenged.  Their gentle natures appear complementary.  The same is true for others, some as yet unnamed or unintroduced, but only those with kindred spirits.

He struggles with simple things despite his improvement.  A shake of the head, a movement altogether common for most animals, renders him unstable, sometimes falling, sometimes held upright on legs threatening to splay in all directions so as to leave him flat upon the ground.  Stretches?  They work sometimes; other times they present a form so uncontrolled as to be laughable—were it not so heartbreaking.

I speak of al-Zill, of course.

Although I’m on call this week, something that makes my schedule unpredictable at best, I believe my first opportunity to capture him will come this weekend.  Let’s hope so, for these times are few and far between.

al-Zill sleeping in the cat carrier on the patio (20080224_02358)

[he rarely stays in the carrier when I’m on the patio; normally he rushes to greet me, giving me head butts and rubs and all manner of love, purring all the while as he talks to me as though we’ve known each other for decades; the first opportunity I have to grab him in this state—when I can then dash him off to the vet for treatment and examination—must be seized with fanatic fervor]


Blood.  Puss.  Missing hair.

More than that, though.  Much more.

Sometimes unable to walk correctly.  Rapid movement, like running or leaping, even more dangerous, haphazard, shaky.

I watch him closely.  He lives on my patio now, or near it, and has for more than week, so watching is easy.

It’s also painful.

The wound on his head is deep, severe, a gash through to the skull.  Maybe deeper than that, I think, if the symptoms are any indication.

And another on the back of his neck.  The hair seems intent on remaining absent, a spot of bare skin with an equal on the other side, a perfect match for something attacking and choosing that spot for carnage.

But the head wound bothers me most.

When he tries to run, it’s all scrambling and slipping.

When he walks…sometimes…it’s all falling and stumbling.

Ear torn from the attack, I’m sure, as it appeared at the same time as the other wounds.


But he remains sweeter than honey, wrapping himself around my legs at every opportunity, rubbing against me like sandpaper in a woodworker’s hand, always eager for affection.

Still, the worry remains.

I first thought he had rubbed against wet paint, what with the smear of color across his head.  Only after a bit of time did I realize it was a sign of infection, puss rubbed across his ear and eye, a beige indication of the wound I had not yet learned to appreciate.

And that voice.  Raspy, child-like, a whisper from a being capable of so much more.  A worrisome reminder of something taken from this predator.


Yet so full of love, so full of affection.

And confidence.

He pranced through the bedroom door one night as though he lived here.  Perhaps he already does.

But followed me he did, a confident master sure of his universal superiority.

Still, the worry remains.  Worry for the wounded, for the signs of what is amiss, for the apparent harm to which this beautiful creature has succumbed.

No room in the inn, though, no room at all.  Not financially, for certain, and emotionally…  Well, I lament my own inability.

Lament being the operative term, however, for doing anything less might indicate I lacked the bandwidth to care for another.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Perhaps that’s the problem.  This poor soul, this wounded beast…how needful its path, how obvious its desire, how lacking its existence.

I have the means and will.  I simply lack the financial ability, not to mention the living arrangements.

So I care for the wounded by the only means available.

That doesn’t seem enough.


Guess who’s coming to dinner?

The last week to ten days has offered a new sight ’round the xenogere wildlife sanctuary.

al-Zill grabbing a bite to eat on the patio (194_9431)

That’s al-Zill, a new cat who’s been showing up often to enjoy a free meal (or several).

As for the name, al-Zill is Arabic and means “the Shadow.”  I felt it appropriate given this feline’s color and skittish personality, both of which help make the predator quite sneaky and oft times unseen.

But al-Zill was not alone while trying to enjoy some breakfast.

al-Zill grabbing a bite to eat while Larenti watches (194_9432)

That’s Larenti crouched in front of me as she watches al-Zill eat.

It should be said that Larenti has essentially claimed the patio as her own.  She’s here every day, she spends most of her time lounging about, she greets me almost every time I go outside regardless of the time, and she’s grown quite accustomed to me.  She trusts me quite a bit—but not completely.  The way she reacts sometimes, I’m fairly confident she was abused.  But more on that later…

al-Zill and Larenti aren’t exactly friends, but neither are they enemies.  They tolerate each other to a great degree and have only scuffled once or twice when one surprised the other.  Not to be unexpected with unfamiliar cats, I’d say.

Despite Larenti’s watchful eye, however, al-Zill went right on with his meal (and I’m assuming it’s a male, although I could be terribly wrong as I’ve not been able to get a close look).

al-Zill grabbing a bite to eat on the patio (194_9433)

And as he ate, Larenti edged closer and closer.

al-Zill trying to eat while Larenti sneaks closer and closer (194_9435)

It was as if she thought she really was sneaking up on him.  Considering I saw every one of his surreptitious glances as she moved in, I knew otherwise.

Finally, though, she got close enough to interrupt the meal.  Either that or he’d had enough for breakfast.

al-Zill trying to eat while Larenti edges ever nearer (194_9446)

With her continuing to get closer and closer, he finally stood and walked away.  She didn’t follow.

al-Zill leaving the patio and food (194_9448)

That space in the fence in front of him is where I accidentally put my foot through the wood slats.  I had been leaning against the fence and had my foot propped up in one of the small spaces.  Unbeknownst to me, both the wood and the nails had long since become weak with age and weather.  The moment I shifted my weight and put a little too much force on that leg, my foot went right through the fence and took the corner of the structure with it.


[on a side note, I’ve not seen Aethon, Chira, Clance or Henko in a few months; I worry about all of them and hope they’re doing well; Psiwa, on the other hand, continues to visit; in fact, he was here when I arrived home from work today; I stood quietly on the patio as he gobbled up some kibble for his evening meal]