The snow falls in big soft clumps, slowly changing the world to one bathed in white. I love watching the snow fall. It makes me feel peaceful. My heart fills with childlike wonder. I want to believe in magic as I watch the flakes shift and dance in the gentle breeze. My thoughts are interrupted realizing that the snow is also a sign from nature that the time has come to slow down, take stock and prepare for spring.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. The Memorial in downtown Sandy Hook was so large it covered the sidewalks. The town set up tents to protect many of the displays from the elements. What I can't share with you is what it smelled like-the overly sweet scent of thousands of flowers, some beginning to decay, mixed with the pungent aroma of hundreds of burning candles.
On this steely gray day as the snow fell, it began to erase signs of the many memorials scattered throughout downtown Sandy Hook, along Route 34 to the High School, and even as far as a few blocks from my home. It was just after Christmas and the crowds. Time for the families who lost loved ones to have a private tour of the offerings of teddy bears, messages, flowers and candles before they were to be taken away, crushed and used as sacred soil for a future permanent memorial.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. One of three memorials at Newtown High School, the location of where President Obama spoke.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. This lone sign is on the road I live on, which is also the road to where the gunman lived.
Mother Nature has ways to scrub things clean, through vibrant storms, high winds, torrential rain. Sooner or later, it’s all washed away; a fresh start. Space must be made for seedlings to replace lost trees. There’s no way to turn back or to protest this process. This is how it is and will always be.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. In honor of the Christmas that will never be celebrated.
25 days have passed since we lost 28 lives. We can argue about how we count those lost or why we leave some out, but in truth that is the number. The Press left, on to other stories. Our town is beginning to sort out what to do with the donations. To date The Sandy Hook School Support Fund has surpassed $6 million. There is a special team in charge of getting everything to the right people or organizations. We can finally drive through downtown Sandy Hook in about a minute, just as we used to do. There is a return to sameness upon first glance, but the underlying feeling here continues to be one of struggle to know how to go forward.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. It's difficult to show the size of the Memorial in Sandy Hook. It was on three street corners and up each street. There were smaller memorials scattered all over town.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. 26 Christmas trees lining the road to the Sandy Hook Firehouse, where the children took refuge after the shooting.
People couldn’t ignore what happened to our Country. They HAD to experience this National heartbreak and in that pain was an opening of our protective emotional shell. We had to be open. There was no way to close off from others. It was beautiful even in the heartache, but it didn’t last.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. I left one of the plush cats from our “Kitties for Kids” campaign at the Memorial in Sandy Hook to be joined with the other mementos and turned into scared soil one day.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson.
Something similar happened here in Sandy Hook. People stopped worrying about their own little issues and reached out to help each other or accept help from those outside our town.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. We do feel the love. Thank you, world!
The other day I was at the grocery store. A woman was there with her young kids. The kids were being rude, noisy, annoying. The mother was yapping on her cell phone. I felt a sense of relief. Here was something I’d considered to be “normal,” but as soon as I thought that, my heart sank. I didn’t want things to go back to the way they were. I wanted things to change. I wanted our hearts to STAY open and for caring about each other to be our top priority-not buying Christmas gifts, not getting a job promotion, not trying to get somewhere fast at the cost of cutting off other drivers to save a minute of travel time.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Smiling bears try to heal our broken hearts.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Catherine Hubbard loved animals. One day she would have been saving the lives of cats and dogs if her life wasn't so tragically cut short. She went to our old dog pound and visited her favorite dog every week. She left a donation of $20 to provide for his care. After her death her parents asked for donations to go to the Newtown Animal Control, but for some reason, perhaps due to a mixup, another rescue got the donations totaling over $100,000. My rescue, Kitten Associates, got a few small donations in Catherine's honor so we will be either naming a kitten after her or asking her family to choose a name.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. On Christmas Day I saw this guy was walking up the hill to the Memorials near the Elementary School. Perhaps he thought he was doing something thoughtful, but I saw it as a vulgar display of grandstanding that was both thoughtless and cruel-especially if any of the family members who lost a loved one saw him.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson.
As I do in my work as a cat rescuer, I dream that one day people will get a wakeup call that sticks; not one that fades away as the next story takes its place. We need to acknowledge the inter-connectedness of all beings. We’re all in this together and that’s the only way to live.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Rather odd message to say the least.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson.
The snow lies in heavy blankets across town. The Memorials are gone, cleaned away. Mother Nature is doing her job, too and we're left to sort out how we're going to do ours in the coming days.
©2012 Robin A.F Olson.
I looked over at Barney. He was playing with a toy held by a little girl who was taking part in our Kitties for Kids program. Barney was oblivious to the fact that the fur on his side looked like it had been wiped away. He wasn’t completely bald and with his white and orange coat, it was tough to see how much he was missing at a glance.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney's naked patch.
I’d noticed the foster cats have been itchy for a few weeks or more, but not so much that it caused alarms to go off. They’ve been checked a few times for fleas, but we find nothing, not even flea dirt. Last year was a VERY bad year for fleas so it wouldn’t be surprising that there were some in the foster room.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Larry takes a look.
What to do?
I’ve had a lot of experience with Miliary Dermatitis. My cat Gracie suffers from it. M.D. is basically “I don’t know that the heck it is” but it’s some sort of skin issue. Many times it’s related to a stress reaction, food or a mite or flea bite. In Gracie’s case, after YEARS of doing tests, seeing specialists, trial and error, only homeopathy worked to reduce the problem and steroids resolved it for a few weeks. The problem with steroids is-it will end up killing Gracie over time so for me, giving her more wasn’t acceptable.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred seems fine.
Gracie is covered with scabs. She stopped “barbering” (chewing) her coat and no longer has bloody lesions, but her fur is not plush and her skin feels terrible. I’m looking into acupuncture, but other than that I feel as though I’ve tried it all.
I look at Barney and think about the MANY things that could be causing him to lick off his fur. I knew a trip to see Dr. Larry would probably be a waste of time, but I had to start there.
Dr. Larry agreed with me that it was most likely M.D. and made some suggestions. One startled me, but also inspired me. He said to let Barney be an indoor/outdoor cat. That the stimulation of being outside reduced the need to over-groom because the cat was having so much FUN!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Caught in the act.
Then I realized I have NOT been spending enough time with the kittens. Playtime is for five minutes here and five minutes there. I’ve been too busy to do more than that. I figured since I hear them running around they must be playing. There are five cats in the foster room after all.
I also thought about the Kitties for Kids program. Was the stress of meeting all these strangers getting to Barney? Thing is, he is the FIRST cat to go over to a new person and say hi! He’s very social. If he was upset by the visitors wouldn’t he be hiding instead of playing?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What the?!!!…the kittens are nursing on Willow!
What about diet?
Yes, that could be a factor. Since ALL the foster cats are scratching, something is making them itchy. The donations of food we’ve gotten lately is a mixed bag of canned, grain-free food. They get fed what I have on hand, not something consistent AND I’ve fed them a tuna based food recently for the first time. Did that set them off? Gracie seems to react to having fish.
It reduces stress, stretches the muscles and the mind, it helps them have an outlet for their prey drive. If we simply shake a toy at them once in awhile, it’s just NOT enough. Their mind needs to be engaged if they stay indoors. I’ve seen Jackson get very nasty with the other cats when he’s clearly bored.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Liftoff during one of our Kitties for Kids visits.
Normally, what you do is change ONE thing and see if it works. If that doesn't work, then go on to the next thing. Because Barney is so young and should NOT be having this issue, I’m going to do a few things and hope that one of them is the answer.
I’ll start with an application of Revolution®. I like it better than some other flea treatments and it does affect mites and internal parasites, too. I realize it could make things worse, but Barney’s skin is fine. There are no open lesions. He does NOT have ringworm.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco shows how it's done.
I’ve already started ramping up playtime. I got a new Da Bird donated to us. It REALLY tires the cats out as long as I don’t let the cats catch the toy. If so, they destroy it in about 2 seconds. What I do is basically make them go nuts for at least 15 minutes. After the cats slow down or start to lay down instead of chase the toy, I start up with ANOTHER toy. I use a Cat Dancer and Rainbow CatCharmer or a laser pointer or both. I throw balls around, mouse toys, Kong® Cat Kickaroos. I want to see the cats get to the point of just about falling over they’re so tired. I’ll even open up my old iPad and play Game for Cats for them to further stimulate their minds. If I see Barney lick at himself I distract him with more playtime.
Lastly I’ve simplified their diet. Ideally I would feed them raw but that’s not in the budget. I’m cutting out fish and only giving them chicken/turkey. It’s very high quality grain-free canned food and I’m feeding them more often so they’re less stressed when they get their food. I noticed they were gulping at their meal the other day so clearly they need more to eat and more often.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Entertained by his Kong Cat Kickaroo.
The hope is that one or more of these things will work and Barney will stop licking off his fur. The fear is that he won’t and this will be a chronic problem for him. I’m also thinking about letting him run the whole house instead of just the foster room. The extra space might do him good.
Last night I let him out for a few minutes and he was terrified, so for now I’ll go more slowly and only open up smaller areas at a time.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor sweetie.
What is ailing Barney and making the others itchy? Is it dry skin or is Kitties for Kids going to have to be shelved? I can’t say right now. All I know is that I need to find an answer fast before Barney makes this into an OCD-like reaction that will require heavy-duty meds for years to come.
July was even more difficult on us than June. Maria had taken in two more kittens from her neighbor who were very sick. A buff tabby named Tater Tot was the most ill. The Vet told us it was the “wet” form of FIP which is fatal. His sister, Latte was struggling with a terrible upper respiratory infection. Maria took time off from work to care for the cats around the clock. Neither of us slept much. I researched alternative treatments, testing, anything I could think of while we expected that Tater wouldn't be with us for much longer.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our amazing survivor-Tater Tot.
Because Maria is so good at what she does, she noticed that Tater had tapeworms. We ran more tests. His belly was big and round from the tapeworms, giardia and what was almost pneumonia. Once we started treatment he began to show improvement. It took a few weeks but we were very happy to take FIP off the table as we saw Tater eat on his own and gain weight.
King arrived in my home for a few days. He was quite the charmer, but he wasn't meant to be here for very long. Sam and I drove King to New Hampshire, to his new home where his mom, Judy was waiting to adopt him. I loved this home for him and this good woman and her sister. I never thought King had a chance and here he was 1400 miles from the palette factory in a safe, loving environment.
Two of my dear friends adopted Sabrina and Cutie Pie. Their mom, April, found a home in Brooklyn, NY and their sister Bon Bon was adopted in June.
We took on another pregnant mama named Winnie and got a new foster home here in CT. Donna and her husband, Paul are great foster parents. Winnie had five amazing kittens on 8.10.12 named Buttons, Bandit, Honeydew, Charly and Pinkie.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama, Winnie (inset) waiting to see Dr. Chris. Buttons flying high while Honeydew and sister, Bandit look on.
I took another fistful of Xanax and flew to Topeka, Kansas to tour the Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center. I tiptoed through the “dark side,” but made some good friends and learned a lot more about pet food ingredients.
Something horrible happened to my cat Spencer. He stopped eating and hid. X-rays showed a strange mass in his sinus. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. It turned out to be a false alarm which added many more gray hairs to my head.
I was honored to be chosen as one of five members of the Animal Control Advisory Panel, overseeing the operations of our brand new town's Animal Control facility here in Newtown, CT. We had our first meeting and I was delighted to be nominated as Co-Chair of the committee.
Just as I was about to get inundated with kitties from Maria and Cyndie, I found a foster home for two of the remaining black kitties and the final one, Hello Dahlia, was adopted. We got the word that Miss Fluffy Pants found a GREAT forever home and Coco, Chichi, Choco, Tater Tot, Latte, Fred & Barney, and Willow arrived!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. (inset) the DOOD resting in his cage while his mysterious back injury slowly healed and a few months later enjoying the new cat tree in my office.
Chichi and Choco got adopted right away into a great home.
One morning, the DOOD couldn't get up and walk and was in terrible pain, growling or crying if we touched him. We did x-rays that showed nothing and began talking about taking DOOD to a neurologist or starting him on steroids. It took six long weeks, most of it forced cage rest, before he was well enough to walk again without pain. I think he fell down the spiral staircase to get into the basement where we store food for our feral cat, but we'll never really know what happened.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson getting oxygen before we raced him to the Emergency Vet and Intensive Care (inset). Jackson at home feeling better.
With Maria having space in her home open, we took on a kitty named Bongo who has nerve damage to his front leg. It had been a Hell of a month, but we kept on.
Opal went to a sanctuary and is doing well. She is becoming more friendly each day and she may one day be put up for adoption.
There was troubling news about King. He'd been struggling with chronic, severe and frankly bizarre ear infections. He had to have surgery, loads of daily cleanings, antibiotics. The other cats in the home weren't too sure about him. King faced losing his ears and his home, but his mom never gave up on him.
©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email email@example.com for more info.
I rescued a knockout silver tabby Maine coon mix named Nico from a kill shelter in Georgia because I knew I could find him a home and I wasn't going to let him die.
Maria found a kitten in a parking lot she named, Bunny Boo Boo that she rescued on her own and we took on another cat whose former mom was going to lose her home if the landlord found out she rescued a cat from the parking lot nearby. We named him George and he and Bongo and Bunny Boo Boo are great friends.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hurricane Sandy, no power for almost a week-just a bad flashback to the year before when we got nailed at almost the same time by “Snowmageddon.”
Hurricane Sandy killed the power and made life HELL for a week making a mess of my home in Sandy Hook, CT.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.
Nico arrived and was adopted a few weeks later. The rest of Winnie's family found their forever homes. There were lots of inquiries about adopting kittens since the Holidays were approaching. Tater Tot, in a surprising twist, got adopted instead of Willow, who the family had come to meet. Willow, Fred & Barney and Latte were still with us waiting for their forever homes.
I got good news that King overcame his severe ear issues and was finally settling in with his new family. The other kitties were slowly accepting him and King was finding his place. His mom is the sort of adopter I always wish for-after a very rocky start, loads of vet bills and difficulties, she kept on. She never complained. She was completely devoted. My only hope is that her reward is enjoying the love of a very dear cat and hopefully a much easier future.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our mascot of Covered in Cat Hair and my baby, Spencer before and after surgery.
Spencer had a very challenging dental cleaning where he lost two more teeth and surgery to remove a mass from one ear and another from inside the other. I prepared myself for bad news, but the shock came as the test results indicated it was an apocrin gland cyst with “no content”-meaning NO CANCER.
Sam and I cleared out the garage of recycling one bright sunny morning. After we were done we went to Panera Bread to have a late breakfast. While we were sitting there we saw police cars racing past. I knew something bad had happened and a few minutes later I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which you can read more about HERE and HERE.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My home town will never be the same again. The school is a few miles from my home.
Wanting to reach out and help heal the broken hearts in our town, I created “Kitties for Kids” a kitten-therapy for the children, first responders and residents of Newtown, CT. We were featured on national television news and major news outlets online. We got loads of donations of plush toys and the first children and parents began to arrive to visit our kitties.
Although we had no Christmas and sent out no card (for the first time in my adult life), the joy of knowing I was helping people and the overwhelming honor of so many people reaching out to us was my gift.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.
It's been quite a challenging and painful year. I realize that 2013 may be no easier. All I can do is hope that I'll be better able to handle what is yet to come and that for the cats out there who need me, that I'll have the resources to help them when the time comes.
We began the year with a rescue, going beyond our comfort zone by taking on an adult, instead of an easy-to-place kitten. The cat was a huge, white, “biscuit head” tom-cat from Henry County Care & Control. I saw his photo and saw something about him that made me take action. I named him Jackson Galaxy in honor of the Cat Daddy/Cat Behaviorist on Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell.”
©2012 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson was a miserable wreck when we first took him into Kitten Associates as our first rescue of 2012.
Jackson had a rough start. He frightened Maria but we realized later it was because he was in great pain. He had a terrible infection from his neutering and he needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and get him back on the road to good health. By the end of the month, Jackson was on the transport headed to Connecticut to find his forever home.
©2012 Bobby Stanford (inset). ©2012 Leesiateh.com. Miss Fluffy Pants shortly before being adopted.
Our friend and volunteer, Bobby Stanford, told me about two cats living outside a palette factory in McDonough, GA. They were living in poor conditions and in danger of being hit by any one of the numerous fork lifts that raced around the premises. One of the two cats, a dirty, thin tuxedo we named King Arthur, seemed to be missing his back paws. Completely horrified I decided we'd help him and the other cat on the premises, who we named Miss Fluffy Pants, because we worried she was pregnant.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). King's mama, Judy. King's journey has been quite amazing. I'll be doing a more in-depth update on him in January.
I was fostering a little orange tabby spitfire named Bobette, along with her two boys, the third had just been adopted. Bobette needed surgery to repair her luxated patella, so I sat in on the procedure and helped her in recovery and for the next few weeks while she healed.
February was a month of discovery. We learned that King's missing paws were due to a birth defect. He didn't need surgery or prosthetics. He could walk on carpeting, but who would adopt this cat? King began to clean himself and gain some weight. He loved being petted until Miss Fluffy Pants came to join him.
Miss FP was not pregnant. We thought the two cats were friends at the factory, but they were not happy to see each other. With some quick thinking and the donation of a cat tree, Miss FP could sit high up, away from King and both cats relaxed into their new foster home.
©2011 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette with one of her kittens while at the kill shelter and after surgery in Sam's loving arms.
We also learned the Miss FP was FIV+ which we knew would put a roadblock in our ability to find her a good forever home. With her taking up valuable foster care space I got to work trying to figure out what to do for her that didn't mean putting her in a sanctuary.
We were heartbroken to learn that after some behavior issues gave us a clue to trouble, Dr. Larry diagnosed Sam's cat, Nicky with Chronic Renal Failure. We began giving him sub Q fluids every few days and began to learn more about this condition and ways we could lengthen his life.
Jackson arrived in Connecticut and was placed with my friends at Animals in Distress, but fell ill after arriving there. They thought it was a mild upper respiratory infection and in time he was feeling better. By the second week of February, Jackson found his forever home with a loving family. We were all delighted.
©2011 Maria S. (inset) ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of Bobette's boys, Jakey & Teddy.
Bobette continued her recovery, but was still limping. I had to separate her from her boys because she hissed and growled every time she saw them. The boys, Jakey & Teddy had a blast hanging out with my cats while I continued to try to find them a great home.
The saying is March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but this March was the opposite; quiet for a few weeks, then things started to go crazy.
Bobette had the staples taken out of her leg and due to a problem with the bandage removal she ended up biting my hand so badly I had to see a Doctor.
I found a blueish growth on my cat Gracie's abdomen. She had a dental done and had the cyst removed. It ended up being an Apocrine Gland Carcinoma, but was considered to be completely excised and of no further concern.
Jakey & Teddy were adopted together and Bobette was glad to see them leave.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.
On March 26th, a few days before my birthday, Jackson Galaxy emailed me and asked me out to lunch (which ended up being dinner). It was one of the best days of my life, but that wasn't all that happened. That night in the frigid cold in nearby Trumbull, CT, six mostly black kittens were born to a gray mama named April. I didn't realize it at the time, but they would be my next foster family.
The next day, still buzzing from my visit with Jackson, I was honored by Freekibble.com with a donation of a full palette of Halo® canned cat food! The press came to document the event and I started to wonder if the foster cats would eat it (they loved it!).
The Worst Birthday Ever was followed by picking up April and meeting her mostly all black female kittens for the first time. Three kittens were polydactyl and there was no way I was going to be able to tell most of them apart for the next eight weeks.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April and her kittens.
I rescued a senior cat named Leo who was an adorable long haired tuxedo. The poor cat was forced to live outside on scraps when his owner's wife had a baby. I begged my friend Katherine to take him into Animals in Distress if I paid the Vet bill. We worked something out and Leo was saved. A few months later, Leo and a second cat found an amazing home with a family I found for them here in town. They are doing GREAT.
A missing cat alert showed up in email with a very familiar name, Amberly. One of my former foster cats was MISSING and the family didn't have the nerve to tell me. I leapt into action. Thank GOODNESS Katherine has good instincts and lived nearby the family. By the next DAY Katherine found Amberly and the family promised to work harder to keep her inside.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, all grown up with siblings Choco and ChiChi (inset).
Maria contacted me about a tortie mom cat we named Cami and five kittens in her neighbors yard. She was very worried about them so I told her to find a place to put them and we'd take them on. By the time Maria got back to the home, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. We named the surviving kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco.
On May 1st a shelter called AnimalKind in upstate New York suffered the total loss of their facility after a small fire caused the sprinkler system to flood the 3-story building. Through my contacts a pet product companies I was able to provide them with palettes of food and litter. Later in 2012 I visited their facility and met with their Director, Katrin Hecker. You can read about my visit HERE.
I travelled to New Jersey to attend Bottle Baby Bootcamp at Tabby's Place. The timing was great because the black kittens needed help since poor April was having a tough time feeding all the kittens. I worried the littlest one wouldn't make it, but Cutie Pie surprised me and began to do well. I named her sisters Sabrina, Bon Bon, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia (in honor of my friend, JaneA's cat Dahlia who had recently passed away).
Then a crazy thing happened.
JaneA came to visit us and instead of falling in love with her cat's namesake, she threw me a curveball, clearly falling in love with our little spitfire, Bobette. She adopted her the next morning before she left for her home in Maine. It was a one of the happiest adoptions I'd ever done.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her girl, Bobette (who she later named, Kissy)
By the end of the month there was more somber news. Jackson the cat lost his home and was being returned. Since I had space I offered to take him back since AID was full up.
June will forever be a tough month for me since it's the anniversary of my Father's passing and of my favorite cat's passing. I hoped that this June would not be under such a dark cloud but it was not meant to be.
Thankfully it wasn't all bad news. After months of searching, begging, dealing, I was able to get Miss Fluffy Pants transferred to Good Mews in Marietta, Georgia.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is still looking for her forever home! You can visit her Petfinder page HERE
Maria, our cat-magnet, rescued a cat from a tree. She named her Willow and we added her to our group of rescues in Georgia. Meanwhile, I got a curious email from a lady in New Hampshire inquiring about King. She had a fully carpeted home. She had two cats. Did I think King might be happy with her?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me, Jill Delzer (center) and Ingrid King (far right). Inset: Joanne McGonagle, Me with Gracie the cat.
And for the first time in many years, I took a fistful of Xanax and boarded a plane headed to Salt Lake City where Sam and I were Speakers at BlogPaws 2012. I was up for two awards that I did not win, but I had so much fun and made a great new friend. In those few days I was re-energized enough to keep doing rescue work once I got home.
Maria removed another cat from her neighbor (with his consent)- who NEVER spays or neuters his cats. Maria has tried repeatedly to get the cats taken care of but he just puts it off and his cats get pregnant. A nine month old kitten named Opal, who had become almost feral, was pregnant. Our new foster mom, Cyndie offered to take her in and help her along. Sadly, the stress of being in a home pushed Opal in to premature labor. Four kittens were born, but after extensive attempts to save their lives, only two survived. She named them Fred & Barney. We had their siblings Pebbles and Bam Bam cremated and their little wooden urn is here with me placed next to my cat, Bob's ashes.
NOTE TO READERS: It's been a week since I wrote this post, but I felt it was still worth sharing. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the birth “Kitties for Kids” and its initial flowering. I hope it inspires all of you that next time you get an idea that rises from your heart, you just go with it. You may change the world, or only a small part of it or just your own soul. Whatever comes of it, do it. The world needs you.
My Mother used to say to me: “Never wish for anything. You're liable to get it.”
A week ago I wished I could pay my mortgage, find more donations for Kitten Associates and get the kittens adopted so I could finally take a MUCH needed break from fostering. Things were looking up. I had good possible adopters for Coco, Fred & Barney, Nico and Willow. That left me with Latte and George & Bongo (who are still down in Georgia).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The size of the memorial grew every day until the sidewalks were jammed with toys, flowers, candles and messages of love.
Then the world stopped spinning and the tears began to flow after the vicious rampage and mass murder at our local elementary school. The following day, Saturday the 15th of December, an idea blossomed. I'm not one to sit idly by when something bad happens. I need to take action on some level, in some way. Maybe running a cat rescue predisposes me to be the type of person to run TO trouble, instead of AWAY from it?
There are so many times when I believe I have a good idea, but never act on it. There's always a reason to watch more TV or to not bother because it would take too much time and keep me from other things I've made a commitment to already. Between tears I said to Sam that maybe we should open up the foster kitten room and invite the children of Newtown to come here and just pet the cats. We knew the effect playtime would have on the kids. I'd seen it many time before-their eyes lit up, twinkling, giggling like mad, their voices rising in glee. I thought if I could help them, even for a short while it would be worth it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. So many candles. So many tears.
I knew I couldn't take away their pain-or frankly, anyone's here in Sandy Hook, CT for that matter, but I HAD to try. I feel very protective of the people in this town-which surprises me because often I feel like an outcast. Sam and I don't have any children together so we miss out on a lot of things since Newtown IS very family focused. Some times I resented living in a bedroom community where we didn't drive an SUV or go to soccer games. I found my way to fit in through my love of animals and now I get to do something with that love that might be of some benefit on a grand scale. I've always wanted to make a difference. Maybe with this little idea to help the children I COULD.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The note reads: “Sandy Hook Elementary. With all my love and lots of Hugs. Sandy Hook Class of 1972.
I called the program Kitties for Kids (though looking back on it I wish I called it Kitties for Kiddies, but it's too late now) and put together a mental picture of how it would work. I bounced the idea off Sam and he said; “Go for it.” He didn't find any serious issues with doing it and I was so energized by my need to help that I sat down and started making lists. I went online and added a number of plush cat toys to our Amazon WishList. As I do with every adoption event or promotion I went online and told my Facebook fans, both of Covered in Cat Hair and of Kitten Associates, my non-profit cat rescue organization.
I thought that after the kids came to visit, I'd give them a plush cat toy because I feared they would either not want to go home after 30 minutes OR not want to go home-EVER. Perhaps getting a parting gift of a plush cat would help soothe them and remind them of the nice time they had.
I got a text message from my foster mom down in Georgia. “Where were the plush cats on the list?” She didn't see anything.
Neither did I.
I added more and they, too, were gone in minutes!I began getting emails from folks asking how they could help. One woman, who created K.T. Cat, an adorable plush toy designed to help young children talk about their feelings, offered a donation of her plush.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Every day the UPS driver kept bringing us packages. It was like Christmas for days and days!
She offered 50 K.T. Cats and I gladly accepted. I knew a special therapeutic plush like this could REALLY make a difference.
I was stunned by all the sudden activity and interest in my idea. I started to worry about what-if's: What if I don't have enough space to store all these boxes of plush cats? What if no one shows up? What if TOO MANY people show up and I can't take them all on for fear of stressing my kittens? What if we have to rent a haul and a storage container? What if I RUN OUT OF FOSTER KITTENS?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sorting out what we have and trying to keep it all away from inquisitive cats.
My dear friend Mary, of The Word Forge LOVED the idea and offered to help write a Press Release. Another friend, Irene, my super-volunteer offered to come over and help me clean out the foster room and go to Target so we could get some things to cheer the space up a bit (even though i really wanted to completely re-do the room there wasn't time). It seemed as though EVERYONE I told about Kitties for Kids LOVED the idea. Their enthusiasm kept me going.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A huge box of plush ready for the children to take them home.
I got very little sleep and barely ate. There was a lot of time spent answering calls and emails. Kitten Associates was FINALLY starting to become known in Newtown, something we've been very weak on since being established in 2010 and the word is spreading about us beyond the borders of the USA.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and his plush counterpart, both offering comfort to those effected by the Shooting in Sandy Hook.
And then the phone started to ring. The people I needed to reach were getting the message and wanted to book an appointment. Kitties for Kids was really happening. Now it was time to found out if my idea was a good one.
Next up-"Media Mayhem," followed by “Terror-tourists GO HOME!”, then we do a wrap up with an update on how the Kitties for Kids program is doing along with some very special photos.
For more information about Kitties for Kids, or to find out how you can visit our kitties visit Kitten Associates!
Please take time during this rushed season of family gatherings and social events, to hold each other close, to really look at each other and experience this Holiday, to really see what gifts have been right under your nose the whole time-not the ones that come from a store, but the friends and family you may take for granted.
Cherish each other and be of good cheer.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I started sobbing. It came on so fast, from such depths of despair that I had no time to stop it. I tried to cry quietly. There were so many members of the Press around me, sniffing out stories. I didn’t want to be seen, I just wanted to grieve. I saw all the little teddy bears, in groups of 20, the candles, the cards with messages of blessings and love, the drawings by children-for children. It was real. I could not deny it any longer. I kept on sobbing.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The road to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Seeing something unfold on television is safe. It’s not really happening because it’s on TV and you’re home in your living room where nothing bad is going to happen to you. Seeing Anderson Cooper standing up the street from the Sandy Hook Diner makes no sense, but he’s on TV so he’s not REALLY here.
It’s very difficult to describe just how surreal the past few days have been for me. Everywhere I go I see the Press or endless traffic in a town with only a few decent north-south running roads and glorified horse trails for the roads the run east-west. I kept seeing faces I recognized, but not because they were my friends, it was because they are reporters.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Just steps away from this sign our hearts were broken and our community was laid waste.
I saw license plates from all over the tri-state area. I heard voices speaking French, Spanish, Japanese and I think some sort of African dialect. They are all here to witness and perhaps see for themselves that this really happened. I don’t want to think badly of them. Maybe they’re exactly like me, grieving and they just live further away. I fear they are just riding some sort of terror-tourism bus here, at least that’s what Sam calls it. I want to think better of people than that, but I worry that too many of them just want to grab a chance to be on TV.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. How about “No Media” at all?
I gathered myself and dried my tears, wishing I had a tissue in my pocket as my Mother always taught me to do. I thought of my Mother and wondered what she’d make of all this. She would have been taking photos and talking to people but her heart was already so broken by my Father taking his own life-using a gun-that I doubt she would have let her emotions get the better of her.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. There are no words.
A cold mist was falling and I wasn’t wearing a coat. I shivered, but kept on. I crossed the street and headed up Dickenson Drive, to the last place on Earth 20 little children and six adults were last seen alive—Sandy Hook Elementary.
The path was up a steep curving hill. The first thing I saw was an old graveyard off to the left. I couldn’t help but see the sad irony of it being so close to the school. The grave stones were darkened, weathered, their engravings softened, the names forgotten by decades of rain. I thought about all the funerals to come and how one day, many decades from now, this probably would be forgotten, too.
I walked on a short distance and saw the Christmas trees-26 donated by some people in North Carolina. Each tree representing a loss. Each tree covered with little plush toys and more messages of love. I wish there were 27 trees because Mrs. Lanza deserves our love and a tree, too…in truth even the shooter does. Though I find it very difficult to have compassion for him, as we all do, as a Buddhist, I must try. We all suffer. We all cause pain and feel pain. He may have been suffering in an unimaginably extreme way and clearly he was very seriously mentally ill to open fire on such innocents. But where was his support? Why did he feel the need to act out as he did?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The 26 Christmas trees by the school.
I thought to myself; “What if I was so sick that I did something like that?” No one is pure evil. In his heart, somewhere was love, even if it was just a grain. If I was the shooter I would have wanted someone to love me, to help me through my pain, but I know it’s NOT as simple as that. We don't know who he was and we may never know why he did what he did. The act was completed in moments, but the pain will have a ripple effect for MANY years to come.
I don’t claim to be an authority on the shooter by any shape or form. I just know I need to be a better person and to be more compassionate to everyone if I can.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nice and tidy now, but as of tonight (Monday) you can barely make out any single object the shrine is so huge.
I stood by the sign for the Sandy Hook Elementary School that has now become the icon representing this tragedy. As I stood there, I watched some workers with a truck filled with palettes. I believe they were taking the memorial items and placing palettes beneath them to keep them better preserved, but I’m not sure about that. As the workers moved the palettes into position, one of them began using a pneumatic nail gun to fix one of the structures. The loud “pop, pop, pop!” startled everyone. I immediately stiffened, feeling utter revulsion at how thoughtless they were.
I decided I’d had enough and began to walk back to my car. I couldn’t help but pass by the first memorial set up by the river. I stopped, watching a young boy place a basket of flowers by yet another Christmas tree. There was a little girl standing in front of me with her mom. Once again, I started to sob. I was embarrassed to do it in front of a stranger, but she quickly turned to me and said;
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I met the child who drew the sign in the middle of the image that says; “May God Protect You.”
We hugged and I thanked her. I asked her about her children and found out she lives here in town, too.
I gave the woman my card and invited to her visit. I told her I needed to find some teachers so I could donate this load of plush kitties we’d been donated. I was so happy to imagine I could help these people that as I began the walk back to my car I was smiling, even though my heart was still heavy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hug a Teacher and hug everyone else, too.
We just have to learn to be better about expressing it and sharing it and instead of being more fearful of each other, I think we need to open our arms and really help each other. We have to remember to love each other, especially those of us who get labeled as “misfits” or “social outcasts.” We all just want to belong and I think in feeling left out it is so painful that it becomes too tempting for some of us to act out in rage as a result.
I got back into my car and drove to NVS. I paid Shorty’s bill and met this cat who was very close to being euthanized. Now Shorty had a new lease on life thanks to our donors and my late night efforts. Shorty rolled around on the floor, with the catheter sticking out of his front leg. I rubbed his belly, then I noticed something odd. He was leaking tapeworms out of his rear end.
And yes, get Shorty de-wormed, stat..
[There's SO MUCH going on that it's tough to catch up. Here's a double dose of blog entries that cover Saturday and Sunday. Next up will be the truly uplifting, surprising and amazing story about what's going on with the Kitties for Kids Program we've put into action. By the time I get to write it, I'm hoping I'll have even more joyful news about how this program is taking off.]
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Land of the Tripods at Treadwell Park in Sandy Hook.
I’ve been doing a lot of crying over the past two days. I’ve been raging, not sleeping much, not eating much. Whatever I “had” to get done isn’t done. Christmas plans or shopping? Who cares? We cancelled dinner with dear friends we rarely get to see because we were too sad to go out and the roads are nearly impassible in some areas so why bother?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Imagine yourself standing here with the world watching.
I need to explain to all of you that writing and taking photos is a way for me to purge, explore, digest my feelings. I also feel that I want you to see what I’m seeing, maybe in some way so you can understand what’s going on here a little better without the filter of television news.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our intrepid First Selectman, Pat Llodra (center facing right) at the news conference to announce the names of the deceased.
Last night I was editing photos I shot at the news briefing in Treadwell Park where Lt. J. Paul Vance handed out the list of the deceased. I needed to be there, partly to prove to myself that this was real, partly to honor the history of this moment and partly because I was terrified some of our adopters were on that list.
The phone rang. It was 9:30pm. The local 24 hr Emergency Vet was calling me to ask if I could help a cat who needed care right away. His urethra was blocked and his owner, who was disabled and on social security could not afford to pay for it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Reporters, reporters, reporters.
It took a few hours to sort it all out. The owner surrendered the cat to us because in all honesty he had no family to support him with this challenging situation and he was not mentally clear enough to understand what his cat needed done-just that his cat was sick. I made sure he was fine with giving up his cat as long as he got a good home-which I promised we would do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lt. J. Paul Vance (right) and the medical examiner (in white).
The cat’s name is Shorty. He’s a big red tabby who must have lived outside most of his life because his left ear tip is missing, indicating he was trapped and neutered at some point. Sadly, it was done too late in his life because he is also FIV+, which can be transmitted sexually or from fighting (deep puncture bites).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lt. Vance holds “the list” of the deceased close to his chest.
I asked for help for Shorty. Taking on a debt like this would put our finances into a very serious strain and prevent us from caring for the cats in our program. I needed my support group-my friends and fans of Covered in Cat Hair and once again, they did NOT disappoint!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Shorty.
Before I could even FINISH writing the plea for help my phone started chiming with text messages notifying me of donations.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Shorty after a night of treatment, beginning to perk up.
The sun didn’t make an appearance this morning. It was cold and drizzling. I wanted to drive over to visit Shorty and get his bill settled. If things weren’t so insane I’d normally drive through “downtown” Sandy Hook to get to NVS.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The sign says it all.
I often feel the tug of my instincts to tell me where to go, when to go, what to do. Half the time I ignore it and try to “rationally” choose my next steps because that’s more logical than following your gut. Today, perhaps I was too tired to fight it and instead of driving the long way over to the Vet, I went straight for downtown. It was early enough and miserable enough outside that I thought maybe I’d miss the bad traffic.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The memorial—its first day.
I got there without much delay, but the center of our little district was already jammed with cars and people milling about.
I took a few photos from my car since the traffic was barely moving. A few cars ahead of me, a huge satellite truck was trying to parallel park. I watched in amazement as this behemoth crept backwards, knocking branches off a tree it was so tall. I thought he was going to hit the car behind him, but he suddenly signaled and pulled back into traffic, giving up on any chance of parking. It was a HUGE parking space. The car in front of me didn’t take it and in a flash I was parked and out of my car, walking down the sidewalk to the center of Sandy Hook, where many of the memorials are located.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One of so many plush toys all over downtown Sandy Hook, CT.
I felt okay for the first block. It was my town. It was all so familiar. There were the pretty garlands of holiday evergreens tied with big red bows. There was the coffee shop where we sit outside on the back deck and soak up the sun while we sip our frothy cappuccinos. Everything seemed normal. I was just going to look around, take some photos. Not a big deal. But within a few more steps everything changed. My heart began to tighten, followed by my throat. I felt like I was going to faint.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes to both!
I began to sob. It came on so fast, from such depths of despair, that I had no way to stop...
…to be continued.
[I wrote this post the night before the shooting rampage in Sandy Hook at our Elementary School and decided to share it now as a way to give us all a break from focusing on such sad news. Later today (I hope) I will be sharing some experiences I've had, living here during this madness, from being surrounded by Press to more about my determination to make things better here-again. Stay tuned.]
Molly sits alone in a small bathroom along with her litter pan, a plastic bowl filled with Meow Mix®, some water and a few old towels to rest upon. This is Molly's life now that her caretaker passed away. Molly, like so many other pets, lived with someone who hadn't made plans about what to do should they no long be able to provide a loving home. It's something any cat guardian would fear imagining, but what if it happened to you? Where would your cats go? What would happen to them?
Molly wasn't kicked out of her home to wander the streets. A family member, the granddaughter of Molly's caretaker, took Molly home with her. She was four months pregnant with her boyfriend deployed overseas. Her family thought Molly would keep her company while her boyfriend was away. Jessica knew she was mildly allergic to cats, but went ahead with the adoption.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My first moments with Molly.
Within a short period of time, Jessica's allergies got worse so she tried to find Molly another home or a rescue to take her, but no one would help. She didn't want to be cruel to the cat, but she felt she had no choice other than to put Molly in the bathroom, where's she's been living for months.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Molly is suspicious of the lady who brought a cat carrier with her.
It's very difficult to place an adult cat who isn't a fancy breed. Molly is a pretty white and gray cat with subtle stripes in her tail, but she's not going to compete against Siamese or Maine Coon cats…or kittens…you know how it goes.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Before the meow-a-thon began.
Jessica put an ad on Craigslist which is a BIG NO-NO. Cats fall into harm's way via that publication and I believe they don't allow posting of animals on their site for that reason. We have folks who check CL every day to alert all the local rescue groups to intervene and hopefully help the cats listed there. That's how I came to rescue the DOOD.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. 16.8 pounds-in case you were wondering.
Molly was lucky that someone from Mary's Kitty Korner felt they could find Molly a new forever home, but their problem was getting Molly to their Vet to be boarded until a foster home opened up for her. I saw the email asking for help and I don't live too far from Jessica, though the total trip is about 150 miles. Even though I have too much going on, I had to help Molly, maybe because she reminds me of one of my cats, maybe because I just like to help.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Checking out the Vet's office.
This morning, I met Jessica and picked up Molly. I tried to be respectful, not sure if Jessica would cry over the reality of Molly leaving. I held Molly before placing her into the carrier and asked her if she wanted to say goodbye, but she didn't seem too perturbed that her cat was leaving for good (which is upsetting to me and maybe you, but this lady said she wasn't someone who had cats in the first place so I'm not going to vilify her…just gonna move on to the rescue pat of the story). She was very appreciative of the help and said she did want to visit Molly at the Shelter once she was settled. Whether it was the truth or lip service it didn't matter to me. Molly was safe and that's all I really cared about.
Then I started driving. Molly cried the ENTIRE trip, non-stop, every second or two. Some of her cries sounded like I was trying to murder her, while others sounded like she was gargling and meowing at the same time. She must have broken off most of her claws from trying to get out of the carrier, but thank GOD she didn't blow her bladder or worse.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Once we arrived at New England Veterinary Center & Cancer Care (that's a mouthful!) Molly settled down. I brought her into an exam room and found out she weighs 16.8 pounds. I thought she was over 20.
I live in Sandy Hook, CT, a district of Newtown, CT. I moved here 21 years ago from the Midwest. A few days ago, if I told you where I lived, you probably would have confused it with Sandy Hook, NJ or not had a clue or any sort where we’re located. Today the world knows exactly where we are. They know we’re a tight-knit small town of 27,000 (well 26, 972 now). They see our quaint New England church steeples and clapboard sided homes, then images of our hometown Fire Station draped in Christmas lights. It’s charming. It’s a sweet place to live. It’s safe.
It’s the scenes of SWAT teams brandishing weapons, K9 patrol officers like our Felicia, sending commands to her German Shepherd to find the bad guy. It’s the scenes of the people of my community hunched over, grief stricken, crying. It doesn’t fit this town. This is not OUR town.
I was in New York City on 9|11. I suffered through escaping the city, then suffered the fear of returning to work until I couldn’t take it any more and decided to work from home, giving up all my NY clients and most of my billings.
I’ve seen what guns do to people you love-so very dearly-the gore, the horror. There are images in my head I have to keep a bay or it will drive me mad…and now this.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The view down Yogananda-about 1/2 mile from my house where the shooter killed his mother.
It was a brilliant, sunny morning with crisp blue skies. It was much colder but just as cheerful a day as on 9|11. Sam and I were driving to the town landfill to drop off our recycling. There was nothing out of the ordinary until we saw police cars with lights and sirens blaring, racing down Route 25. I wondered what was going on and not long after that my friend Mary called with the shocking news.
Later that day some of the details became clear—a monster had been unleashed on our town. No, it wasn’t Big Foot or Vampires or Zombies. It was much worse. This monster had no heart and a cache of guns. In cold blood he shot his Mother in the face, then drove to our little Sandy Hook Elementary and massacred some of the staff and twenty innocent children.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is too surreal. CNN, AP, all the CT stations and now NBC NY was there, too.
One of my good friends told me her daughter went to school with him, but had no idea he would do such a thing.
Did I cross his path? Did he walk past my house as many of the local kids do? Did we see him on the road this morning between doing his terrible deeds?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lined up and sniffing the air for news. I tried to stay off to myself, but some reporters heard me say something to Sam and that was it-I had microphones and cameras in my face even though I kept saying I had no story for them.
I don’t know his story. I barely know the details of what he did. I can only think about my friends and family, our adopters and their children. I contacted one particular family and discovered their son would have been in that classroom, but he was placed in another school even though his mom had wanted him to go to Sandy Hook Elementary. He’s barely five years old, with big blue eyes, straw blonde hair and pink plump cheeks. I thought about what could have happened to him today and I started to cry yet again.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I couldn't find the correct spelling of her name, but this is Pei-Zhe Chang from WVIT our NBC affiliate.
I thought about the first day I met him. He reached up and held my hand, both surprising and delighting me. He barely knew me but trusted me to guide him along the sidewalk to a local shop while his mother and sister followed suit. How could I not love him right then and there?
I thought about all the parents in this town who are not so lucky tonight. They will never hold their child’s hand again or guide them, keeping them safe.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This guy was walking his dog and he was descended upon by news crews.
Tomorrow we find out who died and I hope it’s no one I know…but it also doesn’t matter if I know them or not. They are part of MY TOWN and their loss is mine. I share their tears and heartache and I yearn to find a way to make it better for them-to find a way to erase the stigma of what has been cruelly bestowed upon our town.
I’m going to develop this program and possibly set it up so we can give the kids a stuffed animal when they leave so they have something to hug. I don’t know what more I can do, but I’m thinking about it a lot. I need to give back. I need to help. I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This woman's home was just pass the police tape. I helped her get the attention of the reporters and Troopers so she could go home. I felt so badly for her as she was quite upset.
I have a picture in my head that I can’t shake. A friend told me she spoke with a State Trooper who was in the school today—the same concrete and tile building where Sam and I once took Ballroom Dancing classes, the one that’s down the street from the Fire Station where we have Lobster Fest and Pancake Breakfasts to help raise money for our volunteer firefighters.
He said he’s seen some crazy things in his day, some true horrors, but what he saw today, that’s a new level of Hell.
The shooter must have gunned them down without hesitation, immediately upon entering the classroom. Those babies didn’t have a chance and now the first responders and families of the victims will have nightmares for the rest of their life and those of us who live in Sandy Hook, a district of Newtown, CT, will bear the scars of this day in their hearts.
It WAS Nicer in Newtown until 9:35 AM today. I know that one day it will be so, again, but right now it’s a Nightmare in Newtown, one that I wish I could wake up from soon.
This is so surreal, so wrong, so insane. I want to cry constantly. I need a hug. I’m afraid of what the news tomorrow will bring.
Today started off so happily. Spencer doesn’t have cancer. Jackson didn’t die on Tuesday. I transported a poor kitty to a rescue group so she would have a chance to find a new forever family and now none of that matters much and I wonder when things ever will again?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.