I'm so thrilled to start the year off with good news AND to be included with such a fine group of writers. It's truly an honor and I'm so grateful. The only problems is…now I have to live up to this acknowledgment! Oops. I better get to writing.
Speaking of stories..stay tuned. We have some more good news. One of our kittens has been adopted and is already in her new home, but which one is it? Find out, along with some awesome photos of the kitten with her siblings enjoying their last afternoon together.
And if you're in the mood to read right away, make sure you visit the other Cat Blogs listed in Ingrid King's post:
Grab a cup of coffee and kick back for a few minutes. Let's take a look back on 2013.
Without a doubt Jackson Galaxy, our charming, pain in the ass, dearly beloved foster cat getting adopted was the surprise of the dawning of 2013. Jackson, who suffers from HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy), was never expected to find a forever home with anyone other than Sam and myself and when Mickey and Offie offered to bring him to northern Vermont to join them in “retirement” we knew it was the right thing to do.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Jackson.
Inasmuch as we love Jackson, living with so many cats here was too much stress on his heart. He would be the solo cat, get all the attention and his new protector might just be his lady-Vet, a good friend of his new family, who is overseeing his care.
Jackson did great with his new family and he often sent us notes. A few months ago we got a very sad update that Jackson’s heart was getting worse and that his lady-Vet was concerned that his life will now be measured in months instead of years. We were very busted up about it, but I’m glad to report that so far, with new medication, Jackson is still doing all right and celebrated his first Christmas with his family.
As February arrived so did a little fireball named Tansy. She was our first adoption and our worst adoption. We foolishly trusted someone from far away and she turned out to be a hoarder. Tansy was taken into animal control in North Carolina and sat in a cage for the better part of TWO YEARS, while a few of her companions sickened from upper respiratory and had to be euthanized. After monthly calls and emails, begging to get our cat back, I got the news that Tansy was ours again. To celebrate her new life, we gave her a new name: Mabel-Baby. Mabel arrived, immediately ready to explore, make new friends and live her life to the fullest.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel-Baby.
Mabel’s had a few chances to be adopted since she arrived, but we’re being extremely picky about her new home. She’s also charmed us so much that perhaps we’re dragging our feet a bit more than we should, but we aren’t going to make any more mistakes about where she lives or who she lives with.
Our Kitties for Kids program was slowing down, but news of it had reached the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association. They contacted us to say they were going to award our kittens the “Pet of the Year” award for their service to the people of Newtown after the heartbreaking tragedy here in 2012. Not only that, but U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal was going to give us a Certificate of Special Recognition by the State of Connecticut for our efforts, as well.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
In early April we attended the CVMA ceremony. It was one of the crowning achievements of our non-profit’s work, but sadly our joy was short-lived. Something had been “off” with foster kitten, Fred. We’d been running him back and forth to the Vet. We’d rule in, then rule out FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). We begged for donations, which thank goodness, we were able to get. We saw more and more Vets and did more and more tests, while Fred slowly, cruelly lost the use of his back legs, then front…after trying every treatment and doing every test we were left with the heartbreak that Fred did have FIP after all.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson & Katherine Reid. Chloe before and after the first week in foster care-learning to trust.
Chloe is a senior Siamese mix whose owner wanted her euthanized for being a bite risk. As a last resort I was contacted about taking her on. I knew I couldn’t take her into our program but I offered to observe her and see if we could find a way to help her. That cat hated me, to this day she still hisses and growls at me, but Chloe, declawed, fat, neglected and very likely abused, still earned my affection. I cut a deal with Katherine from Animals in Distress. We’d partner to help Chloe and thanks to this blog and Dee D., one of our readers, she pointed us to Angi our uber-foster-mom who said she could give Chloe a long-term foster home and help her find her confidence and learn to trust under her care. None of us would have believed how this story would end if we hadn’t seen it ourselves.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Fred.
After Fred died, his brother Barney went into mourning. We knew he needed new friends in his life and that’s when he got to meet Bongo, Bunny Boo-Boo and George, who we’d rescued from Georgia in late 2012. It took a week or so but it was pretty clear that Barney, who’d been licking some of his fur off, had known his brother was ill far before we did. Barney’s issues started months before we knew about Fred and his hyper-grooming stopped not long after Fred passed away.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bongo (left) with George. Not related these two cuties got adopted together.
I decided that the foster cats I had would be our last. I couldn’t rescue any more cats. I just couldn’t face any more death. I needed time to heal. I even thought about closing Kitten Associates for good.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Celebrating Ingrid King's birthday at BlogPaws with all our super-awesome cat lady friends.
Near the end of the month, I travelled to Virginia to attend BlogPaws. I was one of the first Presenters and I did a 90 minute talk about our Kitties for Kids program. I didn’t know if I had the courage to do the talk, knowing full well that Fred had been our mascot and that the last slide was in dedication to him. As happens so often in my blog posts, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We all cried, but being with my friends renewed my passion for saving more lives. I couldn't give up. The cats needed me.
The rains came in a deluge and so did the calls to help cats. A cat, from a terrible part of another town, gave birth to 5 kittens on the sidewalk, then moved them to a window well to hide them. I got the call to help and at first I said I wasn’t sure I could do it…okay maybe for a few weeks I’d foster, but that was it. Then I was told that if we didn’t get them they might drown and by the way, all the kittens were orange and white..just like Fred.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A few days after rescue, Lil' Gracey has some lunch.
I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Minnie and her kittens came to live with us just as we got our new Dropcam set up that I nicknamed: SqueeTV. The kittens were a great joy to me. One of them, in particular, looked a lot like Fred. I couldn’t help but wonder if somehow he had sent this family to me.
The Dogtime Pettie Awards nominations came out. Though I was sad not to be nominated for Best Cat Blog, I was stunned to find out that “Dear Fred” had been nominated for Best Blog Post. Now Fred’s legacy would live on. I couldn’t have been more honored.
Minnie was a great mom, but she never had a good appetite. Something was wrong with her and it became clear one morning when I entered the foster room to find it covered with vomit. Minnie was growling, trying to attack her kittens. Shocked, I raced her to the vet. It was touch and go for a few weeks. She had a massive infection, bordering on septic. My heart sank as I feared we’d lose another cat…and what would it mean for her 5 week old kittens?
It meant I was going to be their new mom.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie's kittens growing fast.
Minnie had to be separated from her kittens after that day. Although I tried to reintroduce her to them, she wanted nothing to do with them. The shocking change from loving, protective Mother, to harpy was heartbreaking. The kittens, confused, lost, scared, turned to me and though I was worried I’d do something wrong, we all began to find a new rhythm to our time together.
And then there was BarkAid.
Bongo and George had found a great forever home. Bunny and Barney kept each other company while I got to work preparing for a big fundraiser called BarkAid. In the history of names, I think BarkAid was one of the hardest to promote. We do CAT rescue, it’s called BarkAid. They take over a salon and do haircuts for PEOPLE, not DOGS, then donate what they make to a local rescue. I had my hands full trying to scramble to get the 26 ft long banner produced to hang over our town’s main drag, while I was writing press releases, cleaning up kitten vomit, worrying about Minnie, trying to find homes for Barney and Bunny and wondering if any of this was going to work.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I was wiped out, but BarkAid was a success for us. After spending about $1300.00 in advertising and fees related to BarkAid, we still came up with another $1000.00 to put in the bank. We had the second highest number of haircuts of the past two years of the program!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama-Mochachino, exhausted after rescue and two cans of food, finally takes a break in the safety of her foster home with Maria.
A black mama cat and her 3 kittens were zipped up into a cat carrier and dumped in a cul-de-sac on a very hot summer day. Trapped, screaming, clawing to get out, after more than a day, a good Samaritan contacted our mama-Maria to help rescue the family. With nowhere but the kill shelter to go to, I told Maria if she could foster, we’d take them on. The kittens were twin tuxedoes and a little gray and white sibling. Not long after they got settled, we got contacted by another rescuer in the area about helping with one little tuxedo kitten she found in a DUMPSTER, burned on the paws and nose. We had the resources to help him but it meant risking putting him with this mama and her kittens. Would they accept him? Would they sicken him or vice versa? We took a few days to think about it, but in the end, little Biscotti entered our program and our hearts. The family accepted him and no one got sick.
©2013 Betsy Merchant. Our first glimpse of Biscotti after being rescued.
I hit a fairly shocking low point in early September. I was so depressed I scared even myself. The grind of the past 9 months had taken a toll on me. On a lark, moments after I found out that Lil’ Bub, the internet’s alien-cat, was going to be in New Jersey at a book signing, I called the book store and asked if I could get a press pass. They gave me the green light. I grabbed my friend Irene and we went to the store. This may sound overly dramatic, but in that moment it truly WAS amazing what happened next.
Meeting Lil’ Bub saved my life.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I lub Bub.
That cat has magical powers, I swear. Being with her makes you want to cry with joy. The low I’d had in my heart broke apart. I was reminded of the love have for cats, for my friends and I was going to be able to face another day.
Then, the Dogtime Petties are announced via video online. When my category came up, I held my breath. When they announced Covered in Cat Hair as the winner, I started screaming. Sam thought I was being murdered. I ran into the living room and started jumping up and down. I pulled something in my leg and could barely walk for 3 days afterwards, but…I won…FRED WON. Fred had the memorial I had wished and wished for and it meant $1000.00 for Kitten Associates.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Selfie with mah-Pettie.
As I watched the rest of the ceremony, my dear friend, Ingrid King won for Best Overall Pet Blog. This woman is a force to be reckoned with and though I wasn’t surprised she won, it suddenly hit me that her donation of $1000.00 was ALSO coming to Kitten Associates! AT LAST I could stop worrying so much about keeping our doors open…for awhile…
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Best photo of 2013. Chloe let's Angi have it because I got too close with the camera.
The good news didn’t stop there. After months of rehabilitation, Chloe lost a few pounds and was deemed ready to be adopted. Within a few short weeks, we found Pam, who ended up being Chloe’s new mom. They had a tough first few days. Chloe bit Pam badly, but after some time, Chloe began to trust and quickly started a love-fest with Pam’s husband, sleeping next to him and clearly favoring him over Pam. But Pam wasn’t bothered. She kept at it and last I heard Chloe is doing great, meets new people and doesn’t bite any more and loves everyone-except me.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lolly.
Since we had money in the bank, I rescued two flea-covered, skinny siblings, Lolly & Clark. I didn’t stop there when 6 orange tabby kittens, nicknamed “the Clementines” landed on death row in a Kentucky municipal pound. They were at risk of being killed. I offered money, whatever I could think of, to get a local rescue to take these cuties on. No one stepped forward. I got worried. Someone in KY offered to foster the cats for us, so with great trepidation, I said YES. We’d just gotten a brand new foster home so I thought we’d have the space.
What was I thinking?
The Clementines were sick right off the transport and they were COVERED in FLEAS. Not one or two but hundreds. It was a huge mess. Our new foster mom, Jeannie, kicked butt. She HATES fleas and knows how to get rid of them. We bathed all the kittens and got them set up, but with their chronic health problems, I ended up taking them back from her and taking on the roll of their caretaker just days after Lolly & Clark found their forever home. It meant my house was loaded with cats and I was terrified about a flea outbreak. Whatever free time I had was gone.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Clementines before we rescued them. The little dilute was not part of their litter and WAS rescued by another group.
My cat Blitzen got sick with a mysterious allergic reaction and rodent ulcer on his mouth. I had to put him on steroids which kicked back his immune system and he caught the upper respiratory that the Clementine’s were fighting. I basically had a house full of sick cats. The days were a blur of Vet runs, medicating, worrying. Little Sherbert’s left eye was so bad we couldn’t even SEE his eye any more. We worked tirelessly to get these cats back on their paws while some of my own cats started to get the sniffles.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Robin and Grumpy Cat.
I took one evening off to travel to NYC to attend the Friskies where I met Grumpy Cat. Of course my camera crapped out on me while I was holding her but my iPhone worked well enough to capture the moment. Did meeting Grumpy Cat change my life? No. I felt bad for her, in truth. Everyone was handling her. No one seemed to be looking out for her the way Mike Bridavsky does with Lil’ Bub.
I also got to meet Will Braden, filmmaker and cat-daddy who creates the Henri le Chat Noir videos. Will is a sweetheart. We had a great conversation about how he does his videos (you can’t direct a cat, you have to go with their natural instincts) and we talked about art school (since we both went to one) and just about how weird it is for him to have a slice of fame and fortune. He is clearly humbled by it and somewhat amused. I hope celebrity doesn’t get to his head. So far, so good.
I was stunned when our former foster, Willow got returned. She’d had flea bite dermatitis, her fur looked terrible, she was thin. She was stress-peeing in the new home and her owner was getting divorced. It was just too much for him and I was glad to have her back. Willow was reunited with Barney, who’d been with us over a year by then. They went right back to being best friends and when David, a police officer from Danbury, saw Willow on Petfinder, then met Barney, he realized he wanted them both to be part of his family.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney & Willow reunited at last.
Willow blossomed again and Barney had a new mom. David sent me a video of Willow grooming Barney as he sat there, clearly loved, clearly happy, after losing his brother, his other siblings at birth, and his own mom, he had family again and I couldn’t be happier with how it worked out.
Minnie was still waiting for her forever home, but we found a lovely foster home with Barbara and her family, so Minnie was doing well, getting chubby and loving life. She's gained about SIX POUNDS since we rescued her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie, still waiting for her forever home.
Bunny Boo-Boo finally found her home, too, with one of our friends who lives in the Boston area. They’d been looking for a very long time to add a cat to their family, which included a shy orange tabby named Sunny. Sunny & Bunny. Who didn’t see this coming?
The Clementines still battle being sick. Mocha and family arrived and Confetti Joe & Lil’ Gracey, two of Minnie’s kittens were still here. Their siblings had found great homes months ago. I added it up. I had 22 cats in my house. I tried not to be freaked out. I have the space, but the resources and the time are another thing all together. I kept wondering..where are the adopters and WHEN can I put the Clementines on Petfinder? They’d had a bad reaction to a vaccination. I had to wait weeks longer than normal to get them spayed/neutered. They still had a runny eye here and there and in the meantime they were blowing out of their room they were so BIG.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Sherbert. These kittens wax and wane with their upper respiratory infections.
In addition to the usual holiday “to do’s” we had to plan what we’d do to honor the first year anniversary of the Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We decided to re-open our Kitties for Kids program for a few weeks. Even though Sam and I were both exhausted, we knew we had to give back and offer to help those in need. If we lost another Christmas, so be it.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Downtown Sandy Hook, CT on December 14, 2013.
The day came on soft paws. It snowed. The press stayed away. No one needed Kitties for Kids. We shed some tears and lit a candle. We knew life is too short as it is and to remember to cherish whatever we have for as long as we have it.
As 2013 draws to a close, I can take some pride in announcing that although there was great heartbreak, there were also some great milestones. The most important is in the numbers. How many lives did we save this year?
Last year we saved 60 lives.
And what’s in store for 2014?
Here are some hints…
Big Changes for Covered in Cat Hair. New Rescues will be Announced (VERY SOON) A Few Lucky Kittens FINALLY Get Their Forever Home! (EVEN SOONER)
Big Changes for Covered in Cat Hair.
New Rescues will be Announced (VERY SOON)
A Few Lucky Kittens FINALLY Get Their Forever Home! (EVEN SOONER)
Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me, who cries with me and laughs with and sometimes AT me! I couldn’t do this without all of you by my side. Look what we’ve done. Let’s drink a toast to the good stuff of 2013 and say a gentle farewell to the difficult days.
I lost my joy of celebrating Christmas the year my father died. What was left of my family struggled along trying to celebrate it, but it was never the same. Over the years as my family faded away and I’ve dedicated my life to rescuing cats, I don’t have much reason to feel festive. It’s just another day, but at least one that doesn’t come with phone calls about cats who need rescue (knock wood).
This year has been very very bad for me financially speaking. Right now I can’t even think about what will happen next year. I may end up like so many others, losing my home, but I’ll try as hard as I can to turn things around. It’s just another reason why Christmas gives me the blues. I’d love to buy gifts and fill the pantry with special treats, but we can’t do that yet again…yet another Christmas where we sit around and shrug our shoulders.
©2011 Nicky in better days-in his favorite position-belly up.
Yesterday I noticed our 13 year old cat, Nicky, hunched over, looking depressed. Later that day he coughed. It sounded bad. He vomited some mucus and kept coughing. It sounded wet, bubbly. The first thing I thought was the upper respiratory tract infection the orange foster kittens have been battling for months, has hit our cat, too. But Nicky didn’t have similar symptoms. This “cold” effected the cat’s eyes more than anything else and Nicky looked otherwise healthy.
I felt the usual sense of panic build in my gut. I talked to Sam, who is Nicky’s “daddy” and who is in charge of making the health care choices for his cat. We tried to take Nicky’s temp, but that was NOT going to happen he fussed so much. We listened to him as best we could, but Nicky purrs a lot so it was tough to make out if he had trouble breathing.
I wanted to get him to Dr. Larry right away, but Sam wanted to wait. Dr. Larry had a number of emergencies and if Nicky was stable-even if he WAS open-mouth breathing-that we had to wait. I kept imagining having to run Nicky to the ER Vet because they have an oxygen cage and Dr. Larry doesn’t. I started adding up the vet bill in my mind if we had to go to the ER. The sense of panic began to rise.
We continued to observe Nicky. When he meowed it sounded bubbly and he couldn’t get much of a meow out. It was muffled, at best. Nicky was still eating, but he struggled to eat because he couldn’t breathe when he had food in his mouth. I spent a fitful night wondering what the day would bring. It’s Christmas Eve, of course here we are on the cusp of a health crisis that will surely break us for good.
©2013 Nicky waiting for Dr. Larry.
This morning, Nicky seemed no worse but no better. We packed him up and got him to Dr. Larry’s office. The waiting room was crowded and the phones were ringing. I guessed we weren’t the only ones having a problem right before a major holiday.
We finally got to see Dr. Larry. I was so worried by then that I thought I was going to burst into tears as Dr. Larry listened to Nicky’s chest. Dr. Larry asked us what we had noticed wrong, then weighed Nicky and took his temperature (it was normal). Dr. Larry makes this face. He purses his lips together, frowning and draws his eyebrows down. I know it means bad, but not how bad.
He said he didn’t hear anything terrible in Nicky’s chest. His heart sounded good. His organs didn’t feel swollen. His lungs sounded maybe a bit wet but nothing serious. He wanted to do blood work to rule out infection or virus and maybe he’d snap an x-ray. I told him to do his best to keep the costs down. As it was I knew that this was about the end of what we could spend on pretty much anything and it was going to our cat.
Dr. Larry told us to come back in about an hour so we left to run errands and worry about the results. You see, Nicky has Chronic Kidney Disease. He’s not in renal failure yet, but he’s a senior cat with ever worsening kidney function values which are expressed in BUN and Creatinine. Two years ago we caught Nicky’s kidney problem and Sam has been giving Nicky sub-q fluids every other day since the diagnosis. Of course what is going on with Nicky’s kidneys could affect everything else. Where we going to find out that Nicky was nearing the end of his disease and that was the reason he couldn't fight off the upper respiratory infection?
Nicky's blood work from a year ago showing his renal values are very high.
What seemed an eternity later, Dr. Larry called us into the exam room. That expression I fear was on his face. Tears welled up in my eyes. Then Larry’s expression opened up. He smiled as he said:
I couldn’t even imagine what he’d tell us next.
Nicky did not have pneumonia, but he does have an upper respiratory tract infection of some sort. It’s not too bad and we should keep a close eye on him to make sure it doesn’t get worse. No antibiotics right now.
Wow. Well that was great news, but not really a miracle per se.
With the raw diet, the sub-q fluids and possibly that we are now giving Nicky RenAvast, (a nutritional supplement), his values are pretty much NORMAL.
Today's blood work-WOW.
I held back the tears as best I could. I looked over at Sam. He was doing the same thing. I asked if that meant we should back off on the fluids and Larry was adamant that we enjoy this moment and NOT mess with what is working for Nicky.
So no trip to the ER Vet. No spending our last dime on a beloved cat. Dr. Larry told us that maybe now we could have a Merry Christmas after all and I had to agree, for the first time in years, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…and not a moment too soon.
September 14, 2013 was a Saturday and like most weekends, the volunteers at Mid Hudson Animal Aid were busy tending to the care of their 150+ cats or taking part in fundraisers in the community. Running a shelter of this size takes a great effort by a dedicated team of people and the daily routine in this shelter was no different.
This particular Saturday, most of the staff happened to be away at a tag sale hoping to raise some money for MHAA’s many rescue programs. Audrey, the Shelter Manager, remarked at how unusual it was for the building to be so devoid of staff on a normally busy weekend. She was there early tending to some business when she smelled smoke. Not sure where it was coming from she started to check the small building doing a room by room search for the source. At the end of the Great Room is the Isolation Ward where incoming cats are separated from the residents of the facility to prevent the spread of disease.
Fearing the fire would spread to the rest of the building, and potentially kill a majority of cats who were only feet away, Audrey quickly shut the door and began calling for help. The comfort of her daily routine was replace with abject terror. What would she do with the cats? They had to evacuate the building immediately.
After a quick call to 9-1-1, they got to work. Within 5 minutes the Beacon, NY fire department arrived. In many rural areas there aren’t any fire plugs to access water, so often times it has to be brought in by a tanker truck, which can make putting out a fire a much more difficult task. Fortunately, MHAA sits next to the Fishkill Creek so the trucks could immediately access enough water to put out the blaze that was now roaring inside the small room. The problem was, after they broke through a window to access the Isolation room and turned on the hose, the blast from the water blew the door off across the room and let water escape flooding much of the building and terrifying the cats still trapped inside.
As volunteers poured in, they filled as many cat carriers as they could with traumatized cats. Audrey made certain that everyone was safe. As soon as she could she returned to the Isolation room…or the charred wreck of what was left of it. What she saw next is every rescuers worst nightmare.
4 cats went missing during the confusion. (to date 2 have been found)
2 kittens were abandoned at MHAA during the commotion while their building was on fire.
With a great deal of support, Audrey and her volunteers handled the logistics and were able to crate and find foster homes for ALL their cats.
In the 4 months since the fire, I had the honor of going to visit Audrey and meet many of their Board members, while I toured their facility and learned more about their programs.
…and we know it will probably end up costing more than that. Thankfully, through the help of people like Mike Bridavsky who is the daddy to Lil’ Bub, to the Cat Daddy-Jackson Galaxy, companies like World’s Best Cat Litter and so many others, over $57,000.00 has been raised. There’s still a long way to go and at the end of this post I’ll share some ways you can help.
What amazed me about MHAA, as I walked through what was left of their facility, was that they accept all cats. It is rare to find a rescue that accepts cats that are positive for Feline Leukemia. Most don’t want to risk spreading the disease to non-infected cats and there is so much fear about it that they just won’t take them on.
Cats that have FIV can also have a very tough time finding a home due to the stigma and fear that it is also contagious to other cats, but MHAA has an FIV Room. While FIV IS contagious it’s only through sexual contact or a DEEP puncture bite. If the cats are not fractious and basically are okay with other cats it’s not a concern. My own dear cat, Bob had FIV and it was never a worry.
Audrey talked to me about how they are very careful to set up protocols for keeping the cats healthy. They could rush cats out of Isolation and risk a ringworm outbreak or worse, but they don’t. They do the right thing for each and every cat’s health and I was pleased to know that.
MHAA’s building sits on an idyllic parcel of land, shaded by trees. The building is empty of its furry tenants. The rooms are silent, save for the occasional sound of a worker hammering sheet rock into place or the muffled tones of the staff having another planning meeting, trying to keep things going until they can move back into their facility.
The hope was that move-in would be 8 weeks after the devastating fire, but that was 4 weeks ago. Now they’re aiming to re-open early next year. I truly believe that due to their supportive community and with cat lovers like all of you, we can help make this happen.
If you’d like to be part of MHAA's transformation, you can visit their PetCaring Fundraiser page or if you’d prefer to get some holiday shopping done AND help MHAA, they are Jackson Galaxy’s Shelter of the Month and for every item you purchase from ResQthreads Don't You Dare Shop T-Shirt, they will make a donation of $10.00. Use the code: JACKSON to get free shipping.
You can LIKE Mid Hudson Animal Aid's Facebook Page to get updates on their rebuilding progress.
The “Anniversary” approaches. We here in Sandy Hook, Connecticut don’t need more of a description than that. We know the anniversary referred to is of the horrific shooting that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December 14, 2012. It was a tragedy that wiped away the lives of 20 children and 8 adults.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the thousands of messages sent to help Newtown heal.
I realize some folks would have difficulty that I include the 2 people who caused this horror in my tally—the 1 who actually pulled the trigger and the other who arrogantly had an arsenal of guns in her suburban home combined with a son who she KNEW had mental illness and severe social issues. They died, too. The horror that occurred is unforgivable, but I gently suggest that after a year has passed, perhaps it’s time to include those people in our heartbreak and include them in our mourning as we struggle to move forward.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
What we have learned in twelve months is that people love our town. People who didn’t even know where Connecticut was, let alone Sandy Hook, sent us truckloads of letters and cards expressing their sentiments. These people are from all over the world, who just wanted to let us know how much they cared. They reached out to us and held us. They gave us gifts. They donated many millions of dollars to funds that go to the families of the fallen, that will help our town government run and more (GE “donated” 5 employees to our town to help our First Selectman with anything she needed).
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Love, the theme of so many messages of support.
As the sheath of heartbreak begins to fall away, what lies beneath that is what has been their all along-love; love that we may have previously held close, that we protected, fearful to express it. It was a love we may not have felt we had enough to share, but with the tragedy behind us, this love has grown bigger and grander and more open and fearless. It is more welcoming and accepting than any love we have ever known. It is because we don’t try to forget what happened, we use it as a reminder to cherish our fragile lives and the lives of everyone around us. It reminds us to not be afraid to reach out a hand and offer it to a stranger, not asking for anything in return, but having confidence that helping others helps us, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Our town is already bracing for an onslaught of media coverage. Pat Llodra, our First Selectman, asks them to stay away and let us grieve in peace. The local Catholic church has signs in their yard warning: “No Media Beyond this Point! Police Take Notice.” In some ways I agree with that request, but for one reason I disagree. I would like the media to come here and focus not on the pain, but on the ways we have been helping each other and to use the media to remind others to mark this sad day by doing at least one good thing for a stranger. The families of the fallen ask for 26 acts of kindness, 1 for each person who was killed, and they ask that everyone do these things for people in their own community. We don’t need more things here, we need more love and that love should be expressed by helping others, simple as that.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A Christmas card I came across. What a lovely message.
Last year my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, helped others the day after the shooting and it continued on for 5 months. We opened our home to anyone who needed us by creating what became an award-winning program called Kitties for Kids. Kids, parents, now-grown former students of Sandy Hook Elementary came to us. They played with our foster kittens. They petted our cat Nora’s big belly. The saddest of the children eventually smiled, even if it was a shy, tentative smile. It was the beginning of them finding their way back to the world from the darkness of a broken heart and we were honored to be part of that journey.
In a few days we will be re-opening our home. Kitties for Kids will begin again and for the next 2 weeks anyone who needs us will find open arms and new furry friends. Inasmuch as we know our community needs us, we need them, too. Hearing children giggle was an unexpected gift that gave us the fuel to continue to help others.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our town hall turned into the display area for all the cards and banners. There were too many to read each one. I've heard they photographed every single piece, but my mind boggles at the thought.
Although blazing gun control legislations weren’t passed in the last year and we learned we may never know why Lanza chose Sandy Hook Elementary to express his rage, the love that has blossomed out of the heartbreak is magical and we hope it will radiate throughout the world.
©2013 Maggie Russo. The lovely lady who keeps my hair looking great shared this photo with me. A stranger bought everyone at Salon Michele their morning coffee.
And may I humbly suggest that we don't stop there. Let’s continue to look for ways to help each other EVERY DAY and change the course of history, from one fueled by greed and selfishness to one of compassion and love.
The one and only Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, has a new WEEKLY web video series, called Cat Mojo that delivers cat-centric tips, stories and more. The series launches TODAY, Dec., 9, 2013 and is sure to become an instant hit. Jackson's teamed up with the Animalist network to bring you his new show which hints at sharing stories about more than just cats! Make sure you check out the trailer to give you a taste of what's to come.
Jackson is finally going to tell us what Cat Mojo really means. Watch his new series to find out!
You can check out the trailer here and make sure you subscribe so you don't miss an episode!
Can't wait? The first episode just aired! You can check out right here!
On December 14, 2012 my neighbor was murdered in her bed. Her son took off, armed to the hilt and for reasons we may never know, headed for our local elementary school and murdered some of the staff and 20 children.
From the moment I heard the news, I knew I had to do something to help my community. I didn't have much to offer, other than a house full of foster kittens, but what I take for granted, I knew other people might find unique. What I also knew is the healing power that resulted in spending time with kittens. Pet a kitten. Watch them play. You can't be sad when you're in a room full of kittens. The day after the tragedy, my program Kitties for Kids was born. A year later I can say that it was possibly the best thing I've ever done in my entire life.
I had no idea we'd get accolades from the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association or that I'd meet someone I look up to-U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who also awarded our program with a Special Certificate of Recognition. I just wanted to help my broken-hearted community and had no idea or expectation that anything would happen to me as a result of giving back.
Our program was extended into the spring of this year, then it faded away when our dear kitten Fred, grew ill and later died from the dry form of FIP. I didn't give Kitties for Kids much thought. I was too busy grieving. We didn't get requests for visits and I thought it was time to close the program.
This summer, I was surprised when Susan Logan, the Editor of Cat Fancy contacted me and asked me if I'd be interested in having them do a story about our program for their December 2013 issue. I didn't hesitate to offer to write the article myself, but in all fairness she said it would be better reporting if she sent someone to me to do the story. I agreed, though as a cat writer, I admit to being a bit frustrated to being so close to writing for a national publication I'd admired since I was a kid.
I met with Kellie Gormly, a cheerful, chatty, cat-lover early in April. We talked at great length about not only doing rescue work, but how the residents of Newtown were coping. I took her on a tour, showing her the Newtown Healing Arts Center where the arts were used to help the children express their feelings and where many donations of artwork were displayed from around the world. I showed her other areas that were about being positive and hopeful, instead of focusing on a tour of where grisly events unfolded. We paid respect to the little fire station near where Sandy Hook Elementary once stood. On its roof are 26 bronze stars, one for each of the victims in the school. It was a cold, bright day, not unlike the day of the shooting. I didn't want to be anywhere near this place and was glad to leave it behind.
Kellie got to work on the article while the design staff at Cat Fancy reviewed the photos I sent them and made their selections for what would make the issue. At the time I had no idea which photos were going to be used where, nor how long the piece was going to be. I hoped for at least a 2-page spread, but had no idea what they'd end up doing.
The article about Kitties for Kids starts on page 16!
My dear friend Ingrid King sent me an email with the subject saying something to the effect of: "OMG DID YOU SEE THIS??!” Ingrid had attached a scan of the article. Unbeknownst to me, Cat Fancy came out early to subscribers and Ingrid hadn't known Kitten Associates was going to be featured. I imagined her turning page after page, then seeing someone she recognized…there's ROBIN and Spencer!
To quote my mother, I think I “plotzed” when I saw the scan. There, on the very first page of the article was a photo of me with Spencer. It took up more than half the space. When I envisioned the photo being used, I assumed it might be a thumbnail-size near the end of the article. Oh no…it was me in all my glory. Holy moley. I wondered if this is what it's like to be a celebrity? I admit to feeling a mix of delight and horror. Yes, I need to be out there in the public so my rescue can get more help, but wowie it is a strange feeling to see yourself in a magazine you often read.
Here's a sneak peek of the December 2013 Issue of Cat Fancy. To get your own copy, visit Cat Fancy online.
The next day I had to bring some kittens to Dr. Larry's and the second I walked in the door, I ran over and grabbed their copy of Cat Fancy. I asked if I could do "show and tell" during my appointment and they looked at me like I was crazy (which they are also used to by now). I went into the exam room and looked at the article. It blew me away. Kellie did a great job and I loved the layout. It is 4 pages long and full of photos from our program. They even honored Fred's passing, which meant the world to me.
My parents died many years ago and this is one thing I wish they had lived to see. All the hard work, the tears, resulted in something wonderful for Kitten Associates. When Dr. Larry looked at the spread, his face lit up. He smiled. He was really impressed and proud of me. In that moment I realized how meaningful it is to get a reminder that you're doing the right thing. It gives me fuel to keep going when times get tough.
Kitties for Kids hasn't come to an end. After careful consideration, we have decided to do a special 2-week run of our program. It will start on December 14th, the first anniversary of the tragedy and will run until December 28th. Though we hope no one will feel the need for kitty play-therapy because their hearts are healing, we'll be ready in case we're needed. If you live in Newtown, CT and would like to book a play therapy session, just email us at info@kittenassociates. org and we'll fill you in on how to sign up.
In any big city as you walk down the street, you might come across a street performer playing music with an open guitar case next to him displaying a small collection of spare change scattered inside it. You might walk hurriedly past the person, feeling uncomfortable to connect with a stranger, or, if the music is just right, you may become his audience, if only for a few moments. Before you part, you fish out a few coins or notes to offer him for his time, leaving it behind in the case.
James Bowen’s International Bestseller; “A Street Cat Named Bob & How He Saved My Life” chronicles his life and the divine meeting of the self-described recovering heroin addict and “busker” (in the USA we would call him a street performer) and a very special orange tabby cat he later named, Bob.
You can’t read a book about someone else’s life without comparing it to your own. In reading Bowen’s words, I was caught up in challenges of his life lived on the streets, to transitional housing in London, which allowed him to continue treatment for his addiction. Where one night his fate would be forever changed by meeting an injured Tom cat who was sitting outside the door of an apartment in his building. In the same way the busy London crowds might ignore a busker, Bowen could have chosen to walk past the cat and not get involved.
In fact, during Bowen’s first weeks with Bob, he often gave the cat chances to leave since Bowen could barely afford to feed himself, let alone provide vet care for an injured cat. Where this story takes a surprising turn is that regardless of how much Bowen protests or questions what he's doing with this cat, the cat, however has clearly made up his mind about what he wants. This cat is like no other. Instead of being fearful, he saunters along with Bowen down crowded streets, even following Bowen onto a bus. He keeps Bowen company as Bowen plays guitar in a public garden, hoping to earn enough money to get to the next day. With his new furry partner at his side, crowds begin to form around the curious duo and the contents of the guitar case show surprising results .
Photo courtesy of James Bowen & Street Cat Bob's Facebook Page
A Street Cat Named Bob is a quick read, especially if you speed-read the scary parts where a few worriesome things happens to Bob and Bowen (I won’t spoil it here) and you can’t stand waiting to get to the part where you hope they’re okay again. I found myself rooting for the two of them to see what was becoming clear-that they belonged together.
While the prose is a bit awkward and those of us in the USA might need to translate some of the terms (like moggie=cat), it’s an honest telling of the story. Bowen, himself, is not from a polished private school background built around decades of studying literature. I wouldn't believe the story if it was better written and it would have lost some of its charm. His voice rings clear, even though he did have some help from writer Garry Jenkins to structure the tale just right.
I had the opportunity to ask James a few questions about how he’s doing now and how he feels about his book becoming an International Bestseller and this is what he had to say:____
Photo courtesy of James Bowen & Street Cat Bob's Facebook Page
Nothing…I tried in vain to get answers to a handful of questions. I spoke with Mr. Bowen's Publicist via email a number of times. After two months I've given up that any of my questions will ever be answered. Though I'm definitely not thrilled to share this news with you, it does not diminish what I think about Mr. Bowen's book.
Considering we're about to hit a holiday here in the USA where we should remember to be thankful, A Street Cat Named Bob is the sort of story that reminds us to be grateful for what we have when so many aren't as fortunate. As for Mr. Bowen, his life is changing in ways he never could have imagined and with Bob by his side the future is looking bright.
A Streetcat Named Bob is available for purchase HERE.
UPDATE: LEAVE A COMMENT TO WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY OF A Street
Cat Named Bob! Winner chosen at random 11/27/13 at 6PM EST. USA Residents only.
She lives in a bad part of town south of Atlanta, Georgia in an apartment complex where she and her daughter are in hiding from her abusive husband. I can't say her name or mention her town to keep her safe. She doesn't have two sticks to rub together. She doesn't have a car. She barely gets by on her own.
3 to 4 Month old gray kitten-FRIENDLY.
The one thing she does have is a love for cats and their well-being. Against the rules of the apartment complex where she lives, she takes on the stray cats that show up in endless numbers and tries to do right by them. Last week I found out that 3 more kittens, probably litter mates, had shown up and were living off dumpster food or scraps they could beg at the nearby McDonald's. It's no life for any cat, but this woman is trying to get help for them and is feeding them what she can until we can get a rescue involved.
I'm left scratching my head about what to do. I've got 22 cats in my house. More than half are rescues. I'm not getting adoption applications. I'm worried I won't find homes for the cats I already have.
I want to help this person, partially because I know she's risking her home by helping these cats. I want to help because I love cats too and will do as much as I can.
3 to 4 Month old medium-haired orange kitten-FRIENDLY, but a bit shy (just needs a bit of lovin').
We all see pleas for help every day so I know it's asking a lot. These cats face either being returned outside or given up to the local kill shelter where they will probably never get out. I'd like to give them a chance and I hope you'll help me simply by sharing this news with any of your cat loving friends-especially ones that do rescue in Georgia.
Let's Make a Deal
What I Will Do in Return
The cats weigh about 3 lbs, so it means they are about 3-4 months old (yes they look bigger in the photos). They are all friendly, though the orange one is a bit shy. They will need vetting, but I'm not asking for any rescue to pick up the tab.
3 to 4 Month old black and white kitten-FRIENDLY & GOOFY.
I will ask those fans to offer donations to your organization and look at your cats for adoption. There is a chance that these 3 cats will not cost you a dime and may help you place other cats, too.
Rub ma belleh.
If you're with a rescue and can take these kittens, please contact me, Robin Olson, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and please let your friends know about these kitties. This woman has given everything she has to save these cats from death. In her honor let's help these cats find a life.
All the kittens get along well with each other. Can you help us find them a rescue?
WARNING. THERE ARE GRAPHIC IMAGES OF ONE KITTEN'S EYE INFECTION BELOW. EACH IMAGE HAS A BLACK PANEL OVER IT SO NO ONE HAS TO SEE THE IMAGE IF THEY DON'T WANT TO. TO VIEW THE IMAGE WITHOUT THE PANEL, YOU HAVE TO CLICK ON THE PHOTO.
Shelter kittens get sick pretty much every time I bring them into foster care. There’s just no way to keep viruses out of shelters. I wish there was and I hope there are some shelters out there doing a great job of keeping their rescued cats healthy, but I expect that sooner or later (usually sooner) I’m going to see upper respiratory hit the kittens.
I had a nice break from sick kittens with Minnie’s family. They were born on a sidewalk and never saw the inside of a building until they entered foster care on their 4th day of life. They were treated for parasites, but I don’t think they had any. They had some loose stools, but that was about it.
I look back on some of our first foster cats—Polly Picklepuss, her sister Cara Melle and brother Chester Cheesetoes. Polly and Cara are STILL sick to this day (years later) from the wicked viral “thing” they got in a shelter. It’s a miracle they survived. Cara had about $5,000.00 of vetting to keep her alive, not to mention round-the-clock care for a few weeks that required I medicate her every 6 hours.
With the Clementine kittens, they got off transport with a few minor eye issues. I had been treating them with Neopolydex drops and thought that was the end of their care. A few days later, they had bad FVRCP vaccine reactions and one of them, almost overnight, broke out with very swollen conjunctiva (the tissue the lines the inside of the eyelid). The victim was Sherbert, one of the two male kittens. Bert looked terrible so I brought him back to the vet AGAIN. This was about the 7th Vet trip in the 3 weeks I’d had this litter of kittens.
Dr. Mary said she really wanted to treat him with Terramycin® ointment, but it’s no longer available. I asked why and she had no idea.
Dr. Mary gave me the option of trying a different eye drop to see if that would do the trick. I asked if there was any way at all to get the ointment and she said she had a connection that could get it compounded but it was very expensive and time consuming to get it.
I tried the new drops for a few days, but Bert’s eye got worse. I’ve never seen a cat’s eye look so monstrous. In fact, looking at it gave me the shivers it was so gross, but I HAD to overcome my squeamishness to help him. I was terrified he would lose his eye and I promised myself, arrogant or not, that there was no way in Hell he was going blind on my watch.
I took Bert back to Dr. Mary for a re-check and we decided to order the Terramycin, but it would take a few days to get it. I heard you could buy it online for $12 for 3 tubes. It was imported from Turkey. Yes, I realized it could be counterfeit and do nothing but I’d rather blow $12 and hope it works. I put rush shipping on the order because Bert’s eye was so swollen I thought it was going to pop. We started him on another eye drop in the meantime, hoping it might do the trick.
That night I went to check on the kittens and I saw something coming out between Bert’s swollen eyelids. I didn’t know WHAT it was but I was horrified at the sight. It looked like a piece of his third eyelid was protruding from between the eyelids. I carefully wiped at it with a gauze pad but it didn’t move. I didn’t want to pull at it because I feared it might be Bert’s eye, perhaps it had ruptured after all! I felt like I was going to be sick. It was almost 11 PM. I knew it meant taking Bert to the Emergency Vet, who would charge at least $125.00 to just examine Bert’s eye. I feared it was going to cost about $1000.00 when they were done with whatever they had to do, but I couldn’t wait until morning. The infection wasn’t responding to anything. I had to help this kitten.
I called the Emergency Vet and told them what was going on. The woman who answered the phone said they could get the Vet Ophthalmologist to come in if needed (and I’m guessing it would be out-of-this-world expensive to get someone out of their home late at night to tend to a sick kitten). There was a General Practitioner on duty in the meantime.
Sam and I rushed Bert to the Vet. They weren’t busy when we got there, but shortly after we arrived a woman came in with a dog. He must have been in more serious shape than Bert so they took the dog first. Sam and I were put into a waiting room. A tech came in and looked at Bert. She was pretty cold to us and didn’t say much about what she thought was going on and she didn’t tell us not to worry. She said to wait.
While we waited, Bert was fussing. I could tell he needed to go to the bathroom because he almost did it in the cat carrier. I asked the lady at the front desk to get me a litter pan and the second she brought it in Bert used it and took a big pee. Sam and I laughed. These kittens seem to constantly need a litter pan during their Vet visit. Our laughter was cut short when Bert returned to the tiny tray and took a very watery, smelly poop. There was NO air in the tiny waiting room and it quickly turned into a noxious death trap. I asked the receptionist to please take the tray away while I opened the door to the room a little to get some air flow.
Bert wanted to get OUT of the room, so we had to take turns either holding him or playing with him to keep him from taking off. The open door didn’t do much to help the stench so we sat there with our eyes watering, while Bert played with some toys I found in my bag.
The Vet examined Bert’s eye socket, searching for his eye under all the swollen tissue. He could barely see a tiny bit of Bert’s pupil. The swelling was so severe it was impossible to tell if Bert would ever see again.
Although there was nothing more we could do, at least I knew what I was looking at. I had to work on being able to get over being nauseated while treating Bert going forward. I was so angry that he could go blind that it made me get over my own fear and decide then and there that I was going to kick this infection in the ass if it was the last thing I ever did.
The next day the Terramycin arrived. I started it on Bert and hoped that the convincing little box from Turkey was going to make a difference. I made an appointment to bring Bert back to Dr. Mary in two days, which was when the compounded version of the ointment would be ready.
I’m not sure if the Turkish terramycin worked or not. Bert didn’t seem to improve after two days. I couldn’t risk it being Vasaline in a tube, so as soon as the compounded version of the medication was ready, I loaded Bert up with it.
Dr. Mary showed me how to rinse out his eye and clean out the gobs of pus. She wasn’t sure if his vision would be saved and my heart sank at her words. I took Bert home and gave him a kiss. I told him we’d fight it as hard as we could and that if he had to go blind in that eye, so be it. We’d still find him a great home when he was feeling well again.
Over the next few days the swelling in Bert’s eye went down a bit. I kept taking him to see Dr. Mary for re-checks because I wanted her to witness his progress in case it wasn’t going as well as it should. I was being very protective over my little ward and it was worth the extra vet costs to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
Bert’s siblings were contracting the conjunctivitis, too. Blossom, who’d been so sick the week before, got the infection in her left eye so we began treating her. Then little Mandarin got it. She hated being medicated and struggled and cried every time I treated her, but ANY sign of redness around the eye meant that kitten was getting medicated.
Every day, a few times a day, Sam and I went through the routine of cleaning the eyes, medicating the eyes, dolling out antibiotics and hoping to see some sign of improvement.
I kept thinking the swelling was going down on Bert’s eye, but I wasn’t certain. One morning as I entered the room to give the kittens their meds, I couldn’t figure out which kitten was Bert. Bert’s inflammation had improved to the point where his eye was open and I could SEE Bert’s eye!
We were due for another visit with Dr. Mary, but this time felt more like show and tell. I was so proud of myself. I was fairly sure Bert was going to be all right.
Now I could cry, but it would only be tears of relief and joy.
Next up…as Bert recovers the 5 remaining kittens get the infection. Will it EVER go away? What will it take? Will another kitten be at risk of losing her vision, too, or worse, will this horrible disease hit one of my own cats…hard.