A Story of Affection

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong, Miscellaneous

It was Tuesday. My wife and I had things to do at Telford Gardens. My wife and her sister were hungry for something Chinese, and I wasn't, so they went off to their choice of restaurants while I began making my way to Starbucks for a coffee. On the way though, I was side-tracked by a young lady who recognised me from a veterinary clinic I had visited a few times with Rose our rabbit.

The lady was trying to rescue a kitten and asked for my help. The kitten was behind some building materials stacked up against the wall facing the outside carpark and crying out loudly. While the lady used a plank to force the kitten out of hiding, I waited on the other side and grabbed her when I had the chance. Little did I know how much of a wild cat she was in spite of her small size. She instantly spun around and clawed at me with everything she had. She even managed to bite me at least once, but I quickly grabbed her gently and securely, covering and holding her head with one hand and holding her body with the other. She stopped moving but growled angrily from time to time in protest.

While I switched my position to hold the small kitten by the scruff of the neck, the lady opened the boot of her car and began looking for a box to contain the kitten for transport. The kitten wasn't ready to give up just yet and began struggling as hard as possible to get away. The lady found a box in the car, but it was obvious that getting the kitten into the box would be almost impossible because the opening of the box was far too small and the kitten had all four legs sprawled out, ready to push away whenever the opportunity presented itself.

It was at this time that we realised that the kitten had a mother, and that the mother was in the rafters above us. She had been calling out to Mum all along. We looked up to see the mother peering down at us. There was a fire in her eyes, the kind that only wild animals possess. It was obvious to me that she would never trust us, and that she was worried about her kitten.

Getting the kitten into the box was pretty much pointless, and the kitten's mother was there to look after her so we decided to let her go. As I lowered the kitten to the floor and let her go, she pounced onto the floor with all four paws spread out and disappeared into the building material almost instantly. She was gone.

The lady left. I went into the bathroom to attend to the cuts and bites on my hands. With bites like these, it's advisable to press a little blood from each of the wounds to help wash out any bacteria that might be present, so I bled the wounds and washed my hands.

Back at Starbucks, I sat down to coffee and a sandwich. When my wife arrived, she was none the wiser to what had just happened in her absence.

On Death Row

Several hours later, I returned once again to Telford Gardens to change an order at Ikea. After getting my parking validated, I walked out to the car park and over to my car. While unlocking the car, I was keenly aware of the kitten crying out again. This time, it was in a stairwell. Too curious to be healthy, I peered around the stairwell and saw the kitten. She saw me too, and began backing away up the stairs. I decided to leave her alone and go home. Just as I was getting into the car, I noticed one of the security people carrying a cardboard box, walking in the direction of the stairwell. I was pretty sure I knew what he had planned but wanted to be sure and asked him. Sure enough, he was getting ready to catch the kitten.

A couple of weeks ago, I remember walking down the corridor of Telford Gardens Phase III with my wife when we noticed a medium sized non-threatening nervous black dog walking towards us. As he passed us, we also noted the security guard following closely behind talking with some urgency into his walky-talky. Obviously, he was planning to catch the dog.

I felt sorry for the dog. He wasn't harmful to anyone. He had no problem walking among the hundreds of people shopping in the centre but he wasn't welcome and he'd be caught by the security people soon enough. Once caught, his death was almost guaranteed.

I was familiar with the security guard planning to catch the kitten. I had talked to him several times in the past. When I asked about the kitten, he said that the kitten would be given to the SPCA. I commented that this action was the equivalent of committing the kitten to death (almost all of the animals given to the SPCA are delivered to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department which kills them within days of receipt) but he said there was nothing he could do. People move from Telford Gardens and some of them rather than taking their pets with them choose instead to dump them in the public areas. The pets leave toilet products in the public areas and the company consequently has no choice but to catch and dispose of the abandoned pets.

I had ignored the black dog, but I didn't want to abandon the kitten, particularly because I knew of someone who was willing to home it; the lady who had asked me to help her catch the kitten earlier. I accompanied the guard to catch the kitten.

Just as we exited the stairwell on to the public garden courtyard, we observed a young teenager chasing the kitten, enjoying himself as he instilled needless torture and fear into the kitten. How can people be so ruthless? Is it really so macho to persecute and terrorise small animals? These people are so pathetic. I reprimanded the teenager (whose father was watching nearby) with 「有啲人道先得嘅!」 and the guard and I proceeded to catch the kitten which I then took home.

Home

We have a spare cage which I unfolded and placed on my desk next to the computer. I wanted this wild kitten to see me as much as possible, to adapt quickly and lose its fear of people. I placed a mat inside along with water and dry kitten food I had picked up at the pet food store on the way home. I then gingerly placed the cardboard box with the kitten at the door to the cage and opened one flap of the box. The kitten didn't come out. It was cowering in one corner of the box. It not an option to place my hand in the box with the kitten so I opened every flap of the box and gently shaked it while keeping it pressed up against the cage to prevent the kitten from escaping. She went in.

We have eleven dogs, and fear was not going to help this kitten settle down, so I covered most of the cage with towels keeping the kitten blind to the world around it; except for one small area facing my chair.

The next thirty hours were incredible. I'll never forget the change that unfolded in front of me.

Every time the kitten cried out for her mother, I popped into view and gently meowed back to her. She cried all night long, even when her voice began to get dry and raspy. We didn't sleep much that night. I got up four or five times and went over to her. The more she saw me, the easier she would become with me. At least, that was the plan.

Day time came and the kitten continued to cry for its mother but she was getting tired. She hadn't touched the dry food, nor the diluted milk I had set down for her. Throughout the day, she became quieter, and began nodding off. It had been a terrible and exhausting ordeal for her.

Later that day at the advice of a friendly vet, I bought some canned kitten food for her. The strong smell of the canned food would make it more enticing to the kitten, and sure enough, not long after I set the food down, the kitten began to eat a little.

Over the next several hours, the kitten changed dramatically. Little by little, the kitten relaxed. She slept some, then she ate some. She cleaned herself, and she began to roll over and play around, even playing with her own tail. She talked to me more and more without the loud crying we had been subjected to for nearly 24 hours. Throughout the second night, she would sleep and then wake up and call out, but instead of calling out for her mother, she was calling out for me; it was a different sound. I would get out of bed and come over to the cage and meow back to her. She began to rub herself up against the cage, and suddenly, she was purring!

The second time she woke me with her calling, I came out and sat beside the cage. She came over to me and began rubbing against the cage again. I sensed that she had changed and I began to take small risks, tentatively poking my fingers through the cage and rubbing her tummy and back. She rubbed back and purred.

The third time she woke me, I decided to take a bigger chance. I opened the cage and was pleasantly surprised to find that she let me pick her up. I nursed her and she began to purr incessantly. She then walked up to my shoulders and became curious, wanting to explore the room we were in. I allowed her a limited amount of freedom, keeping a careful eye on our other kids to make sure they understood that the kitten was out of bounds.

By morning, we were good friends. The wildness in her eyes had disappeared, and in its place was an abundance of affection, comfort and joy. The change was miraculous. She was so beautiful.

Beautiful Kitten

For a 750x500 version, click here.

A New Beginning

We couldn't keep her. I wanted to but there were too many reasons that it wouldn't be a good idea. She'd have to live in the cage for several weeks while I trained the kids to leave her alone. That wouldn't have been a good life. Then after growing up, it was entirely possible that she would decide one day to attack our rabbit who is after all a species of rodent. And she'd probably go after the birds that like to come down to the ground in our garden every day.

I made a few calls and was very lucky to find someone who had a friend who was looking for a kitten. After taking my wife to work, I drove over to a temporary holding area where the kitten would begin its new life. She was not completely tame and managed to claw two of the assistants who were trying to put her into a new cage. When I looked in on her, she was shaking with fear again. I hoped that she would adapt quickly.

Two days later; i.e., yesterday; my wife and I drove over to visit her. I had missed her badly and wanted to be sure that she was ok. When we arrived, she was sleeping under the shirt on the tummy of one of the assistants. The assistant lifted the kitten out and I began nursing her, stroking her and talking to her. Half an hour later, she was that precious bundle of affection again, with a look in her eyes that would melt the heart of even the hardest criminal. It was a wonderful time.

I grew up with cats and have always loved them. When I was young, I broke my leg trying to save our favourite cat Jacob. Jacob eventually grew to a ripe age of 21 years old and died after I had moved to Hong Kong. I have seen Jacob in my dreams on many occasions, usually walking back to me from the bush that surrounded our country home in Gympie at the time. Jacob was an incredible pet and friend, and I'll always miss him.

The kitten will be staying where she is for one month until she has fully adapted to people and until she is old enough to get her first shots. She already has a home to go to and hopefully, she will have a wonderful life. In the meantime, I'll visit her as often as I can and take full advantage of the situation. She is simply too amazing for words, and I feel so so lucky to be able to spend time with her.

Unlimited Affection

Unlimited affection. How could anyone not fall in love with her?

For a 750x500 version, click here.

The Bees Have a Visitor

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day

A while ago, I discovered a wild bee hive near our home and managed to get a few photographs. As long as I didn't get too close to their hive in the base of a tree, they wouldn't feel threatened and I wouldn't be a target. The photos were ok; not great; but ok.

Bee Hive

Busy bees at the entrance to the hive which extends beneath the tree. As long as I don't threaten the bees, they won't attack me. Fortunately, the 1000-candle torch I used to illuminate them did not disturb them in any way although one bee was attracted to the light and kept flying into the torch glass. I eventually turned the torch off and walked away to put an end to the torture that the bee was apparently being subjected to.

At my home in Australia, we have wild bees but they're small and black without the stripes. The usually build their hives high up in the trees, sometimes in the tree, and sometimes in earthen structures on the tree; probably different species of bees.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

A few days ago, I was in the same bush area trying to get photos of a bird I could hear but not see. As I passed the hive, I thought I'd take a look and see how they were going. I was intriqued by what looked like a hornet, flying just above the entrance to the hive, occasionally getting side-swiped by a passing bee. It was very curious to watch because every time a bee came by, the hornet; or wasp, I'm not sure at this point; would outstretch all of its legs downward. It was intriguing and almost funny. Needless to say, I took a few photos and some of them turned out surprisingly well.

Bees have a visitor

The bees in this photo were busy on a leaf at the entrance to their hive while the visitor hovered above. After about five minutes, the visitor left the scene. It was really interesting though, watching the visitor extend his legs outward every time a bee approached.

Note. I almost never crop my pictures and this is no exception. This is the whole picture ;-)

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Selling cookies today at Whampoa Gardens

Filed in Entertainment Ind., Events

I'll be with other people from TVB just outside Esprit in Whampoa Hung Hom selling cookies for the 「愛心曲奇暖萬家」 charity from 3:00 to 4:00pm.

Esprit is at:
黃埔新天地的「時尚坊」G24-26
Shop G24-26 at Fashion World in the Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa.

So if any of you have time today (Saturday) and would like to chat and hopefully buy some cookies ;-)  please come along.

Christmas Butterfly

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day, Technology

Sometimes you get lucky…

The week before last, just as I was leaving home to go to TVB, I noticed a butterfly in the Christmas trees. The colours struck me immediately and I raced back inside to get my camera. Opportunities like these come once in a lifetime.

The result was a wonderful photograph which looks even better when enlarged.

Christmas Butterfly

The complement of the Christmas tree colours and the butterfly colours were extraordinary. Being able to photograph from below the butterfly made the photo all the more special.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Printer Dilemmas

One day soon, I'll be able to begin printing my favourite photos. It's been a long wait but I'll be finally getting a decent printer. The problem is that most of my photos are wildlife and nature photos featuring vivid colours, and many of the printers available until recently were incapable of faithfully reproducing these colours. My Epson Stylus Photo 1290 is terrible at reproducing nature's colours.

I had planned on getting an HP Photosmart Pro B9180 but HP decided that Hong Kong didn't have enough serious photographers to warrant making that printer available here. Instead of the B9180, HP Hong Kong only offers the older Photosmart 8750 printer with nine ink colours in three cartridges making it an expensive printer to use. The B9180 is available in China though. Unfortunately, I don't know who to trust over there (China even has fake eggs!), and I'd have to make a long trip every time I needed ink supplies or the printer needed servicing. I considered getting the printer from Singapore and a friend actually contacted a familiar reseller while visiting Singapore last week but the warranty was a concern nonetheless.

Canon has the imagePROGRAF iPF5000 which is a great printer, but again it's not available in Hong Kong, and in any case, our home isn't big enough for it. And I have to admit; I simply have no way of justifying the price.

I then heard that Epson was releasing a new printer based on the Epson Stylus Pro 4800. The new one is called the Stylus Pro 3800 and is much smaller than the 4800 but uses many of the same technologies. Unfortunately, the 3800 had not been announced on Epson Hong Kong's web site so it appeared that once again, the serious photographers of Hong Kong were going to get left out.

But late last week, I had to take my Epson 1290 in to get serviced. It was printing red stripes on my photos. I had extended warranty for the four-year-old printer which expires in January of next year so it made sense to get the printer fixed now. Just before leaving the centre, I noticed a display section and walked on over. Without expecting any good news, I habitually asked the attendant about the 3800 and was very pleasantly surprised; almost shocked; to find that Epson will be making it available in Hong Kong, although not as the 3800 but as the 3850. They even had one on display! I was also pleasantly surprised that the attendant understood my technical questions, all of them except the one regarding dMax which he thought only applied to scanners. And he thought Adobe 1998 was the largest profile available. It's not. The Kodak Prophoto profile is much larger and much better suited to wildlife photography.

If the B9180 was available, I would probably have bought it although I've heard that it has problems with dark colours on non-HP paper. If Canon had a smaller printer based on the iPF5000, I might have bought that too. Apparently, they're planning just such a printer called the PIXMA Pro9500; possibly available around March of next year. I wonder if we'll see it in Hong Kong. That said, if I had more space in our home, and if I had money to burn, I'd buy the HP DesignJet Z2100. Now that's a printer, with built-in professional class calibration capabilities. Yum! But we don't have a roomy home, and I don't have money to burn, so the Epson 3850 will probably be my printer for the next few years. Incidentally, Epson's warranty service has been very reliable so that's a big plus.

So finally, I'll have a printer that respects my photos, producing almost all of the colours that my camera captured. Printers have come a long way in the last four or five years. They're still not perfect but they're getting close.

Twenty years ago, Hong Kong people prided themselves in saying that you could buy anything in Hong Kong. They were wrong. I wonder if they're waking up to that fact yet.