These are the stories of my life, rescuing, socializing, and standing up for the rights of cats everywhere. It’s an amazing journey, one of inner and outer tribulation and triumph, of heartache and hope. As I struggle to make ends meet, get my Non-Profit cat rescue off the ground and simply find my way in the world; I extend my hand out and ask you to join me in my dream of finding a home for every cat and to stop the insanity of euthanizing adoptable animals as a way of population control.
And I do all that while caring for my own 8 cats who leave me somewhat cranky and perpetually Covered in Cat Hair.
I’ve written about Brawny loungers before, but this lounger is different. It’s far bigger, bolder, utilizes exotic hardwoods and is completely hand built. It even had a tiny metal plaque on it that glints in the sun. It’s HUGE. It’s heavy. It’s built to last for a very long time. It’s called the Big Sleeky Comfort Throne and our little Freya is lucky enough to have one to call her own.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Freya not long after rescue.
This story began innocently enough. Last autumn I reached out to Andrew for advice. Freya hadn’t had her surgery yet and although she loved using corrugated cardboard scratchers, she keep soiling them to the point where I was replacing them every DAY. Clearly that was not a good use of resources so I thought there had to be a better way. I knew Andrew must have scraps of laminated cardboard so I hoped I could take some of it off his hands and use those.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Of course Fluff Daddy liked the box best.
Andrew chose to go above and beyond, telling me that although he was taking a short break from building cat loungers and didn’t have anything he could send me right away, that he would send me a little something later in the year. He did just that, shipping Freya a lounger that took our breath away. When a HUGE box arrived for Freya, I knew it was from Andrew. Inside the box was a breathtakingly GIGANTIC lounger, far bigger than Freya would ever need.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya's impressed!
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Lots of room to grow into-that is IF Freya grows beyond kitten-sized.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen is a big fan!
Freya also likes to watch TV since the Throne is in view of her favorite shows. In the four months (yes, a very tardy thank you) we’ve had it, the cardboard is still in great shape and the lounger is a nice compliment to our furnishings.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen showing off his modeling chops.
We also have a few Sleeky Lounges, which are a very budget friendly version of the Throne. They wear well. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gotten those loungers and they’re still going strong and are used every day. You can see more about them here.
As most of you know, Freya did have her surgery and is doing GREAT. I’m sure if she could talk she’d thank Andrew, too, for his generosity and for his compassion for cats-especially a little kitten who needed his help.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya watching the Secret Life of Cats-of course.
Lisa was the Tech. She was a pretty blonde with a slight southern accent. I tried to chat with her but she was all business. The room was not much nicer than the waiting room and certainly not any more cheerful. There was a treadmill flanked by two computers with a hospital bed next to one of them. Lisa told me to remove everything on top and put on a smock with the front open. I balked, being shy, and said I wore a sports bra thinking that the underwire from my other bras would have caused a problem. She apologized and said everything had to go or it could interfere with the test.
I did as I was told, trying to have an out-of-the-body experience. I am not a fat girl, half naked in front of a stranger. It was bad enough having to be naked at all. I wished I was home, scooping one hundred litter pans over doing this.
I knew seeing my boobs was nothing of interest to Lisa because she’d seen a million bare breasts before mine. She was very careful to keep me covered as much as she could as she wiped my chest with rubbing alcohol so the suction cups attached to the leads on the ECG would stay in place. She did her job quickly and effectively, then asked me to lay on my left side so she could take a baseline ECG and ultrasound of my heart. The harness was bulky so I had to move slowly. Once I got into position she warned me that the gel might be a bit cold. I didn’t care. I just wanted to live through what was coming next.
As Lisa began to roll the ultrasound device into my flesh, I looked up at the screen and saw it moving in black and white…my heart. My little heart beating away reminded me of a Kissing Gouramis fish, gulping what looked like air, but I knew was blood. Very quietly I said; “Hello, heart” as tears filled my eyes.
I had no way to take a photo of the moment I saw my heart, but this is what a typical stress echo looks like.
Lisa explained that the cardiologist would be in soon to do the test. He would be monitoring me the entire time and that I shouldn’t worry. Meanwhile, she handed me some paperwork stating the inherent risks of the tests, including death, and would I sign it please.
Lisa left the room for a few minutes. I sat on the end of the bed noticing a readout on the wall. It was showing the beats per minute of my heart: 110. I didn’t need to see that to know I was in a panicked state. I tried to focus on my Buddhist training; settle your mind, let go of your thoughts. My heart slowed down to 89, but only for a moment before it returned north of 100. Pure adrenaline and terror pulsed through my veins with every beat. Not much was going to change that.
I started to walk and my heart felt all right. The doctor quickly increased the angle of the treadmill and I started to falter. I told him I had pain but it was coming from my gut and my lungs more than my heart. The aspirin had done a number on me and so had being sedentary for six weeks. I couldn’t do it. I broke out into a cold sweat and warned I was going to vomit. He asked me if I could go another 30 seconds. I did, but in the end I couldn’t reach my target heart rate. As directed earlier, I got off the treadmill as fast as I could and laid back down on the bed on my left side. I was panting, desperately angry at myself for not reaching the target heart rate, but glad I was still alive.
I heard the curtain move and I looked up. Sam gave me a small smile and sat down, not saying a word. He reached out and squeezed my toe. I tried to smile back while Lisa kept making records of my heart, switching back and forth from one computer screen to another. It took about five more minutes until she was done. She gave me a towel to clean up with and said we were all set and I could go home.
I was done. I was okay. I could go home and watch the next episode of The Bachelorette where Kaitlyn would continue to suck face with guy after guy; the romance of the show long gone. I used to love these trashy programs, but now I didn't care any more.
As I got dressed I held my breath. I felt shaky and stunned. I was certain my next stop was going to be Yale-New Haven hospital, not home. I didn’t say anything to Sam until we were back inside his car. Once seated and belted, Sam fired up the engine. I felt cool air blowing on my face. I looked up to see more geriatric patients entering the building, but I was leaving. I was going home. As the shock of the past few days began to wane, I felt my body slowly rock back and forth as tears ran down my cheeks.
The next morning I got a call from my G.P.’s nurse. She said my heart looked fine so there was no need for our appointment on Thursday. I told her that I was still having chest pain so I was going to come in. After all this, I had no idea what was bothering me.
For the next few days I focused on my new eating “lifestyle.” I had to cut carbs very dramatically. I read that I should to try to keep it to about 50-55 grams per day. After a lifetime of eating a lot more than that. I had to work on portion control along with what I was eating. I never even gave myself a chance to say farewell to my favorite foods. I just stopped eating them.
I came up with a game plan. I’d work very hard to be careful for the next few months or however long it would take to lose enough weight to get out of the Diabetes-zone. I didn’t even know how much I had to lose. From what I’d read it would need to be a percentage of my weight and that would be a good bit of weight. Ideally I need to lose even more than that. The painful truth is I need to lose at least 30 pounds if not 50 pounds or more. I couldn’t look at it as one big number. I’d have to chip away at it. I’d do it reasonably and thoughtfully. I know I’d have bad and good days. I’d try to be as cutthroat as I could with carbs until I was out of danger, then slowly re-introduce SOME carbs back into my diet, as long as I was exercising (which I hate doing-yay!).
I'm a "Foodie." I love go on road trips and discover out-of-the-way diners, little mom and pop restaurants where the locals like to eat. I also know I use food for neurotic reasons like boredom or anxiety and God knows running a rescue means preventing stress-related eating is going to be a BIG factor...oh and I LOVE to cook. What am I going to do?
The best I could aim for is that I could do this for a few months, then maybe try to go a year, then maybe it would become my new routine and it would be harder to go back down that path full of sugar and carbohydrates since now I see what it will do to me...but can I do it?
Thursday arrived. It marked one week since I’d been diagnosed. This time I was anxious for the nurse to weigh me because I felt thinner. I thought maybe I’d lost a few pounds, but I prepared myself for only a pound or two. I lost SEVEN pounds! Not only that but my blood sugar was normal. This was a very good sign that maybe I wasn’t too late.
We talked about the weird lung pain, gut pain, neck pain, back pain on walking up stairs or some other activities. She said she had no differential diagnosis unless it still was angina and that was something I was not ready to hear. My heart might still be in trouble.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. My new BFF. Fortunately for me, I only have to test if I feel woozy to make sure I don't have hypoglycemia.
She told me that angina presents very oddly in women and that if not angina I might have some sort of problem with my stomach or esophagus. There’d be more tests to do, of course, but I was worried about doing too much and making things get worse. I told her that over the two months it wasn’t as bad as before and that maybe I should give it a week or two and see how I was feeling then. I did not want to take something to turn off the acid pumps in my stomach. I just wanted to give my body time to adjust. I prayed that maybe I’d luck out and it would go away because one treatment for angina is the same as diabetes—diet and exercise. That said, wondering if I have a ticking time bomb in my body is no comfort. I just want to be pain-free and well enough to begin exercising.
The problem is that I don't have a lot of faith in myself. As much as I love my heart (my new BFF) and treasure the health I have, I don't know if I can do this long term. I've already had dreams about eating carbs and repeated uncomfortable cravings. That said, I know what lies ahead for me if I don't do it.
(continued from Chapter 1)
I had a really really really terrible weekend. My diabetes diagnosis was on Thursday and by Friday I was terrified I had stable angina, too. I decided to be safe and began taking aspirin. It couldn’t hurt, right? I began to experience a mild reduction in symptoms. I wasn’t certain whether it was from the medication or the beginning of my new eating regime.
I was taking aspirin, two, every 4-6 hours, with a shaky hand. My gut hurt. I didn’t really want to eat. I had to force myself to eat something. All I thought about was the stress test on Monday and if I was going to live through it.
I told him we should end our engagement after seven YEARS and finally get married if I survived. He knew my duress was extreme, pushing me to say things like that, but in my heart I meant them.
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Our engagement portrait.
My Will was out-of-date so I sat down and wrote something, anything to ensure some changes might be made if I died. I tried to write up a list of Bequests, too, but I was a member of crazy-town by then and my mind just couldn’t make sense of much of anything.
I looked over to my cat Spencer and I thought of him without me and what would become of him and the others and what of the foster cats? I knew if I did die I’d be leaving one huge mess for Sam and that upset me even more.
As Monday dawned, my gut felt even worse. I had palpitations I was so anxious. At 11AM we had to be at the Vet to bring our 15-year old cat, Nora in for her first acupuncture treatment. I could have stayed home but part of me felt like maybe this was my chance to say goodbye to the staff. I didn’t want to think like that but what if I missed this chance? OR, would I seem like a nut worrying about what was going to happen and everything would be fine?In the end I decided to remain as stoic as possible and focus on our cat.
Thankfully, I was distracted by meeting our new Vet, Dr. Carmen. She was great with Nora and we were stunned to see Nora walk comfortably for the first time in years right after her treatment.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Nora tolerated acupuncture very well and was purring through most of it.
Sadly, my anxiety returned as soon as we were on the way home. My appointment was at 2:45 PM so there was yet another two hours to wait until it was time to leave…the longest two hours of my life.
Sam drove me to my appointment, taking yet more time off from working. He’s been incredibly busy the last year and was getting very behind with his clients. I felt terrible about it, but I needed him more than ever and boy was I being nice to him to make up for it. I wonder if he thought he was with a different person? I'm usually not such a delicate flower to live with.
As he drove, I tried to make jokes. I told Sam I felt fine so we could go home. I noticed we were going to be quite early so I suggested he stop and get some coffee (because you do not want Sam’s coffee meter to go low-trust me on this). Sam pulled into a parking space at the mini-mall as I stayed behind, resting in the car, while he got his caffeine delivery device.
I looked around at the mall, watching the cars slowly pass by. It was a slate gray day and rather warm and humid. I wondered if this was it-this was the last thing I was going to see. I wondered if I did have to have some sort of scary procedure that I needed to just face it and go through with it so I could begin work recovering as soon as I could.
Sam drove us a few more blocks, then into the parking lot. There were a lot of cars parked at the Medical Building. It comforted me because I thought that if something happened surely there were plenty of doctors in the building who could help me. We entered the front doors passing some very senior citizens who had aides or family members assisting them. As I walked slowly past them, I felt very old, too.
The irony, perhaps, is that in my great fear, I wasn’t sure where we were supposed to go. I didn’t know the name of the office, only that they would do the stress test. We read the list of tenants, but none of the names sounded familiar. Fortunately I had made a notation on my calendar that said “Suite 107.”
It was just down the hall.
As we entered the room what struck me was how dingy and airless it was. There were no windows and the only light was those barbaric florescent tubes suspended in the ceiling that make you feel like your eyes are burning. We took our seats across from a small coffee maker/refrigerator that had a sign on it “For Stress Test Patients Only.”
Did they really want us having a cup of coffee before the procedure? We were the only people in the waiting room. There was no one at the desk. There was a note taped to the window by the desk that said to just wait and that someone would come out shortly.
I looked at the clock. It was 2:45 PM. I weakly held Sam’s hand as we sat there in silence. I wanted to say a million things to him, but there wasn’t time. I hoped that maybe he would say something important to me, but a few moments later the tech opened the door and called my name. I turned to him and gave him a quick kiss. I tried to look brave as I handed him my phone and purse. I wouldn’t be needing them any more.
The stress test did not go as expected. Find out what happened in my next post.
There are times in your life when you know you’re at a crossroad. Sometimes the path isn’t so clearly defined and you have to first take a few steps in one direction before you realize you’ve chosen the wrong one. If you're lucky, you can turn back and re-think your choice, maybe even do something about it.
You can take a hard, cold look at your life and visualize the choices you’ve made and what problems you may be creating for yourself to face one day. For example, I saw my parent’s health fail over things they could have controlled early on. I’ve had friends and family, who “knew better” but didn’t do anything about “it” and slowly drank themselves to death or smoked cigarettes for 30 years and wondered why they got salivary gland cancer and died.
I’m not going to live forever, but HOW I live the rest of my life is up to me. I can live it in a strong, vital way or I can make up an excuse not to deal with it. I can give in and give up and just get sicker and sicker, being on more and more medications until I die.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye carbs.
I’ve just been diagnosed with Diabetes (type 2).
My Doctor’s office called and said my blood tests were in and the Doctor wanted to see me. There was “nothing to worry about.”
I hoped I’d find out that the chest pains and weird stabbing pains into my arms, chest and neck were related to being Vitamin D deficient (and not the sign of a pending heart attack). I knew maybe my cholesterol would be up or I’d be borderline diabetic, but I’m not a freak about eating sugar and I don’t eat crazy amounts of food. I cut back on wheat and sugar over a year ago. I thought I was basically okay.
I was very wrong.
The Doctor, pardon the pun, didn’t “sugar coat” the news. She said that due to my history (my mother was diabetic late in life) and my weight (which is mostly in my belly) that it was likely this could happen. She said that because my A1C Heamaglobin test was 7.1, and just over the indication of being diabetic (which is 6.5 and the test is accurate to +/- .50), that with diet and exercise I could possibly go into remission. It might not be too late.
My heart sank. I asked what else was wrong and the only other thing was indeed I did have VERY low Vitamin D levels, which can easily be remedied with supplements and some outdoor time. Everything else was normal.
I was glad Sam was in the exam room because I probably would have begun to cry and his being there comforted me. He was putting on a brave face, revealing only subtle disappointment at the news, but I wondered what he thought about what our future might mean now. If I had to change my eating habits, then he might have to as well; but would he be willing?
I asked if any of the tests answered why I was having pains and she answered; “No.” I’m still to take an Echo Stress Test to see if my heart is in bad shape.
Of course with the plethora of information online I’ve already diagnosed my pain issues as stable angina. It would make sense, I have the symptoms, family history and risk factors. If my Doctor senses it, maybe she should have told me and we should have gotten the test done sooner or maybe she’s not really lying and isn’t certain that’s what is going on. I don’t know that I’ve been more terrified of my fate than I am right now. I’m middle-aged. Shit happens-just not to me!
So which path will I take? I knew it before the Doctor finished telling me I about how I had to make serious changes in my life if I wanted any chance to be healthy.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Perhaps one day I can enjoy a mini-pastry again (if I plan for it and work out after eating it), but until at least next February-no more of this.
I’ve lost weight so many times before, but not studied nutrition as I will have to do now. I’ve never cared about my body. I think I’ve felt unlucky that I was never skinny like the popular girls. In all honesty I only weigh 5 lbs more than I did in early 2000’s, but I’m very overweight and all those years and the STRESS I deal with has taken a toll. I must make changes for the rest of my life IF I want to have a life that does not include: amputations, going blind, heart failure and more. I need to fight for my life and I need to stop hating my body and love and respect it with all I’ve got.
I’m going to imagine my future. I've lost a lot of weight. I can walk comfortably and I exercise. Sam is right there with me, doing the same. We gave ourselves the gift of a better old age and with any luck we’ll get there, but there’s a very long road ahead and the next answers may be even worse than I fear.
Note to my friends:
It’s not easy to face the fact that you don’t feel quite right. Maybe you’ve been putting off getting something checked. Trust me on this-do NOT WAIT. Yes, there are plenty of reasons not to see a Doctor. I didn’t even HAVE Health Insurance the past decade and if I didn’t have it now I may not have gone. It doesn’t hurt to call a few Doctors and explain your situation and ask for help if money is an issue. There are Federally Qualified Healthcare Clinics all over the country. They can provide services to low/no income families and because they get paid by the Government, it means they won’t cut costs on your care because they’re getting fairly compensated for their services (unlike many Doctor’s offices who don’t get reimbursed enough and will refuse to provide care for people on State Insurance). I found a few in my area and they even have cardiologists.
Be in charge of your future. Own it.
But meanwhile I wonder if I'm still fluttering on the edge of having a heart attack. My pain isn't going away and I'm in a panic. Are these the last few days of my life?
Find out next….
Kristen Lindsey did something most of us would consider a disgrace to humankind. “For fun” she went hunting with a bow and arrow shooting what she claims was a “feral” cat in the back of the head, killing it. If she hadn’t been so completely arrogant, maybe she would have thought twice about bragging about it; but what makes her actions despicable was that she not only bragged about it, she posted a photo (that I will NOT share here EVER) on Facebook of her holding her arrow while the cat’s body dangled from it.
What makes my blood boil is this woman is a small animal VETERINARIAN.
What makes me want to say things that would probably get me arrested is that she didn’t do a thing when she found out the cat was named Tiger and WAS a FAMILY PET who had gone missing. She claimed she was helping rid the world of another feral cat when she probably did nothing to find out if she was in the right to take its’ life. In my opinion, even though it’s disgusting to know that in Texas feral cats can be shot, this is no way to handle feral cats ESPECIALLY because it’s often very difficult to be certain it’s feral in the first place (unless it’s been TNR’d and has an ear tip).
There was a rally in Texas yesterday to protest what Lindsey did and some groups asked for more humane education. While humane education is important for CHILDREN, this was an ADULT who treated CATS in her practice. If she didn’t have the compassion and kind-heart to want to save the life of a “feral” cat, then what would humane education change for her? What sort of sick, twisted, narcissist has been handling animals while her clients had no idea of what a sadist she was.
As someone who runs a cat rescue and has had cats for most of my life, I have to work with vets constantly. If I discovered that one of my Vets did such a heinous act, I would fire them immediately. I hope I’d be able to tell they didn’t have a beating heart far before then, but if I missed something then they’d be fired.
Maybe she should work in a meat packing plant where she can shoot cows in the back of the head 8 hours a day, then post photos of herself showing off her “good work.” Clearly this person does not deserve her license and should seek another one way to make a living. I don’t want to live in a country that turns their head the other way when something horrible is done to a housecat who was a beloved family member. She should be charged with murder.
While her act may not have been seen as a breach of any laws in Texas, she clearly broke what is a common-sense ethical and moral code: her job is to save lives and humanely end lives of companion animals under strict protocols THAT DO NOT INCLUDE SHOOTING THEM WITH ARROWS ...and humane euthanasia is done only when no other options to preserve life remain.
Contact the AVMA and tell them (nicely) that you're disgusted and you want them to consider revoking Lindsey's license as well. You can read their statement about this situation. It's not an easy-read but they do mention appropriate handling of feral and free-roaming cats and it does not say that shooting them with an arrow is okay.
There are many Facebook pages popping up that support justice for Tiger but I can’t determine which one/s are legit. Doing a search for “Justice for Tiger“ will help you decide. Bottom line-we can make anything happen if enough people write to the TBVME and complain. We CAN DO THIS.
©2015 Remembering Tiger. Tiger
And to Tiger's family: I'm so very sorry for your loss. Clearly Tiger was an adorable orange and white tabby who loved life until his tragic end. May you find comfort in knowing the firestorm his death has created. I hope you will get the justice your family deserves and that Lindsey will lose her license. She should not be allowed to be near anyone's cat or dog and I hope one day that will happen.
Fly Free, Tiger.
It was just another morning feeding routine I do twice a day with the foster cats. I carried their food and a few plates up the stairs to the second floor of my house. Their room is at the end of the hallway. As I reached the top stair I started to feel a pressure in my chest, then a stinging radiating pain from my lungs, into both sides of my neck, down into my shoulders. My head was already throbbing from a headache, but now it was worse. I felt palpitations. I knew if I didn't drop what I was carrying and sit down I was going to be in trouble.
I got to my bed and sat down on the edge of it, trying to calm my nerves. Slowly I felt the pain subside enough to feel like I could stand. I could hear the cats crying and banging on the door to their room. I was already late feeding them so I had to get up.
The cats always crowd around me as I enter the room, anxious to be the first to lick at their food. I shuffled my feet so I wouldn't step on any of them, then began to lower the trays to the floor. Something didn't feel right. The pressure and pain began to return. I sat down on the bed in the foster room, my chest was heaving. Something was very wrong with me.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Just another day...or the first sign of trouble.
For the past few weeks I’ve been suffering a lot with these mysterious searing aches and pains. Hey, I’m no spring chicken any more. It’s to be expected. The thing is, with the ease of looking up symptoms on the internet it’s lead me to believe that I need to see a Doctor or two and right away, please. Am I going to have a heart attack?
So I went to the Doctor. I did the easiest thing I could. I had Sam schlep me to Urgent Care hoping that they’d agree to my assessment of the situation: that due to my sedentary life, the stress of running a cat rescue, not having a vacation in years, needing a bigger bed so there’s actually room for two adults and a few giant cats to sleep on, was the root cause of my woes.
So I left the clinic with more questions than answers. I feared I was going to have a heart attack at any moment. The signs for women are subtle and range from pain in the back, neck, chest, jaw, down the arms, pressure on the chest and more. I had most of those symptoms. I have a very tragic family history of heart issues and strokes. I have to face the fact that perhaps all this sitting around and carrying extra weight on my bones has caught up with me.
It’s amusing perhaps, that my Mother spoke to me about death. She was very matter of fact about it and got a bit terse with me if I pushed back, not wanting to have the discussion. My stomach would flip flop when she brought it up. I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it. I hoped I’d have her around as long as I was around. She didn’t smoke or drink so she had that going for her. Maybe losing her could be put off for some other day.
She wanted me to know what to do if I ever needed to make a decision for her if she was incapacitated. She wanted me to know she’d written her Last Will & Testament and where I could find it and who her lawyer was. She told me where the bank statements and investments were. She’d even quiz me about those things from time to time. She prepared me for many things, but in the end she never prepared me for what to do if she lied to me about her health problems. She died of heart failure, unexpectedly and I was the one to find her dead on the floor. At least during the worst grief of my life, I knew where the papers were and I knew what she wanted done.
©2006 Robin AF Olson. Mother.
We all want to live forever, but we won’t. Though it’s emotionally draining we have to face it and we SHOULD prepare for our inevitable demise. That way it not only ensures that how we want to spend our final days will be respected (if there’s a chance for that to happen), it also respects those who are left behind; the people we love.
That’s why I realized if something bad happened to me, not being married would mean my brother, who I have no relationship with, would make the decisions about my care. Sam couldn’t even visit me in the hospital. The thought made me feel even sicker. I don’t know what’s going on with me and as much as I hope I will have many more years to go, it’s not a certainty.
So I started the paperwork for a Living Will and other Advance Directives. The forms were very easy to find online for my state and by the way, you don’t even need a Lawyer (though you will need a Notary) for these directives. It made me think about the “what ifs” I may face one day. I didn’t want to imagine myself in a situation where I was in a coma with no chance of recovery, but I had to. I had to think about what I would want. Would I want to live if life only meant breathing while attached to a machine and maybe some sort of low brain-stem level awareness of the world? How would it be if I couldn’t care for myself, even scratch a simple itch? I couldn’t even be with cats anymore or smile at a joke. I would be a burden to Sam both financially and emotionally. So let me fly free.
I knew I could designate Sam to be the person to make that choice for me, but I also needed to assign an “alternate” if Sam could not or would not make the choice. The answer wasn’t tough to come by but it did surprise and sadden me. Most people would turn to a family member, but I have none that would be appropriate. I realized that I only have a very few friends I’ve even known long enough to trust with this responsibility. When I made my choice I asked Sam if was okay with him because it was someone I used to have a relationship with. Thankfully Sam was fine with my choice and even agreed with it. I’d known this person for a big chunk of my life and was still friends with him. I trusted him, now literally with my life. I had to call and ask his permission to include him in this paperwork and I felt like asking this of someone required having one of the most intimate and soul-opening discussions of my life.
I was scared to ask him, not knowing how he might take the request, but his answer gutted me with his simply put reply; “Thank you for this gift. Of course I will do this for you.” I guess the comedian in me was on a lunch break because I couldn’t make a joke about how now he could unplug me after all the times I caused him grief.
Without saying the words, I knew that we still loved and cared about each other, but in a way that was not disrespectful to our mates. We both were willing to talk about that thing called Death and both stick our toes into the pool of ever-shifting “what ifs.” The beautiful thing I didn’t expect was the lingering feeling that this was the right thing to do and once done I could relax. I told myself that I have to keep facing situations that are difficult. I’ve done it for all my foster cats for over a decade and now I need to do it for myself.
I saw another Doctor today. She hates cats but I told her if she didn’t go on about why I’d still like her. She listened to my description of what I think is going on and what I’m experiencing. She asked many questions about my odd (to me) symptoms. I didn’t get a diagnosis, only next steps. She wants me to get my heart checked out more thoroughly so that means an echo/stress test. It’s more sensitive and better suited to test a woman’s heart, but the insurance company may deny the request. If that happens I’m not sure what I will do. (GOOD NEWS: I just found out I don't need approval and I can have the test done after the 4th of July holiday is over).
Tomorrow morning I’m having a lot of blood tests done to rule out things that scare the crap out of me. The blood tests will be looking for diabetes (no surprise, but darn it I’m sure I don’t have symptoms), high cholesterol, and just like so many of my foster cats, they’ll check my organ function, blood issues, and a surprise—Vitamin D deficiency. I guess if it’s really bad it can effect your heart and all sorts of other things, too and lots of people have it and don’t even know. Since I live almost like a Vampire, it might not surprise me to find out I’m low in that particular tank.
©2003 Robin AF Olson. As usual, everything is a joke, even with my mother in the hospital. Notice the line up of the magazine with my mom's chest.
Since she couldn’t weigh in on what was going on with me, I asked what I should do until all these tests are done. She replied I should not exert myself to the point of feeling pain and take it easy. On the drive home, I realized that Sam’s birthday is in a few days and we’re supposed to go to see his family in New York City. I can’t go. I can’t risk having to walk too strenuously and in the city that’s a lot of what makes up every visit. With not being able to do much I haven’t been able to even plan something for Sam but this really was the pits.
This may be the last post I’m going to write before I have some answers. I don’t feel too badly right now. I’m trying not to be scared. Facing your own mortality is no picnic, but if you want to have a chance to squeeze out as many good years as you can, you have to do it.
So please, get your Last Will & Testament written, get your health proxy set up, maybe organize your paperwork and let a few people, including your doctor and lawyer know what you’re up to. Have the discussion with your family. Don’t be shy. It’s tough to talk about this, but better to have it out in the open than hidden away because when your time comes no one will know what you wanted to have done and it could lead to all sorts of legal and family issues.
And after you have your affairs in order, you can forget about it and talk about something everyone likes to talk about (except my Doctor) — cats.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Morning wakeup call with Freya.
Many years ago when I was first fostering, I’d heard about conditions cats and dogs face in the southern United States at overcrowded municipal shelters. At the time I didn’t want to know any details. I kept my eyes to the ground and just fostered a few kittens here or maybe an entire family, but never too many to feel overwhelmed. I was protecting myself from a heartbreaking truth that I was convinced I couldn’t do anything about because I was just one person. Fostering a few kittens meant giving back to my community and helping cats. I didn’t have to find them homes, my “boss” did that. I didn’t have to get too attached because I only had the kittens for a week or two.
In fact, there were times when I could have learned more about terrible conditions right here in my own state when the rescue I volunteered for helped out with a hoarder, but I couldn’t handle it. I told them not to tell me or “I’d lose it.”
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Clyde is an adult with very sad eyes who was pulled from a Georgia kill-shelter because Joan knew he was doomed. He turned out to be FIV positive, but is a sweet cat. He has been neutered and given his vaccines. This VERY lucky adult may even have a home waiting for him thanks to Joan!
Because I write this blog, invariably someone will see my words and it will effect them, which in turn will end up changing my life, too. That’s how I finally gained the courage to open my eyes to the plight of cats and kittens in the south-one person who already knew about the horrors contacted me, asking me to help. She ended up being one of our most important volunteers, our first foster home and the key to beginning to make a difference in the lives of cats from the south.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Polly is a tuxedo polydactyl who very sweet. She is due to be spayed soon, but otherwise is fully vetted and healthy. Please contact Joan to inquire about adopting this cutie.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. These kittens had runny eyes and were pulled in the nick of time right before the shelter killed 21 other cats and kittens. Without a foster home these kittens wouldn't have made it.
Even though my rescue is small, we’ve made a difference in more than 500 cats' lives by directly rescuing them from shelters or by networking online to help others. It’s like emptying the ocean with a spoon, but it’s something-and for those cats it means everything.
Joan is based in Chattanooga, TN and has been helping dogs and cats for as long as I’ve known her. Even though Joan is admittedly flat out exhausted and trying to step back from doing rescue so she can work on rebuilding her business (which took a big hit earlier this year), she can’t let animals die without trying to do something, anything to help.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Happy and safe and no more sniffles, thanks to Joan.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. This little one, her mother and the rest of her family were put down before 8AM, before Joan had a chance to beg for their lives. She had no open foster home for them. That's all it would have taken to save them. This post is dedicated to these little angels.
I realize that this scary and sad news might make you want to tuck your head under the blanket, but I’m going to ask you to try to be brave with me, with Joan, with our foster mom, Moe, with Bobby, Warren, Mary Jo, Kendra, Jame, Dorian, Katherine, Connie, Connie S., Adrienne, Amy and SO MANY MORE “just one person” who is trying to make a difference by fostering cats and kittens. If you add up all the cats each of us has fostered, you’re starting to look at some very impressive figures. Be just one, of many and join us.
Right now Joan is in DIRE need of foster homes in Chattanooga, TN area AND pretty much anywhere in central Georgia. I need foster homes HERE in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT. It doesn’t take much to foster but it will keep those cats from dying. Will you be sad when they leave? Sure. But I would much rather be sad that they left me and went to their forever home, then left a shelter in a black plastic bag never having known love or joy.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. The Redemption 5 These kittens were given 24 hours by a shelter (basically because they were messy eaters and they don't want to clean up after them). Thanks to Joan, they are safe but need funds to help with their care. BTW Bath tubs are the BEST place to raise kittens under 8 weeks!
Also, Joan is desperately trying to raise funds to provide surgery for a very pretty Siamese kitty named Amara, who, along with her little scruffy kitten, were destined to be put down. Thanks to Joan, they are safe, but Amara’s eye is in bad shape and she needs surgery.
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Amara and son. They tried optical ointments for Amara, but sadly her eye is too damaged to save. It's painful and she needs to have it surgically removed-after which time Amara and her kitten will be available for adoption. See Joan for details (contact info is below).
Chattanooga, TN area and Georgia friends: Please contact Joan Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more about the kittens posted here for adoption or if you’d like to offer assistance by being a foster home.
Please contact ME if you live in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT at email@example.com if you’re interested in fostering for us!
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Don't make them wait for a rescue. Foster today!
©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Adopt us, too! Contact Joan for details.
I've spent the better (and I do mean: Better) part of my life living with cats and it wasn't until I was asked to write about their true nature when I realized why I love them so much.
If you think about it, cats should be terrifying companions. They've got razor sharp claws and piercing teeth. They can see in conditions that leave us in the dark and their sense of smell and hearing is far more acute than our own. We could never hide from them if they were hunting us (or if we were in the bathroom with the door closed). But it's how they're so willing to show us who they really are, and in the same moment treat us like part of their family, never giving us reason to fear them, that I love most. In fact, most of us sleep with these formerly wild beasts without a second thought.
©2012 Robin AF Olson. Fred, followed by brother Barney, two of our former foster kitties showing off their flying skills.
Instead of looking at your sweetly slumbering cat, marvel at how their body can flex into amazing positions as they rest, ones that give them the advantage over their prey once they awaken. Take delight when you see your cat jump off the floor, covering many more times over their own body-length, to reach a high perch. And as they show off their hunting skills, see if you notice how they grab their favorite toy with their paws, then quickly shove it into their open mouth, giving it a death-bite. Sound terrible? Not at all. It's amazing!
©2012 Robin AF Olson. Fred. Our best flyer, really knew how to capture toys in the blink of an eye.
Let's celebrate how fortunate we are to witness these magical creatures, up close, not on a safari or not as photos in a book. They're right here in our living room, each one a marvel of catness.
In honor of our fabulous felines, Purina wants you to join their Pro Plan® community here at Cats True Nature where you can check out Darren Dyk, of Beyond Slow Motion, who got some amazing footage that highlights awesome cats in slow motion. You can also find tips for capturing photos and videos of your cat (which is always handy in my book).
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Coco, another former foster kitten loved hunting feather toys.
AND DON'T MISS THE EXTRA AWESOMENESS-A SPECIAL PRIZE PACK!
If you pop over to our Facebook page (don't forget to LIKE our page) where you can enter the same photos or videos for a chance to Win a Special Prize Pack featuring a GoPro Camera and more! Deadline for entries is June 11 at 12:12 PM EST so don't delay! A winner will be chosen by me, so make it good!
And don't forget to celebrate your #CatsTrueNature.
This is a SPONSORED post for which I was compensated. It promotes a campaign and GoPro prize pack giveaway for Purina's #CatsTrueNature. This is NOT a product review about any types of cat food. This sponsored post is MY OPINION, ONLY.
continued from Part One
A year later…just about June 2015
I just re-read the posts from last year. I’m glad I sat on it for so long because the lesson I’ve learned has ripened while Blitzen has become sick again, seemingly out of the blue.
Firstly, I’m working this year. I’m very grateful that my graphic design business is staying busy and I’ve got a small handful of clients and some very interesting work ranging from designing bobblehead carton graphics to re-designing a web site for a New York State agency.
I’ve had to cut back on blogging, as you know, but the good news is I'm starting to plan a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so Covered in Cat Hair will be published as a series of rescue stories. Our first will focus on Freya! I also have plans for taking Kitten Associates to the “next level” so our rescues won’t be forgotten and we’ll continue to do what we do going forward in bigger and better ways.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Blitzen ponders what to do about the monster-sized turkey on our deck.
Once we started combing out his fur every few days, his symptoms stopped.
The more troubling problem has returned and with that, too, I’ve begun to see it in a different light. Blitzen’s had a relapse of the horrible ulcers and rash on his head and mouth. I assumed he could not have this happen again since we already dealt with tucking away all the loose pull cords from the window blinds. Less than two weeks ago, Blitzen was getting a checkup and he looked good, aside from a tiny pinprick-sized bloody spot on his head. Dr. Mary said he really needed a dental cleaning so I told her I’d make sure that happens soon. We did some blood work on him and it looked great.
What I didn’t realize is that the tiny wound was not from playing with Freya, it was the beginning of a serious allergic reaction forming on his face, in front of his ears. One day I looked over at him and saw a circular, scabby wound. It was about the size of a pencil eraser, maybe ¼” in diameter. I more carefully examined his head and realized the fur was gone and the skin was quite pink-a sign of an allergic reaction.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Notice how pink the skin is between his eye and ear.
Yesterday we were due to go to the Vet, but I started to think about what they would do. They would give him steroids, which is a big no-no in my book or antibiotics, again another no-no when he wasn’t getting an infection. Honestly, what would they do other than those things or maybe add Benadryl, which didn’t seem to help the last time. I cancelled the appointment deciding to give it a few days.
Today I had a breakthrough, totally by accident. Our dopey cat DOOD was once again bothering our senior girl, Petunia. I got up to intervene when I saw Blitzen. He was jumping down from a table with a long gluey strand of saliva, cascading out of his mouth. I thought he was choking and called Sam to assist me with him.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Blitzen's not pouting. His lip is swollen.
He was all right. I syringed a small amount of water into Blitzen’s mouth to rinse out the over-production of spit. Sam and I returned to the scene of the grime and Sam called out that Blitzen must have been chewing on “the string.”
“The pull cord from the blind over here in the corner.”
We’d missed it. There was another pull cord that was very tough to get to, but somehow Blitzen had been chewing on it. It was brown-stained and wet. We stopped what we were doing and did another patrol around the house, tying up every low pull cord so this could NEVER happen again.
The answer was very simple. Blitzen needs his teeth cleaned. I already knew his gums were irritated and he has a funky tooth. I thought about what I’d do if I were Blitzen and sure as heck I’d find a way to soothe my gums and those thick pull cords would do the trick. Last year when I brought Blitzen to the Vet I’m pretty sure his gums were irritated but we felt it was due to the allergic reaction, not the other way around.
I called our Vet and moved his appointment up to Tuesday. I also told them that Dr. Mary should call me first. I knew if she saw him she’d possibly not want to do the sedation, but I feel very certain once we get his teeth taken care of everything else will fall into place. I bet this has been going on for over a year. Do I feel like a jerk, a bad cat-mama? YES!
As always, I hope that what I’ve learned/screwed up will help you avoid doing to your cat. Be a careful observer. If you don’t blog about your cats, then get a notepad and make some notes if it’s not an emergency situation. As Pam Johnson-Bennet taught me, “THINK LIKE A CAT.” It will make an enormous difference in your cat’s life.
DISCLAIMER: I would never assume I know more than my Vet so in the end I will respect Dr. Mary’s decision on wether or not she can go ahead with Blitzen’s dental even with sores on his lip and head. I would also remind all of you, which I’ve illustrated here, even with careful observation, you may be wrong and what you think is ailing your cat has yet to be known, diagnosed or understood. Try to stay open-minded and also, as great as the internet is, it’s not the be-all and end all for diagnosing your cat’s ailments.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My sweet boy.
UPDATE: Since I finished writing this post Blitzen has made the trip to see Dr. Mary. She just called me. It was horrible news.
I'm going to add raw meaty bones to his diet once his mouth heals as coincidently, just today I learned how important they are to give your cat's teeth a cleaning. Currently, we only feed ground raw meat, bones and organs with some supplements. Our cats NEED to GNAW to strengthen their jaw muscles and keep those teeth strong. With Blitzen only being five years old, this is a terrible shock to me, leaving me feeling deeply ashamed he suffered for the past year and a half. If I don't right this ship he will have no teeth and that can't happen.