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.
The year began with our litter of chronically sick orange kittens nicknamed The Clementines. They’d arrived from Kentucky, months before, supposedly after being in quarantine, they arrived to my home covered in fleas and with bad eye infections. A kitten named Sherbert got so sick we thought he’d lose his eye. What I couldn’t have known then was that 2014 ended up being “The Year of the Vet Visit” with so many sick and injured cats. What I thought was a lot of vet runs in January was nothing compared to what happened throughout the year.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The Clementines.
Our black, white and gray foster cats, Mochachino and her son, Pizzelle fond their forever home together with an outstanding family here in Newtown. Soon after that, Mocha’s other sons, Nanny and Linzer found their home together, too.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mocha finally getting some rest now that her kittens are safe after being rescued from being sealed up inside a tiny cat carrier, left in the street in the hot summer sun of Atlanta for a few days. It's a miracle they survived.
It left Biscotti on his own so I let the Clementines share his room. Of course Biscotti got the eye infection from the Clems so it was back to the vet and weeks of terramycin eye ointment (it was on national shortage so the only way to get it was to have it compounded at a pharmacy for $60 a tube-we went through over half a dozen of them).
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Biscotti, rescued out of a hot metal dumpster, burned, to this gorgeous, friendly creature.
By the end of the month, after many discussions and visits, Minnie, our lovely mama-kitty got the chance to move out of her former foster home where she was being frightened by other members of the household and other cats in the home. I couldn’t move her fast enough and luckily I found a quiet place with Susan and her hubby, Barry. The challenge for me was that Susan was pregnant and would it be a wise choice to have Minnie be part of a family with their first baby on the way? Susan wasn’t sure that Minnie was her forever-kitty, too, after still mourning the loss of her previous cat a few years prior, so the plan was to foster Minnie for a few weeks and see how it would go. The first goal was that Minnie had gotten a bad allergic reaction to something in her former foster home and if she couldn’t heal from it, then Susan would have a harder time if Minnie needed a great deal of care. It wasn’t because Susan wouldn’t provide the care, it was just really bad timing and I didn't think it was fair for her to have a sick cat and be pregnant. I worried that Minnie would become unhappy with a new baby, but there was something really special about this couple and they were determined that it would work out well so I gave it a chance.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Minnie, with scratches from other cats and sores on her face from some sort of allergic or stress reaction.
If February is the month of Love then it was no surprise when I got a call about a cat named Popcorn who would make me gush. He was listed on Craigslist-which is a dangerous way to find a cat a new home. A rescuer offered to take him from his family who had not provided care for him and as a purebred Himalayan Flame Point, not being groomed is not an option.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Two hours of grooming and this cat just let us do what we had to do.
I had a potential adopter for Popcorn so I worked it out for the cat to go straight to this woman’s home, do the adoption and call it a day.
But the cat’s coat was in horrific shape. The rescuer called me asking if I had clippers and that could she stop by and trim the cat before she took him to his home. I had clippers so she came to my home first.
Okay, maybe not the end. Popcorn was in such bad shape the matted fur had trapped urine from escaping very far so his behind was always wet and his skin was literally melting off his back end. It must have hurt SO BADLY and also been the reason why his former jerk-owners sprayed Axe body spray on him because he smelled terrible.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Mr. Cranky just after being groomed.
Two hours later, after a miserable time trimming him, this cat never hissed or bit me. After he was shaved he looked so adorable that between his china-blue eyes and silly expression I fell in love. I knew Popcorn would need serious vet care and though we did bring him to his new home, I told the woman to bring him to the vet the next day so she could use our discount. When she balked at being able to afford ANY charges, I realized I had to get this cat back. At the vet I made her realize he was better off with me until he was healthy. She couldn’t lift him to get him cleaned and every day his rear end needed to be medicated. It was just “for now,” right?
We renamed the cat, Fluff Daddy, even though it was only supposed to be his nickname, the name stuck. Fluff had lots of health issues, but nothing severe. He was so easy-going I let him leave confinement to hang out with my cats. Even though he’s half the size of my guys, he doesn’t take crap from any of them. I’d never had a purebred cat in my life, ever, and it seemed everything he did was unusual and fascinating. He also loved the foster kittens so I started to think that maybe he should be our rescue mascot.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Fluffzilla.
The Clementines were still sick. I started to wonder if they’d be with us for eternity. They were all so lovely, I wasn’t sad they were still here, but it also wasn’t fair to them to be here for so long. Biscotti also struggled with the repeating eye infection, too. It was endlessly frustrating.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. I will never forget you, Jackson.
On March 27, 2014 I got the call I’d been dreading. Mickey, the devoted and loving mama to Jackson Galaxy, a cat I’d rescued from Georgia, called. Jackson almost died a few times from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Mickey had been the needle-in-the-haystack adopter who wasn’t phased to adopt a cat she knew wouldn’t live for many years. After a year and a few months together, Jackson cried out in pain. He was rushed to the vet, but there was nothing more to be done and he was released from this world surrounded by love, even his Vet cried. Jackson who had always been fussy at our vet, loved his new vet and had charmed everyone there and they were all so saddened by his passing. Jackson was one of the most special cats I’d ever known and to this day I get a lump in my throat when I think about him.
Biscotti got adopted twice in April, once to the WRONG family and at last to the perfect family, a super-smart-talented-writer named Amanda, came all the way to Newtown from Massachusetts and fell in love. Biscotti was smitten, too. It was one of the most perfect adoptions we’d ever done.
Then the call from Susan, they wanted to make it official. Minnie was adopted, too!
©2014 Warren Royal. Maggie (grooming) and Junie (center orange) were part of a 5-cat rescue. Two of the cats went to another group and my rescue, Kitten Associates, took the remaining three cats.
The Clementines started to find their families, Maggie, Junie and Purrcee, from Georgia arrived and began finding their homes, too.
We took in a semi-feral mom named Mia and she gave birth to five kittens, Mickey named one of them Woody Jackson in honor of her sweet boy Jackson.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mia and family.
Our first pregnant rescue was a gorgeous chocolate point Siamese named Celeste. She was dumped outside and a good Samaritan found her and asked for help. She was willing to cover the cat’s vet care and would even adopt the mom after she was done weaning her kittens. I felt it was a great fit and I was eager to see kittens being born.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Pregnant and dumped by her family, Celeste needed rescue right away.
On May 13th, just days after Celeste arrived, she gave birth to five kittens. I could tell right away that something was wrong with one of the kittens. I also realized I was in way over my head when I tried to get that kitten to nurse on Celeste, who never ignored her kitten, so I thought if I could get him to latch on he’d be okay. I tried to feed the little guy, but he was much smaller than the others. I named him Fiorello and I stayed with him all night, keeping him warm and urging him to eat, but he would not. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to make it and by the next morning he was gone. In grief, Celeste reacted by furiously scratching all the litter out of her pan. She growled and hissed at me and for a few days I knew she was mourning the loss.
Thankfully the other kittens, Twinkle-Twinkle, Little Star, Astro and Hubble were doing well.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Celeste with Fiorello.
When the Danbury Fire Department got a call about a weird sound in a wall, they responded. They had to break a hole into a concrete basement wall where they discovered a tiny kitten. With no mother or siblings to be found they took the cat to a vet for help. They vet wouldn’t help unless the care was paid for so they called me.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Wallace.
Enter Wallace, the tiny tabby who needed to be bottle fed. After losing Fiorello, I didn’t want to bottle feed again. Lucky for all of us Chris, a Vet tech offered to help. She and her Great Dane, Nina became Wallace’s new family until he was weaned.
©2014 Christine C. Wallace with surrogate mom, Nina, the Great Dane.
A crazy month. Our foster mom, Moe told me about neighbors who had a cat that never got spayed. She’d had at LEAST 4 litters in three years, probably more than that. Kittens were dead in their yard or sick. None were getting vet care. I told Moe I didn’t want to add more cats to our program but I couldn’t say no. One by one, Moe got the cats. Six of them were older kittens, covered in fleas, really sick. There was the first mama, Laney and her daughter, Winnie and they were both pregnant. We had a few other of the older cats vetted, then began the arduous task of vetting everyone else while we waited for the kittens to be born.
©2014 Foster mom Moe. The J's, the first group of 15 cats we took from ONE family's yard just because they didn't spay their female cat.
Meanwhile Celeste’s kittens were weaned and were spayed/neutered. I had to cancel Celeste’s appointment because she was in heat, which ended up being a temporary blessing.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Hubble (far left), Twinkle, Astro and Star (far right).
Winnie has her first litter. Two kittens-one was stillborn, one was very tiny and pale. She was named Piglet but we didn’t think she’d survive because Winnie wasn’t interested in caring for her offspring. Being so young herself, we understood her reluctance to nurse her baby. We also knew she was mourning, too.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney and Piglet.
Thankfully for Piglet, his grandmother, Laney, began to care for him. As she did, Winnie took interest. Both cats mothered Piglet and a week later when Laney had six healthy fat kittens, her first concern remained that little Piglet got the best care.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with all their kittens.
Minnie’s mom, Susan gave birth to a son, Henry. I held my breath, waiting for bad news that Minnie would have to go, but it never came.
Instead I got photos of Minnie, sitting next to the baby, seemingly protecting him while he laid in his mother’s arms. Susan reported that Minnie was fantastic with the baby and that she was already telling her newborn son that he should be gentle with Minnie and love her like a sister.
©2014 Susan Whalen. With son Henry at her side, Minnie, completely relaxed keeps her family company.
If I knew then what I know now I would have moved to the North Pole.
In late August, kitten Twinkle got her leg stuck in such a way that she panicked, then ended up breaking a tiny bone in her leg to get free. She caused everything I’d stacked on top of the washer and dryer to fall to the floor as we heard one of the kittens screaming. I didn’t know which kitten it was until I looked at her and she cried, trying to stand, but fell over. It was late at night and I rushed her to our Emergency Vet. They wanted $5000 to fix it with 75% up front. I didn’t have it.
©2014 Robin AF Olson.
At 3AM, after I got home from the Vet, asking them to get her stable until the next morning and give her pain meds, I started a fundraiser hoping we’d get enough to get us half way there. I honestly didn’t know what I would do if we couldn’t raise the funds.
In less than 24 hrs we had the full amount. I’d never raised that sort of money, ever. I made a tearful, kind of embarrassing video thanking everyone for knocking one out of the park for Twink. She made a full recovery after being on cage rest and in a cast for over a month.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. With daddy Sam.
Ten days later, more screaming, but from a different foster room. I am sick to say our web cam captured what happened. At the time all I knew was to run upstairs and find out who got hurt. It took all of a second to know it was Fernando because all I saw when I looked at his face was that one of his eyes was covered in blood.
Another Emergency Visit, another few thousand dollars later, Fernando’s eyelid was ripped in three. When I viewed the footage of the accident I cried. He had been upside down, wrestling with Wallace. Somehow his eyelid caught on the metal “finger” of a dog crate divider I had stored out of harm’s way. At least that’s what I had thought. It’s in the dump now.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. At the Vet for his final checkup after ripping his eyelid in three.
So now I had a cat with stitches and cone-of-shame and another in a cage with a cast. What’s next? I shouldn’t have thought about it, but then came the call that changed my life. A little kitten was at the Emergency Vet. She was messed up but the family couldn’t afford care for her. My friends at Animals in Distress had already told the Vet the couple could sign the kitten over to them, but then where would it go? I offered to go there since I live nearby to take photos and help do yet another fundraiser. They asked me if I’d foster the cat and I said no way I had too much going on.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The first look at Freya. She was too tired to even worry that she was almost euthanized due to the rareness of and difficulty to repair her birth defects.
When I got to the vet the couple told me the Vet said the kitten had a 10% chance to live. That she had a rare birth defect called Atresia Ani and that only surgery would save her life, but it would be $5000.00. I asked the cat’s name. They said “Freya.” She was so tiny, almost pure white with an odd thumbprint of tabby on her forehead. The vets decided to give the kitten a few days to get bigger before they tried the surgery. She weighed just over a pound. Since it was “only a few days” sucker-me said yes, I would take her, not knowing her care would end up almost shutting down my rescue for the rest of the year.
Though the month got off to a happy start, with Kitten Associates winning the Dogtime Pettie Award for Best Cause Blog, things turned dark quickly.
Celeste needed to be spayed, but I was overwhelmed with caring for Freya. I got an air mattress and basically slept on the floor with Freya every night. Celeste was at another foster home so I had room for Freya. I was so tired from all the cats who needed extra vet runs and care that I was having a breakdown. One of my friends said she’d take Celeste to be spayed so I could get a bit of rest.
Celeste got spayed, but no one at the vet told me they had a very hard time with her. They never told me she was 10 years old, not 2. They didn’t tell me her uterus was full of cysts and that those cysts would have caused her to be in heat 365/7/24. I only learned all that after the early morning call from her foster home saying something was wrong.
©2014 Robin AF Olson.
Although I got Celeste to the vet within the hour, she died. I was devastated. Celeste’s blood wouldn’t clot. It might have been caused by severe stress, it might be hereditary, it might be from being so much older than we thought. We’d never know the real reason, but the kittens all had to be tested to make sure their blood clotted normally (all did).
After that day we made changes so that all our mama-cats get pre-op bloodwork and any other tests they might need. If they are fractious then our vets know to give them a day to relax and to call us if there are problems. As we all grieved this loss, I also continued to worry about Freya because it was a challenge to get her good nutrition without it adding to the stool that was slowly filling up her abdomen. Would a foolish mistake about her diet end up killing her?
Having Freya for a few days turned into two weeks, which turned into six weeks, which made it impossible for me to deal with finding adopters for our cats, work to make a living and write a blog post or two. I was making up my own idea of what a good diet would be for a kitten who could only pass less then a pea-sized stool out of her vagina. Every two weeks we did x-rays to see how Freya was doing and her intestines were getting more and more filled with dangerous stool.
Then just as October was coming to a close, worse news. Big Daddy, the charming, dearly loved cat had died due to complications from lymphoma. I’d been part of Big Daddy’s team, first finding him a rescue to take him after his daddy Warren trapped him and got him ready to be adopted. Having FIV meant it would be tough to find Big Daddy a home, but after reading my blog, Angels of Assisi in Virginia offered to foster him and find him a forever home.
In the end, Big Daddy returned to Warren after it was discovered that Big Daddy had lymphoma. Warren had been missing his big buddy and with such a serious health issue it was decided it would be best for him to return to Georgia. Warren took Big Daddy to oncologists and researched treatments to get Big Daddy the best care possible. For a time Big Daddy did well, but other days were very tough. As with most cancers, it’s hard to know where it spreads until it’s too late.
Big Daddy’s life was not lived in vain. He still has a fan club and mission, through his devoted dad, Warren, to help remove the stigma of cats with FIV and provide education and awareness about this disease.
I was certain I was going to have a breakdown from nonstop stress, I somehow manage to pack up Freya and all our things and head to Boston where Freya would finally get her surgery. I felt like it was very possible these were her last days because even at three pounds, she was still small. The surgery was VERY RARE and had many risks. What I never expected was that Dr. Pavletic knew after a few minutes that she was still too small and he wanted to wait until January. After a hair-raising 4 hour drive to Boston, I had to turn around and go back home barely after I’d arrived. Part of me was wrecked by the news and the other part was relieved. I wanted Freya to have the best chance to survive, but I also knew the longer we waited, the more likely the stool build up would get worse.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Pavletic decides it's too soon to do surgery after examining Freya.
Sometimes I think I should never answer the phone. A friend contacted me about a cat his wife had found near the side of the road the night before. They asked me if I could help them with it since they weren’t sure what to do. I told them we could take the cat to my vet and we’d do an exam. I didn’t think it would cost more than $200. What I didn’t know was that the cat was very old, emaciated and VERY SICK.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. A very sick, skinny lady in ICU/Isolation.
So began the next rescue-odyssey. We needed a name for the cat right away so Betsy, who works for my Vet, blurted out “Saturday?!” At that point I didn’t even know if the cat would live so I said okay.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Erich, Saturday's foster dad, holding Saturday after she'd survived three weeks in intensive care and was finally stable.
For the next week, every day I expected the Vet to call and tell me the cat had died. I’ve rarely seen a cat in such poor shape live. She was a bag of bones, hunched over, snorting and coughing. Not eating. Three weeks passed and somehow, some way, Saturday got better and again, a bit better. She needed a tremendous amount of care and it cost over $3500.00. She still needs a dental to clean her teeth now that she’s stable and has gained a few pounds. The hope is to raise the funds for her teeth, then find her a sweet place to retire. We call her “Lady Saturday” now as she’s so regal and fine and sweet-tempered. She was one of our best transformations-a work in progress.
I honestly don’t know how I made it to December. I didn’t have a day off, certainly no vacation of any kind, really no break from anything. All the foster cats were huge because I hadn’t been quickly processing applications. Frankly, I just gave up. The kitties were safe and well fed and loved, but I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do everything. I knew that 2015 would have to be the year of saying NO and creating a better space to take time for my life and to just have some peace, but before I could do that, Freya’s bi-weekly x-rays told us that it was time to go to surgery. We wouldn't make it to January after all. With the holidays upon us we had to act quickly.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Our last night before the big surgery.
On December 9th Freya and I left once again for Boston, this time through a Nor’easter that pounded New England and made the drive a dangerous nightmare. All I wanted was to rest the night we arrived, but I was so worried about surgery the next day, rest never came.
On December 10th, Dr. Pavletic proved once again that he is a genius. He performed Freya’s surgery in just under two hours. She did well and was coming out of her sedation. He was ready to release Freya that night but I insisted she stay, shocked that she could go home so soon. It was the first of up to three more surgeries, but it would be months before we knew how Freya would really do. Would she be incontinent for the rest of her life? Would she handle more surgeries? It was wait and see. At least now, finally, she had a chance to pass the stool that had been trapped inside her for months.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Just after surgery, Freya is already back on her paws.
So here we are on the evening of the last day of 2014. It was a very tough, draining year. I won’t label it a “bad” year because I learned a lot and I’m very proud of all we’ve accomplished. Though due to chronic illnesses of the kittens and lack of adoptions we only helped 64 cats this year, but we also created awareness about Atresia Ani, which is helping to save the lives of other cats with this very rare birth defect. We’ve also just been awarded one of the Top 50 Pet Rescues of 2014 by Entirely Pets, which is pretty darn cool considering we’re a tiny rescue.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Jasmine, Junipurr (upper cat tree) with Josh (center) and Jules (below) just a day before three of them broke with bad eye infections and a URI.
Midnight, December 31, 2014 arrives and what am I doing? I’m putting terramycin in the eyes of a sick orange tabby bringing the year to some sort of strange perfect closure.
If you'd like to read more about any of these cats, simply use the SEARCH box to the right and enter the name of the cat. You should find a list of posts related to each one.
I’m not even sure what words to write to form the perfect telling of recent events, but I must try with shaky fingers as they clumsily tap out another few words. I just finished crying and suppose I will do it again soon. My tears aren’t inspired by loss, rather by gain; but this kind of gain can’t be seen, only felt in one’s heart.
Last week I wrote about my nail-biter road trip to Boston with little foster kitten, Freya. Though the arc of the story revolved around her surgery and whether or not she’d survive, there was a minor player who would later play a larger role. It was my car. My 14-year old BMW 328ci coupe; the one I bought used from a dear friend when it already had 99,000 miles on it. I love cars and although I’ve only had four in my life, I truly appreciated how sturdy and solid this car handled and hoped I would have it for many years to come.
I’ve done my best to take excellent care of the car, but over the past two years, with finances in an ever deepening hole, I haven’t been able to repair every little thing when I’d like. As I drove Freya to Boston, I knew that my tires were not very good, that there was a burning smell coming from the engine (my friend Erich looked at the engine and thought it was leaking transmission fluid) and that something was rattling in the right rear of the car. I thought that perhaps there must be a cap to the top of the shock absorber and maybe it was loose. I’d get everything looked at next year, as soon as I could. I had to hope it wasn’t a big mistake to wait. I usually don’t drive very far so maybe I’d luck out.
Beyond stunned I sat at my computer re-reading their message to make sure I didn't misunderstand it. I couldn’t imagine anyone giving a total stranger such a huge gift. I wrote back and thanked them, giving them every out I could. I knew it would be around $500.00 to get new tires and I didn’t want to put them into financial difficulty. I told them I’d get them a proper estimate from my car repair guys and if they still felt it was all right that they could call the repair shop and pay them directly. I didn’t want to think something like this could really happen to me so I didn’t tell anyone about it until it really happened.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Help arrives!
Within 30 minutes of emailing them the estimate, Steve called and paid for the tires. Holy moley! Now I just had to wait a few days until they arrived. Since I didn’t have to cover that cost, I could have the shop check out the other issues with my car sooner. It really felt like Christmas came early and I was deeply touched that these people, who don’t know me, literally took care of me and are making my car safe for every kitty I take to the vet.
Two days later, I was running some errands and one of the roads has “speed humps” along it. They really annoy me and I foolishly didn’t slow down exactly as much as I should have. I think this was the death knell to my car because a less than a mile later, while I was driving, my car bucked and stopped hard even though the engine was still running.
I quickly shut the car off and on again but the “check engine light” and the traction control lights came on. I tried to move forward but it was as if someone threw a spike between the wheels and they would not budge. I was able to pull over a few feet onto the shoulder, but it was a very busy road and cars were flying past me. I put the hazard lights on and started to shake. I called Sam, but what could he do? Of course the battery was dying on my phone so I had to make it quick. I called AAA (with an old car I will never be without it) and tried to calmly tell them where I was, but they were having trouble sorting it out and kept talking, while I started to fear the phone going to die on me.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Officer John & Dave.
I told Officer John how grateful I was for his help. He had someone at the P.D. call AAA and give them not only my location but told them to put my call up higher on their list due to the dangerous location of the car. He said they should arrive in about 15-20 minutes but he had gotten another call and had to leave. He’d only been with me a few minutes and I was sad to see him go. He directed me to stay in the car and since the engine still worked, to keep it running and stay warm and be safe.
Officer John returned after barely a few minutes. The other call ended up not being an emergency so he parked his car behind mine, leaving the flashing twin-sonics running. He was going to sit right behind me, keeping me safe. He didn’t know me, I just lived in the same town he worked in as a Police Officer. I thought about how he put himself in danger to help others and I wished I could do something nice for him in return, but I’d have to think about how to thank him later.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. See you after Christmas!
Dave, the tow truck operator came up the hill going the opposite direction then passed my car. I held my breath and said a few dirty words. Did he not see me or did he assume the car with the Police car behind it had gotten pulled over and was going to get a ticket, instead of needing a tow?
It took a few minutes, but Dave turned around and slowly steered by our cars and positioned the truck so it could hoist my car onto the rear platform. I wasn’t even sure the car would roll but some how it did. As Dave finished locking down my car, I went over to Officer John and shook his hand again, thanking him and telling him I would ask our First Selectwoman, Pat Llodra, to give him a raise. He laughed, but I told him I saw her once a month at our Animal Control Advisory Board meeting. Heck, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?
I got to ride to the auto shop in a tow truck with Dave. I really enjoyed the view from so high up. Dave and I talked about my car. I presented my theory that perhaps the rear shock had fallen out of position and wedge something in the axel, preventing me from driving forward. He thought it was a decent idea. He made me laugh and the further we got from where I’d been stuck, the happier I felt. Now to drop off the car, then get a ride home. I didn’t want to think about how much the repair was going to cost. I could only hope I didn’t screw something up so badly that it meant my car was unsalvageable.
I also didn’t want to think about how I was going to pay for it. This was the fifth year I wasn’t having Christmas. Even by skipping gift giving my finances are very tight. Sam is covering my half of the utility bills until I can get back on my feet and my goal is to not buy anything and to try not to make my financial woes worse if I can help it. I started to wonder about what would happen if I can’t pay for my car to be fixed? Do they tow it back to my house? I only have one credit card and they don’t take that one. Maybe they’d let me pay it off over time? I hated feeling like a total loser. It made me more determined to do a better job making a living in 2015, but for now what was I going to do?
With less than a week until Christmas, even though I’ve been a customer for 20 years, Gary, one of the owners of the shop, apologized, telling me they couldn’t even look at my car that day or the next, that maybe after the weekend off on Monday they could figure out what was going on. They'd also put on the new tires which had just arrived. It was fine by me. I knew Sam could let me borrow his car if I needed to get out. We’d be okay without a second car for a few days and I really didn’t want to know what they were going to tell me about my car anyway.
What I didn’t know was that I have a few additional Angels looking out for me. My family is long gone and the Holidays often leave me feeling very sad. I’m okay doing my thing, helping kitties as I can, but I admit to feeling a bit lonely and heartsick during this time of year, too. Christmas is in four days and to me it’s just another day.
©2000 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the last times I had a family-Christmas.
She raised was $350.00. It wasn’t a donation for the kittens, it was for my car. Another kind lady, Karen, also pitched in $100.00 saying it was because of what I do for others that she wanted to help me. While I have no idea what the cost to repair my car will be, I know that this will help make it more likely that when the time comes, I'll be able to pay the bill. It’s a feeling I don’t often have and one that I will never take for granted.
I’ve already thanked the ladies for coming to my rescue, but I wanted to thank them here because you should know that Angels exist right here on Earth, that they are all around us. In fact I’d bet that everyone could be an Angel to someone else. When I help a family with their cat or help a cat out of a dangerous situation I don’t think about what I’m going to get out of it. It just makes me happy to be of service. That's exactly the same attitude that inspired Holly and my other friends to help me.
In this season of giving, I got the best gifts ever. I got to know that I have friends who care and who are looking out for me. Their warmth reminds me of my long-lost family and how they made me feel protected and safe. They hold me tight when I feel like all is lost. They are Angels who walk among us and they are real.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.
Nothing makes me happier than when I can help others, especially cats. During this season of giving, of cherishing your family and friends, it’s the perfect time to think about giving to the cats and kittens who are still in shelters, dreaming of their forever home.
While giving during the month of December can provide a big lift to small rescues who depend on donations to make ends meet, I’d like to ask you to consider a longer-term way to help your favorite animal charity, but it won't break your bank account.
Go Beyond One Gift
Rescues and shelters always need financial support, but instead of giving one gift, sign up to do a monthly donation. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, even $10 a month ends up to be a nice donation over the course of a year. This way the organization knows they can depend on funds coming in during times when donations are at a low.
©2011 Robin AF Olson. Adoption event set up takes a lot of heavy lifting and someone to set it up so it looks nice. If you have a flair for design, decor, or have six-pack abs you can help your local rescue (even if you don't have six-pack abs, that was just wishful thinking on my part).
Networking is Free
If you’re like me and are cash-strapped, I bet you have a talent that a rescue would really appreciate. Do you do PR, Advertising? are you an Artist, Graphic Designer, Videographer? Are you a good Writer? Photographer? Maybe you’re great at organizing files, or helping plan adoption events. Do you like to talk; meet new people? Rescues always need someone to talk to potential adopters and do community outreach.
My rescue, Kitten Associates, needs someone to do something as simple as data entry. Bottom line: the odds are very good that you can do something that a rescue needs, even bake cookies for a bake sale.
You also probably have friends and family who love animals. One of them might be cajoled into helping volunteer with you or perhaps provide goods or services (maybe they have a store and they can donate items for a gift basket or they provide a service and they can give you a certificate that can be used as a raffle item or a Ebay auction item).
Become an Advocate on Social Media
If you’re on Facebook and Twitter a lot, make use of those great connections you already have and corral all of them to share a post from your favorite rescue when they ask for donations. Just doing that can substantially increase the odds of good donations coming in just when that rescue needs it most. This goes far beyond the holiday season. Being an advocate takes dedication and compassion and the ability to urge your friends to help without heavy-handed tactics. Maybe you can have fun with it or even challenge your friends to match any donation you make or to see if they can get more shares of a post than you can? Perhaps the winner gets taken out for coffee by you? This shouldn’t be a chore. It’s a labor of love-and when it’s fun you’ll be more willing to keep helping throughout the year.
You can also join the BlogPaws Community where like-minded pet lovers are joining together to build a group with goal of giving back to pets.
©2013 Robin AF Olson. The Clementines were such wonderful foster kittens, but the costs for their care was no joke. With multiple boughts of illness our rescue spent thousands of dollars providing for them. Most rescues have the same challenges-how to stretch available funds to cover unpredictable health issues.
Don’t Forget the Humans
The truth of it is pretty much every animal rescue organization is struggling with possibly the exception of the biggest ones. The little guys do more directly for their animals with the donations they receive simply because they have no paid staff and don’t pay someone to do fundraising. Whatever you offer, know it will be appreciated and it may make a huge difference.
This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about #BlogPawsGives, 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.
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.
©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.
©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.
©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.
©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!
©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.
©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.
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.
©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.
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.
©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.
©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.
©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.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.
©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.
©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?
©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.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.
---------------------- to be continued in a final chapter next.
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?
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.
©2014 Robin AF Olson.
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 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...
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.
©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.
©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.
©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?
©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.
©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.
©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.
©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.
©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.
©2014 Robin AF Olson. With Jen.
©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 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.
©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.
©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?
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.
©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...
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.
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.
©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.
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.
©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.
©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.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya has "jellybean" toes-black and pink.
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.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.