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The Never-Ending Rescue: Pistachio. Part 2 of 2.

What the Hell was I going to do? I used to depend on Sam. He helped out when the kittens needed a claw trim (my close-up vision sucks) or he’d hold a kitten so I can give them medication. I needed to de-worm Pistachio again, but Pistachio was fussing around and wouldn’t hold still.

I was too proud to ask for help and even though I went slowly, right after I gave the liquid de-wormer, Pistachio coughed furiously.

I feared the meds went into his lungs which can cause aspiration pneumonia. When it happened the next night, too, I got very scared I screwed up big time.

I took Pistachio to the vet the next day. The kittens were due for their first FVRCP vaccination anyway. I forgot to mention the coughing when Pistachio was examined, but Dr. Larry didn’t hear anything troubling during the exam. It didn’t help that the kitten was purring so loud it interfered with what he could hear. Because I didn’t say anything about the cough, he didn’t know to listen extra carefully.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. One of over 2 dozen trips to the vet. Here Pistachio is being examined by Dr. Mary.

Over the weekend, late at night, Pistachio would cough, a wet cough, not unlike a hairball type cough, but there was something off about it. I called Saturday morning and talked with one of the vet techs. She said if it got worse to come in but that maybe I was over-thinking it. I agreed. Lack of sleep, maybe giving it another day, since Pistachio was bright and running around, would be okay.

By Monday I was sure there was something terribly wrong and thank goodness I went back to have Pistachio checked. On x-ray you could see his lungs looked terrible. If it was aspiration pneumonia, Pistachio could DIE. No joke. Maybe I just killed one of the cutest kittens I’ve ever fostered.

Artistic Cutie R Olson for FB
©2018 Robin AF Olson.

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I was to give Pistachio antibiotics because, as Dr. Larry told me, the bacteria in his mouth was pushed into his lungs, if, indeed I forced the de-wormer liquid into his lungs. It made sense, but I didn’t want to give him the medication because I knew it would throw off his gut bacteria.

I’ve been learning about homeopathy and I’ve seen some amazing things happen for my cat, Spencer, but I didn’t know what to do for Pistachio so I followed Dr. Larry’s advice.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Feel better!

The next day Pistachio didn’t cough that I know of. He seemed to be doing really well, though his appetite was worse than ever. He’d never been a great eater, which is very unlike kittens, who will usually eat anything and everything. Something didn’t add up. I just couldn’t figure it out. I know I’d seen kittens get a cough after being de-wormed. The dead parasites can cause a mild allergic reaction that effects the lungs. I’d seen it a few times but it always went away after a few days. Pistachio was skinny. I could feel his ribs. His wormy belly was gone, but he wasn’t chunking up.

©2018 Robin AF Olson.

It was very difficult to stay strong and keep Pistachio’s symptoms tracked I was so stressed out. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t write. Words failed me. One night I saw Sam sitting in the living room typing onto his laptop. Facebook was open. I could see he was talking to someone in Messenger. It was late at night. Who was he talking to? I NEVER EVER SNOOP. I’m not that kind of person, but he was saying a lot to whoever it was. He got up and walked into another room. I tiptoed over to his laptop, but I couldn’t tell who he was talking to because I had the wrong glasses on. All I know is he saw me looking and he quickly walked over and closed the laptop, then walked back into the kitchen. That’s when I felt the gut-punch of fear well up inside me. Was Sam cheating on me? Would he really do that? For over a decade we’d lived together and I never worried about him having something going on with another woman, but now this? I understood. We’d been under tremendous stress for too long. No fun. No laughter. Lots of hardship. Why wouldn’t he look for love somewhere else? Why wouldn’t I? I couldn’t ask him about it, but I could let the fear fester inside my gut and add to my sinking depression.

I returned to my self-imposed jail, the foster room, and tried to read a book as I sat there trying not to throw up. I didn’t want to be on social media, but I wanted to look at Sam’s posts. Maybe there was a clue there, but I stopped myself. Instead, I made a list about how we would separate the cats. Which ones Sam would get. Which ones we’d have to re-home (yes, re-home). How I would live if I cashed out whatever I have left, sell the house in its poor condition and move. I couldn’t live in an apartment because they’d restrict me from having more than a cat or two. I’d have to buy something, but what? Where would I live? Where could I move where it’s affordable? How would I make a living?

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Off to the vet again.

I realized if Sam and I broke up for good I’d have to shut Kitten Associates down, at least for a year or two, or maybe forever if I couldn’t get back on my feet.

I tried to be positive. Maybe it was time to realize a dream I’ve had for over a decade. I’ve wanted to move to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia since I visited there in 2004. I looked up what it would take to get citizenship in Canada and I’m A) too old, B) don’t have any skill set they need, C) don’t have a $600,000 (at least) business to bring into the country. I think I could live there, just not as a citizen, but I’d have to keep residency here in the USA, right? How could I do that?

I was hit with a crippling sense of failure. I'd waited too long to try to move. Add that realization to depression, well, it wasn't a good mix. I started to have very dark thoughts about maybe I didn't even want to live any more.

My father took his life. I know what suicide does to the surviving family and friends. When my mother was still alive, I had to promise her I wouldn't follow in my father's footsteps. She knew of my struggles. We made a plan. If I ever went into the dark place I could call her. Then my next goal was to get to my next breath-that was it.

I knew if I could just hang tight, I'd feel different in time, but without the support of my mother, I didn't know how I was going to manage to be strong enough to keep going. I had to find some grain of faith and trust that I really didn't want to die. I just wanted the pain to stop. I could find another way.

I started looking around for things to sell. I have a lot of items from my parents estate that I don’t want and that they didn’t care much about. Nothing is particularly valuable but if I sold it all off it might help with a few bills and paying bills would help me feel better. I have an old jewelry box of my mother’s. Inside it I found my father’s wedding ring. He took it off after he had an accident fixing the garage door and spilt his fingers open. It was when we lived in Ohio back in the 1960s. He never put the ring back on after that, though my parents stayed married the rest of their lives. But now the unworn ring gave me a clue about the truth of their relationship.

A few months ago I found out my brother is only my half-brother, that my mother had had an affair with a lawyer just a few years into my parent’s marriage. Maybe my dad found out some time around the accident and that’s why he never wore the ring again. For his sake, I hope he never knew the truth.

It made me sad to see the ring, I missed my daddy so much. I would never sell it, but oh to have one of my parents around to confide in during this time would have been a great relief. My mother’s been gone for over ten years and my dad, nearly twenty.

I put my daddy’s ring on and inside the next small box I found a necklace he gave my mom. It’s a jade heart surrounded by tiny pearls. I love this piece and won’t part with it. On the back it’s inscribed to my mother and dated Feb 14, 1959. 59 years later I held it in my hands. It just happened to be Valentine’s Day 2018. I put the necklace on. It fit perfectly. Through the pieces of jewelry I could feel both my parents with me. I hoped that they were out there somewhere helping me find my way out of a very dark place. I felt so alone. It was unbearable.

I went downstairs and found two Valentines cards from Sam on the kitchen counter. I was shocked. I figured this would be a Valentine’s Day with no celebration. I was too scared to open them, but once I did I was sickened, because one card basically said he wished me happiness and peace. In so many words, goodbye, then he added, I don’t wish you anything bad. In the other card he made a comment about the artwork on the cover; heart-shaped sushi. We went out for sushi the first time we met 25 years ago. It was the first time I ever had it and I loved it.

Inside that card were tickets to a comedy show he knew I wanted to go to. I felt totally messed up and distraught. What was going on? Why wouldn’t he talk to me but yet here was this offering. Was it a goodbye gesture or something else? By then I didn’t have the confidence to imagine it was anything good, so I slunk back into my room and sat with the kittens.

Later that night I went into the master bathroom to brush my teeth. Sam was in bed reading, not looking up at me. I was so sad and broken. I don’t know how I worked up the nerve, but I slipped into the bed next to him. He was startled, silent. I lifted his arm and got under it. Even if he loved someone else, maybe he still had a little bit of love left for me? He didn’t say a word. He put his book down. He didn’t adjust his position. He didn’t hold me any closer. He stretched out and turned the light off. Neither of us spoke. We barely moved. I didn’t know if he wanted me there or was too stunned to do anything. I squeezed his hand. He didn’t squeeze back. I laid there quietly for a few minutes. We were like two corpses, we were so still. The only sign of life was our breath. I didn’t know how long to wait or what to do next. I felt resigned to my fate. After a few minutes I got up and quietly went back to the foster room to sleep. He didn’t stop me. He didn’t come after me. He let me go. It’s amazing how much can be communicated without words and how much it hurts.

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A few days passed. More tension. Continuing inertia on my part. I couldn’t take the stress any more, but I also feared if I said anything to Sam we’d have a knock-down (not literally), drag-out fight. I just didn’t feel like I could do that and I was too down in the dumps to even try. I went out to dinner with some of my cat-rescue lady friends, but it did little to cheer me. I didn’t want to get into a bitch-fest complaining about Sam. I just wanted to go back to my ratty bed in the foster room.

And I was worried about the kittens, yes the kittenS. Cassie started coughing. That meant two things, one: I DIDN’T GIVE PISTACHIO ASPIRATION PNEUMONIA because that’s not contagious and two: whatever was going on they BOTH HAD IT. Was it viral or due to their common health issues regarding parasites? Mia was in the room, too and she seemed unaffected.

I couldn’t keep ignoring my problems. I had to get back on my feet. I had to talk to Sam, so without any agenda, I sat down next to him and started to talk. Thankfully after all the weeks of not talking we’d both calmed down enough to have the start of a conversation. We didn’t fight at all, but we expressed some of what we were feeling. We acknowledged we have a long way to go, if we go together. We need to make a lot of changes but we weren’t going to try to solve it all in one sitting or say everything that needed to be said all at once, too, but at least some of the pressure dissipated.

I asked him about if he’d stepped out on me. I looked him in the eye when I asked. He said no. Nothing was going on. He was surprised I asked him that, but I told him I had my reasons. Yes, I understand people lie to each other, but I had a choice. I chose to let it go. If there was something going on or still is, it will come out eventually. Since Sam never left home much during the past few weeks and even before that, he couldn’t be hooking up with someone nearby. It would have to be via online, or it was nothing. Part of me was too beat up emotionally to fight about that, but the other part still wasn’t 100 percent certain I wanted to fight for him at all.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Late one night we get silly.

Pistachio was doing all right, other than a rare cough, but still wasn't eating well. Cassie hadn’t coughed again since the first time days ago. I thought they were getting better, but without warning, Pistachio started up again. The kittens were a bit quieter than usual, not playing or eating well. To make things worse, Dr. Larry go the Flu and wasn’t in the office for most of the week while I was getting suspicious about the kitten’s health.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Catshew finally learns she can relax around me.

Yesterday I took them both in to see Dr. Larry. The night before they’d been quiet and had actually eaten a meal. I thought maybe I was nuts, the stress of the past month, severe lack of sleep had gotten to me, but I wasn’t wrong.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Pistachio's x-rays.

Dr. Larry took x-rays of Pistachio’s lungs. They were no better than two weeks ago when we last did the rads. He told me if Pistachio was an adult he’d think it was cancer. It did not look like asthma, but perhaps it was P.I.E. (Pulmonary Infiltrates of Eosinophils). Yet another disease I’ve never heard of before. I swear all my cats have weird things wrong with them that my Vet rarely sees. IF that’s what it is, it basically means a severe allergic reaction to some sort of parasite. The problem is it may be a CHRONIC problem, not a curable one.

Dr. Larry asked me if we could x-ray Cassie. I had no reason to believe she was in trouble. I almost said no, but I was glad I agreed.

Her lungs are as bad as Pistachio’s. I almost fainted when I heard the news. What the Hell was going on with the kittens? How would we find out what was wrong?

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Cassie's x-rays.

We decided to do a PCR test on Cassie’s saliva since she had never gotten antibiotics, which would ruin the test results. Dr. Larry said it would rule in or out “some bad things,” (which it ended up doing) but this time didn’t go into detail and I didn’t ask, which is completely unlike me. The tests, the x-rays, the over 10 vet visits have taken a toll on us…and Pistachio’s testicles haven’t dropped. This is called, Cryptorchid.

It’s either one testicle doesn't drop or both sides don't drop, and in his case, it’s both sides which, again, is very rare. This can also be very painful and cause a lot of problems. It complicates his neutering because it turns it into exploratory surgery unless we do an ultrasound first.

It also means Pistachio can’t go anywhere-be adopted-for another two months. If at 6-months of age he still doesn’t have his little nuggets, then we have to do the procedure and surgery and we might as well wait to re-test him for FIV while we’re at it (we did re-test and he was found to be negative for FIV).

It was a real kick in the teeth. So many people want to adopt Pistachio and now no one can. I don’t know when or if the kittens will be able to find their forever homes. First, I have to find a way to get them healthy if it’s possible, and right now I have more questions than I have answers.

If there’s something to be learned it’s to follow your gut with your pet’s health. Even though Pistachio’s cough isn’t every day, it sounds terrible. He still plays and purrs, but his lungs tell another story. He and Cassie have come a very long way in the weeks they’ve been with us and I’m determined to find an answer for them.

As for me, it’s one day at a time. At least my words are back and I have so many more stories to tell.

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August 2018

It was February when I wrote about Pistachio and Catshew, but as the year dragged on, things got worse for me and Sam, for the kittens, too. Spencer just turned 17, which was the highlight of the past few months. Somehow he’s still with us. I haven’t done chemo, just homeopathy and good food. It was a very difficult decision to not give him chemo, but now I feel more comfortable with my choice. Hearing him purr and having him gain back weight he'd lost last year has given me hope he may be with us a bit longer.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Spencer & Freya curl up together. I'm so grateful Spencer is still with us.

But Pistachio. My God. For MONTHS he coughed. MONTHS. I tried homeopathy with both kittens for about 6 weeks and their lungs got about 40% better. I was tracking every meal, if they ate, if they coughed, I timed Pistachio's coughs since he was much more severely effected, even if it was 3 AM. I wrote what kind of cough (foamy or dry-harsh, etc) into the notes app on my phone.

I finally had to give up on homeopathy (which I found out later is fine to do. You don’t have to do all homeopathy or all “traditional” treatments. You can do a bit of both, but that sort of fine-tuning is not something I'm comfortable with yet.)

Meanwhile, Pistchio’s testicles didn’t drop. He frequently goes in and out of the litter pan, but doesn’t always pass urine. I got an ultrasound done to find his testicles and they only saw one. It was pressing on his bladder. The longer we waited to do surgery, the more uncomfortable he would become, but you can’t sedate a cat and do surgery on a cat who has lousy lung function.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Guess where they're going? Ugh!

We tried antibiotics. Nothing worked. I asked about lungworm, but was told it was too unlikely and his symptoms would be different. We did more tests and talked about doing a trans-trachael lavage (basically they sedate the cat, infuse his lungs with a small amount of sterile saline, then remove the fluid and test it to get answers about what the coughing was from). The problem, not only was cost, but THE CAT CAN’T BREATHE very well! Is this wise to sedate him? Okay, it would be a “twilight” sort of sedation since they needed him to cough as part of the procedure, but it was still risky.

I took Pistachio to see a specialist. We talked about lungworm again. We decided to do a Baermann fecal test. It’s $200. It’s also VERY TOUGH to do because they require a FRESH stool sample..I mean like “right out of the pipe” stool sample. If I didn’t see Pistachio pass the stool, it would be too old. Also, I needed to get the sample on Tuesday-Saturday between 8AM and 6PM. Really? That meant ideally I should be in the foster room ALL THE TIME. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I have to work!!!

It took a few weeks, but I finally lucked out and got a sample. Guess what?

LUNGWORM POSITIVE.

Lungworms are rare here in the northeast, but common in cats in the south. It meant he had to have come into contact with a secondary host somehow. I read it can be from a slug or drinking out of a puddle a slug passed through, but in the winter? Or something else was the culprit because it could be transmitted through him eating another prey animal. Whatever it was, clearly both he and his sister had been infected because they both had a terrible cough.

The treatment was a de-wormer! No biggie. We’d do it for 2 weeks. You can bet I did not miss one dose of that de-wormer!

At last, Pistachio and Catshew stopped coughing so often. Cassie was fine very quickly so I was able to get her spayed. I opted to have it done with Dr Larry just in case her lungs were an issue, but it was very expensive. Pistachio still had a lingering cough now and then, but I could finally get it set up to have him neutered.

It was July. I’d been trying to find a cure for SEVEN MONTHS.

The first week of August we set the date for his neuter. The neuter is really exploratory surgery to find both of Pistachio’s nuts. Dr. Larry said we had to repeat the ultrasound, which dashed my hopes at not having to spend yet another $500 on more tests. I’d taken him to our vet over 20 times and spent over $4000 on his care to date. His surgery was going to be about $750. Normally it’s less than $100 to neuter a cat. His care was breaking the bank.

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Still coughing.

The day arrived for his surgery. I couldn’t wait. For months I’d been suffering from the stench in the foster room. His urine smelled VERY STRONG-a mix of ammonia and male-cat-stank since he still had working hormones. I couldn’t do much to clear the smell out of the room and I was trying to sleep there each night. Yeah, good luck with that. A few weeks after surgery his hormone level should drop and the smell would go away. I could finally put Pistachio and his sister up for adoption.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. At least Pistachio can get some rest.

Around 6AM Pistachio started coughing again. I had to cancel the surgery. It was too risky. I didn’t know if the de-wormer had failed or if something else was going on. The next time we could do the ultrasound and the surgery was a MONTH later (August 31). I was devastated.

This cat was uncomfortable. The smell was terrible and he continued to cough from time to time. I contacted our specialist and she said we should repeat the Baermann test before trying any surgery. Here we go again…

Meanwhile, Pistachio was growing up. The sweet little kitten got “stud tail!” It’s when an intact male has overactive hormones that create an overabundance of oil in the sebaceous glands. The base of his tail got greasy and it could get full of blackheads and become infected, so back to the vet I went with a new bottle of specialized shampoo for his tail. Pistachio was so fearful he hid under a towel on the exam table.

He no longer trusts me to come near him because of all the vet visits. It breaks my heart more than I can describe to lose his trust. I love this kitten so much, but I have to get him healthy and that means taking him for car trips to the vet whether he likes it or not

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Growing up fast. Pistachio's tail floofed, while the rest of his coat is silky and smooth.

We didn’t wash his tail. It can actually make it worse and because we plan on doing the neuter I HOPE, it’s a temporary problem (and he didn’t have an infection).

He’s a man-cat now, too. I’ve NEVER seen this before because we ALWAYS spay and neuter our kittens at a reasonable time. I would never wait 9 months to neuter a cat unless he had health issues, as Pistachio has, but now, my little guy has a BIG JOWLY HEAD (often called “Apple-head” here in the northeast or “Biscuit-head” down south). He probably weighs 10 pounds. We used to be so close. He loved to sleep on my chest and now he whines if I come near him.

I hope that in a few weeks, after his surgery, he’ll feel better and want to be close again. I don’t know if anyone will want to adopt him and his sister since they’re no longer kittens, but I can’t keep him as much as I would like to.

I’ve spent most of this year helping a cat I thought I’d have adopted out so long ago. It was supposed to be a quick rescue, not one that broke the bank, my heart and my back. I don’t regret rescuing Pistachio and Cassie. I know they would probably be dead if I hadn’t fought so hard to find out what was ailing them, but now I really need help for the final hurdle.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. One and a half 'staches.

Thanks to our friend Chris, she will match up to $1000 in donations. We need them BADLY. This year has been the toughest on us. Donations are at about 1/10 of what we normally can raise. We just took in a mom and 5 kittens and we still have Daphne and 2 of her 4 kittens to find homes for. Chanel, who came from a hoarder, is still with us too. It’s been a tough year in so many ways, but I can’t provide for the rescue cats we have without support.

Our goal is to raise $1000 to earn the matching $1000. It won’t even come close to getting us out of the hole, but it will make Pistachio’s surgery possible. If we raise more, then it will go to any and all of the other cats in our care. Ideally, we need to a lot more to cover everyone (at least $900 to do the spay/neuter surgery for Matilda and her kittens). It’s very hard to have to ask for help, but we really need it.

Here’s how you can help:

DONATE

Give a gift of any amount over $1 to Pistachio using our PayPal.me link (you don't have to have a PayPal Account to give a gift) HERE.

Quick shortcuts to donate a specific amount :

To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5

To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10

To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25

VENMO https://venmo.com/KittenAssociates

To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/

Please note: We choose not to use fundraising web sites because they charge a fee on top of the fee PayPal charges us so we get less of a donation. Some of the fundraising sites also take a LONG time to relinquish the funds and we do not have the luxury to wait. If we reach our goal I let you know so that we can close the fundraiser.

If you wish to write a check, Please make out your gift to: Kitten Associates and send it to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354 and add a note that it’s "For Pistachio."

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692.

Please think good thoughts for Pistachio and for me, too. I made a promise to this kitten a long time ago-that one day we would be friends. I kept that promise to the best of my ability, but I can’t help but feel I have failed him, and that doesn’t sit right with me at all.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. So adorable, yet so very sick.

Sam and I have waxed and waned in our ability to get along. Sometimes I’m sure the heart-connection we have is gone and other times it feels unbreakable. We almost lost the house a few weeks ago, but a family member stepped up and helped us with a temporary loan. Our path has been rocky for so long. I'm praying we find a way to overcome these issues and find a way to take a break to recover from the stress we’re under. We’ve got to be able to buy groceries without being scared the lights will be shut off while we’re at the store. I feel like I’m in a pit of despair that I can’t get out of, but I keep trying.

I do it for the cats. I do it because they need me. I do it because I can’t fail and lose everything.

The Never-Ending Rescue: Pistachio. Part 1 of 2.

Prologue

Every time I take on a rescue-cat I always get to a point where I realize this cat or kitten came into my life for a reason. Maybe I’m just looking to make sense of it, to connect random events, or maybe there’s something cosmic going on that I’m responding to. I’ll probably never know for certain why, all I know is that it’s starting to add up with our latest rescues.

It’s been over a month [guess what…it’s been 6 months now] since I wrote what follows. A lot has happened, not all of it bright or cheery, but the puzzle pieces are fitting together. I know that these kittens needed to be here. If they had been given away, it’s very unlikely they would have gotten the care they needed. It’s not to say those people are unkind, just not as experienced caring for kittens. As often is the case, what seemed to be a straightforward rescue has turned into a complicated, expensive journey to get two kittens on the right track.

January

A text message appeared on my iPhone. “Help needed for a kitten…can you take it?” I get these requests for cats of all ages, all the time. Dozens a day. I refer some, hope-for-the-best for others, network a few, take on ones that will fit into my foster home network when funds allow. It happens so often it becomes a blur of endless anxiety, frustration, and heartbreak for me.

“I’m really tired. I’m on a break…first time in 7 years. Was going to take the winter off from fostering.” was my reply.

This is where I thought the story would end. My soul felt empty from the ravages of years of acute stress without the chance to have a day off, to feel peace again. My cat Spencer has lymphoma. I need to focus my attention on him, not another kitten who needs de-worming and 100 trips to the vet…who might have a contagious virus that will sicken my cats.

Karen, a lady I’ve known for years, works with the place where I get my old car fixed. We’ve talked cats many times. Her husband owns a business where there’s lots of heavy machinery and concrete forms. They have a small feral cat colony and from time to time they rescue the cats and find them homes. This time they couldn’t find a place for the kitten they just found and wanted me to take it.

She sent me a photo. The kitten was black and white, dirty, probably feral, probably full of fleas and mites and worms. I explained I just couldn’t do it. Later that day she told me she found a home for the kitten, but if I wanted to stop by the next morning, I could see him. She said she was already eating solid food and had eaten 3 cans she was so hungry.

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First glimpse of the little kitten. I was so tired (probably had compassion fatigue) that I didn't even notice how cute it was.

I felt like she could have told me anything about this kitten and I wouldn’t have cared. I don’t know why I agreed to stop by. I guess I felt guilty. I worried that if the kitten wasn’t going to a rescue, that at least I should make sure it gets de-wormed and make sure it was in good enough shape to go to a home. Why I put a cat carrier in my car before I left the house is beyond me. I just had a feeling I better do it in case there was more going on than I was lead to understand.

I heard the kitten before I saw her. She was crying, backed into the corner of a small dog crate that was placed on the floor in Karen’s office. Karen explained they had bathed her a few times, but you could still smell the odor from burnt engine oil coming off her. Her fur was caked and spikey. She was hunkered down, terrified. That’s when I learned she was found under the hood of a big truck, on the block heater of a diesel engine. Too scared to move, one of the employees grabbed the kitten. It had been so cold outside that the only source of warmth anywhere was under the hoods of the trucks since they were plugged in when not in use to keep the engine fluids warm so they’d start each morning.

I asked her to take the kitten out of the crate. She really stank. Her belly was so big I could barely see her legs. She shuffled over to a stack of papers and pressed herself against some file folders. Her pupils were huge. She was definitely feral and I said as much to Karen.

Pistachio at NCC
©2018 Robin AF Olson. Filthy, stinky, adorable.

She was skin and bones under all that swelling. She might have other health issues. Her eyes were watering, then she sneezed. I asked about the person who was going to adopt the kitten and was told they had a cat and dog, but that was about it. I asked if they were going to make sure the kitten got spayed and I didn’t get a firm answer.

I looked at the pitiful fur-blob and told Karen that I thought I should take the kitten. My inner voice was yelling at me at the time, but my heart won out. I knew what this kitten needed would be too much for someone who doesn’t work with kittens to deal with. That the kitten would probably turn into one of those kittens who always hides under the sofa because it didn’t get socialized properly. I worried that it wouldn’t get the vet care it needed. As a rescuer, it was against everything I do to leave this kitten’s future up to fate.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Oh yes, I AM the cutest kitten, ever.

I carefully inserted a syringe of de-worming medicine into the kitten’s mouth, then quickly turned her upside down and looked between her back legs. She was a HE. Karen was sure it was a girl, probably because the kitten has a very girlie looking face, if that makes any sense. I saw little nubs, no question in my book of it being a "him", but the next question was…

Oh shit. Now what do I do? Karen agreed it made sense for me to take the kitten and perhaps he could be adopted later by this lady once the vetting was all done.

I called my vet. They could see us right away. I packed up the kitten into my oh-so-conveniently-ready-cat-carrier. As I placed the carrier onto the front seat of my car I said to the kitten; “You don’t know this, but we’re going to be good friends one day. I promise I will take good care of you. Don’t worry.” The kitten replied by crying all the way to the vet.

I had ten minutes to come up with a name for the kitten. He has a little black moustache just under his nose so I named him Pistachio.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. A very filthy boy.

A winter storm was due later that day and I had planned to go to the store and grab some supplies, instead of rescue a kitten. My vet had to examine Pistachio between other appointments so I went to the store while they took care of him.

The store was crowded and it took a long time to get everything on my list. So long that I’d forgotten about the kitten when my phone rang. It was Dr. Mary.

She told me the exam went well, but Pistachio looked like he was coming down with an upper respiratory tract infection. They were going to give me antibiotics, but I wasn’t sure I was going to give them to the kitten because they estimated he was about six to eight weeks old and weighed just 1 lb, 9 oz. I knew some of that was fluid build-up from parasites and I didn’t want to harm his immune system right away. As I was thinking about what sorts of digestive support I could give him, Dr. Mary’s normally cheerful tone, dropped a bit.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. After the bath, a forlorn Pistachio.

“It looks like Mr. Pistachio is positive for FIV.”

My heart sank, but then Dr. Mary reminded me that due to his age, it could be a false positive and that we’d re-test in a few weeks. Although I knew it would make finding this kitten a home a lot harder, I also knew FIV wasn’t contagious as long as he didn’t end up being aggressive with the other cats.

“One day at a time. One step at a time.” I thought to myself.

I couldn’t freak out now. I had a long way to go with this kitten. Next thing was to get him home. Get him clean and get him a place to live. I hadn’t worked with a feral kitten for years. I’m not exactly the most patient person. Ugh…what have I done? What if I make it worse and I fail at socializing him?

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I got Pistachio home and set up a medium-sized dog crate where he’d be staying until I felt he was socialized enough to let him have free reign of the infamous blue bathroom, the smaller of my two foster rooms.

I was lucky. Even though he’d never been handled much before I got him, Pistachio was willing to put up with my awkward attentions. I did a few things wrong, like cover his crate. I should have put his crate in the living room so he’d get used to the sights and sounds of us and the other cats, but I was worried about spreading illness and stressing him out. Thing is, that’s what would have worked better to start.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Sizing me up.

I remembered using a baby spoon at the end of a long stick. 1. Put chicken baby food on the spoon (warmed up food of course), 2. offer it to scared kitten, 3. encourage kitten to come forward after a taste of food, 4. repeat as necessary.

OR

Do what I did which was get frustrated, then just pick the kitten up, stick him on a towel in my lap with a plate of food, and have him eat while sitting on my lap. He was not too happy about it, but he wasn’t hissing or growling at all. He was just scared.

I kept him hungry and only fed him off my fingers or in my lap. He had a very bad load of roundworms come out of him (both ends) and it caused his rectum to bleed and get swollen. We went back and forth to the vet about 5 times that first week.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Roundworms. Lots of them.

I bathed him over and over again, trying to do it quickly, but also trying to get at the deeply embedded grease that was on his chest and back. He was a good sport, but still looked like Tribble; all fluff and no shape. He was a sorry mess.

The tip of his tail was hairless and frostbitten. It later fell off (Dr. Mary said it was OK and we didn't have to do anything since it was a clean break).

But then I found the thing, the one thing he loved more than food, he loved to be brushed.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Sam brushes 'stache into a blissful state.

A few days after taking him on I got a purr as I brushed his winter-thickened fur. I knew then we’d be okay. I encouraged him to play and that helped him forget to be afraid. It only took a little over a week to get him where I felt it was all right to put the crate away and let him have some freedom. The poor kitten was alone, though, so I made myself a nest of blankets alongside the washer and dryer. It was the only place I could stretch out other than inside the bathtub. Each night I stayed with Pistachio and we watched Netflix on my old iPad after I fed him and played with him. I tried to sleep but I had no chance of success. I was terrified of crushing him in my sleep or if I did fall asleep he would stick his wet nose into my ear, startling me awake. He’d pounce on my face if the nose-in-the-ear thing didn’t work.

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Our first week together.

My new schedule was to join him around 11 PM, then stay ‘til about 3 or 4 AM. It was difficult to get in and out of the tiny space with the blankets in the way. My back was so stiff I could barely stand to fold up the blankets so I could open the door to get out and to get into my real bed. I was worried Pistachio would have behavior problems being alone so much, so I stayed with him as often as I could.

Meanwhile I’d been hearing there were possibly two other kittens related to Pistachio who were on the property that needed to be trapped. In for a dime, in for a dollar…except that I don’t trap, nor do I have a trap.

I asked on social media for help and I lucked out when one of my best buddies said she’d come help. Katherine runs Animals in Distress. We help each other out from time to time and she is a terrific trapper. I told her I’d get all our snacks and cat food for trapping if she brought the traps. She squawked: “This isn’t brunch. We have work to do!”

Hey, if I’m going to freeze my ass off waiting to trap a kitten or two, I might as well have some good snacks and tea so I ignored Katherine, as usual, and loaded up on treats.

It was about 20° F that bright Sunday morning. I had the key to the gate so we could enter the property where the cats had been seen. We set traps, drizzled stinky food all over the lot, but it was so cold the food froze in a few minutes.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Find the feral kittens here! Good luck with that.

Katherine stood by one of the trucks where Pistachio had been found and began to meow. It was so realistic a cat replied to her! There WAS a cat under the hood of the truck. The problem was…how to get it out? How to get it into a trap? The hood opened towards us, not away. It was about 8 feet high and no way to reach the hood to open it anyway. Katherine continued to meow, but the cat wouldn’t come out.

We had to keep going back into my car to thaw out after only a few minutes it was so bitter cold. I kept thinking about the kittens trying to live in this environment. All over the lot were huge concrete forms. There was no way they’d stay warm inside any of them. We didn’t see any signs of life. It was so different from my experience just the year before in Waterbury where everywhere you looked there were cats.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Inside the engine where Pistachio was found.

I didn’t want to think that failure was an option, but we had to give up. We were there for six hours. Katherine was great, offering to come back the next weekend when it was supposed to be warmer. In my heart, I wished we didn’t have to wait that long, but we needed the lot to be quiet and reduce the danger of trucks coming in and out of the lot. I’d also made contact with the caretaker of a second feral colony nearby. She’d given me a lot of information that made me wonder if our kittens were even on the lot at all, but somewhere else.

A Week Later

This time I got fried chicken as a trap bait. I’d heard that Kentucky Fried Chicken was the best, but it was too early in the morning and they weren’t open yet. I opted to hit Stew Leonard’s, a huge local grocery chain, on the way to the trapping location and got fried chicken there. Okay, I got mini-chocolate croissants, too (for us).

The temps were in the 40's and there was freshly fallen snow on the ground. Katherine and I scanned the lot, looking for paw prints and found quite a few. We made a plan to drop bits of chicken near the tracks, hoping we’d stir up some activity. Crows saw the food and started cawing loudly. I put out some dry food to encourage them to come closer. I figured if they put out the call there was food, the kittens would hear it, too.

Katherine and I sat in my car once again, thankfully not shivering as we stuffed mini croissants into our mouths and gulped down hot tea as we waited. An hour or so ticked by, then, in the distance I saw her. It was an adult cat, followed by a tiny kitten!

We were about 50 feet away, too far to see detail, but there was Pistachio’s sibling. I hoped to see a third kitten, but we didn’t see one. They were not near any of the traps. They were just eating the morsels we’d left on the ground. Katherine said that mom was probably trap savvy, which meant the odds just took a nose dive that we’d get any kittens.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Poppy and her little kitten, soon to be our Catshew.

The cats vanished soon after we saw them, but their image burned into my soul. I couldn’t just sit there and know they needed us and no do anything. We decided to move the traps further into the lot, closer to where the second colony was located.

As we crossed the lot, I saw the kitten again. I called to Katherine, but I didn’t want to yell. She couldn’t hear me clearly and started crabbing at me (as we always do to each other). I was trying to get her to head left towards a small concrete form. I was on the right. We could have cornered the kitten.

I walked as fast as I could, pointing and motioning to Katherine but she was carrying a trap and didn’t know what I was doing. I got within a few feet of the kitten but there was a huge mound of snow covered dirt in my way. I clambered up the side and the kitten dashed left, but before she did she, she waited a beat and looked me straight in the eyes, daring me to make a move. She turned quickly, then vanished. I was so upset I started to cry. I was ready to pounce on this kitten, get bitten or scratched, just to get her into my coat and off to safe harbor but she was gone. Then I saw her mom run across the street. I called out to her not to go and silently prayed she wouldn’t get hit by a car. Thankfully the road isn’t a busy one and she made it safely across.

I told Katherine what happened. We were both bummed out. We decided to set the traps where we were because to me some of the area looked like good hiding spots for the cats. There were more concrete forms but grasses had grown around them and it looked like a good cubby hole was along the base of one form. There was nothing more we could do other than go back and sit in the car and wait.

We’d waited a few hours, checked the traps, then decided to go meet the caretaker of the other colony since she was coming to feed her guys soon. We thought we might get some good intel on what was going on, but I didn’t expect what I saw next.

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Listen carefully!

Turns out our guys were also part of her colony. She had named every cat. When she called out to them most of them showed up. There were half a dozen cats or so. I gave them some of the chicken and some of the other food I had. The cats were either black or black and white, similar to Pistachio but short haired. The caretaker told us that the kitten’s mom was named Poppy and that she’d had Poppy spayed a month ago and had to quickly return her because the vet said she was still nursing. I don’t know how she managed that or how the kittens survived without their mom for a time, but they did. As the caretaker talked about Poppy, a delicate little tuxedo ran over to the feeding station. It was Poppy. I wondered if mom was here, maybe the kittens were nearby, too. The caretaker said that mom would bring her the kittens when she was ready and she’d never seen any kitten this winter. Poppy ate, then took off. We decided to go check the traps and head home, thinking we’d have to come back again as soon as we could, but also grateful to know that most of the cats had been TNR’d already and had a loving caretaker looking out for them.

I drove us across the lot and parked behind a small hill in case the kittens were nearby. We got out of my car and walked over to the traps and then I saw one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

There was a kitten inside one of the traps, frantically trying to get out. A few feet away, sitting on a concrete block, was Poppy. She was sitting very still, statuelike, while her kitten cried out for her as she banged her tiny body into the wire bands of the trap. I called to Katherine that we’d gotten a kitten and we both ran over to the trap feeling a mixture of elation and misery. I called out to Poppy as she turned away and ran back towards the colony across the street. I told her I was sorry. Katherine said the same thing to the fleeing cat. I called out to Poppy saying we’d take care of her baby. I said I was so so sorry again and again. I didn’t want to break up this little family. The image of the little kitten flashed in my memory, her tail curled up high, chasing fearlessly after her mama just a few hours ago and now that was over, forever. How could I do that to this poor creature?

 

©2018 Robin AF Olson. Heartbreak and joy and wrapped up in a big knot of guilt. Our first look at Cassie.

It was twilight so I turned my iPhone light onto the trap. The kitten’s nose was bloody from struggling to get free. She was quite small and short-haired. I took off my coat and put it over the trap. I made her the same promise I made her brother. She’d be ok one day and one day I hoped we’d be friends, but for the moment a familiar thought came to mind: what the Hell am I doing? What mess have I gotten myself into now?

Katherine and I hugged, finally feeling like we got the job done. We’d heard there might not have been a third kitten, but everyone knew to contact us if there was. In the weeks since we did the trapping no other kittens have been seen. I fear that the others just didn’t make it, but I’m glad, at least, we got these two. Now Pistachio will have company once his sister was socialized enough to be reunited with him.

IF she gets socialized…

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Girls! Why are they so difficult? It seems male kittens usually socialize fairly fast if they’re young, but the girls, fuggetaboutit! I named the kitten Catshew (Cassie). She didn’t have her brother’s big wormy-filled belly. She wasn’t covered in grease. She was petite, had her brother’s silly ‘stache markings (though she only has a half-stache), but none of his long fur. Her tail was very crooked at the tip like a waded up ball of paper. I thought perhaps it was from a birth defect but later found out it was broken and already set. She wasn’t in pain so it was okay to leave it be.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. We love you even if you hate us.

She hated my guts; hissing and withdrawing any time I got near her. At least she wasn’t striking me. Clearly she was fearful, but I didn’t think she was going to bite me. Once again I did the wrong thing, putting her in the foster room with Mia. Her crate was partially covered, I thought to help her de-stress, but I found out later I should have kept the cover off.

I approached Cassie slowly, tried a few tricks like baby food on a long-handled spoon, but she wouldn’t go for it. I knew if I kept her hungry she’d have to come to me sooner or later and lick food off my fingers if nothing else. It was very slow going.

Someone suggested I wrap her in a towel and hold her on my lap for at least 30 minutes, petting her and touching her gently so she’d get used to me so I did that. She froze up, whined, shivered. I felt terrible and lost about what to do.

Then Pam came to visit.

Pam’s cat, Frida, was the reason for me deciding to help Pistachio and his sister. I’d learned about Frida on Instagram. She was a tattered, dirty, freshly-trapped, rescued and quickly adopted. She looked like Hell, but was also completely captivating. I fell in love with her sweet demeanor and gentle nature as I watched all her videos and waited for her next photo to appear on Pam's page. Frida had been living a rough life on the streets. She had an injury to her face. She needed a lot of TLC. Pam had seen her photo and offered to adopt her right away, not concerned that Frida might have a lot of health issues or behavior issues. She just wanted to give Frida the life she deserved.

Pam was doing everything she could to help her recover, but in barely two weeks after her rescue, it was discovered that Frida’s swollen cheek was not due to an abscess (infection), but to cancer that had ravaged her jaw and was going into her brain. There was nothing that could be done other than to humanely euthanize the sweet girl.

Frida

I never met Frida, but there was something about her that made my heart break when I learned she died. It was the day I was asked to help Pistachio. The next morning I decided to funnel my grief into helping this kitten, to honor Frida. I had no idea my simple gesture would turn into something much bigger.

You see, I contacted Pam and told her about Pistachio and how sorry I was about Frida, that she would live on by another life saved. Then she posted about what I did and the news took off. I was contacted by another gal who said she adopted a cat because of what I did, to honor Frida, too. Then more people stepped up, either naming a newly rescued cat Frida or rescuing more cats in honor of this special girl.

Pam got so fired up she decided to use social media, as I have done for over a decade, to help cats get out of kill shelters and get rescued. She started a new IG page TeamFridaFries and has been highlighting the tough to rescue cats who need a helping paw. In just a few weeks Pam has already started saving lives all over the country, to honor the cat she loved so dearly.

…And Pam had a crush on Pistachio, so I invited her to come and meet him.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Pistachio, meet Pam. Pam, meet Pistachio!

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What I often notice is when someone comes over to adopt a cat that the cat has a say, too, and some times it’s clear the cat doesn’t want that person to adopt them. That was the case with Pam and Pistachio. He just didn’t want her to hold him or pet him. It was so odd. I felt terrible because perhaps I’d been with him too much and I needed to have other people visit with him. Pam was a good sport about it and frankly it was way too early for anyone to adopt Pistachio anyway. I asked Pam if she would like to meet Cassie and of course she said yes.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Pam + Catshew = 4Ever.

That’s when I saw a love-match. Pam didn’t hesitate to purrito Cassie, then hold and kiss her, while she Cassie whined and fussed. The little kitten was confused about what this human was doing to her. Pam lit up. Her energy changed. Cassie settled down and all I could think was “PLEASE TAKE CASSIE!”

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Kitten purrito.

Pam offered to foster Cassie and I said YES right away, but I had to get Cassie to the vet and get her vaccination done before it was safe for her to be near any of Pam’s other cats. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great and Cassie never got to visit Aunt Pam, but just seeing her with Cassie gave me the inspiration to keep trying to socialize her.

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I kept at it. I got some good advice from a few rescue friends. They said to put Cassie’s crate into the living room with no cover on it. Get her desensitized to life around humans. The second I did that she perked up, happy to see other cats. She still growled and whined every time I went near her, but she would allow me to pet her, always keeping one or both ears flattened down, not sure she trusted me yet.

Meanwhile I was going back and forth to the vet with Pistachio. His rear end was in bad shape from the parasite load. Then he tested positive for coccidia, too. I worried my cats would get it, but I read that they can become immune to it as adults. The last thing I needed was 10 cats to have diarrhea!

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Poor Pistachio. You've just got to get better!

Pistachio was becoming aggressive with me since he had no outlet to interact with other cats. I knew he needed, what I call, Kitten Bootcamp. He needed to be with other cats who would let him know he was biting too hard or being too rough, and that meant he had to be vetted enough so that it was safe to put him into the big foster room with Mia. If Cassie would turn around I could put her into the room, too, but it seemed like it was going to take months for her to be stable enough to move.

When the time came to give it a try, I realized Pistachio and Cassie had been apart for too long. Cassie was very aggressive the few moments she’d seen her brother. I decided to do site swapping so they could learn each other’s scent, while staying safe. I let them have time together, but only while I was in the room because Pistachio was so rough with his sister. It took a few weeks, but I finally got Cassie to purr and I finally felt that it was safe for both kittens to move into the foster room together.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Reunion.

What I couldn’t know was that I was going to be moving into the big foster room, too. Sam and I had not been getting along for months and things finally came to a head during the time I trapped Cassie. We stopped talking, eating together, being anywhere near each other. We figured out how to do this horrible passive-aggressive “dance” while we shared the same living space.

If I was in the kitchen, Sam would wait a few feet away until I left before he’d enter the room. At first I was so angry and fed up I didn’t care, but as the days wore on with no changes, I got hit with a depression that was one of the worst of my life. I tried to make a home for myself within the four walls of the foster room, but living with hyperactive kittens running around, who were fighting half the night, trying to sleep on an old hard mattress with a lone spring that poked my hip when I tried to sleep, was robbing me from getting any peace, any rest, any relief.

Things go from better to worse...will Pistachio EVER get BETTER? ...oh, then Catshew gets sick, too. Find out the good, the bad and the ugly next...

Staying Strong for Gracie. Part 5. Dare to Dream.

(Continued from Parts 1, 2 and 3 and 4)

The Veterinary Cancer Center is enormous, clean, elegant with a sophisticated interior design. It’s the biggest facility of its kind in the country. We're so lucky to live nearby. The staff is impeccably dressed, smart, capable. You clearly get what you pay for because you can feel that this is “the place” to be if your pet is sick. It was nearly 3pm, the time of our appointment. The door opened and I looked up. There was Katherine, standing in the doorway with a silly smirk on her face.

I went over to her and gave her a big hug. It had been months since we’d last seen each other. She and Sam said their hellos, then she bent down and met Gracie, who looked up at her and meowed softly. Having a friend there helped me forget to be scared. We made jokes, as we often do when we’re worried or having a bad time. She agreed that Gracie didn’t look “that bad” but we all knew how cats can hide illness. At that point I’d take any positive news. Did I dare hope for any more?

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Interior of VCC.

The Tech came to escort us into Exam Room 3 so we bid Katherine farewell with a promise to update her as soon as we had news. The last time we’d been in that exam room was with Fred. I didn’t want to think about that again.

The Tech got Gracie’s history, even though they had copies of her records. I told them my thoughts that Gracie getting so sick right after her dental told me that the dental had something to do with it. She’d been given FOUR different antibiotics before and after her procedure. We’d done it because she lost her appetite and we thought the meds were the culprit, not the possibility that the meds were destroying her liver because it was full of cysts. It couldn’t handle the load from the sedation, pain-killers, antibiotics and appetite stimulants she’d been given. To me it added up to be cysts, not cancer, but I was just a mom worried about her cat and cysts weren’t something cats died from so that’s what I hoped it would be.

A vcc with gracie
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Waiting to see Dr. Post.

Dr. Post entered the room with a second Vet at his side. Clearly she was observing while he did his thing. Dr. Post examined Gracie and spoke with us about her history. He nodded his head as he listened. When I told him about how the Vet would not do the transfusion he made the most sour-puss expression I’ve ever seen. He was far too refined to say the Vet was a jerk, but you could tell that Gracie SHOULD have been transfused. He said it WOULD have helped her and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t done.

Before my blood could boil he moved on, saying that he wrote the paper on something called biliarycystadenoma, so he knows them well. That he felt aside from the fluid in her abdomen, that she was presenting as cystic, not a cat with cancer.
Depending on the cysts they usually did surgery to remove them, but if they were too diffuse they wouldn’t. He couldn’t be 100% certain just now, but wanted to do a quick check of Gracie’s hematocrit to see if she was still seriously anemic, then devise a plan after that.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Hello, Gracie!

So Gracie might REALLY REALLY REALLY NOT have CANCER. The 10% chance it was cysts just became more like 90%.

Sam and I looked at each other and smiled, too stunned to say a word. I gave the okay to do the test. We were told to wait in the lobby and they’d be with us shortly. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

We waited.

Dr. Post came out with his posse. He greeted us warmly and said that Gracie’s hematocrit was up to 20. I threw my arms up and yelled YES! Dr. Post was taken aback by my outburst, but I was thrilled. In three days Gracie’s body was producing enough blood cells to stave off the anemia. She still had a way to go to be normal but this was a VERY GOOD SIGN. Dr. Post asked us to come back in two weeks. We’d do another CBC and re-evaluate her then. Did we have a diagnosis? No, but we were getting closer.

All I knew was, Gracie was alive and Gracie was probably going to live another two weeks.

In the past four days I’d had four Vets tell me that Gracie either needed to be put down or that she wasn’t going to be with us much longer and to prepare. We could have gone that route and let her go, but we stayed strong. We looked into our cat’s vivid green eyes and we asked her what she wanted. She was critically ill, near death, but she was still Gracie. The flame of life still flickered in her eyes. It took a toll on my health to see her through this, but for the first time in weeks I finally had hope again and this time I could imagine the possibility of better days to come.

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Nine Days Later

The knot in my gut is gone, but I admit I’m on episode 87 of Frasier to keep myself calm. I started working again and getting my life back on track. Though we’ve had some downs, Gracie has mostly been on the up and up. She still sleeps in one small area of the living room on the big oriental rug, but she’s getting on her feet more and more, even meeting me at the door one day, meowing at me to be fed.

Sleeping on mama
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My darling, Gracie.

Her appetite is not 100% but she’s eating as long as we keep her on her daily meds of Prednisilone and Zofran. She’s purring, grooming herself, using her litter pan, meowing complaints (as she used to do). Yesterday she trotted into the kitchen, tail held high. She carefully jumped onto the bench, then up onto the kitchen table. It was the first jump she’d made in two weeks.

This morning Gracie was very perky. She had her breakfast, then walked over to the sofa where Sam and I were sitting. She looked like she wanted to jump up so I carefully lifted her, placing her next to me. She tried to make herself comfortable by putting her front paws on my leg, half sitting on me and half on the sofa. In her 12 years with me she was never brave enough to sit on my lap. I eased a blanket over my bare legs, then gently lifted her, placing her on my chest. She laid down and rested her head on my chest. She only weighs a little over 8 pounds. I could feel the heat begin to expand between our bodies as Gracie relaxed. I put my head back on the sofa and closed my eyes. In that moment everything I ever dreamed of for Gracie was happening. She was comfortable. She was happy. She was safe.

She was alive.

Chloe, After.

Each rescue story begins with hope and fear. There’s hope that this cat you’ve taken into your care will thrive, perhaps grow, perhaps blossom into something better than the poor creature who arrived at your door. There’s fear that they won’t do well, that you chose the wrong cat to save. It has behavior issues that will tax your every nerve. It’s older than you expected-so old you’re not sure you’ll ever find it a home. The cat has underlying health issues that will bankrupt you or worse-that will mean the cat has used up most of its nine lives and now it’s in your hands to make the choice to take its last one.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe last March (inset) and last week. Though still big, you can see definition in her face and her coat is lighter and healthier.

Six months ago, my journey with Chloe began. It was her “before,” the baseline for what would later come to pass. She was aggressive, fearful and severely overweight. Her guardian wanted her dead, even though he reported to me that she was very friendly with him. He said his caretaker was allergic to her, but not his other cat—that he was worried that if Chloe bit his caretaker, he’d get sued. This 10-year old cat had to die.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe much more relaxed than that last time I'd seen her.

You may know that I stepped in to change the course of this cat’s life. Chloe’s been in long-term foster care for six months, instead of being euthanized. Her guardian angel, Angi, has been working with Chloe, helping her gain confidence and lose weight. It’s been quite a ride, which I’ve chronicled here and here and here. But today we’re at the point of our story where things take another turn in the road that’s marked with a little sign that reads; “Chloe After.”

Chloe did very well in foster care, so well we all agreed it was time to put Chloe on Petfinder and work on getting her a forever home.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Angi doing the unthinkable-holding Chloe in her arms without Chloe reacting viciously.

 

We knew finding an adult, still overweight cat, a home would take time so we sat back and waited…oh about a day or two! We got three applications for Chloe right away, which shocked me since I can’t get a 1-year old, friendly cat adopted. There’s something about Chloe that people are drawn to. We screened the adopters and narrowed it down to a lady named Pam. We set a date to get together. Pam could meet Chloe and we’d see how it went. If it was a match, great—if not, no problem.

 

It’d been a few months since I’d last seen Chloe in person and I was anxious to witness her transformation. I couldn’t wait to finally pet her without fear of being bitten, since as a front-declawed cat, it was how Chloe protected herself when she was afraid.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Chloe.

When I got to Angi’s house and took a seat in her living room, she left to fetch Chloe. A few moments later, Angi entered the room HOLDING Chloe in her arms. Chloe looked smaller, lighter in color and had a bemused expression on her face. Angi put Chloe down on the floor and I said hello, extending my hand, fingers pointed down, for her to sniff. I was ready for her to give me a nod of approval or allow me that much-desired stroke, but she reacted as she had the day I first met her-with an angry HISS.

Angi was shocked. Chloe had been getting along with everyone she met. Even Angi’s mom, who is adorable, by the way, had been sleeping with Chloe every night! Worried it was the scent of other cats on my hands; I went to the bathroom and washed up. I came back out and tried again. Again, Chloe hissed at me with great vigor. I retreated to my spot on the sofa and sighed. What would this mean for Pam? What would this mean for Chloe?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Angi + Chloe.

Pam arrived a few minutes later and Chloe’s reaction to her was pretty much the same as it was to me. Pam is a very caring person and wasn’t bothered that Chloe didn’t come over to her. She knew Chloe’s story and didn’t expect a lot from her right away. She knew it would take time and was willing to give that to her. She talked about how she felt seeing Chloe’s photo on Petfinder and why she wanted to give her a home. From the tone of her voice I could tell it was a love-connection right then and there.

We sat in a circle around Chloe and talked. Angi played with her for a time, then we decided to try giving Chloe treats. Pam began to carefully offer Chloe a treat, praising her softly and making her come to her to get the treats. Chloe got closer and soon Pam was giving Chloe gentle pets. At one point, Angi had distracted Chloe, and with her back to me. I reached down and petted Chloe at last.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chloe had changed so much she was willing to show us her belly-those tiny feet, in comparison to her relative size always make me smile.

 

Chloe didn’t even flinch. I didn’t pet her for too long, but it was long enough to be shocked at how soft and clean her coat was. The grain-free canned food and grain-free dry (hey, you do what you gotta do) had worked some magic. Chloe’s coat was also no longer brown, which I see in cats that have nutrition deficiencies. She was silvery and cream. Angi mentioned that Chloe could finally groom herself now that she’d lost OVER TWO POUNDS and had gained flexibility. Chloe even jumped on the sofa and chased after toys. Her mobility was greatly improved, but the big surprise was in her eyes.

 

Chloe had always been so fearful her pupils were dilated to the point of not being able to see her iris. Now that she was calmer, her blue eyes were dazzling. They looked crystalline. I’ve never seen that before and found myself caught up in their beauty. I sighed, as I admired her from afar, still forlorn that she just didn’t dig me.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Getting to know Pam. Chloe allows some one on one.

We had a long visit. No one wanted to rush Pam, but it was clear she was going to adopt Chloe, issues and all, warnings to go slow and all, and then the reality hit Angi and me.

 

Chloe was going to her forever home. Right now.

 

I’m glad I’ve had hundreds of adoptions under my belt because I would have been a wreck when I realized I was witnessing a miracle. This cat, who was slated to die, now had the door open to her to have a wonderful life.

Poor Angi had been through the wringer with Chloe. Chloe charged her, bit her, scared her, made her life very difficult, but in the end Chloe had loved her, trusted her and even allowed her to rub her belly as they snuggled on the sofa to watch TV late at night. Katherine, Connie and I had been hoping maybe Angi would keep Chloe, but this wasn’t a good time for her to add to her family. In truth, as I said to Angi, trying to comfort her as tears welled up in her eyes, that her job was done. Chloe needed Angi to help her learn to love and trust again and that job had been done for a while now. It was time for Chloe to continue to blossom, but she could only do that in her forever home.

It was a testament to how much Chloe was loved by how broken up Angi was about her going, but being ever-thoughtful, Angi kept her tears at bay in front of Pam as much as she could. I jumped in and suggested that maybe Pam should invite Angi to visit some day, to which she cheerfully agreed. We all promised to keep in touch and help Pam as she begins her life with Chloe. Chloe was going home, but we didn’t have to lose the connection to her entirely.

 

Angi asked me to take a few photos of her with Chloe so I obliged. She put her face down close to Chloe’s and looked towards the camera. I got a nice photo of them together, but wanted to take a few more, just in case. I got a bit too close and Chloe turned towards Angi, opened her mouth wide and HISSED! Angi responded by laughing. Yep, that’s our Chloe.

 

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Maybe the best photo I've ever taken...

Pam signed the contract and we packed up Chloe’s things. I fought back the tears and made jokes to try to keep things light. It came time to put Chloe into the cat carrier and Angi didn’t want it to be the last thing she did to Chloe, so she asked me to do it. Me, the person Chloe has hated from day one; me, the person whose role in her life was now going to be as Chloe’s nemesis, probably forever.

I put the carrier on the sofa in front of Chloe’s face so she was aimed in the right direction. I took a deep breath, scruffed Chloe quickly and gave her a great shove. She protested. She cried. It was such a pitiful sound, but I got her into the carrier and shut the door. I looked down at my hands and saw 10 fingers…yep…still there.

Chloe was upset, which made Angi upset, which made me hurry to get her outside and into Pam’s car. I said that this was the worst time for Chloe and I reminded her it would get better soon. Angi told Chloe she loved her and was welcome back any time. I wished Pam well and told Chloe I was sorry for putting her into the carrier as a lump grew in my throat. Angi asked me to stay behind as Pam drove away. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves and followed her inside.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye and good luck, Chloe!

I sat with Angi and gave her a hug. I felt awful that she felt so sad. I did everything I could to let her know that Pam really was “the one.” I had no doubts. There are times when I just know an adoption is right and this was one of those times. Pam knows not to expect too much right away and she’s willing to give it time and she knows Chloe has a place to go if things just don’t work out and Chloe reverts back to the way she once was. When you foster, there will be tears, but I’d much rather cry because Chloe went home than because Chloe was put down.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Go Team Chloe!

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

The next day we got an email from Pam. Chloe had lunged at her. She hadn’t eaten or left her cat carrier. Instead of flipping out, Pam said it was all right. We gave her suggestions and she said she’d go slowly and give it more time. Chloe had reverted back to her fearful ways, but we hoped that perhaps she hadn’t gone back to square one.

The following day Pam reported that Chloe had eaten and used the litter pan. She was not venturing out of her cat carrier, but it was a start and it was an improvement compared to how she behaved at Angi’s in those first days.

Though it’s far too soon to know if Chloe has found her final home, she has every opportunity to prove she can love again and enjoy being loved again by a new friend. If it doesn’t work out, Angi, Katherine and I will be there for her.

 

That’s the thing about Chloe-even though she's challenging to work with, we all love her and maybe that's enough fuel for her journey to continue along the right path. With Pam's help, Chole has every chance to reach the final stop on this road, next to the sign that reads, “Home at Last.”

Nov 2013 Update: I'm thrilled to report that even though Chloe bit Pam very badly, Pam knew to give Chloe more time to settle down. Chloe acclimated quickly to her new home. Not only that, but Chloe LOVES her new daddy (maybe even more than mom, Pam!). Chloe's met lots of Pam's friends and family, even kids. She's been friendly and affectionate to everyone she meets. This is a HUGE triumph for Chloe. I hope to see this very special kitty again one day soon. If she FINALLY likes me I'm going to file this rescue under: "MIRACLE." If not, well, that's our Chloe...

 

The Squee Diaries. Chapter 4 The Pitter Patter

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Yukon Stan is sitting up on his own! His cuteness is killing me!

Teenie tiny kittens are wondrous little blobs of fluff that look more like hamsters than cats in the making. I can't do much with Minnie's kittens at just over two weeks of age because frankly they're not ready to be handled for very long and they can barely walk, let alone play. Am I complaining about this? No, but I would admit to looking forward to when I can interact with them for longer than it takes to weigh them and say a quick “hello.”

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Hello, Joe!

The other day, I walked into the blue bathroom-home to Minnie and her kittens. I greeted Minnie and asked her how she was doing, then looked into the bathtub to make sure all the kittens were, well, alive. One of the kittens was looking up at me! I got a tingle down my spine. Here was the first sign of the blobs becoming little kittens! Not only was he looking at me, but he was sitting up, his front legs starting to hold his weight.

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Stan head out on a mission to walk across the cat bed.

I've noticed some other subtle changes. Stanley discovered his tongue and will attempt to groom himself a little bit. Mostly, I think he's just exploring the sensation of tongue on fur and hoping to make sense of of this new urge he's experiencing.

The kittens are a bit more active. They scrambled to get out of their hooded cat bed so I removed it. That way none of them will be separated from the others. I want each kitten to have good weight gain and access to their mama and it's been working well so far.

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Ever-adorable Lil' Gracey.

I was startled, too, by the discovery of a bright ORANGE “blow-out” of poo that got onto Confetti Joe, but came from Yukon Stan. I've never seen this before and after a frantic call to my friend, Katherine, we decided it was okay because their digestion is just forming and of course it could be effected by all sorts of things. Katherine was fairly sure she'd seen some bright orange poo, too, so I gave the kittens a quick bath and hoped to not see that again.

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Eyes open, but ears not quite ready yet. Mel won't let that stop him!

Although I did see a small patch on Gracey's behind a day later, other than that, the kittens are still clean and seem to be in good shape. I must add that Minnie continues to be a marvelous mother. The extra good news is that in the two weeks she's been with us she's gained 12 OUNCES! Considering she's nursing AND the terrible shape she was in, this is a huge weight gain. She's still far too thin and though her spine has a very thin layer of padding on it now, she's got a long way to go. She's eating much more food and with more gusto. It makes me happy to watch her eat because every bite for her is going to help keep her lovely kittens going for another day, too.

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Gracey vs Stanley.

 

If you're keeping track, the kittens, at 4 weeks should weigh about 1 pound. They're 2 1/2 weeks old now and they're at about 10-12 ounces, so a little ahead of schedule. I've tracked their weight daily-which is VERY IMPORTANT to do. It's the easiest way to see if the kittens are NOT doing well or which need more "mama-time" or which ones might be failing. Compared to the first few days when the kittens were gaining a full ounce every day, now the kittens gain 1/2 oz every day, which is a nice, steady pace.

 

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Still rail-thin, Mama grabs a quick bite between feeding the kittens.

 

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Stan & Joe check out the weird giant hanging over the edge of the bathtub with the crazy hair.

I've had some glimpses of the kitten's personalities, but I don't want to make any assumptions about which ones might be troublemakers or little Princesses just yet. They're also starting to awkwardly wrestle with each other. They still have a long way to go to gain the strength they need to walk confidently. They're very wobbly and fall over constantly. Normally this would be something I'd take delight in, but I continue to have flashbacks about Fred. I see him in my mind's eye, struggling to walk. His back legs went first, then his front. I've never seen anything so horrifying in my life and I'll never forget it. Part of me wants to not see the kittens for a few weeks until they get on their feet. I don't want to remember Fred like that-weak and helpless.

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Gracey and Stan and some very sweet stripes.

 

I look at little Joe. The markings on his face remind me of Fred, too, but it's not a bad thing. I feel like I got to have a "do-over" and that I have another chance to raise kittens that will hopefully one day be strong and vibrant and be adopted into loving homes. I told myself not to think about FIP happening again with this family, or something else I haven't seen yet. Cats can get so many diseases, it's a wonder any survive.

 

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Oh Stanley…swoon.

As they always do, the kittens remind me to take joy in witnessing this miraculous time in their lives. I am so determined to do everything perfectly for them, raise them to be confident and loving, not fearful or fractious. I want them to know great health and never know dry food. Somehow that's the only way I can forgive myself for how I failed Fred and the kittens that went to HEART.

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. I'm not sure I should caption this photo.

I just looked at Squee-TV , our web cam that's perched on the edge of the bathtub peering down onto the kittens. They're piled onto each other to stay warm, their bellies are full and they're peacefully sleeping. Minnie is nearby, always keeping alert to the slightest sound that will send her to the side of her newborns. She takes a few minutes out for herself and is back at their side every so often to lick them, nourish them and love them with a sincerity that is most profound.

[BREAKING NEWS: Dropcam is going to FEATURE Squee-TV on their front page! If you have a mobile device you can download their app and watch our cam when you're away from your computer! Just use the link to access our Featured-Feed]

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. I'm so big now!

 

Sweet dreams, my little darlings. I look forward to tomorrow because you'll be part of it.

 

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Good night, Mellie.

 

Don't forget to VOTE! If you like what we're doing here at Covered in Cat Hair, simply use this LINK every day until June 28th to cast your vote for BEST CAT BLOG, BEST CAUSE BLOG, BEST BLOG WRITING (here's a LINK to a good article or you can choose your favorite) and make sure you add KITTEN ASSOCIATES as your SHELTER NOMINEE! THANK YOU!!!

You DO NOT HAVE TO COMPLETELY FILL OUT THE NOMINATION FORM TO VOTE! The $1000 prize donation could go a long way to helping us help more kittens like Petey, Gracey, Joey, Stanley and Mellie and mom-Minnie!

 

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©2013 Robin A. F. Olson. Kitten pile!

2012 The Year of Heartbreak and Hope Part 1

January

We began the year with a rescue, going beyond our comfort zone by taking on an adult, instead of an easy-to-place kitten. The cat was a huge, white, “biscuit head” tom-cat from Henry County Care & Control. I saw his photo and saw something about him that made me take action. I named him Jackson Galaxy in honor of the Cat Daddy/Cat Behaviorist on Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell.”

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©2012 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson was a miserable wreck when we first took him into Kitten Associates as our first rescue of 2012.

Jackson had a rough start. He frightened Maria but we realized later it was because he was in great pain. He had a terrible infection from his neutering and he needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and get him back on the road to good health. By the end of the month, Jackson was on the transport headed to Connecticut to find his forever home.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford (inset). ©2012 Leesiateh.com. Miss Fluffy Pants shortly before being adopted.

Our friend and volunteer, Bobby Stanford, told me about two cats living outside a palette factory in McDonough, GA. They were living in poor conditions and in danger of being hit by any one of the numerous fork lifts that raced around the premises. One of the two cats, a dirty, thin tuxedo we named King Arthur, seemed to be missing his back paws. Completely horrified I decided we'd help him and the other cat on the premises, who we named Miss Fluffy Pants, because we worried she was pregnant.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset). King's mama, Judy. King's journey has been quite amazing. I'll be doing a more in-depth update on him in January.

I was fostering a little orange tabby spitfire named Bobette, along with her two boys, the third had just been adopted. Bobette needed surgery to repair her luxated patella, so I sat in on the procedure and helped her in recovery and for the next few weeks while she healed.

February

February was a month of discovery. We learned that King's missing paws were due to a birth defect. He didn't need surgery or prosthetics. He could walk on carpeting, but who would adopt this cat? King began to clean himself and gain some weight. He loved being petted until Miss Fluffy Pants came to join him.

Miss FP was not pregnant. We thought the two cats were friends at the factory, but they were not happy to see each other. With some quick thinking and the donation of a cat tree, Miss FP could sit high up, away from King and both cats relaxed into their new foster home.

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©2011 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette with one of her kittens while at the kill shelter and after surgery in Sam's loving arms.

We also learned the Miss FP was FIV+ which we knew would put a roadblock in our ability to find her a good forever home. With her taking up valuable foster care space I got to work trying to figure out what to do for her that didn't mean putting her in a sanctuary.

We were heartbroken to learn that after some behavior issues gave us a clue to trouble, Dr. Larry diagnosed Sam's cat, Nicky with Chronic Renal Failure. We began giving him sub Q fluids every few days and began to learn more about this condition and ways we could lengthen his life.

Jackson arrived in Connecticut and was placed with my friends at Animals in Distress, but fell ill after arriving there. They thought it was a mild upper respiratory infection and in time he was feeling better. By the second week of February, Jackson found his forever home with a loving family. We were all delighted.

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©2011 Maria S. (inset) ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of Bobette's boys, Jakey & Teddy.

Bobette continued her recovery, but was still limping. I had to separate her from her boys because she hissed and growled every time she saw them. The boys, Jakey & Teddy had a blast hanging out with my cats while I continued to try to find them a great home.

March

The saying is March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but this March was the opposite; quiet for a few weeks, then things started to go crazy.

Bobette had the staples taken out of her leg and due to a problem with the bandage removal she ended up biting my hand so badly I had to see a Doctor.

I found a blueish growth on my cat Gracie's abdomen. She had a dental done and had the cyst removed. It ended up being an Apocrine Gland Carcinoma, but was considered to be completely excised and of no further concern.

Jakey & Teddy were adopted together and Bobette was glad to see them leave.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.

On March 26th, a few days before my birthday, Jackson Galaxy emailed me and asked me out to lunch (which ended up being dinner). It was one of the best days of my life, but that wasn't all that happened. That night in the frigid cold in nearby Trumbull, CT, six mostly black kittens were born to a gray mama named April. I didn't realize it at the time, but they would be my next foster family.

The next day, still buzzing from my visit with Jackson, I was honored by Freekibble.com with a donation of a full palette of Halo® canned cat food! The press came to document the event and I started to wonder if the foster cats would eat it (they loved it!).

April

The Worst Birthday Ever was followed by picking up April and meeting her mostly all black female kittens for the first time. Three kittens were polydactyl and there was no way I was going to be able to tell most of them apart for the next eight weeks.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April and her kittens.

I rescued a senior cat named Leo who was an adorable long haired tuxedo. The poor cat was forced to live outside on scraps when his owner's wife had a baby. I begged my friend Katherine to take him into Animals in Distress if I paid the Vet bill. We worked something out and Leo was saved. A few months later, Leo and a second cat found an amazing home with a family I found for them here in town. They are doing GREAT.

A missing cat alert showed up in email with a very familiar name, Amberly. One of my former foster cats was MISSING and the family didn't have the nerve to tell me. I leapt into action. Thank GOODNESS Katherine has good instincts and lived nearby the family. By the next DAY Katherine found Amberly and the family promised to work harder to keep her inside.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, all grown up with siblings Choco and ChiChi (inset).

Maria contacted me about a tortie mom cat we named Cami and five kittens in her neighbors yard. She was very worried about them so I told her to find a place to put them and we'd take them on. By the time Maria got back to the home, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. We named the surviving kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco.

May

On May 1st a shelter called AnimalKind in upstate New York suffered the total loss of their facility after a small fire caused the sprinkler system to flood the 3-story building. Through my contacts a pet product companies I was able to provide them with palettes of food and litter. Later in 2012 I visited their facility and met with their Director, Katrin Hecker. You can read about my visit HERE.

I travelled to New Jersey to attend Bottle Baby Bootcamp at Tabby's Place. The timing was great because the black kittens needed help since poor April was having a tough time feeding all the kittens. I worried the littlest one wouldn't make it, but Cutie Pie surprised me and began to do well. I named her sisters Sabrina, Bon Bon, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia (in honor of my friend, JaneA's cat Dahlia who had recently passed away).

Then a crazy thing happened.

JaneA came to visit us and instead of falling in love with her cat's namesake, she threw me a curveball, clearly falling in love with our little spitfire, Bobette. She adopted her the next morning before she left for her home in Maine. It was a one of the happiest adoptions I'd ever done.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her girl, Bobette (who she later named, Kissy)

By the end of the month there was more somber news. Jackson the cat lost his home and was being returned. Since I had space I offered to take him back since AID was full up.

June

June will forever be a tough month for me since it's the anniversary of my Father's passing and of my favorite cat's passing. I hoped that this June would not be under such a dark cloud but it was not meant to be.

Thankfully it wasn't all bad news. After months of searching, begging, dealing, I was able to get Miss Fluffy Pants transferred to Good Mews in Marietta, Georgia.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is still looking for her forever home! You can visit her Petfinder page HERE

Maria, our cat-magnet, rescued a cat from a tree. She named her Willow and we added her to our group of rescues in Georgia. Meanwhile, I got a curious email from a lady in New Hampshire inquiring about King. She had a fully carpeted home. She had two cats. Did I think King might be happy with her?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me, Jill Delzer (center) and Ingrid King (far right). Inset: Joanne McGonagle, Me with Gracie the cat.

And for the first time in many years, I took a fistful of Xanax and boarded a plane headed to Salt Lake City where Sam and I were Speakers at BlogPaws 2012. I was up for two awards that I did not win, but I had so much fun and made a great new friend. In those few days I was re-energized enough to keep doing rescue work once I got home.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred & Barney and Barney at six months. The boys are still looking for their forever home! Visit their Petfinder page HEREand HERE

Maria removed another cat from her neighbor (with his consent)- who NEVER spays or neuters his cats. Maria has tried repeatedly to get the cats taken care of but he just puts it off and his cats get pregnant. A nine month old kitten named Opal, who had become almost feral, was pregnant. Our new foster mom, Cyndie offered to take her in and help her along. Sadly, the stress of being in a home pushed Opal in to premature labor. Four kittens were born, but after extensive attempts to save their lives, only two survived. She named them Fred & Barney. We had their siblings Pebbles and Bam Bam cremated and their little wooden urn is here with me placed next to my cat, Bob's ashes.

Stay Tuned! 2012 has more surprises in store and some so shocking their effects rippled throughout the world in the final part of this post.

Of Flying Felines and Fond Farewells Part 2 of 2

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April.

The weeks have flown by in a heartbeat. The kittens just celebrated their eighth week birthday. All six have survived those precarious first weeks and are now spending their day either napping or running around playing with wild abandon. I moved them into Bobette's old room so they have lots of space to explore and a big sunny window where they can watch the birds or see a stray bee buzz by.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The girls.

It's a happy time for them and relief for me. The kittens have been weaned. It went so easily and perfectly. They've also done great with their litter pan technique. Knock wood, these kittens have been a complete dream to foster. I can't remember the last time I didn't have to worry about loose stools or runny noses.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Getting ready to meet Dr. Chris.

It is, however, a sad time, too. It's time for April, the kittens mama, to go on to the next chapter of her life—a journey she has to make on her own. She's been a GREAT mama-one of the best ever. April constantly burbles and meows to the kittens, maybe telling them to be careful or “watch out!” She's always on the alert, making sure the kittens are safe. I hate taking her away from them, but I know it must be done. April is shockingly thin and needs time to recover and get strong. She can't do that with the kittens around. I can't risk them nursing on her any longer. She needs to be spayed, then go to Animals in Distress where they will work on finding her a forever home.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cutie Patootie and Belly Holiday after their Vet visit.

In the time we've spent together, April has blossomed. She no longer hisses at me, but seeks out attention. She enjoys being petted and sitting nearby. I hope she gets a wonderful home, with people who will cherish her. She has a goodness and sweetness that's palpable.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Belly and the ball.

The kittens, too, are just about ready. All that remains is that they need to be spayed. They had their first FVRCP vaccine and first visit with Dr. Mixon. The kittens did amazingly well and didn't give him much trouble at all.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cutie's big mitt.

Dr. Mixon examined the three polydactyl kitten's paws. He suggested that the extra toes be declawed. I was against it until he explained that those claws, being on such short toes, would never be able to be sharpened. If that couldn't be done, the claw would simply grow and eventually grow INTO the kitten's paw pad and cause a nasty infection. This just happened to my own cat, Gracie and she's not even polydactyl. I would never want that to happen to any other cat-even if the adopter promised to trim the claws every week. With them being so young and Dr. Mixon using a laser it would be the least painful to do it now. Next week it will be done, but I feel more than terrible about it because I believe that in one case the entire toe is going to come off because it is so very tiny, it's more of a claw growing out of the paw, then out of a toe.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Looks like a reference photo for a Picasso painting!

Thanks to my friend, Katherine at AID, one of her foster families offered to take April so she could recover in their home before she gets spayed. I thought it was a good idea since normally I'd have to crate April to keep the kittens off her and that wouldn't be very easy on her. It's best to say our farewells now.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Relaxing without a care in the world.

What I didn't expect was that this foster family offered to adopt one of the kittens, too, even though they are currently fostering some of the cutest kittens I've ever seen! The family is from England and black cats are good luck there. They had a black kitty many years ago and they miss her dearly. When they heard about my kittens they asked if they could give one a home because they understand how difficult it is to place black kittens.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Between a pillow and a hard egg?

What made me appreciate them even more was that they wanted the kitten that would have the toughest time to find a home. They didn't want one of the polydactyl kittens, they wanted a simple, black kitten. That's it.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Black Beauty.

I met with the Mom of the family four weeks ago and she fell in love with a kitten. She said her children wanted to name it, “Bon Bon.” I said we could give the kitten that name, but didn't push her to adopt that particular kitten. It was too soon to take her anyway.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April's eyes are full of hope that her forever home will find her soon.

On Thursday she returned to take April home and to choose her kitten. She brought her daughter, who was very sweet with all the kittens. She understood the importance of giving the kitten a home who others might overlook. Sure enough Bon Bon came over to them and honestly if I had other kittens that might have been considered more adoptable, they still would have chosen her.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bon Bon with her new mama.

I made special arrangements for them to take Bon Bon before her spay, which will also allow her to be with her mother awhile longer and vice versa. The family reported back to me already that both Bon Bon and April are doing well. April's being shy, but they know she'll come around in time. She's eating very well and eating a lot of food so this is great news. One day I hope to see April again, but this time looking plump and resplendent, the days of difficulty long past.

My heart aches. I've grown to love Bobette and April and Bon Bon, but I must make room for more. There are four kittens in South Carolina who need help. Four more to love. My heart is ready to be re-fueled. This is the life of a cat rescuer, the constant tug of sadness mixed with simple, profound love.

Of Flying Felines and Fond Farewells Part 1 of 2

Fantastic flying felines and zombie kittens! SQUEE ALERT!

(Farewells in Part 2.)

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Zombie kitten wants to eat your brains!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cutie Patootie's showing her secret white belly button.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sabrina mugs for the camera.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hi Five..or is that six?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Attack of the 50ft Kitten!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is how we do it.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Zombie kitten searches for the next victim.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cute break with Cutie!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Okay one more cute break with Black Beauty.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Invisible hang glider.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One-eyed flying machine.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Engaging telekinesis in 3…2…1.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello Mousey with Hello Dahlia.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sabrina in a tangle.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Belly Holiday firing super-cute rays into your heart.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Anatomy of flight.

The kittens are having a grand time and didn't want to stop having fun, but their joy was tempered with some sadness. In part two I'll fill you in on what happened after play time was over.

The Return of Jackson Galaxy

Poor Jackson Galaxy the foster cat. Late last year I rescued this big lug from a Kill Shelter in McDonough, Georgia. He had no hope of rescue since it was so close to Christmas and many rescues couldn't take another adult, but once I saw him I had to save his life. There was something about him, his great size, but sweet vibe that told me this was a kitty who needed to be spared being euthanized.

Fortunately, my friend Katherine from Animals in Distress (AID)said they would take him into their shelter, since I had my hands full. It worked out beautifully and Jackson arrived in January of this year. You can read all about it HERE.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The most tranquil and Buddha-like Jackson.

I also told Jackson Galaxy, the swanky Cat Daddy from Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell,” about this apple-head Tom cat. He felt the same vibe and wanted to lend a helping hand. He offered to provide a FREE 15 minute consultation with whoever adopted the cat. I was delighted!

In less than a few weeks a family stepped forward to adopt Jackson. They had other cats and a dog. There was some concern about how he would get along with everyone, but since Jacks did so well at the shelter, not picking fights or bothering with the other cats, that they gave him a chance.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The image that started this journey. How could you say NO to that cat?

Sadly, I don't know all the details, but the basics are that the other cats picked on and attacked Jackson. Jackson didn't cause any trouble at all. He didn't love the dog, but he didn't fight. He tried to stay clear of the cats, but they were violent with him. Eventually the family gave him to their Mother-in-Law since she had no pets. Jackson did fine with her, but then her husband died.

The Mother-in-Law visited her family often and brought Jackson with her. This constant upheaval caused the other cats to continue to attack Jackson. The woman was between a rock and a hard place-either she stop seeing her family, leave Jackson alone or give Jackson back to AID.


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The Return of Jackson Galaxy.

I know that the family had a very tough time letting Jackson go and I know they ALL cried about it. They shouldn't be vilified for their choice. Jackson was very dear to them, but with the problems with the other cats, they decided it would be best to let him go.

I think there's a point at which people have made up their minds and you can't tell them to try to re-introduce Jackson or to not travel with him and get him a pet sitter; to work it out differently so Jackson wouldn't lose his home. The point was passed before we had a chance to intervene and on Friday, Jackson was brought back to the shelter.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Investigating his new home.

As fate would have it, AID was beyond full up, but they HAD to take Jackson. I felt responsible and tried to figure out what I was going to do, but Bobette was here taking up the only space I could use for Jackson. It just worked out beautifully that JaneA Kelley adopted Bobette while Jackson waited in a cage at the shelter for space to open up here. He only had to wait a few days.

I brought Jackson home yesterday afternoon and got him settled. My home is the fifth home Jackson's lived in in as many months. He is a bit anxious. He wants OUT of his foster room, but I need to give him and my own cats time to adjust to Bobette being gone and to the new arrival.

Jackson's coat is in terrible condition. It's dry and feels tacky. He must have been fed junk. His eyes are a bit runny and he has feline acne, which I'm already treating homeopathically and with diet. I've been brushing him a lot and trying to soothe his fears. He seems ready to meet my cats and just hang out, but I fear he will break with an upper respiratory infection from all the stress he's been under, so I have to wait a few more days.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Simply, Jackson. Visit his Petfinder Ad HERE

Jackson will be fine here until we get a great home for him. He's very likable and loving and meows like mad when he gets lonely. I hope he and my cats become friends. He deserves to have a good experience with other cats.

Jackson's very lucky. He not only has me and Katherine looking out for him, but Jackson Galaxy, the man himself, is also this cat's Guardian Angel. Mr. Galaxy took a liking to this big Buddha of a cat and is dedicated to helping us find our boy a great forever home.

With so many people on his side, I just know that one day the REAL forever family for Jackson Galaxy the cat will find him. Until then I get to say I'm living with Jackson Galaxy! How cool is that?

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If you're interested in adopting Jackson, visit Kitten Associates Adopt Page and fill out a Pre Adoption Application. Though we prefer adopting within the United States and the area in or around Connecticut, for the right adopter, we're open to discussing an adoption that is further out of state.

It Had to Be You

“Some others I've seen might never be mean

Might never be cross or try to be boss

But they wouldn't do

For nobody else gave me the thrill

With all your faults I love you still

It had to be you”*

What transpired over the past few days has left me a bit tongue tied. Perhaps it's a bit too soon to try to make sense of it all, but the news I have to share is so surprising, I couldn't wait to begin writing.

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Barely four days ago, I said to my friend, JaneA Kelley, who's the well known “Mama, Webmaster & Chief Cat Slave” of the blog Paws and Effect: A blog by cats for cats and their people , that she should come to Connecticut to visit my foster kittens. JaneA immediately agreed and suggested she was available that weekend and did I want to get together then? The kittens are old enough to be adopted and since one of them is named after one of JaneA's cats, I thought the timing could work out (if I did a massive “hide the piles of paper” cleaning ASAP). The kitten I really wanted her to meet is named Dahlia. You can read about the cat she's named in honor of by clicking the following link, “Farewell, Sweet Dahlia”.

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Although I did have some plans “penciled in” for the weekend it was something JaneA said to me that made me clear the decks so we could get together. She said she'd love to meet the kittens, but she really wanted to meet Bobette!

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Bobette? You mean the cat who's been here in foster care for six months and three months before that in Georgia in foster care? The one who I've never gotten even ONE application to adopt? Bobette who was named after my dearly departed cat, Bob Dole? The same Bobette who has struggled to get along with my eight cats, who suffered through losing three of her six kittens and who had to recover from a very difficult and painful surgery to correct her Patellar lunation?

Yes—“THAT” Bobette!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

I didn't want to press the subject of WHY she wanted to meet Bobette. I knew the reason, but couldn't imagine saying the word, ADOPT. Bobette is an amazing cat. She has a great personality, is smart, silly and sweet, but she's had difficulty adjusting to living with my cats and has charged and hissed at them on a daily basis. I know that it's partly due to my own inability to properly introduce Bobette to the crew and, over the past few weeks, Bobette, on her own, has been slowly carving a place for herself and the attacks have reduced in number and intensity. I was resigned to having a very difficult to place adult cat on my hands-one that should probably be an only cat, but…I HATE thinking that ANY cat has to be an only cat. Again, I look to the Cat Guaridan for why multiple cat households have failures. It's not black and white, but there are MANY cats out there who get labeled as having to be “only cats,” but who would probably be just fine with one or two other cats IF they had the time to adjust and be introduced.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA is making some sort of secret code gesture or Vulcan Salute FAIL. Meanwhile I'm trying to look awesome-FAIL.

I warned JaneA that she'd have to sleep in the foster room with the kittens and she was almost giddy about the idea. I forget I'm around kittens all the time, but for many other people it's a special event. We sorted out the details and JaneA arrived Saturday afternoon with her bags and two bottles of wine. Clearly she was prepared to have some fun!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette tries to use the power of her mind to melt the window pane.

I ushered JaneA into my home, introducing her to my cats. I'd left Bobette sitting in the kitchen. She was mesmerized by a weird looking squirrel who was missing half his tail. He was focused on eating bird seed on the deck railing while she sat frozen, her butt wiggling every so often in anticipation. I could tell Bobette was saying a kitty prayer that the glass in the window frame would melt so she could bust through it and bite the rest of the squirrel's tail off.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA and Bobette get to know each other.

I asked JaneA if she wanted to meet Bobette and she perked up and looked around. I brought her over to Bobette. She called to her and Bobette stood up and ran over to her side! In that moment, I witnessed love at first sight; as if two halves, separated for years, had finally come back together.

I didn't say a word. This was the look I hope to see in all my adopters, but it didn't add up. JaneA could provide a home for any cat. She didn't have to drive for five hours just to meet this one, but what I didn't know was that JaneA had been following Bobette's story from the first days we rescued her out of the Henry County kill shelter. From afar, JaneA had a gut feeling that this was her cat, but at the time she couldn't add to her kitty family and then after the tragic loss of Dahlia the timing just wasn't right.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with a squirmy Bobette.

JaneA, Sam and I caught up on recent events. JaneA's blog just got nominated for a BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Award for Best Meow Blog! Of course I'd be glad if she won, but only if I don't win, first! Although we're both nominated for the same category, the pressure is off since it's a Juried award and we don't have to beg for votes. This time it feels like we're already both winners since we're Finalists. The rest is gravy…or 5,000 meals of cat food from FreeKibble.com, which is part of the award to the Winner.

JaneA met the kittens and the big moment of her meeting her cat's namesake, was a huge letdown. The kittens were a bit nervous having both myself and JaneA in the room. When I picked up Hello Dahlia to bring her to JaneA, the kitten freaked out and ran off. The heartwarming moment, the tears never came to pass. It was fine by JaneA. She knew that the kittens would have a far easier time being adopted. It appeared that JaneA was thinking about something else—a little spitfire named Bobette.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette has such a sweet face and her eyes are really that bright shade of green.

We went out for some nice FRIED FOOD for dinner, followed by a sickly huge waffle cone full of ice cream. It was fun to have another cat lady to hang out with and the time flew by. Soon it was time to get JaneA settled into the foster room. We made up the bed while the kittens ran around. JaneA laid on the bed, hanging off it so she could get closer to April without scaring her. I wished JaneA good luck trying to sleep in a room full of kittens. I closed the door and said a little prayer hoping it would go all right. The few times I've napped with the kittens I was terrified I'd roll onto one and kill it. I guess I'd have to hope for the best.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Beautiful brat.

The next morning, I asked JaneA how she slept as we prepared to make a pot of coffee. “I slept like a baby!” was her surprising reply. Apparently the kittens settled down and went to sleep as she did the same. Being around kittens was truly good for her soul…but…what about Bobette?

I didn't want to push JaneA into doing anything she wasn't ready to do, but as the time drew near for JaneA to return to Maine, I coyly asked her how she felt about Bobette. She said she loved her already. We discussed how it might work and our concerns that Bobette might not be a great fit in her home. I knew that of anyone who could possibly adopt Bobette, this was one person who understood the importance of a proper introduction, knew how to do it and was willing to take the time to do it right. I told JaneA that we could do the adoption on a trial basis and that I would ALWAYS take her back if it didn't work out.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A few last pets for my foster sweetheart.

JaneA sat on the floor and called to Bobette. She asked Bobette if she wanted to go home with her. Bobette responded by rubbing against JaneA's knees, her arms and pressed her face against her hand, clearly saying, “yes.” I had to fight back the tears it was such a beautiful sight.

I never could have guessed that Bobette's forever home would be with a fellow cat-lady-blogger and that the next time I saw her she would be featured as part of the family on Paws and Effect.com. Bobette's five month journey with me comes to an end, but her story with JaneA is just beginning.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her cat, Bobette.

We signed the contract and I pulled together some of Bobette's favorite toys and some cans of food. I didn't have time to take “farewell photos” or even say more than goodbye and kiss her quickly on the head as JaneA placed her into the cat carrier. It all happened in a heartbeat. As we waved goodbye to JaneA and her newest family member, I turned away, hot tears trailing down my cheeks.

I was so very happy, yet so sad to see little Bobette go.

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My phone rang. It was Katherine from Animals in Distress. Did I have space to take in another cat? I laughed at the irony of the timing, then asked her what she needed help with. Her words cut into my heart...

“Jackson Galaxy just got returned to the Shelter. His adoption fell through.”

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*"It Had to Be You" is a popular song written by Isham Jones, with lyrics by Gus Kahn, and was first published in 1924.

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