Dear Fellow Felines:
On Sunday, October 4, the island will be aswarm with spandex-clad athletes competing in the Marco Island Fitness Challenge Triathlon. As supervisor here at For the Love of Cats, I have thrown our whiskers into the ring with my team “Meow Power”. The three-discipline event is comprised of a quarter-mile open-water swim in the toasty waters of the Gulf, a 15-mile bike ride through the island’s few hills and fewer dales, and a 3.1-mile run on the steaming hot white-sand beach. Survivors are awarded medals . I hear my loyal readers out there now, questioning the sanity of such an undertaking. Why not stay indoors watching “I Love Lucy” re-runs? Who cares about a Fitness Challenge? Well I, for one, care. Sammy Miller, Karina Paape, and Maria Lamb care, and most important of all, the cats and kittens at For the Love of Cats care. My selfless team of cat ladies are generously donating their athletic prowess for the sole purpose of raising $5,000 for For the Love of Cats. All monies in the kitty (ha ha) will help us continue our mission of rescuing abandoned cats and kittens, and finding furever homes for each and every one. No cat left behind is my credo.
As shelter supervisor and acrobat extraordinaire, yours truly was the obvious albeit dubious choice to coach team Meow Power. I’ll be giving up my long afternoon naps in my tempur-pedic cat bed. But rest assured, I will be a paws-on coach. Joining me on the coaching staff (don’t forget: dogs have owners, cats have staff) is our beloved mascot, the late Mr. Kitt, a 21-year-old Maine Coon cat who, before crossing the rainbow bridge in 2013, was the shelter’s assistant kitten manager for five years.
Kitt’s paw prints have recently been filled by Felicia, a 13-year-old Maine Coon cat who came in similarly burdened with a litany of health issues and mind boggling medication schedules. Like Kitt, Felicia has become a permanent resident at the shelter. Poor girl came through the shelter doors as a starving sack of skin and bones. She’d been abandoned at the Esplanade and I was receiving calls daily about a starving cat. A two-man team of my best feral trappers donned their camo gear, night vision goggles, and three traps baited with yummy albacore tuna. Under cover of a dark and moonless night, I sent my trappers in. For the first hour they worried about whether Felicia would fall for the trap trick. As the trappers took up their positions, Felicia slowly made her way past the traps, then kept on walking until she was standing eye to eye with my trappers. Brave soul that he is, and contrary to all of his training, said fearless trapper reached down and, bare-handed, picked up the very weak fur ball who immediately started purring. Mission complete.
Now let me introduce my team Meow Power athletes: Swimmer Sammy Miller is already busy doing multiple laps a day in the Y’s Olympic size swimming pool in preparation for her quarter-mile, open water swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Biker Karina Paape is braving the open roads of Marco Island and dodging the hundreds of drivers who hate spandex and cuss at her daily. She tells me that she was under the impression that Marco Island was a bike-friendly city with designated bike lanes. But not to worry, she only has to ride 15-miles, out to Key Marco and back. And last but not least is marathon runner Maria Lamb. Since she recently completed the Boston Marathon, it would be brazen of me to offer her any training tips. This is a huge relief to me because I hate running and would have advised her to just sit that leg out in an air conditioned spa. A lot less sweating.
This next part of the story is a bit confusing so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.
Triathlons come in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors. You have your Ironman format at one end of the spectrum and your “sprint triathlon” at the other. The Marco Island Fitness Challenge is a sprint marathon meaning the course is relatively short (what’s short to Sammy, Karina, and Maria is like climbing Mt. Everest to me). Team Meow Power is competing as a “relay” team so each team member does only one of the three disciplines. So, you ask, how does that work? Do they throw each other a baton when the respective team member has finished their leg? That’s what I thought too. But Sammy the swimmer set me straight and explained that instead of a baton, the relay athletes hand off a timing chip that wraps around the athlete’s ankle and calculates the team’s cumulative time.
As Meow Power coach it is imperative that I taste-test every dish on a specific day’s menu. After all, if I hate it, my team will hate it. It is an open secret around the shelter that I’ll eat anything that crosses my lower dentures. But I do have a lifetime subscription to “Gourmet” magazine owing to my discriminating feline palette. Unless, that is, it’s beets in my salad or anchovies on my pizza. My Meow Power training table includes a delicate combination of protein (no red meat) and high quality carbs like fruits and vegetables. Cupcakes are not permitted, nor is wedding cake. I am, however, allowing my weary ladies a glass of red wine on days they complete their respective workouts. And once a week they can indulge themselves and have a heaping bowl of cat-nip flavored sorbet. My ladies need to be lean, not anemic. Who wants to drag extra weight through the Gulf, or across the broiling sand, or up the hills of Key Marco without using supplemental oxygen.
Training and healthy eating started on July 1. We are 14 weeks out from the event so every Friday for the next 13 weeks I will distribute weekly workout sheets. Week 14 is the week of the event so the gals will be in recovery mode that week, probably getting pedicures. My goals are to turn Sammy into a mermaid so she can swim really fast without coming up for oxygen. Karina will train in Europe because that’s where the top cycling sprinters hang out. If she doesn’t get that plane ticket to Europe she wished upon a shooting star for, she’ll have to ride up and down Indian hill 20 or so times a day. Rounding out team Meow Power is runner Maria Lamb who plans to train with a group of Kenyans she met at this year’s Boston Marathon. So I have every reason to think we’ll win. It’s okay if we come in second or third, just so long as we meet our $5,000 fundraising goal.
Shelter founders Jim and Jan Rich have agreed to install an under-water treadmill in their pool so that my team can maintain muscle tone when the elements turn against us, i.e. hurricanes and tropical storms. Remember, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Wilma, the last hurricane to roar across our shoreline. Specialty vets use underwater treadmills to rehab cats and dogs who’ve suffered traumatic injuries. Because I don’t like to get my paws wet, I will use the recently patented “Pet Petter” to massage my team’s aching muscles. When your feline darling stands on the motion sensor platform, pet petter goes into action. Even the most high maintenance of felines won’t be able to resist. We’re talking 8-10 hours a day of being petted by a robot.
I received another love letter from two of our most recent adoptees: Zen and Panthera. “Hello Jan and Jim…Zen and I give thanks to you and all the wonderful people who work with you and who have given so graciously of their time and love. We are ALL HAPPY TO BE TOGETHER. We thank you for the rescue work you do. HOW LUCKY WE ARE!!! We will never forget you. We spend many evenings bunched around the dining room table debating: “Who saved who?”
Please check out our way too cool website: www.fortheloveofcatsfl.com You’ll find a link to team Meow Power which includes instructions for making a donation to our outstretched paws.
Love, purrs, and nips…