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.

Welcome.

Freya 2.0 The Price and the Curse of the Pink Underpants Part 12

continued from part 8 and part 9 and part 10 and part 11.

At 10 AM, barely 24-hours after Freya’s surgery, I was back at Angell ready to bring her home. I walked into the building as the automatic doors parted. The place was filled with people and their pets. It was controlled cacophony so I made my way over to Reception, checked in, paid the remainder of Freya’s invoice and waited to be called.

A young woman came out, calling Freya’s name. She talked to me about the discharge instructions, then took my empty cat carrier to fetch Freya. Another woman approached me. It was M.J. who was a friend of Freya’s on Facebook. She was there with her lovely cat, Tabbittha who very sadly was there to see an oncologist because she has a growth on her mouth and had stopped eating. M.J. was thrilled to see Freya, but it was bittersweet. She had tears sparkling in her pale blue eyes, as she talked to me about Tabbs. I told her how sorry I was and that I hoped it was just a cyst and nothing more. It went unsaid, but I think we both knew that something like this had the potential to be bad news and her cat was 15. I so wanted to cheer her up, but sometimes all you can really do is be present for that person and be ready to comfort them as you can.

Discharge Bag
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

M.J. said she had some toys she wanted to get for the cat. I didn’t realize she meant she made some toys for Freya. When I saw what she’d created it really touched me. There were many different kinds of wand toys, each with a small toy at the end. The size was just right for Freya and with all this woman was going through, that she had the thoughtfulness to do something for my kitten, just shows you what sort of person she is.

Tabbs1
©2014 M.J. Towler. Darling Tabbs.

With Freya at my side and rumors of more bad weather ahead. I bade my farewells to M.J. and Tabbs, giving this new friend a hug and a wish for good luck. I wondered what price she would pay for her cat's care. From what I could tell she would do whatever it took, even if it meant she would go without. Leaving her was not easy. I wish I could have kept her company longer. I know what it's like to be alone during such an unsettling time. It’s too bad there’s no buddy system at Angell where if you needed someone to just hold your hand and tell you it’s going to be okay you could get that support.

On way home after surgery
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Less than 24 hrs after surgery, Freya is ready to come back home.

--------------------------

Freya 2.0 and I began our trip home. At first she meowed and meowed as we made our way west, out of the heavy Boston traffic, but soon enough she was sleeping soundly even with the cone-of-shame on her head. The nor’easter was still effecting the weather but now it was a mix of rain, snow and sleet. My friend Connie, who lives near me in Connecticut said it had snowed a few inches but had stopped in Newtown. In Boston it was a rain/sleet mix. Resigned to having yet another lousy drive home, I hit the road.

First Morning before Pickup 12 11 14
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. From Jen, my wake-up text along with a photo of Freya looking much perkier.

I didn’t know what to expect with Freya. Would she mess up her carrier as she did on the way to Boston? She was on pain killers so I expected a quiet trip home. I didn’t dare check on her because once again the roads were dreadful and I had to pay attention. I kept feeling like I was about to lose control of the car. The winds were stronger and the temp hovered at freezing. The strange lack of traction I felt from time to time was probably patches of black ice.

As it happened on the journey to Boston, leaving was just as miserable with just as many idiotic drivers going too fast on roads that were not in great shape. I tried to just get through it. I told myself to focus, in 3 more hours I’d be home. I was going to spend the rest of the day doing nothing once we arrived. I might not even unpack the car, other than Freya. I was going to sleep, dammit!

Eating
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First meal at home. Thank you, Weruva!

At least the last hour of the drive was blissfully easy. The snow in northern Connecticut had painted every branch and outlined the stone walls that dotted the landscape along I-84. The sky was a bluish gray with more defined clouds and the sun even struggled to break through from time to time. It was a very pretty scene and since the road was drying out, compared to the snow squall and rain showers that blasted us during the first two-thirds of the trip, I could relax.

Seeing the snow reminded me of a dream I had about being at a Vet with Freya, (which I'm not sure I should write about because I fear I may never hear the end of it). I was wearing my pink undies; the ones that have a pattern of snowflakes on them. I knew if I wore them it would be very bad for Freya; that she would die. I also knew that I couldn't simply throw the undies away, I had to remember NEVER to wear them. That was the test. If I failed, catastrophe! That was two months ago and I can tell you I don't even want to TOUCH those panties! (Yes, pink with snowflakes; my mom bought them for me, sheesh.)

Freya remained quiet; no straining or groaning trying to pass stool. I asked her if she was okay and she replied with a chirp. I didn’t know how things would go once we got home, but perhaps I’d paid the price and maybe things would go well.

I don’t know why I wasn’t happier. I got what I hoped for. Perhaps exhaustion colored my mood or knowing I was starting from scratch once again left me feeling frustrated and impatient. I wanted this done-the Vet runs, the anxiety-ridden, confused, what-the-heck-do-I-feed-this-cat woes. Clearly Freya's health issues were something that were going to take a very long time to sort out. I wanted my purring, lovey-dovey, lap-loving kitten back. I thought about how much more money this was going to cost and how many more surgeries we were going to have to do; maybe three more. I didn’t want to feel petty. I should have been happy, but I just wanted to sleep.

Home after Surgery
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Home at last in her crate. Rest for the next week at least.

And then it dawned on my why I was so glum. I was protecting my heart from utter collapse. When I saw Freya in the cage after the surgery, I had to hold back my true feelings. I wanted to sob, seeing her little body scrunched up in pain. It was too much to see her like that, but I had to be brave for her. I couldn't hold her and comfort her as I did just the night before and I didn't know when I'd be able to hold and comfort her again. I couldn't be happy because it wasn't over and there were still too many obstacles to overcome. How could I be joyful when if she did something as minor and run around the house during the first week it could blow a stitch and kill her? She was a fragile vessel for now and I didn't feel like this was the time to rejoice.

Yes, a BIG hurdle had been surpassed, probably THE hurdle of her life, but I just couldn't feel happy until I knew she was healed and functioning properly.

For Freya, I did everything required and then some and for Freya I knew I would do it again and again and again. I would find a way to swim back to shore. I would learn how to care for my newly minted kitten’s behind. I would never give up on her, ever. The price will be paid-whatever it takes.

Sweet Slumber R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Looking back on the first time I met Freya, having no idea offering to foster her for a few days would end up changing my life.

Freya 2.0. The End and the New Beginning. Part 11

continued from part 8 and part 9 and part 10

I was so tired I was loopy. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I took a shower. The flow of water was meager, but hot enough. I really wanted to blast my back pain away, but it wouldn’t work. Resigned to this being an affordable (meaning zero frills) hotel I couldn’t expect much. It was very clean and I was grateful for at least that much.

I put my pajamas back on and closed the drapes. I laid in bed but I couldn’t sleep. I shut my eyes, listening to the whoosh of cars as they passed by my window. My body didn’t want to let me slip into dreamland. It was the wrong time of day to sleep, regardless of how little I'd had over the past few days. My phone continued to chime with a call or email and I felt compelled to answer. I had to leave my ringer on in case Dr. Pavletic called me, so I gave up and just sat in bed. I ate more of my stash of deli chicken salad, hoping the refrigerator in the room was keeping the food cold enough. I just didn’t have the energy to go out and do anything. I kept expecting to feel happy, but I couldn’t feel more than shock that it was over. Freya was okay. It wasn’t going to be her last day.

First Freya after Surgery copy
©2014 Kitten Associates.

There was another update about Freya, she was up, walking around, eating, followed by a photo texted from Jen. There was Freya, tiny Freya, sporting the dreaded cone-of-shame, looking a lot worse for wear. Dr. Pavletic felt she could go home but I urged him to keep her overnight, partly for selfish reasons and partly because it was just too soon. I wanted her to have one night under observation and to let the sedation wear off. I’d rather pay for a night of hospitalization than try to drive home in the dark. I just couldn’t do it. In fact, I was so tired I wondered about staying an extra day. If the room had been quiet, I probably would have done just that, but the traffic was picking up again and I suddenly longed for the quiet of my own bedroom.

I couldn’t believe how awful I was feeling and then I realized why. I got my damn period. I swear to God I get my period it seems EVERY time I travel. Every time it is the worst time for it to happen, that’s when I get it. My back was sore from carrying all the luggage, from stress, from not sleeping, from being in the car too long and now this. Shit. Really? Cramps? Yet another price to pay?

I’d packed a few naproxen even though I’m not supposed to take them. I popped two in my mouth then realized I didn’t have any tampons. Great. Just great. The hotel wasn’t near anything other than hospitals or plain red brick brownstones. Shit.

Thankfully I’d planned to meet two of my friends for a celebratory dinner. They're private people so I won’t name names, but I will say THANK YOU to them because they were the ones who found Dr. Pavletic and who urged (nagged the crap out of me) to go see him (even though I thought going out of state for surgery was insane). You were right. I was wrong, but in my defense I was beyond stressed out. I guess that’s another theme of this trip and maybe of my life as of late; woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I knew they could swing me by a drug store before we went to dinner, so I didn’t have to worry about yet another thing to do.

Inpatient Ward
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

We went to visit Freya first since visiting time is a single hour from 6 to 7 PM. I think we were all a bit apprehensive about what we were going to see. I imagined her in a steel cage in ultra-luxe surroundings, but was stunned she was in a long, concrete brick walled room with no windows and garish florescent lighting. Not only were cats in this room but there were many big dogs. There must have been 20 animals in the space that looked like it was built in the late 1960s. There were vet techs milling about, checking papers, cleaning out cages. One brought in a gurney with a huge dog on it who appeared to be dead, but we saw him a few minutes later being walked out of the room by the same tech. I guess he was sedated and she was getting him to wake up.

Cages at Angell
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

We looked for Freya and didn’t see her right away. She was on the lower level in a large cage pressed against the back wall asleep. She looked like she’d shrunk in size somehow or maybe it was the grand scale of surroundings. There was a paper plate ripped in half with most of the food eaten from it. There were blankets for her, but she wasn’t on them. I called to her; “Monkeypants!” and she looked up. I called again and she wobbled over to us, still drunk-walking from the effects of the sedation. She was still wearing the cone-of-shame, the tiniest one I’ve ever seen. She looked completely pitiful, but there she was, alive.

First look at visiting hours A
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

I waited for her to turn and involuntarily took a sharp breath as I saw what looked like a very large, freakishly large hole full of stool on her back end. Where was her silly tail stump? All her fur had been shaved away and it looked like her skin was bruising, turning dark blue all around her lower back. I was shocked. I didn’t like what I saw. I wondered what they’d done to her. This looked ghastly. My poor baby!

Freya cage sign
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

We all took turns petting her. I’m not sure my friends were comfortable with what they saw either. Clearly Freya was doing very well considering the invasiveness of the surgery she’d just had. Her fistulas were repaired. What was once a “pouch” just under her skin where her rectum should have been, was now close to a proper rectum. Whether or not she could pass stool correctly would not be known for up to a few months. The healing process would be slow. There’d be a week having cage rest, then another week being careful. After that there’d likely have to be an enema, with sedation, where they would massage out some of the backed up stool if she couldn’t pass it during those first two weeks. They hadn't magically emptied the stool out of her as I'd hoped and it hadn't shot out of her like a fountain as I imagined once it has a proper escape route.

Freyas new bum
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

I’d have to get to know Freya all over again and adjust to Freya 2.0 whatever that meant. I had no idea what her care would entail or if she would be messier or less messy than she was before. What other changes were in store? Was she still the sweet kitten who couldn't get close enough to me the night before?

Feeding Freya
©2014 Laurie Thomas (used with permission).

There was so much going on around us and with Freya still wearing a catheder in her leg, I felt it would be better for her to rest. As she was I couldn't hold her. I didn't want to go near that dark scary void and I'm sure it would have hurt her if I tried to lift her. I told her I loved her and I’d see her in the morning and to get some rest. She seemed hungry so I scooped up some food on my fingers since the cone made it hard for her to eat. She licked and nipped at my fingers. Her teeth stung me but I was glad to see her interested in food so soon. I was still in too much shock to know what to feel and in fact I was somewhat scared. This long road we’d been on was really only the first leg in a much longer journey.

Sad after surgery
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

I had a lot of doubts about my ability to keep going because I realized I'd put everything into these last months, not saving any reserve for later. I was like a swimmer who miscalculated how far it was to shore after swimming too far out to sea. I didn’t have the strength to make it back. I could only hope the tide would carry me or else I feared drowning.

---------------------- to be continued in a final chapter next.

Freya 2.0. 12 Little Words. Part 10

continued from part 8 and part 9

When I got back to the hotel room I looked around. Freya hadn’t made a single mark on ANYTHING in the room or on the bed. Even though there was no sign of her little butt prints, I couldn’t stand to see her toys strewn about. I had to put all the towels away, hide her toys, scoop the litter pan one last time. Freya wouldn’t be coming back here, at least that was the plan. I’d be picking her up the following morning and heading home, but seeing her things really upset me.

9:30 AM came and went; then it was 10:00 AM. At 10:05 AM I got a text “Anesthesia starting. She’s doing great!” Okay. So far so good.

I began sending out texts and updating Facebook. Then it began; the volley of text messages, emails to my phone and calls from concerned friends. Though I could not have survived all that came to pass without them I have to admit that every time my phone chimed with a new message my heart did a flip-flop. I tried to stay calm by reading a book. Before I sat down to read, I had started to put my pajamas back on, then thought better of it. What if I had to race back to Angell?

So I sat on the bed with my sweater on top but my pajama bottoms on the bottom. I felt like an idiot but I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The book was about a young woman in Amsterdam in the late 1600’s who married the wrong guy (he had a scandalous secret). She was also haunted by a mysterious character who seemed to know everything about her life as well as what would happen in her future before it came to pass. I didn’t get though a single page of that book there were so many texts coming into my phone. I’d read a few words then answer a text, then read a few more. An hour passed and I started to think the surgery should be finishing up soon.

The texting slowly stopped and I continued to read my book, wondering when this mysterious character would reveal herself. The plot of the story took a dark turn, then I started to panic feeling like maybe this book was jinxing Freya. I didn’t want to read about anyone dying; then I looked at the time. It was 11:30AM and the surgery had been going on over 90 minutes. Surely I would hear something soon?

I had one chapter left in the book. I stopped reading. The plot was getting too dark. I sat with the phone on my lap. I looked around the room. It was such a gray day. The interior of my room seemed drained of color, a perfect metaphor for how I was feeling. When the HELL where they going to call me? Maybe she was dead and they didn’t want to tell me right away? I suddenly felt such a strong wave of nausea I was sure I was going to vomit from anxiety.

The gloom of the room copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

A few minutes later, a text: “All done!”

Okay. Done. But what does that mean??! I held my breath, waiting for more news. I could see the little gray dots on the text message screen indicating that Jen was typing but hadn’t sent the message yet.

I kept looking at the little bouncing dots, then started to talk to them. “PLEASE TELL ME ALREADY! PRESS SEND, JEN! PRESS the SEND BUTTON!”

All Done

THREE MINUTES PASSED.

Then…“He said it went well…he will call later with the details”

Oh my god. She was ALIVE! She did it! She was OKAY! OH MY GOD! And then the tears came, the racking, end-of-the-world flood of tears I'd been holding back, the 4 months of worry, draining out of me with 12 little words. Freya’s surgery went well. She was waking up. She was with us. She would be coming home with me. I was crying so hard I couldn’t see to type my reply and my hands were shaking so I had to type very slowly: “it did? thank you!!! thank him!!!”

I broke the news. I called Sam. I felt badly that I was crying when I called but it couldn’t be helped. He thought Freya was dead because I was so upset, but once he realized she was okay he was relieved. We all were. All of Freya’s friends on social media, all of her friends at our Vet’s office, all of my friends, too were cheering. It was such a great moment, but along with the relief came exhaustion. Selfishly I thought that maybe now I could sleep, because I suddenly felt so drained.

But there would be no sleep. Dr. Pavletic was going to call me and my phone didn’t stop chiming with good wishes. I decided to sit in bed at least and do nothing other than rest and wait for the call. He checked in a few hours later and told me how well everything went. We didn’t talk for long because he had another life to save, but I gave him my thanks and said I’d look forward to his next update at the end of the day. It was already 2 PM so I sat my alarm for 5 PM. Now I could sleep.

Or maybe not.

-------------------- to be continued...

Freya 2.0. In Search of Peace. Part 9

continued from part 8

I lived in Minneapolis many years ago and drove in blizzards in whiteout conditions. One late spring day my car stalled out driving across a flooded road during a “once in a hundred years” severe thunderstorm that dropped 10" of rain in 4 hours, while tornadoes buzzed nearby. But this trip to Boston was one of the most difficult and terrifying of my life. By the time the sky was fading to black, I was grateful the traffic jammed up and we were forced to dribble along at 15 mph. I never understood why this was called rush hour. At least I could slow down physically and maybe emotionally, too. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. I wanted to get unpacked, get Freya cleaned up, then maybe cry and do nothing but rest in a peaceful retreat for the night.

Freya waiting to be unpacked r Olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya's ready to bust out of her Sleepypod.

I got to the hotel and parked in the wrong spot. It was covered parking and I needed the shelter since it was pouring rain. I found out I had to carry most of my own bags, with help from the nice lady at the front desk. When she told me my room was down the hall on the first floor I got worried about noise, but in truth it made getting Freya back and forth a lot easier. As I opened the door to the room, I saw a nice king-sized bed with perfectly white sheets on it. I wondered how I was going to keep that bed white with a kitten leaking stool out of her back end. Then I heard it: NOISE, traffic noise. The traffic I’d just escaped. The back of the hotel overlooks a parkway. My heart sank. I’d already dragged all my bags into the room and washed Freya off. Yes I was a loser for not asking for another room, but I was too tired to move. I just didn’t know how I would sleep. So much for peaceful retreat.

Final blowout r olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Last “blowout”! Clean up, aisle 9!

At least Freya was unfazed. Once clean, I tried to get her to eat but she wouldn’t have a bite. I got out her toys and set up her kitty cabin and hooked up the heated bed. I took every one of the towels I brought and covered the bed with them, then hoped that somehow it would do the trick and keep it clean. Freya loved running around on the carpeting since she could dig her claws into it for traction. She chased after all her toys while I finished unpacking. I’d brought some food from a deli so I sat on the bed and ate a sandwich, grateful to have something to eat after a miserable trip. Since there was no room service or café at the hotel, nor was it near anywhere to get take-out, it worked out that I brought my own food.

Here we were in Boston just a half-mile from MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center where at 6:30 AM I’d be dropping Freya off for her surgery. Every time I thought about it I felt sick. I was glad Freya had no idea of what was going on as she happily investigated the room and dodged in and out of her cabin, something familiar among all the new smells.

On Bed in Cabin R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. All the comforts of home.

I took off my shoes and sat on the bed. Freya jumped up onto the chair I had next to the bed. The bed was so tall I knew she couldn’t make it without the chair as a step stool. She looked at me, then ran up to my lap, up my chest and rubbed her face against mine. I felt her soft fur and leaned into her as she purred deeply. She sat on my lap and quickly got settled, falling asleep. She’d had a tough trip, too.

I was sitting in a weird position, my bra was digging into my side; a knot started to burn in my back under my left shoulder, but Freya was comfortable. I didn’t want to upset this moment. What if it was her last night?

Last night lap R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Velcro kitten.

So I sat there like a pretzel wearing a too-tight bra and tried to watch some TV while I heard the thrum of the rush-hour traffic whiz by the room. I wondered once again about the price I had to pay. Why couldn’t I have gotten a quieter room? All I was living for was some peace. The next day I’d take a true break. I had no laptop so I couldn’t work or do emails. Freya would be having her surgery. Maybe I could take a day off, but certainly not much of one with all this noise.

Parting shots R Olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Yes, I love you, too.

I finally worked up a way to get my bra off the way I did when I had to go to Summer Camp and didn't want the other girls to see my training bra or what was under it. Leaving my shirt on, I reached behind me and unhooked the bra while trying not to wriggle around and disturb Freya. Once I got that done I slid the straps off, then threaded each one down the sleeves of my shirt, finally yanking it out one sleeve like a Magician might do (only a bra came out of my shirt, not a bouquet of flowers). I didn’t have to wake up Freya and it helped a little bit to have one less thing digging into me. After about an hour my legs were falling asleep so I moved her. She got up and started running around again. I was glad for both of us. At least I could get into my pajamas and get into a more comfortable position. As soon as I did, Freya was back on my lap.


©2014 Robin AF Olson. Still playful after a very long day.

All through the night Freya was either sleeping on me or making sure we were touching. It was the first night we could be together in all the months she’d been my foster kitten. Every time she moved, I made sure the towels were under her.

She wanted to put her dirty little butt in my face but I drew the line with that. I tucked a towel around my neck and she sat on my shoulder while I was half propped up.

I was so exhausted I actually fell asleep with her leaning on my face, her head on my cheek. I woke up some time later with her still there, her wet nose was cold, but she was still purring away.

Dirty beehind R Olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. No, I do not want to sleep with that in my face. Thank you.

I didn’t get much sleep. At 5 AM I got up and got us both ready to go. I was so scared and tired I was shaking. I looked at Freya and cried. I had to stop. I had to be strong. I hoped I’d paid the price and in return today would be the best day of her life. I didn’t want to think of what I would do if she died.

Robin and Freya R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Me and my girl.

It was still pitch black outside and there were barely any cars on the road. The trip to Angell was a quick one. We were the second car in the gigantic parking lot. It looked deserted but I knew they were open 24 hours a day. I took a deep breath and got Freya, all her paperwork and my credit card ready to go. The sliding doors opened as we approached.

I wondered how I’d be feeling the next time I entered these doors. Would it be to pick up Freya or to say goodbye? I had to steady myself and just get this job done. I could fall apart later.

Angell at night R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The gateway to salvation.

After I checked Freya in and paid for her surgery I met with Jen, who would be our Client Liaison. She was cheerful and charming, sporting and elfin haircut and many shiny piercings on her face that I tried not to stare at. She explained that she would be texting me updates throughout the day and that if I needed anything or had questions that she would take care of everything. She did a great job assuring me that communication was not going to be a problem and that she had everything covered.

When she saw Freya her eyes lit up. As everyone as who’s ever met her, Jen was completely delighted by Freya who meowed a hello as Jen gave her a few pets. We went over what was to be expected and I found out that the surgery would be the first of Dr. Pavletic’s and would start around 9:30AM. She promised to let me know when the surgery was going to begin. I forgot to ask how long it would take, but I knew from the estimate that they expected two hours of anesthesia.

Farewell Freya R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. With Jen.

It was time to hand Freya over. Jen brought out a small white cage. It reminded me of a modified trap I’d used to TNR feral cats. I didn’t want Frey to go. The reality of the moment hit me hard. I held back my tears, gave her a kiss and choked out the words: “I love you.” I took a few terrible photos and tried not to think that they might be the last ones I took of her.

Caged Freya R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. This is it. The next time I see you you'll be Freya 2.0.

I zipped closed her empty carrier and walked back outside, into the early dawn which only managed to change from black to a sluggish gray. The rain had returned and chilled my face as I returned to my car. All I wanted to do was go back to bed and sleep, but with surgery only a few hours away I decided I better just sit in my hotel room and wait.

------to be continued.

Freya 2.0. Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Gloom of Night. Part 8

My father grew up with a fairly serious case of Italian Guilt inherited from his father; “Every good thing always comes with a price.” he’d tell me. Of course that rubbed off on me over the years and a few days ago it became the theme of my journey to Boston with Freya.

Freya had run out of time. Her colon was loaded with so much stool that fairly soon she’d start vomiting because her stomach was pushed too far out of its normal position and she couldn’t hold any volume of food inside it any longer. She’d suffer, laying on her side, groaning as her muscles contracted in a vain attempt to move some of the trapped stool out of a very tiny opening in her vagina. It was the only way any stool could leave her body. We’d hoped she’d make it to January when we were told she’d be big enough to handle a multi-hour surgery that might create a rectum, something she was born without, but desperately needed.

Playtime R Olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

But we couldn’t wait any longer. The surgery was quickly re-scheduled once we saw her latest x-rays. Her intestines looked like over-stuffed sausages, roping and twisting through her abdomen. Not only was it dangerous, it had to be very painful for Freya.

On Tuesday she and I left for Boston; my little car with not-so-great tires, had to make the trip, no matter what. Even if there was a terrible nor’easter predicted with battering rain, little visibility and damaging winds to battle through, I HAD to get Freya to Boston for her surgery the following morning.



©2014 Robin AF Olson.

I admit I’m not wired to handle stressful situations with grace and elegance. I get sick to my stomach. I can’t sleep. I run every scenario over and over through my head. I have this silly feeling that if I don’t come up with every way the situation can go then the one I didn’t think of will happen. I may feel in my heart that Freya is going to be ok, but I don’t want to jinx it. I won’t say that aloud. I will think back about what her surgeon, Dr. Pavletic, told me about all the complications that could kill her during and after surgery. The stitches might not hold then she’d die of sepsis. Once the surgery started he might find another abnormality we didn’t know about that might make doing any repair impossible. Long surgeries take a toll on a kitten’s body temperature and her organs could shut down and she might die on the operating table. I had to stop thinking that this could be the last 24-hours of Freya’s life and start focusing on the road. There wouldn’t be anything to worry about if we didn’t make it to Boston and ended up in a ditch instead. The weather was so terrible that it was a very likely possibility.

From the moment I left the driveway I spent the next 3.5 hours white-knuckle driving across flooded highways, desperate to keep the car on the road, while the wind had other ideas. I chided myself for not getting new tires, but in truth I can’t afford them and there wasn’t time to do it. I had all day to get to Boston, even if it meant I had to drive at granny-speeds to do it.

What shocked me was how foolish the other drivers were. It’s bad enough people over-drive their cars in good weather, but I got tail-gated by semi-trucks (I was in the right lane on a 3-lane highway), morons in SUVS or newer cars flew by me doing over 60 mph (because that’s the fastest I could safely travel and most of the time I had to go a lot slower). My heart racing, my blood pressure ticking upwards, I kept wondering when I’d paid the price for Freya. Four months of early morning feedings, cleanings, fussing with this kitten. Four months of tears and fear about if she’d keep going long enough to get her surgery. There was a blur of vet visits, emails to peers and beyond asking for help; so much time spent. Didn’t I already do enough? Why does this trip have to be so difficult?

In the fog and pouring rain south of Hartford, I looked at the clock on my dashboard. It was 1:44 PM and I did the math that I was very behind schedule. As I looked up, appearing out of the gloom, laying on its side in my lane was the fender of a semi-truck. It was as high as the hood of my car. Time stopped as everything in my body tensed, readying for impact as I realized in a flash that maybe we weren’t going to make Boston after all.

I’d been careful driving so that I wasn’t near other cars if I could help it. I think that’s what saved our lives because I had to do a very quick, careful, maneuver around the fender that put me out of my lane for a few seconds. I couldn’t overdo the turn. I flashed back to “C-P-R,” (correct, pause, recover), a move I learned taking a Skip Barber Professional Driving class 15 years ago when my life was a lot more carefree and I drove a zippy yellow Mustang GT with a 250hp motor and 18” wheels. The road was so flooded if I wasn’t careful with the correction, with the crappy condition of my tires I would have spun out of control and been hit. As it was I thought I was going to hit the fender no matter what I did and I held my breath waiting for the screech of metal on metal to flay the paint off the right side of my car.

Unbearable Cuteness R olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Thankfully I just barely missed the fender and was able to get over to my exit heading us east a few moments later. Freya had no idea what was going on, but I was so angry and upset that the sky should have dried up right then and there. The toll had been paid; the price collected out of the sprouting gray hairs on my head, but the rain and wind continued to batter us as it made me even more determined to get to Boston.

-----------------to be continued...

On the Eve of the Birth of Freya 2.0. Part 7.

In writing the last post about Freya before her surgery, I realized after it was proofed and ready to share that I forgot a very important bit of news. Freya's life was saved because our friends at Animals in Distress offered to have her family sign her over to their rescue, then I stepped in to begin providing care and do fundraising until they could sort out a foster home for her. As you know Freya's never left my home since arriving in September. With AIDs help I was able to have them do some of the leg-work required to get appointments set for Freya in Boston. AID also helped provide me with some towels and rugs early on and for that I am most appreciative.

As the days passed and it seemed silly for me to continue to care for Freya as only a foster home since my rescue, Kitten Associates, was paying for a good chunk of her care. I'd done fundraising for her already, too, and in many ways she was already part of our rescue. A few weeks ago it was decided that Freya would become part of the KA foster family. AID has signed her over to us. Though their legal ties to her are over, AID continues to cheer us on and support our efforts. Without their being willing to help this kitten, there would be no story about Freya and she would have already been long gone.

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It’s time. This defining moment in Freya’s life has come. From her rescue as a tiny 2-week old kitten with a mysterious condition, she’s now a 16-week old with a rare birth defect called Atresia Ani with Recto-vaginal Fistula. Her care has required constant, diligent monitoring, frequent baths and endless loads of laundry. Every second of it has been worth it because Freya has taught me a lesson about unconditional love that has changed my life.

Peek a boo R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. From the early days with Freya.

My latest task was to keep Freya going until mid-January when she was finally big enough to do the surgery that would create a rectum for her and a real way to pass stool. There were difficulties beyond the obvious risks of surgery. How could I keep Freya’s nutritional needs met, but not cause her to build up a great deal of stool? I consulted with MANY feline nutritionists and Vets. Every one of them gave me different advice. What I’d been doing seemed to be okay, but I feared it wasn’t helping Freya get enough nutrients since the mixture was more for weaning kittens. I chose to change her diet to a very watery re-constituted dehydrated raw with some probitotics. Freya LOVES raw food and even watered down, being low carb and grain-free, I thought would do the trick. I fed her this diet for two weeks, then we re-did her x-rays to see if there were any changes.

Freya 11 21 and 12 3 use 11 7
The thick sausage shape you see is stool. It's very well defined on the top x-ray and the volume isn't as severe as the "two weeks ago." The most recent rad shows much softer looking than before. Hopefully it's enough to keep Freya comfortable for a few more days until maybe...the next x-ray after the surgery will NOT show all this stool any longer!

I noticed that Freya seemed more comfortable and certainly had great energy. She also seemed less bloated. I felt very sure that her x-rays would be newsworthy, but I was VERY WRONG. The x-rays showed she had gotten MUCH more loaded with stool-dramatically worse. I felt horrible about taking a risk with her life by changing her diet, but Dr. Potanas assured me that this may have happened no matter what I did.

It was time to give Freya a stool softener called Lactulose. It’s very gentle and takes a few days to kick in. It’s a type of sugar that is not absorbed by the body, instead it absorbs water and draws it into the colon so stool can pass more easily. We also had to give Freya sub-Q fluids daily to keep her hydrated. With any luck we’d halt the buildup, but I was also warned that she would have to have surgery much sooner than January. Being early December I knew we had to do something sooner, rather than later. Dr. Pavletic, the surgeon at MSPCA-Angell in Boston who will help Freya, would take some time off at Christmas and not be available. As each day passed, we’d be one day closer to winter and traveling would become an issue. By our next two-week x-ray appointment we had the answers. Freya needed surgery ASAP.

BLOWOUT R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. After a few days of lactulose. I'd never seen Freya this messy, ever. It was alarming but good. She must have felt better once she was cleaned up.

The latest x-rays showed at least Freya wasn’t worse and her stool appeared much softer, but the problem was it still wasn’t coming OUT as much as we’d like to see. She had one day of very scary “blow outs” of stool so I backed off on the meds for a half day, but I should have kept them going. In these last days before surgery I don’t see Freya moving much stool at all. I’m grateful her spirit is strong, her energy is good, she’s eating well and otherwise a normal kitten, but there’s a dangerous buildup inside her. Surgery is in three days. I feel fairly hopeful we didn’t wait too long, but things can always take a turn in a heartbeat.

Freya with Nicky on Bed R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya looks longingly at Nicky, who's not really sure about her just yet; with Blitzen and the DOOD in the background.

I’ve written previous posts about Freya’s journey and my fears. While I wrote them I cried. I know what the obstacles are, the possible post-surgery complications, the things we won’t know about Freya until the surgery has begun, but I feel like it’s far out of my hands now. I feel sick with worry that will only grow worse as the day arrives, but I’m trying to look forward to this with a positive outlook and not be a tearful mess.


©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya loves to help with the laundry...or something like that.

At our last visit with Dr. Potanas here in Newtown, Dr. P reached out to shake my hand and wish us luck. He was smiling ear to ear, clearly excited about the BIG DAY. I asked him why he was so happy and he replied because Freya is finally going to get her surgery! For me it’s been a day to dread, but for Freya I hope it's the day that begins her life version 2.0.

Sleeping Sweetie R Olson

©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya has "jellybean" toes-black and pink.

Freya’s old life and our old ways of caring for her will be a thing of the past. What is yet to come we’ll just have to wait and see. No matter what, we’ll continue to love and care for Freya whatever it takes…and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a reason to celebrate Wednesday as being the best, most important day of her life.

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On Wednesday, December 10th, I hope you'll take a moment to send Freya your good thoughts, prayers, wishes. I’m ever so grateful for your support all these months. It’s gotten us to this day and that is something to be excited about. You can leave a message for Freya on our FACEBOOK page for Covered in Cat Hair and on Freya’s FACEBOOK page called For Freya.

If you'd like to read Freya's backstory you can do a search using the Search box on the right side of this page. Type in "Freya" and you'll see her stories.

Freya on Red use 2014 R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.

A (Wo)man's Search for Meaning

I don’t know where the time has gone. It seems like it was only just September a few days ago and here we are at the door to December. I find myself frustrated, not effective, not “getting things done,” but if I rated myself at how good of a job I’ve been doing at putting things off I’d get a gold star. I’ve been eating like a starved hermit and I can see my belly growing from self-soothing myself with food. I’d been on a good run over the summer, cutting out sugar and cutting down gluten. I felt like I could really do it this time. I was feeling a lot better and my skin was glowing, but then something happened. I don’t know what it was. I had a piece of candy, then two, then I didn’t care about things as much and I just ate what I wanted to even if having dinner meant it starting after 9 PM. I guess I need a better outlet for whatever it is I’m feeling. I suppose it’s fear due to barely scraping by and fear of losing what little success I’ve had blogging and running Kitten Associates. I know if I did only one thing, just ran my rescue or just did graphic design, I could do well. I could focus better, but it would mean other things have to be sacrificed and as much as I’m distressed, I can’t cut one out. At best, I limp along trying to keep all these plates spinning; a bit of work here, do some fundraising there, write a blog post when I can.

As each day passes I ask myself why I have such a need to get to some place that doesn’t exist; to reach some moment in time where it all makes sense, where everything broken is repaired, where I finally clean out the basement, when I have a book published. I don’t know why I can’t look around and find the meaning I need today. Here. Now. I keep searching for something, but I don’t know what it is. How idiotic is that?

Fall Dream Robin Olson
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Being surrounded by this brilliant color gave meaning to my life. It makes my heart soar and I forget about all that ails me.

Perhaps I shouldn't judge myself so harshly and stop taking it out on my body. My poor body didn’t do anything wrong, yet I’m not fueling it properly. I don’t really drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t take drugs other than a random aspirin. I try to live in a way facing whatever comes along, heartbreaking or not, but I can’t answer the one question of WHY it seems to be impossible to be content with things as they are and WHY I can’t simply eat to fuel myself. Why am I stuffing down my anxiety with food?

It’s been a tough run these past few months. We’ve had the shocking loss of Celeste two days after she was spayed, followed by a very long heart-to-heart conversation with our Vet, Dr. Mille. I was angry and felt he likely caused Celeste’s death since he performed her spay surgery, but he was quick to point out the many reasons why her death was something that may have happened at any moment due to the clotting disorder he suspected she had. We ended our conversation very warmly. Dr. Mille even offered to help me develop protocols to screen all our foster cats so we could do a better job preventing another cat from dying after a spay. I was grateful to him for the offer. Most Vets won’t take time to do something that’s not billable and I was looking forward to working with him, but I waited too long.

On Thanksgiving Dr. Mille died. He seemed to be a vigorous, athletic middle-aged man. I couldn’t imagine why he would die so suddenly as I sat in stunned silence once I’d heard the news. There are rumors of what happened, but not why or how. I won't be a gossip, but it leaves me shaken. It reminds me again how fleeting this life really is; we can’t take it for granted. Our goal should be to find peace with each day, whatever it brings, and to find a way to appreciate everything we have because when it’s gone that’s it. No do-over. The end.

So with my life’s clock ticking down and the pressure to accomplish something that I’m not even sure what it is, leaves me in an uncomfortable place. I wonder if everyone else feels this way, too.

I was thinking about Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, where he writes about his experiences in a Nazi Concentration Camp. As a psychologist it gave him a unique perspective that he turned into careful observations leading him to see that even in extreme cases of suffering life never ceases to have meaning.

Dr mille 350
©2014 Cat Clinic. Dr. Mille.

He writes: “Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.”

I thought about Dove, a little kitten I’d only just learned about who was being fostered by the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee and who had a similar birth defect to the one my kitten Freya has. She’d been found in a box on the side of the road, a filthy mess, in terrible shape. Her foster mom Isabel, did her very best, taking Dove to many Vets in the hopes she’d find an answer to her curious birth defect, but most had never seen this deformity before and how to treat this mysterious condition was even more daunting.

I gave Isabel every piece of information I’d learned and begged her to have her Vet contact our surgeons. For me, helping others is the only way I ever feel good and perhaps you can call that a type of love: loving-kindness. I even began to imagine that I would ask Isabel to let me take Dove and that she and Freya could be sisters. I’d find a way to provide care for both of them since I live much closer to our Boston surgeon than Dove’s West Virginia home. All that needed to happen was that Dove had to stabilize her health and then I’d ask about taking her on.

Dove 300
©2014 Itty Bitty Kitty Committee Rescue. Dove.

And then the very next day, a message on the IBKC Facebook Page that Dove was fading fast, seemingly over night; that her core temperature had dropped to fatal levels and shortly thereafter, she slipped away on her own surrounded by her loving foster family. It was devastating news.

Each time I learn about a beloved cat dying I want to run away and hide or pull my hair out and scream about how unfair it is and how cruel life can be. I think about Frankl’s quote that even in utter desolation, when we can’t do anything about what is happening (Dove’s death for example) our only salvation is through love. Isabel’s love for Dove will keep her going even with a broken heart. My love for Freya, even with the terrifying ups and downs of her condition, are what will sustain me. I will do right by her as I have done so before for others. Perhaps that is what I’ve been searching for all along?

Sleepy Girl R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F Olson. My darling Freya.

Perhaps all I want to know is that I’m doing right by my actions and whatever may come I will continue to do so; that some how I will find a way to stop stuffing my fears into my mouth. Perhaps my journey to salvation already began as finding love for animals and for being their advocate. That feeling grew into an openness which developed into exhibiting loving-kindness towards their human caretakers. Where I get stuck is finding a way to love myself and maybe that's the key to what I've been looking for all along. I don't have to reach a certain moment in time or accomplish a certain thing or I'll be left feeling like a failure. I have to have faith in the love I have for myself and others and everything else will fall into place.

Know the Signs of Feline Diabetes #PetHealthMonth

Is this your cat?

Increased thirst, urination or possibly inappropriately urinating, hunger, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, and even weakness in the back legs might be the warning signs your cat has Feline Diabetes Mellitus.

As with any behavior change in your cat, your first thought should be to consider taking him or her to the vet for a checkup-especially if it’s been some time since your cat has seen the vet. The symptoms listed above can also be attributed to other diseases which is why it’s even more important to have your cat examined if something is off in their behavior.

Squeegee Somber R Olson
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Squeegee.

In honor or Pet Health Awareness month I’ve decided to share a personal story about how a cat with diabetes changed my life and how it started me on a path I hope will help others keep their cats from ever becoming “sugar cats.”

Her name was Squeegee and she was a chubby, calico/tabby mix with white mittens and brilliant green eyes. Back in the late 1990’s I didn’t know much about cat health, but I did make sure my cats got to the vet every so often. One day I came home from work and Squeegee wasn’t walking right. Her back legs were wobbly as if she could no longer hold up her own weight. Panicked, I called my vet and was able to bring her to him right away.

Dr. Larry did a careful exam and drew some blood to test. He returned to the exam room with a look on his face I’ve come to dread. He told me that Squeegee likely had neuropathy in her back legs due to having uncontrolled diabetes.

He’d have to do what’s called a glucose curve on her to make certain that was the problem (some cats can spike a high blood glucose level from the stress of going to the vet) and that I’d have to start giving Squeegee insulin shots every day for the rest of her life. Her legs would regain strength once her levels were stable, but I’d also have to change her diet to a prescription food made just for diabetic cats.

I was in a state of shock. There was no way I could deal with a cat who needed shots. I wasn’t a nurse. I just loved my cat, fed her, gave her a safe home and now I had to fuss around with her and give her food that my other cat, Stanley couldn’t eat. In a way I was glad to leave Squeegee for the night so I could try to get my mind around what was about to happen and how it would change both of our lives. Dr. Larry gave me some syringes and had me practice giving shots on an orange. Meanwhile I was trying to figure out how I was going to manage keeping her insulin shots on schedule when I worked far from home.

Grasseatingmonsters
©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Squeegee & Stanley enjoying a snack of cat grass.

Looking back on it I wish I could have reached through time to tell myself not to blindly listen to what I was being told. Squeegee had been free-fed dry food and got treats of canned food for most of her life. I know the poor quality food was the culprit that made her sick but I bought into the marketing schemes to get me to buy something I thought was good. I had know idea how important the role of diet was in preventing diabetes in the first place.

I began to do some research on feline diet. As I learned about cat nutrition I came to understand that the biggest thing I could do to keep my cat from getting sick in the first place was to stop free-feeding and stop feeding kibble. The answers were few and far between back then and the commercially available choices were limited. By the time I discovered that some people were putting their cats into lifetime remission by feeding them a high protein diet, Squeegee had also developed cancer which was spreading to her lungs and it was too late to help her.

Squeegee died at the age of 13, which I consider young for a cat. Had I understood what her body really needed for fuel, she could have lived a much longer, healthier life. After Squeegee passed away I stopped feeding kibble to my cats and never looked back. No cat parent should ever have to face the heartache of seeing their cat suffer needlessly when an appropriate diet might have been the answer all along.

Today there are numerous resources for anyone who is either concerned about preventing diabetes or who has a diabetic cat and needs more answers.

There’s a great organization called Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN). DCIN supports diabetic cats in their original, adoptive, shelter, and rescue homes when finances are a barrier to treatment; helps to re-home unwanted diabetic cats by promoting cats that need homes and helps to educate caregivers on the appropriate treatment of diabetic cats by referring them to other sites.

DCIN FB Page
DCINs Facebook Page

DCIN is an Internet-based rescue/assistance program. It does not have a facility or take diabetic cats into foster care. But having a Facebook following of over 4500 people, DCIN gives people who need to re-home diabetic cats a broad audience of potential adopters. When finances or distance are a barrier to re-homing in a qualified home or shelter/rescue, DCIN may be able to help pay for transport and with transport logistics.

Venita Wood, Director of DCIN said; “After insulin, the first best thing you can do to keep your diabetic cat safe and healthy is home-testing its blood glucose levels. It will cost you less to use an inexpensive human glucometer at home three to four times a day than it would cost take your cat to the veterinarian once a month for a blood glucose curve. And you will get more realistic blood glucose numbers because the cat won't be subject to vet stress.”

While DCIN does not provide guidance on the day-to-day treatment of diabetic cats because they feel other web sites are already doing a great job (see ones listed below), DCIN wants others to understand that diabetes is NOT a death sentence. They’re working hard to change the mindset of shelters and owners who feel it’s too much cost and too much hassle to keep diabetic cats alive.

From my experience I’d add that there’s no substitute for a great, wholesome diet whether your cat is diabetic or not. Should your cat become diabetic keep the faith and don’t give up. Here are some resources to help.

Feline Diabetes

FelineDiabetes.com

DiabeticCatHelp.com

DiabeticCatCare.com

Feline Nutrition

CatInfo.org

Feline-nutrition.org

UPDATE: As of this writing I learned the sad news that Venita Wood can no longer continue to be at the helm of DCIN. She is looking for a dedicated, compassionate person to hand over the reins of this life-saving organization. If you share a passion for helping diabetic cats and you’d like to know more visit DCIN’s facebook page or contact Venita@dcin.info

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This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about #PetHealthAwareness, but Covered in Cat Hair only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.

Antics of a 12-week Old Kitten. For Freya.

Freya loves Fluff Daddy and vice versa. Every chance she gets, Freya chases Fluff around the house. Some times he'll turn the table on her and chase her back. Since she's too little to be left on her own, she can only be out if someone can supervise her. Of course we can only do this when she's in one of her "dry" periods, too. I don't think it would be much fun to have to clean up poo-drips all over the house. Having to do it in her room a few times a day is enough thankyouverymuch.

Here's our Freya from this morning's antics with Fluff Daddy. It's nice to see her simply being a kitten, instead of worrying about her surviving the day or thinking about her surgery in January. This is how every day should be for Freya.

Freya Surprise R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Fluff Swat R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Missed by "this much."

Playtime w Fluff 2 R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Playtime w Fluff 3 R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

Playtime w Fluff R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. No kitten was hurt during the capturing of this image.

Silly stare R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Ready to rumble?

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