Be well. Practice big medicine.

Newman | The Positive Paramedic Project #61 Sometimes hungry is a state of mind

Kibby, on the left, relaxing with Melody on the sofa

A nugget of Big Medicine every day. #61 Sometimes hungry is a state of mind

Late in the afternoon on a bone-chillingly cold and snowy day last November Matt paused while sawing wood for the new chicken coop and said, “Hey, is that one of your cats on the stoop?”

One look and I knew it wasn’t one of ours. It was an emaciated grey kitten who looked like he had two paws in death’s cat door. We both stopped what we were doing. The cat noticed us looking and immediately ran under the porch.I went to find one of the cages we keep for rescued-or-adopted critters while Matt tried coaxing the little guy out from his dark and cold refuge. We were chasing daylight and the mercury was beginning its freefall to the nightly minimum.

So Matt got down on all fours and then he got down on his chest in the snow with a bit of food and a bowl and worked on coaxing the starving kitten to relative safety.

Within a few minutes, Matt succeeded in capturing the cat and I moved the cage into our basement where the heat from the wood-fired furnace would provide a welcome respite from the catch-a-death-cold outside.

When Di and the girls came home I told them we had rescued another cat. In our household surprise quickly transitions to caring so no worries there. Di called one of our friends, Karen, who is a walking treasure trove of essential animal-saving wisdom. If it’s anything from a puppy to a Percheron horse, she’s our go-to rescue resource.

Karen came over and checked the cat out. She had some gunk to clean the buggies in his ears and explained that he was in really rough shape so this might be an uphill battle. He was feral and terrified of people. We set him up in the basement with a blanket in his cage at first and then eventually gave him the run of the space – where he naturally gravitated to the highest spot and perched atop the stacks of firewood.

He became known as Kibby [for Kitten in the Basement] and he slowly began to fill out while grudgingly accepting the presence of people concerned for his well-being. He and Emma formed a special bond. She was the only one he allowed to pat his tummy and scratch him behind his ears and under his chin.

Eventually Kibby graduated from life in the basement to living upstairs with the rest of the family – including Mateo the dog and our two other cats, Lea and Melody. He enjoyed curling up with Melody and roaming the entire house looking for any excuse to wreak havoc while playing with any household objects he could get into his paws, i.e., rolls of toilet paper, bottle caps, etc.

Kibby still enjoys that special bond with Emma. While he allows the rest of us to give him the occasional pat, it’s only Emma who can pick him up and cradle him – and it’s Emma’s bed where he goes first thing in the morning to check-in before he starts his day.

And Kibby, the once-skeletal cat, now has completely filled out. He’s a big, long cat with a bit of a gut [due mainly to the way his body is shaped]. The sad thing about Kibby is that he’s got it in his head that he’s always starving. When we’re preparing meals on Australia*, Kibby jumps up and tries to raid whatever foodstock is within reach. And he’s not easily put off. His hunger overcomes his fear of getting pushed away, sprayed with water, or yelled at loudly.

His favourite food to thieve is cucumber. If anyone is constructing a salad or a sandwich and cucumber is one of the ingredients, we always have to be wary of the possibility that the cucumber will become Kibbified. He will grab a chunk of cuke, push it off Australia and then munch it on the floor.

Karen says we may never be able to get Kibby to shake that need to constantly attempt to steal extra food. She says he must have had many starving days and nights out in the woods. Sometimes rescue only covers the physical being while hungry remains a state of mind.

Be well. Practice big medicine.


*The island in our kitchen is so big we decided it was really a continent and promptly christened it ‘Australia’.

NB: Big Medicine is my nod of respect to a First Nations expression that, roughly translated, means the right people working together at the right time will be Big Medicine. I’ve been saying ‘Be well. Practice big medicine’ for as long as I can remember. It is my own very personal version of ‘Sawu Bona’, the Zulu greeting which means ‘I see you’… I see all of you, I see your good works, I see the difference you are making in the world.


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