Six weeks ago, I was moved by a plea to help save a Mama cat who was notorious for "hugging" her kittens. She was called, Huggy and she and her two offspring were slated to be euthanized in a few days if no one stepped forward to help her.
At first, I thought we had an interested family in Indiana, so I started to put together a plan to help transport the cats to them, but it fell through. The person in Indiana never stepped up or even let us know she had changed her mind. Already involved, I felt it would be wrong to throw my hands up, say I did my bit and walk away. I just couldn't.
Many of you know what happened next: with what seemed like endless emails, questions, fears and hope, between myself, Winging Cat Rescue, Kat5 and a handful of helpers, we were able to rescue this mama and her babies, along with quite a few others.
I never did this before. I never pulled a cat from a kill shelter close by, let alone from 1000 miles away. I know many people frown on doing this, especially if the cat isn't even purebred and there are so many that need help right here in Connecticut. She's just an average domestic short haired cat, but a life is a life and I was in too far to turn back. Huggy's life was no less precious or less worth saving than any other cat.
I was told Huggy was friendly, but really, how could I know? I had no idea how old this cat was and without a shelter, how was I ever going to find her a home once she got here? Who adopts adult cats? I feared I would have her until, at least, the end of the year or longer. Something inside me said, yes, I need to do this, no matter what it takes. I need to make it right for these animals.
When Huggy arrived, there were plenty of problems. First, she had evidence of having had fleas. She had bad ear mites. Her chin was full of feline acne from eating out of a plastic bowl. She was thin. Her coat was rough and yellowed. Her kittens were odd looking and not that friendly. She was in much worse condition than I expected.
Huggy, day one.
Huggy also became seriously ill with mastitis, then had to be separated from her boys for two weeks, given meds twice a day and lots of rest. It was very difficult, but she never complained. She was easy to pill, she ate her food right up. She loved to lay on my lap, then attack my leg, letting me know she was still young and wanted play time, too. Only 1 1/2 years old, Huggy has a lot of energy and more and more as each day passed and she got stronger and gained her weight back.
Feeling Huggy's boobs.
Huggy showing Snuggles the ropes (pardon the pun)
Two weeks ago, Huggy was adopted, but it wasn't until today, that I finally got the OK from the Vet to let her go to her family. It's about as close to a magical experience as I think I'll ever get; seeing so many changes in this once tired, mama cat. Her coat is soft and clean, her chin is almost completely healed, her ear mites and fleas are long gone and her mastitis has resolved. She gained 1.50 POUNDS since she got here. She's at ten pounds now.
This photo ran in The Newtown Bee, which was how Huggy's new family first found her.
Since she arrived, there hasn't been a day when being around Huggy wasn't a joy. She truly is a sweet, mellow, feisty, cute, loving, chatty lady. Her new family couldn't wait to come get her once I told them she was ready to go. She'll be living with a Mom and Dad, their son and daughter. She'll have a wonderful home and all the good food and love she'll ever need. Although part of me wants to cry at seeing her go, I am SO VERY HAPPY that we made it this far, so quickly, seemingly as though it was all meant to be, that I can only smile. I am so grateful for everyone's support, so lucky a great family came forward- understanding that adult cats have a hard time finding a home and so willing to give her AND her two boys a chance.
This is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Each and every home I find for each and every cat fills my heart to bursting. When people ask me how I do this? I can only answer, how can I not? It's worth all the effort by tenfold.
Sleep deprived, just back from the Feline Forum, no makeup, but a GREAT a kitty in my arms; here's me giving out the hugs. (Photo by Ryan Feminella)
Huggy. You beat so many odds that I don't think there ARE odds for how lucky you are. From death's door to the lap of luxury. It doesn't get any better than this.
It's time to say Good Bye, friend. (Photo by Ryan Feminella)
Hugging Dash good bye. She'll be seeing him and Snuggles again in a few days. (Photo by Ryan Feminella)
Huggy, with some members of her new family (used with permission).
Okay. I'm human, last I checked. It's 1:18AM on my body clock and I just got in to my hotel room. I'm dead tired.
Today was the last day of the conference that passed by all too quickly. I learned lots, met some very wonderful people and reignited my passion to ramp things up and do even more to help cats.
I need to review my notes, so I can better share with you some of the things I learned. Since I'm traveling (FLYING!!!) back home tomorrow, it will end up being a day or two before I get my thoughts organized.
What I can tell you straight away is that PetSmart Charities deserves a HUGE round of applause for all they did to put together this conference. Not only were the topics and speakers fresh (literally and figuratively), but the scheduling, getting 600 of us fed, caffeinated and kept comfy was miraculous. They did a fantastic job! The days passed quickly and I wish this conference had lasted a week. The only thing they were missing was we didn't get a list of who was attending the conference. That would have been fantastic. I hope they provide that next time.
Yes, next time! When is the next Feline Forum? I can't wait!!
It was tough to leave home and to leave Bob, Huggy and Gracie, since they're ALL on meds of one sort ot another. Sam assured me he'd look after everyone and truly Bob did seem much better after...cough...giving him that damn metacam!
Last night began the final countdown to having to fly. I told myself over and over that this will pass by quickly. The flight isn't that long, just over 2 hours. Even if there's turbulence, it's normal. We aren't going to spin out of control and smash into the ground...well probably not (not to jinx here!). I MUST do this. I must get over my fear so I can really get out there and meet people, have fun, have adventures! Isn't that what life is all about?
So I stuffed down another Xanax in the middle of the night, when I woke up feeling the panic tickle my gut. When I woke up at 8am, the tightness was there but no where near where I expected it to be. I went through the motions of most every day, feed the cats, scoop the poop, give the pills out, get showered and dressed. I focused on only having to be at our Director's house by 10:30 and nothing more. So what if I was bringing suitcases with me??! That's when I realized I needed to take the full Xanax. I could feel myself getting ready to flip out. Normally, I would have been in the bathroom 50 times, had the burning squirts, not eaten, then taken a fist full of immodium to shut my arsehole down so I could just make it to the airport without stopping 15 times (which I actually had to DO once and I missed the flight---big surprise there, right?)
I was 8 minutes late and our Director busted my balls! I think she was kidding, then I think she wasn't. I said goodbye to Sam. Funny we never say; "I love you" any more and of course since this was life or death, the "I love you's" came out in full force.
We made it to Westchester, a TINY airport with only one? gate? There's no jetway. You walk up steps to get on the planes! So cute! Our Director packed, like, ah, a pair of underwear and I needed to check my bag for which she gave me grief. Then I found out our other Director had to check HER bag, so off we went to check bags. There was NO way my suitcase was going to fit on the overhead of an Embarer? TINY-ASS plane.
Time was passing quickly and we got through the security checkpoint and basically got right onto the plane-the plane with about 40 seats. Two seats down one side, one seat down the other. I sat by myself, heart racing, but bunghole was quiet. I hit my head sitting down. I'm 5'5"! This plane was so SMALL, the Flight Attendant had to change where some people sat to keep the weight distribution even!!!!!!! Oh yeah, this is gonna be great.
To late to turn back. I put on my sound reducing headphones, even if i couldn't have my iPhone on with music just yet. I took a deep breath as we taxied. No waiting at a small airport and whooooosh...off we went!
Oh boy!!! I did NOT NOT NOT LIKE THIS!!!!!! I TOOK A DEEP BREATH and tried not to freak out. The Flight Attendant said we could put our many devices back on so I quickly turned my iPhone on, hit the iPod button and chose Beyonce who sang about "if you like it why didn't you put a ring on it," while I pretended to be one of the backup dancers. I tried to read "The Autobiography of a Fat Bride," by Laurie Notaro. She's awesome. Somehome between Laurie, the 1.5 Xanaxes? Xanai?, Beyonce singin' "oh oh oh"...I started to calm down.
There was some turbulence, more than a few times, but it wasn't bad.I told myself that I'm living my life. I'm not hiding. I'm doing it. Yes, I feel uncomfortable, but it will be over, we will land, I will be fine. I even paid enough attention to really read my book, instead of stare at the pages. I didn't sit with my feet firmly on the floor, fearful that if I moved them, the plane would crash! No. I rocked out. I looked out the window. I saw Lake Erie, then the hazy outline of Chicago another thirty minutes later. I was doing it. It was almost done. I even saw my friend, Trevor's condo! It's got vertical stripes on it and it's downtown. You can see it from Mars, I think.
We began our descent and I got happier and happier, the closer to the ground we got. Wow. What a thrill. I actually made it!
Next, a quick trip to the Marriott, which shockingly did not live up to the FANCY photos of the rooms as I had hoped. It's more in line with a...err...dump, but it seems that the other half we're not in is nice-hence our cheap room rate, I'm guessing. It's $13 / day to get online! What a rip! My room is damp, BUT I have a door to get to the courtyard and the pools. It's kind of nice though I'm on the first floor so I have to remember not to prance (have I ever pranced?) around nekkid!Oh yeah, and every so often a PLANE almost LANDS on the hotel it's flying so LOW. I may have to be on Xanax daily. No way I'm gonna forget about flying for a few days!
We had a quick bite in the "sports bar" at the hotel, which was greasy, had a gillion tv's all set to different channels and bad 1970's music playing. It was an A.D.D.-Sports-Freak-Heaven Needless to say, we didn't eat much and could not wait to leave. I'm seriously regretting I didn't get a rental car. There's little around here, other than a grocery store where I was lucky enough to pit stop so I could load up on crappy snacks to tide me over.
Before I knew it, it was time to head to the Registration desk for the Feline Forum! Check in took less than 30 seconds. These gals are on the job! The Grand Ballroom, where the mixer was held, was quite Grand, indeed, filled with veggies and cheese and fruit and a few hundred people! I started to wonder if you totaled it up, how many cats all the folks in this room had saved...then, of course...how many had died, too. Sorry, but you know how it goes..you can save lots and you have to put down lots...well, we don't! But...just sayin'.
So we made it. We were on time. Looks like a good group. Tomorrow classes start. I am ready to get some rest and kick it tomorrow. I met one of our CiCH friends tonight and that was very cool! Hope to make some new friends tomorrow and learn lots.
By the way, Bob is doing well today, I'm told. I think he's out of the woods after his fall. Dr Whitney called and said his Thyroid levels were NORMAL. WHOOhoo! ALT will be rechecked in two weeks. Otherwise it's all good.
Ooo! I just found the room service menu! Will write more tomorrow! Good night!
I gave Bob the Metacam. He seems a lot perkier all of a sudden. I'm supposed to give him 1/2 dose tomorrow and Friday, but I may NOT do that or might just have Sam give him one tomorrow. We'll see how he's doing. From all the tests and exams, it doesn't seem that Bob is in enough pain to put him on an Fentanyl patch. He still is eating and drinking, just not totally himself. If this continues on, then we take more steps. For now, he is doing well enough.
I'm going on my trip. Sam knows he better keep an eye on Bob. My Vet knows Sam may decide to board him for a day or two until the weekend. I need to make contacts with the outside world because it will help ALL of us if I can hook up with the right people. I need to learn more and I know I would be upset if I just had to hear about the conference and wish I had gone. I have my laptop ready and I can blog from my hotel as long as I have decent net access-which I would think should be relatively easy to come by considering we'll be in Chicago.
Regarding me taking Xanax. I have never taken it before, but I can tell from taking it, that I DO need it. It's helping me. I think I wouldn't even consider leaving here without it, I'd be such a wreck. That said, I have talked to my Dr. and done some reading. I only asked for a VERY short course. I got 10 pills of .50mg, which is tiny and I only take 1/2 of a pill. I read that you have to be on it for MONTHS before you start getting addicted to it. My goal is to take it until I get to Chicago, stop taking it, then take it the day before I go home and until I get back, then I'm done. I have no interest in taking medication. Being stressed out all the time is like breathing to me! :-)
So I bid you all adieu, good night, sweet dreams and with any luck, I'll be "Tweeting" from the airport and once I get to the Conference. Watch for updates here, too. I don't want you guys to miss out on any cool things I learn!
Love to all, Robin, your humble Hostess
I love Bob. I love him so much. Two days ago, when he fell over 16 feet off my deck and I had to wait while he was under observation at Dr. Larry's, it made me realize all to well, just how BAD it will be when it's Bob's time to pass on. Those two hours were long and lonely. Even with six other cats running around, the place feels empty without Bob. He's the ambassador! He must greet everyone who walks in the door. His purr is the craziest thing I've ever heard. It's loud, it's squeaky and it comes so easily to Bob. I always know when he's in trouble when he stops purring.
Although we had the good news that Bob's ultrasound was unremarkable and his ALT popped down, Bob's been down today. He's been sleeping under a table, which he never does. I cajoled him to come sit next to me on the floor, where I had a blanket and heating pad for him. He sat on it momentarily, but got up and went under a different table. He DID eat breakfast and lunch. He does purr. I know he must be sore, but I don't have anything I can give him for the pain.
I talked to Super Deb (who has gorgeous hair, by the way) and am waiting to hear back. It's so difficult to have Bob feeling down when I know in less than 24 hours I'm flying to Chicago. Sam will be here, but he'll be busy with work and not around. Deb suggested I just board him so they can watch him at my Vet's office. I don't want to stress Bob out, but I don't know that I can leave him alone most of the day tomorrow and Friday. I might opt to board Bob for two days and let Sam watch him on the weekend. If I was going away a week later, this would not be such a big deal.
Between severe fear of flying and worrying about Bob, it's sure easy to say I should just stay home and not go on my trip. BUT...it's to the Feline Forum! I would really love to meet Pam Johnson-Bennett. Her book, "How to Think Like a Cat" changed my life. It's because of her that I've been able to help a lot of people with their cat behavior problems. I don't know enough about correcting problematic cat behavior and I want to ask Pam how I can learn more without having to become a Vet to do so. Also, there are TONS of folks who live for and love cats that will be there. I'm even supposed to meet one of our CiCH members, too! How can I miss out on this because of my own stupid fear? Ugh. I wish I wasn't so scared of flying! I know I'm doing myself a huge disservice by not just living my life and enjoying every bit of it I have left.
This is why some wonderful researcher figured out Xanax Yesterday, my Nurse/Practioner gave me a short course to get me through the next few days. I've normally been the type to just cry, get the runs, throw up before flying, but now that I'm older, I would rather take the easy way out and self medicate. Heck, it's just for a few days. It seems to be helping, but I can also feel when it's wearing off-my gut begins to do summersaults again.
This is no big deal. It's a short flight from NY to Chicago. Famous last words.
Oh, Super Deb just called. I have to give Bob, Metacam. FU@K! If he goes into renal failure there is gonna be HELL TO PAY and I'm talkin' to YOU SUPER DEB and DR. LARRY! I'm talkin' to YOU!
I'll be updating my Blog from Chicago, so stay tuned!
During the long drive down to Norwalk, Bob was mostly quiet, save for a few weird gasps or sighs or something. I caught him panting so I ran the A/C and he seemed more comfortable.
We got to VREC in good time and Dr. Whitney met with us promptly. We reviewed Bob's history, talked about ALTs being high, looked at his x-rays and discussed the big fall. After that we got Bob out of the cat carrier for an exam. Bob was so well behaved! Dr. Whitney was immediately struck by how lovely and nice he is-of course! She put him on the floor to see how he was walking. No sign of trouble. She squeezed and squooshed him all over and he didn't budge.
Looking at Bob's blood test from yesterday and taking into account his history, she decided to be safe, and suggested we do an ultrasound to rule out damage to his liver, but if it was bad, we'd probably already have seen him acting sick. She re-ran some blood work to check his ALT again and also his Free T4 because his thyroid might make his liver act up.
While I waited for Bob's test to be run, a woman walked in with three Chinese Cresteds. What a crazy looking bunch!
Apparently, two of them will be featured in Oprah's magazine very soon! Watch for the clothes issue? Fashion issue? For people, not dogs! The owner of the dogs should have been in the magazine, too. She was very artfully attired, had wild "cat eye" glasses and a HUMUNGOUS emerald cut diamond ring! I was dying to know what she did for a living, but I get a bit shy some times!
Oh, if only I hadn't cropped her ring out of this shot! Boohoo! You would have LOVED seeing it!
Once the glare of the big diamond wore off, Dr. Whitney returned with Bob and gave me the update on his condition.
Seems Bob is only lucky so-and-so. His liver looked about the same as it did a year ago, stomach lining about the same. Not fantastic but not bad at all. Blood work showed his ALT DROPPED to 520 (from 731 yesterday). His thyroid test would be back later and she'd call me about that. Bottom line is Bob appears to be all right! NO METACAM for him, by the way, too. She is not big on using it and that was all it took for me to not give it to him. He is sore, but not so bad that he's hiding or crying, so we both agreed to continue to let him take it easy, keep an eye on him and just let him heal.
So for $1000.00 I have peace of mind and can go to Chicago on Thursday without worrying about Bob. I just took my very first Xanax and suddenly, I don't feel scared about flying! We'll see how I do. I hate flying so much...ugh...I get traumatized if I have to do it and I hate that. I want to be able to fly, so I don't miss everything, but I sure love to be home. Ahh...so safe here!
On to the next thing...oh God. I shouldn't have written that...Thank you ALL again for your inspiring and loving comments! You are ALL THE BEST! Bob sends his love and thanks, too!
I set Bob up with two heated cat beds and lots of soft bedding on the floor of the living room. That way he wouldn't be so tempted to jump onto the furniture to sleep. He seemed comfortable and went right over to the heated pad, even trying each one for a few minutes until he chose the one that worked the best!
As we watched the new season opener of House, I kept looking over at him. He would walk a few few and lay down. Nothing new. He rolled on his back and laid belly up very briefly. He does this, but usually lays there longer. He ate his dinner and got some extra snacks of pulled pork (no sauce) from me. He seemed to be doing all right.
I got up in the middle of the night and checked on him. He was laying on the cat bed in the middle of the sofa. Nora was sleeping to his right, Nicky, to his left. It seemed as though they were there to comfort him, since they certainly are his buddies; or that's how my bleary mind decided what it meant.
It's not even 8am, so not much more news than that. We're going to feed everyone soon. Hopefully Bob will be his usual hungry, yet picky, self. Bob's having an ultrasound at VREC, did I write about that yesterday? Sorry if I'm repeating myself...anyway it's at 1pm today.
We'll see how that goes...more news later today.
Dr. Larry didn't see anything that would cause concern on Bob's x-ray, but as you know, x-rays don't show everything. Bob's blood panel came back mostly just fine, but there was one serious value, that of his ALT or liver function. Bob's always had a high ALT, up to about 450 or so, when in the 20-100 is normal. Bob was on Denamarin for a long time, but when he was sick last year, I took him off it. Last May his ALT was down to 236, which we all considered to be good news. Today it was in the 700's!
I don't know if Bob's fall injured his liver or that his liver is in bad shape and it was just fate that we found out he was in trouble after his fall. Or, if Bob had a heart attack since ALT can raise from heart ailments, too.
Bob's already back on the Denamarin and to be extra careful, I'm taking Bob to VREC in Norwalk early tomorrow afternoon to get an ultrasound done of his liver. Going there means giving them my wallet, but so be it. I will do whatever it takes for Bob.
Bob's home. He ate well for me and then had a big drink of water. He's hanging out, watching what's going on. I wish he'd get on his fluffy bed and rest, but maybe it's good that he's alert.
Thursday I'm supposed to fly to Chicago to attend Petsmart Charities Feline Forum. I can't leave here knowing Bob's health is at risk. I hope to get some answers tomorrow and find out if it's OK for me to leave Bob for a few days. Sam will be here, but he tells me he'll be away from home for a long chunk of the day on Friday and he's busy with work. I'm really the hawk when it comes to keeping an eye on how the cats are doing.
By the way, we measured the distance Bob fell so I can tell the Vet tomorrow-16.6 feet. If he fell a few inches closer to the deck, he would have hit some large rocks. It made me sick to realize that. I just hope Bob will be all right. I'm scared to know what they'll find out tomorrow. I fear that this is the beginning of the end for him.
Many of you know that a few hours ago, my dear cat, Bob Dole, accidently slipped and fell about 15 feet off the deck, into some brambles and small rocks in the back yard. It all happened so quickly and so horribly. One second Bob was on the deck railing-which I HATE seeing him do, for obvious reasons. The next, he was gone.
I was making some lunch when I looked out and saw Bob drinking out of the bird bath. That water can be so dirty and filled with weird organisms that I quickly ran to the deck door to shoo Bob away from the water. He knows he's not supposed to do that. I didn't scream at him, but it was enough to startle him, which made him step back from the bird bath, slip, then, drop like a rock, off the deck. In that flash I saw the look on Bob's face-surprised and scared, while I simply screamed.
I ranl I ran down the stairs, into the basement. There's a room down there with a door to the back yard. I was barefoot, but I didn't care. I ran out, leaving the door slightly ajar in my haste, all the while being terrified of what I was going to see next-would I see Bob's lifeless body? I had no time to prepare myself. I burst out of the back door to catch a glimpse of Bob as he RAN around the back side of the house, up a big hill!
In a way I was glad to see him moving, but terrified that I would not be able to get him back home. He was very scared and just ran and ran!
I kept calling after him, begging him to come back, while my feet were feeling the ravages of all the rocks and thorny brush. Eventually, Bob took shelter under the smallest deck that's at ground level. I tried to cajole him into coming inside, but he sat there, frozen. I was afraid to startle him by trying to touch him, but I had no choice. I got down under the deck and pulled him out. He dug his claws into me, but I tried to be calm and get him into the house.
I got as far as the screen room that connects to the house and who do I see? Spencer. The little pouffball had squeezed through the opening in the door and got into the room. Had I gotten there one second later and he would have gotten outside, too. Then I realized, since I'd been chasing Bob for a good 10 minutes, that any number of cats could now be outside and I wouldn't know. I couldn't waste time looking for them. I had to get Bob some help, fast.
Poor Bob has a bloody lip!
Bob walked up the stairs on his own, great! I hobbled. Not so great. I called out to the cats. Shook the bag of dry food to get their attention and Bob came over, wanting to eat-another good sign. I put down a tiny bit of food for him while I washed my feet and tried to steady my nerves. I knew pretty soon I'd be a hurting unit, but for now all that mattered was Bob.
I was lucky today. I called my Vet and they could see us right away. I got Bob into the cat carrier, when I felt my back go out. I loaded him into the car, stiff with pain. I made it to the Clinic in good time. Not only that, but Dr. Larry was actually there! He normally has Monday's off. Also, Bob's best friend, Aunt Debbie (the super Vet Tech) was there! If I had to pick the two people I would want to look after Bob-they would be the ones.
While we waited to see Dr. Larry, I cried some more. I had called our Director sobbing about what to do and if I needed to get Bob somewhere that was open 24/7. I told her I couldn't account for 3 of the cats. She told me not to worry and was very calm when I couldn't be. She promised to help me find the cats when I got home, if I needed her. Then I started replaying the image of Bob falling off the deck. I felt so sick.
Bob was a good sport. He sat there and purred, just like he always does. He rested his head on my hand and laid down. I don't know if he was tired from the stressful experience or something worse. Dr. Larry came in and gave me a hug and proceeded to look at Bob. He was worried that Bob broke his jaw, a common injury after a big fall. Although his mouth was bloody, the jaw felt OKAY. Dr. Larry listened to Bob's heart and lungs and checked the function of each leg. Everything was all right, but that didn't mean Bob was out of the woods. Next, Bob would get a full body x-ray, they'd run a blood panel to make sure his organ function was all right and observe him for a few hours. I gave Bob a kiss and headed home to wait.
I'm in a lot of pain right now. I must have twisted my knee, thrown out my back and neck and have lots of cuts and scratches. I'm also terribly worried about Bob-that something will be missed, that this is the beginning of the end of his life. It wouldn't take much for him to have an internal injury and that is what I fear, because that is the toughest to detect. I don't even let Bob jump down from my own BED because I think it's too high off the floor. Bob is an old cat, but he IS a tough cookie, too.
When I got home, it took awhile, but I did manage to find ALL of my cats. Everyone was fine and looked at me like I was nuts. I suppose they are a better judge of my own character than I am.
I didn't expect I had the stamina to write all this down. I'm just wiped out. All I intended to say was a BIG THANK YOU to all the folks on Twitter, who have been so very kind to Bob and myself. Once I put out the word that Bob needed support, they rallied around us by including us in what they call, a "Pawcircle." They joined together to send their love and support to Bob when he needs it most.
I live a very quiet life. My parents are gone. I don't have lots of friends who live close by. When Bob fell, I had no one to catch me, too. I came home and went online and found that I was wrong. There were SO MANY good wishes for us that it's making me cry right now. I felt SO ALONE when this first happened and so scared. Your support and compassion is such a GREAT GIFT and means SO MUCH to me. I wish I could give all of you a big HUG and tell you to your faces how you not only helped Bob today, you helped me, too.
Thank you for doing for me, what I could not do for Bob today-catch him when he fell.
Yesterday Carolee, our Town's ACO, and I travelled to Hamden to attend Precious Cargo, a conference about animal transport. Held by the highly regarded, AWFCT, I expected to learn a lot since I've only worked on one transport so far.
The Quinnipiac School of Law, Grand Court Room, lived up to its' name. With cathedral ceilings, custom shaped windows and lots of stunning details in a variety of carved wood, it certainly felt like a place where something important was about to happen. The room was filled with participants. What surprised me was that there were a fair number of men in attendance. I expected lots of ladies wearing shirts festooned with cat or dog artwork or rescue group promotional t-shirts. I teased Carolee that she should have worn her uniform, which is basically a police offers' uniform and a special patch added. She was dressed in a cute outfit and wore pretty sandals, a far cry from the lumbering poly-blend she's usually trapped in.
Everyone was nicely attired and professional looking. I was even more impressed and felt maybe I should have spiffed up even more than I did.
If I was a proper reporter, instead of a blogger/author, I'd tell you about each and every panelist and go on and on in great detail, until you passed out or just skipped to the end where I talk about what I learned.
The thing is, although most of the panelists had a great deal of experience and background in their particular fields; law, Massachusetts transport laws, as well as a woman from a dog rescue who uses transports and the owner of a transport company, they didn't talk much about cats. In fact a few folks had to bring up the question of "what about CATS?" One of the panelists referred to them as the "C" word, which I found highly offensive. Another basically said that there's no real reason to import cats since you can get what you want here and transporting "short haired plain jane" cats was a waste of resources. Tell that to Huggy, Dash, Snuggles, Angel, Pumpkin, Spyder and so many more!
Here's my "plain jane" boring cat that didn't deserve to be saved because she was from out of state.
We were even asked to PROMISE not to fight with each other or be rude because apparently this is a very volatile subject. There are folks that think it's wrong to go out of state because those special breed/cute dogs (forget cats because they don't count) prevent families from adopting pit bulls. Yes, this came up and and great length-which has nothing to do with transporting or laws. A lot of people were stating that their shelter might only have pitties in their building but if that was all they had, through education, they could place these dogs in homes, but if there was competition from labs or what have you, then the pits were put down. This is a topic for another conference, not what we are talking about. It was supposed to be about laws, health and safety issues.
There was a lot of discussion about law. The problem is it was discussions about the laws in MA and their possible effect in CT and laws that could have been passed in CT, but didn't make it through the last session. What is to be learned from laws that didn't happen? What is to be learned about the big law change in MA? That it will force some bad folks to try to sell dogs in CT for $25 w/out proper health certs. This could have been an email to all of us as something to watch out for, not part of a conference.
I'm really sorry to say this, but because there was so much talk about laws that aren't going to happen or have happened in other states, my eyes began to roll into the back of my head.
Kyle Peterson, who runs P.E.T.S. was very professional and helpful. I met one of his competitors who also spoke very highly of his reputation. I spoke with Kyle about doing cat transports and he was very courteous and interested. Heck, it's more business for him and he has a separate section of his trailers just for cats! Finally, at least I found someone who is willing to work with us and give us a good rate.
I also talked to a few other people and honestly, that was the best part of the conference for me; meeting the attendees. They were bright, smart, compassionate, funny folks who all wanted to make things right. They stated some facts that the dog imports weren't causing a problem with adoptions and, in fact, were helping. One shelter stated that because they had a more interesting selection of animals, word got out and folks not only adopted those imported dogs, but senior dogs, special needs dogs and pitties. When they stopped doing transports, their adoption numbers declined.
Carolee's statement gets displayed on the board. They cut out the part that made the ACO on the panel look bad because she said that you can't transfer dogs from one town to another, but that's false. You CAN transport them if you do the proper paperwork, but no one wants to bother.
But what OF cats? Yes, there are TONS of cats in CT. I should help every single one of them and not help cats out of state. The problem is that we can only safely handle cats up to about 5 months of age and that's it. After that they can become a serious burden to our home foster network. If that's the case and that's what people want-if they are set on finding a kitten, as so many adopters are, and it's winter here and we don't HAVE kittens, but in the south they still have an overpopulation problem, then why don't I save a few of them?
Sure, I've gotten some folks, a very few, to adopt adults, but I've also seen people with children, most often, adamant that they have a young cat or kitten. Some have told me they've looked and looked all over the state for their ideal kitten and if no shelter has it, they will wait. It does make me feel a bit sleezy. I haven't sorted my thoughts out on this completely, but geez...if I have room in my house and it's winter and I don't have local fosters who need my help, then I'm going to look elsewhere. I can help another 30 or so kittens find a home until we get busy again. I've also got two potential foster homes who will also work with me this winter. We just need to make sure we don't break the bank and the cats are healthy before they get here
That was my biggest disappointment yesterday-there wasn't much said about how to maintain health of animals in transport. I was hoping this was more about "how to" than the law. Huggy came to me with bad ear mites and flea dirt. There is no reason that should have happened. Tonight I saw a tiny bald spot on her head. She's been here for three weeks. Does she have ringworm??? If so, I am screwed because she is well out of quarantine. She's due to see the Vet tomorrow to check on how her mastitis is resolving so I'll have her checked for ringworm, too.
I'm struggling to find what is the "right" thing to do for all these cats in need. I know I can do more than just throw money at the problem. I dove in, head first and some times I'm barely treading water and other times I'm just swimming along, fine. This IS difficult, emotional work, but the rewards are beyond my expectations.
Perhaps that should have been one of the key points yesterday? If you know that pulling some animals from "down south" allows that shelter to focus on other things, such as a good spay/neuter program, instead of throwing animals into a gas chamber, then isn't that, in the long run, more helpful than just staying in Connecticut? How rewarding is that to ALL of us, if we help each other out and eventually find some balance? Is that what we're doing here? Maybe so.