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Maria

In a Perfectly Perfect World

I entered the foster room and was met by Laney, Winnie and Piglet. Their tails held high, their eyes bright with excitement. They crowded in close, rubbing up against my legs as I struggled to enter the room without dropping their food. It was time to have breakfast and they were eager to eat.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Winnie, Piglet and photobomb by Laney.

As I lowered the tray, covered with small mounds of chicken, they gathered in a circle, joined by shy-Lolli, and began to eat. It was just another breakfast, about their 485th, with me, but this one was different. It was their last breakfast together.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Last breakfast.

I watched them eat, oblivious to what I knew was going to happen in a few hours. They lapped up every morsel as they quickly glanced over to their neighbor to see if they had any food left that could be snatched away. In moments the tray was clean, as if nothing had ever been on it in the first place. It was a metaphor whose meaning wasn’t lost on me.

I sat on the bed, in my usual spot near the right side. Winnie jumped up right away, as she often did, climbed into my lap and began washing her face. Laney took her place just in front of me and Piglet was off to my left. They were getting clean before settling down for a nap. The only sound was them purring away. All was right in the world, but wrong in my heart.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Love-filled lap.

 

Winnie looked up at me, her sweet expression filled me with sorrow. I ran my hand along her back and she pressed against me. Her fur was soft and thick, no longer shabby and dirty from living a lousy life outside with no one to care for her. I wanted to hold onto this feeling of love, make it solid somehow, so I could have it with me whenever I needed it. In that moment I saw Winnie vanish, my lap empty, as if she never existed. I felt the pang of loss, the yearning, the familiar heartache that was to come. Our story together was ending, a real end this time, and her story was going to begin anew with someone else.

 

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Winnie, pregnant, just before rescue.

Time felt more like a layer cake than a linear path. All at once I could see Winnie sitting in the grass in Georgia, fat with kittens inside her, the same sweet expression as she had now. I saw Winnie struggling with an upper respiratory tract infection last year and coming back home from a failed adoption in early February. I saw myself entering the room and the girls would not greet me. They would be gone and I probably would never see them again. All things were happening at once, the beginning, the end, the challenges, the happy moments.

As much as I wanted Winnie, especially, to stay with me forever, it was not fair for her to stay in a small room for the rest of her life. She and the girls always deserved more, better. I turned away great adopters who only wanted Laney and Piglet had a failed adoption by a poser-cat-person in NYC over a year ago. I struggled once I decided the girls HAD to stay together because who would adopt three cats?

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. The ever-silly, Winnie.

When I found an adopter, she was flakey, changing her mind over and over again. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt so I moved forward with the adoption. I wasn’t surprised when after barely a week, the girls adoption fell through, leaving me to drive to Boston and back in an afternoon to bring them back home.

After over a year I wondered if I was doing the wrong thing. Maybe I should let the girls go to a home on their own? Maybe I was stupid and greedy. I didn’t want them to leave. I liked having them here.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. No vacancy.

In March I got a two adoption applications for all three girls. I wanted to get excited about it but I couldn’t get my hopes up after what had already happened with them. It was a good thing I just went through the motions of processing their applications. Both adopters backed off-one after going back and forth with me for a MONTH, the other had a terrible vet reference.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Laney.

I began to feel remorse every time I entered the foster room. I felt so bad for the girls and for poor Jelly, who is still in a cage recovering from knee surgery. I felt so badly for his brother Lolli, who I doubt will ever be adopted because he’s too skittish. For the past five weeks, every Monday night, a couple came to visit Jelly and Lolli with the idea that if the boys warmed up to them (they did), they would adopt them. I was so excited that they might find a home, but even after hosting this couple when I had the worst Flu of my life, after answering a million questions, putting them in touch with my vet so they could be assured they understood why Jelly had to have surgery, I get a short email. “Bad news.” The woman’s dad brought over two kittens and they couldn’t say no (really?) and the adoption was off. I was devastated.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. On or near my lap, this wonderful family will be one I'll never forget.

The cats deserved more than to be in a small room day in and day out. They were bored and I didn’t blame them. We were all ready for a change, but I felt like hope was running out unless I did something.

I got another application for the girls-for all three. It wasn’t another out-of-state adopter. It wasn’t someone who had two dogs and a cat. It wasn’t someone who had a terrible vet reference.

It was from a couple who live IN Connecticut, in fact, about 30 minutes drive from my home. They live alone with no children. They had no other pets. Their cat passed away in March at the age of 19. They had room in their heart for a new cat and they wanted to help cats who were hard to adopt.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Too much love irks Winnie.

A few days ago Sam and I did a home visit. I loved their home. It wasn’t too big or too small. It was on the side of a hill surrounded by plants and trees. The home was immaculately clean and when I mentioned that Winnie would jump on their piano because she liked to be up high, they thought it was charming and said they didn’t care about furnishings. They just cared that the cats had each other to play with while they were away at work during the day. There were lots of big sunny windows. This was it. Now all I had to do was have them fall in love with the girls.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. I know. I played favorites, but I do love them all, just maybe not exactly equally.

I really liked this couple; Amy and her husband, Markel. The more we spoke, the more I liked them. I never had a weird pull at my gut telling me something was off. This time it was easy. They came to visit the girls for maybe 30 minutes. The girls were great with them and vice versa. It was the easiest adoption I’ve done in ages, though they’d have to come back and finalize the paperwork once they had things set up at their home, it was decided. The girls found their forever home and I had a few days go say my goodbyes.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. I wish I could have told them it was going to be okay and that they'd understand this was all so they could have a great life.

I’ve fostered over 500 cats so far. Most of the time it’s not too difficult to say farewell, but the girls have been with me for so long that it was more like I was giving away my own cats, than I was adopting out foster cats. I knew if it went on any longer, Winnie would be staying with me. It wasn’t fair to my other cats or to Winnie. I didn’t want to break up Laney’s family any more than I already had. I had to continue on with the plan. I had to let go.

Last night the girls began their new story, their life with their new parents. Markel came to get the girls since Amy was delayed at work. He has a loud, deep voice, but the moment he loaded the girls into the car his voice turned falsetto. They were crying and scared. As he entered the car, he turned to the girls and said it was going to be okay, that they would be home soon.

©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. A few final moments with the girls.

 

Home. That's what this story has been about from day one; finding a home for sweet cats, neglected by uncaring people. It took a small team of dedicated volunteers, especially their rescuer, Moe, our intrepid foster mom in Georgia, to reach this joyful conclusion. The money spent, the sacrifices, the fearful times were worth it because we got what we dreamed of, placing three adult cats in a home together.

 

Their story with me has come to an end. It’s been a very long journey. All in all we saved 16 cats all because Laney was never spayed. I still have Jelly and Lolli left to find a home for. I know they'll be missing their mom, so I return to the foster room to comfort them, but in truth, they'll be comforting me.

A long, happy, loved life to my girls…forever in my heart.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with Permission. This is how I'll remember the girls and their amazing story.

 

 

©2016 Foster Mom Moe. Her lovely video in honor of Laney & family.

Mia's Story: A Very Long Road

Last June I asked all of you to weigh in on a question that was plaguing me; whether or not to transport our foster mom-cat, Mia from Georgia to my home in Connecticut along with her kittens or just transport the kittens. It wasn’t an easy question to answer because I knew that Mia was not friendly enough to be adopted as she was and I wasn’t sure IF she’d ever be friendly towards humans. It would cause a serious rescue-roadblock if she couldn’t be socialized. I couldn’t take on more rescues because she’d be taking up precious foster space, but I also owed it to her to find her a safe harbor and not just kick her to the curb.

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©2104 Warren Royal. Pregnant, terrified, but out of danger Mia's story with us begins.

Mia’s first foster mom, Moe, was able to pet her, but they were in tight quarters and Mia had nowhere to hide. Her kittens were newborn so they didn’t get in the way of any of Moe’s attempts to socialize her. Moving Mia north, also meant she’d be in a bigger room and I’d have a tough time working with her, especially with her much bigger kittens sharing the room. Ideally I’d want to sequester her so it would be just one on one, forcing Mia to either become desensitized to humans or I’d eventually realize I couldn’t “turn her around.” The problem was; I didn’t have the space to separate her from the others.

I’d have to wait months for space to open up. The kittens would eventually be adopted but I’d end up with an adult feral cat remaining that I couldn’t allow to be with any new foster families. It was too dangerous. This HAD to work or I’d be forced to consider sending Mia back to Georgia where our good friend Warren would add her to his small feral colony.

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©2104 Aunt Moe. Mia was a great mama. Here she is with baby Woody (left) and Lil' Snickers (right).

Warren originally trapped and rescued Mia when she was still pregnant, getting her away from a terribly dangerous situation. He told me I could count on him to take her back if things didn’t work out. It would be my very last option and I prayed I'd never have to go that route. It wouldn’t be fair to have Mia indoors for months, then chuck her back outside, especially to a place she’s not familiar with. Odds are, she’d run off and get killed or slowly starve to death. This situation weighed very heavily on me. I just couldn't give up on her.

Moe needed a much deserved break and after careful consideration I decided that Mia should head north with her family.

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©2104 Robin AF Olson. Mia arrives and she's not the only one who's scared.

In late June, Mia and family arrived. From the moment she hissed, racing out of the carrier, I knew I was in trouble. I’d only ever worked with feral kittens, who typically socialize fairly quickly depending on their age. My own cat, Cricket was a horror when I began fostering him and he was 6 months old when I started working with him (in many books too old to try to socialize). He would have rather ripped my face off then let me pet him, but these days he’ll seek out attention, even sitting on my lap. It took years for Cricket to blossom. He’s brave now and even solicits attention from new people who visit our home. It required Sam and I had to work with him every day, but it paid off.

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©2104 Robin AF Olson. The first day everyone was scared but it didn't take long for the kittens to seek out attention from me.

The problem was, I didn’t have the bandwidth to work with Mia.

Mia was never aggressive with me. She just hissed. She had no interest in toys or catnip, just food. She’d come to me, on occasion, if I held out a treat to her, but the kittens would usually snatch the morsel of chicken before I could shoo them away. I couldn’t pet Mia at all. It was just too chaotic in the room to try because she’d always back away and hiss.

I knew as soon as Celeste’s kittens were out of the blue bathroom I’d move Mia over and get to work. Then after Mia and family were adopted I would FINALLY take a break, too. It was the closest I’d gotten to thinking I could take some time off and frankly if I didn’t get it I was a bit worried about what would happen to my mental health.

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©2104 Aunt Moe. The first of Laney's older kittens are rescued.

After a month off from fostering, Moe contacted me about her neighbor’s cat. She’d never been spayed and she was 3 years old and was pregnant again. There were kittens of various ages running around this family’s yard. Moe found one dead. The family flippantly told her “some just go off and never come back.” Most of the kittens were sick. There was a bowl of cheap cat food out on the porch. It was filthy and covered with flies. One of the mom-cat’s daughters was pregnant, too. Moe asked told the people if she could get help would the family would allow us to start spaying and neutering the cats or maybe let us take them into our program?

I hadn’t had a break from fostering in 5 years and I didn’t want to take them on, especially because the head count, with soon-to-be-born kittens could be over a dozen cats (in the end it was closer to 16). I didn’t believe I could easily place two adult cats who were part of the group and I didn’t know how we’d afford it or how much longer it would mean for me to be fostering. I told Moe; “First things first. Get a head count and let’s get those mamas. We’ll start spaying and neutering the ones that are old enough.”

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©2104 Aunt Moe. Laney (front left) with her six kittens and daughter Winnie (behind) with her sole surviving kitten (somewhere in the pile of other kittens).

While I couldn’t promise I’d bring all the cats here, I told her that we’d sort it out later. I knew we could raise the funds for their vet care but it would be costly to provide for them for the coming months. Clearly these animals were at high risk of dying and even though Moe and I were tapped out, we had to do something.

That was last August.

It’s been a blur since we took on Laney, Winnie and their 7 kittens, plus 6 other kittens that were from Laney’s previous litters. They were all in lousy shape and it was a lot of work on Moe’s part to care for so many cats and to get them back to health.

Meanwhile I was experiencing one after another calamity with my foster kittens. Twinkle-Twinkle broke her leg, Fernando ripped his eyelid in three places, Greta ate a string and had to have a barium study done all within a month.

Slowly, I started doing some adoptions. I knew I had to get the numbers down because Laney and crew would need the space in a few months. We got a great foster home with Jame and her family so they took on a few of the kittens to give me some relief.

I finally managed to free up space in the blue bathroom so I thought it would be time to move Mia there. It was early September and for the first time since I could remember, the bathroom could be used as a bathroom and I was a bit reluctant to change that.

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©2104 Robin AF Olson. This tiny kitten would end up changing my life forever.

Before I could do a thing I got a call from my friends over at Animals in Distress about a kitten with a serious birth defect and could I just foster her for a weekend?

...to be continued.

The Discarded Cats Diary. Ch 3.

It’s been a long dry spell between adoptions. I got to the point last year where I considered opening up our policies just so I could approve an application. It goes against my grain to even consider for a moment that I wouldn’t get every foster cat the best home possible, that I’d just give up and let them go “wherever.”

To understand me, you have to know The Pretzel Story.

When I was 10, my Mother took me and my brother on an outing. The goal was to pack a picnic lunch, then go somewhere scenic. We lived in a small town in Minnesota, so it had to be somewhere local, but new to us. She chose the Elk River Nuclear Power Plant, right next to the Elk River so we could have a view of the river and see the big fancy power plant. Just thinking about it now gives me the chills. It also may explain the funny mole on my thigh.

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©1972 J. Feminella. Me, my brother and Mother the same year we did the trip to Elk River. Sadly, I have no access to the 140 photo albums my Mother left after she died. This is one of the few photos I have of my childhood from about that time.

Just as she was pulling out of the driveway, my mother stopped the car and turned to me. My brother had the prime seat up front and had also turned to me, but he was sporting his all too familiar holier-than-thou look on his face while I was left to sulk in the back. She said; “Robin, I packed a bag of pretzels. It’s with our lunch right next to you. Whatever I do, whatever I say, do NOT give us any pretzels until we get to Elk River.”

Honestly, you’d think my own mother knew what she was getting herself into by saying that to me. Did she forget that I lived to please her? That I was an obedient child? As the oldest kid I was the responsible one while my brother got away with murder.

I nodded, then replied, okay, in my sullen-relegated-to-the-back-seat voice and off we went.

About 20 minutes later, my mother asked me for a pretzel. I said no. She laughed then said; “Robin, really, it’s okay, give me a pretzel.”

I thought it was a test. Based on her orders, my somewhat scientific mind urged me to deny her request.

“Robin. Ignore what I said before. Open the bag of pretzels.”

I parroted back to her her own words about not doing it, no matter what she said or did, which of course infuriated her.

Meanwhile, my jerky brother jumped in to further ruffle my feathers: “Yeah, MOTHER SAID! Give us the pretzels!”

My brother and I were always at odds with each other so I battled back with: “NO! You told me NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR SAY. No pretzels! So NO!”

“Robin. I’m going to stop the car if you don’t give me the pretzels.”

Dizzy with power, I called her on it. She was bluffing. “YOU told me not to. No.”
She was fuming mad, but in the end, no pretzels.

I also NEVER heard the end of it. NEVER. Even years later. Okay, after my mother died, yes, I heard the end of it, but you know what I mean.

This is why I don’t do more adoptions. Pretzels.

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Right around Christmas I started to get application after application. Some folks wanted kittens as gifts, which is a big no-no for me, but what I did is come up with something to appease their needs. I offered a plush cat toy and a gift certificate. This won over a few people, but some adopted elsewhere or dropped off the map. I kept at it until I met Steven, who lives here in Sandy Hook.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Pizzelle, Nanny & Mocha want to know WHO will be adopted next.

Steven is an engineer for IBM. This guy is smart, focused, serious. He also loves cats. His daughter Hanna has been begging for a cat for two years. Hanna is 7. Steven provided me with a very detailed application. He said his wife travelled a lot so that we’d have to work partly around her schedule. Steven would oversee the adoption and she would visit the kittens and approve his selection if they passed muster and were approved. Steven included an article celebrating him as the Employee of the Month. I read it.

Then it didn’t matter what else happened because I was going to give him whatever cat or cats he wanted.

Little Hanna went to Sandy Hook Elementary and was in First Grade. Steven heard the shots that fateful morning and ran into the building to protect a classroom full of students. He’s one of the unsung heroes of a national tragedy. Out of respect, I did not ask him about this, but I DID decide fork over as many “pretzels” as he wanted.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Biscotti is amazed at Pizzelle's high-flying chops.

His application was excellent. The home visit was great, but they lacked in having anything for the cats. Since it was a surprise (this one time I agreed it was okay to give a cat as a gift) for Hanna, everything had to be bought and hidden away. I gave Steven loads of links, told him what to buy and he responded by getting everything you can imagine-and the BEST of the BEST for his new cats.

Steven came to visit the kittens. I had a feeling he would like Nanaimo and Linzer, the tuxedo twins. They showed well and he played with them to no end. He was charmed by Pizzelle who had MANY pending applications already. I was reluctant to let him go, but then again, due to the circumstances I agreed he could be adopted, but…who would go with him? Steven was open to having two cats. That left either Biscotti or splitting up the twins, which I was loathe to do.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Linzer, Biscotti and Nanny (right). But really who can tell the twins apart. Good thing Biscotti has white on his face.

What I hadn’t noticed was that Steven was drawn to Mocha. After visiting with the kitties for about 30 minutes I asked him if he felt any bond to the cats. He caught me off guard by choosing the cat I thought would be the last one adopted. He chose Mocha and Pizzelle to go together!

I was shocked, but it was a fine match. Mother and son, together always. How lovely…but…mom had to approve, too.

That’s when I got my hackles up and I wanted to get my bag of pretzels back.

Mom wanted black cats to match her outfits so she wouldn’t have cat hair showing on her clothes or the furniture. Mom is a busy executive and does not want to have anything to do with feeding the cats or cleaning the litter pan. Mom is scared of being scratched.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha, a truly adorable, sweet, playful kitty…and her fur matches the furniture?

Normally every red flag I’ve got in my gut would be waving furiously, but Steven was so grand and his daughter so sweet, that I simply had to do this adoption. My hope was that with time and education, mom would come around. She couldn’t believe me that our cats really don’t shed. One of the benefits of the raw diet is that cats don’t get hairballs or shed much at all. The coat length-long or short haired-doesn’t matter. I literally tried to pull some fur off one of the cats and it just doesn’t come out.

The big day arrived. I was honored to be able to bring Pizzelle and Mocha to their new home and witness this little girl’s dream come true. The night before, Steven sent me a photo of Hanna next to the gigantic cat tree they got for her new cats. I was bummed they told her she was getting cats, but found out they only told her she was getting Mocha. She was really happy about that, so much so that she said she HAD to keep Mocha's name and would not change it. The surprise was that Pizzelle would be joining her, so we worked out a plan to bring him out after Mocha had already come into the house.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. 'Zellie poses for the camera.

We got Mocha settled. Hanna was delighted. She was more subdued than I expected but was following Mocha around the room as she sniffed and inspected everything in her new home. At my suggestion, Mocha and Pizzelle would be in a big finished basement for the first week as to not overwhelm them with having free reign of the house.

Mocha did GREAT. She was happy, interested in everyone, tail up, but I was worried. Just after we loaded Mocha into her carrier, before we left our house for Steven's, she started growling. It reminded me of how she behaved shortly after she arrived off the transport. For the first week she was furious with the kittens-hissing, growling, lashing out at them. I was faced with the realization that it could happen again with Pizzelle in their new home. The short drive was enough to make her forget her own offspring and she’d be fighting and angry in front of her new family. I had to diffuse the situation. The mom might not understand and want us to take Mocha back, but first we had to surprise Hanna with her second cat. I hoped Mocha wouldn't charge Pizzelle the second she saw him.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha was just as playful as the kittens. She's just a big kitten, herself.

Is this adoption going to stick or is it all going to fall apart if Mocha can't calm down fast? Stay tuned for the conclusion in Chapter 4 airing in a few hours.

The Discarded Cats Diary. Ch 2

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©2013 Maria S. Mochachino with her kittens after rescue.

What makes up a family? Is it simply based on who a mother is…who the father is or is there more to it than that? Over the years I've come to think that family is what you make of it. I don't have parents any more and I'm pretty much on my own when it comes to blood ties. I have a small circle of close friends who I consider to be my self-made family and I don't see any difference in how much I care for them than I did my blood relatives.

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©2013 Maria S. Meet our new kittens, Linzer, Pizzelle & Nanaimo.

Perhaps that's what happened to Biscotti? After being literally thrown away in a hot metal dumpster like a piece of trash, Biscotti found himself alone in the world. If Betsy hadn't rescued him and I hadn't offered to help him, he would have perished. Because he's so young, Biscotti desperately needed a family to accept him if he was going to have a chance to thrive. Alone, he might live, but he'd never do as well as he would with a family to call his own.

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©2013 Maria S. Little Pizzelle.

Maria had a few days to observe our new mama, Mochachino and her kittens, Linzer, Pizzelle and Nanaiamo before Biscotti joined them. They were eating well, using the litter pan, grooming themselves, playing-doing everything a normal, healthy cat would do. Mocha is friendly and so are the kittens. Hopefully the fact that they don't have to compete for food and have a safe place to live in means they will be more accepting of a newcomer.

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©2013 Maria S. Biscotti, with the burns on his nose starting to heal.

Maria and I talked about how to introduce Biscotti to the mix. We knew that scent would play an important role so Maria rubbed Mocha and her kittens with a soft cloth, then rubbed it onto Biscotti, then vice versa. Knowing that Mocha could reject and possibly hurt Biscotti, Maria was very careful with putting him too close to her to start. She put Biscotti near the kittens, hoping their scent would rub off on him. Macha gave a warning hiss, but didn't growl.

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©2013 Maria S. This is about as close to twins as I've ever seen. Meet Linzer and Nanaimo (Nah-NYE-mo)

 

Biscotti, oblivious to the potential danger, began to play with his new brothers and sister as if he had been born with them. He sniffed around his new mom. She hissed again, then laid back down. Biscotti, starved for the comfort of his mother, went to Mocha, sniffed at her belly and helped himself to a nipple. She looked at him momentarily, then went back to her nap.

 

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©2013 Maria S. I gotta mama!

 

Biscotti was home, as if it was meant to be.

 

Maria didn't leave Biscotti alone with his family the next day. She chose one kitten and put her with Biscotti in a cat carrier, along with a litter pan and food and water. They were safe from Mocha, but she could see them and they could see her. Maria went to work and hoped nothing terrible would happen while she was gone. I told her we needed to get another Dropcam so we could watch the family remotely, at least. She agreed we needed to add another channel of our very popular SqueeTV.

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©2013 Maria S. Biscotti and friends.

Maria got home in a panic, but found that everything was fine. She let Biscotti and his sister out of the carrier and no one seemed bothered. Still keeping a close eye on the family we waited through the weekend. Everything was still fine. It seemed Biscotti was going to be all right.

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©2013 Maria S. Meanwhile, Linzy and Nanny go back to playing.

 

I owed it to Maria to let her know if I'd take this family into my cat rescue's Program. Even though I'm scared about taking too much on, I already love this family and couldn't imagine them going anywhere else, so I'm very glad to report that they will be our next rescued family. Welcome to Kitten Associates!

 

 

Oh wait…they're already old news. They're not our latest because today I'm picking up two more kittens whose owner is losing his home and has to give up his cats.

 

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©2013 Maria S. Biscotti with his new brother.

Maybe it's a good thing I don't have a “traditional” family because I have a feeling they'd be giving me a lot of grief about taking on more cats. See? There's a bonus to making your own family. I know my new family will love me for taking on more cats because they're all enablers!

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©2013 Maria S. Biscotti looks like he was meant to be with this family.

We've rescued seven cats in a week. We need funds to fill their bellies, to get them vetted and all that good stuff. We'd also REALLY like to get another DropcCam + 1 yr service. It costs $149.00 plus $99.00 for the service. I put the dropcam onto our Amazon Wishlist if you want to check it out.

We'd be grateful if you can help with a small donation to our families. If you can't right now, no worries! Share our message socially and that can help us, too. Every dollar counts so don't think donating the price of a good cup of coffee isn't enough. That's fine!

Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-profit corporation. Our IRS EIN IS: 27-3597692

Checks can be made out to: Kitten Associates and mailed to P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354. If you have any questions about this fundraiser, just contact me at info@kittenassociates.org.

Thank you for supporting our lifesaving programs!

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Breaking news:

We just got the sad news that Dale, pictured here with Biscotti just a few days ago, passed away yesterday unexpectedly. His family is devastated to lose their 13 year old friend and we are very sad to know a great dog has gone over the rainbow bridge.

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©2013 Maria S. Rest in Peace, sweet Dale. You will be missed. Our deepest sympathies to your family during this heartbreaking time.

The Discarded Cats Diary. Chapter 1.

A cat carrier sits on the pavement of a cul-de-sac in the blazing hot Georgia sun. Inside it’s cheerful pink polka-dot patterned shell, holds a terrible secret. Struggling inside the case were three tiny kittens and their mama, who were suffering not only from the heat, but from being in such cramped quarters. With no cool air to circulate between them, their bodies raised the temperature inside the carrier to a dangerous level. The mother, a short-haired black cat, furiously ripped at the mesh ends of the carrier, breaking off her claws with each panicked attempt. She was desperate to create an opening in the material so she could save her family and escape to the cool shade. Time was running out.

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©2013 Maria S. First glimpse of the family and the brand new carrier they were abandoned in.

The mama was in a terrible state. She didn’t know why she was in this carrier, in the middle of the street. She could hear dogs barking, which concerned her even more. She was hungry. Her kittens were taking all the nourishment they could from her, but she had nothing for herself.

Exhausted, she laid down, panting. Her kittens squirmed over her to get at a nipple. They were oblivious to the danger they were in, but it wouldn’t take long for all of them to perish if they didn’t get out soon.

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A day passed inside the carrier. The mama hadn’t been able to rip a hole into the mesh. She began to howl, not caring what predator heard her. After her voice was sore from crying, in a nearby house, the door opened and a woman emerged. She walked over to the cat carrier and peered inside. The mama cat heard her sigh. She asked the mama if she was okay. She asked her what in the world she was doing in the middle of the road and didn't she realize how dangerous it was. The mama wished she could answer, but all she could do was pant.

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©2013 Maria S. Oblivious to the dangers nearby, the kittens explore their new world.

The woman lifted the carrier and brought it over to the side of her house near some shrubs. She unzipped the mesh door and let the cats go free. She couldn't take the family inside. As the kittens scattered out into the lawn, she walked into her home and after a few minutes came back outside with some food and water, which the mama ate greedily. The kittens were unfazed by their brush with death and not fearful of the woman. They got to work playing in the grass, oblivious to the fact that there was a dog in the back yard who had just mauled another dog to death the day before. Their freedom may have just put them into a more dangerous situation than they were in before and something had to be done.

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©2013 Maria S. Mama is standing by the boy, so close to a very dangerous dog. It wouldn't have taken much for any or all of the kittens to wander too far in the wrong direction.

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This family was lucky because the woman who found the cats, knew our Maria, intrepid foster mama for our rescue. Maria came over to her friend’s house, even though she was reluctant to get involved in yet another rescue right now. Maria has been taking a break from fostering (though she still does have 2 foster cats who are looking for a home) so she could focus on caring for some of her own, ailing cats. She knew she’d have to start making calls and sending emails asking for help to rescue groups that are already overloaded with animals. This year seems worse than ever for dumped/abandoned animals and it’s tough to be in rescue and have to ask the same people, the same question, and face the same answer—“no,” over and over again.

But she had to try-for the cats.

Maria let me know what was going on and I told her right away that Kitten Associates would, at least pay for the initial vet care of the cats, but I also had to be honest and say that taking on an all black adult cat would be really tough for us. I have a growing number of adult cats that no one wants: Barney, Bunny Boo-Boo, Mabel and Minnie. I have nowhere to put another adult. I thought I could take the kittens, but even that might be a stretch if the ones we have now don’t get adopted soon. It’s always a juggle between space and resources. At least we had some funds to get the family vetted if Maria could foster them for a time.

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©2013 Maria S.

What I’ve come to learn about rescue is that trying to see too far down the road is a waste of time. First things first. You have to look at the moment and get the basics taken care of. We had a space for the family to live. We had funds to provide for their first Vet visit. We had at least four to six weeks before we’d need to put them up for adoption, so maybe we would have time to work out everything else. I had to be realistic and remember how it went with Minnie and how one day she had her family and the next was the last time she saw her kittens and had to be separated from them. Anything can happen and it’s usually not what you imagine. As my friend Katherine often says; “We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

For the next few days, I struggled with what to do with this family, while they began to recuperate in Maria's home. Maria found a placement for them, but she felt more comfortable working with me because of our long history together. She asked me if I would take the family on and I told her I needed more time to think about it.

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©2013 Maria S. Mama-cat was so tired that after Maria got her fed, she passed out cold. She must have been exhausted after her ordeal.

I admit I look for signs or a feeling in my heart that tells me which cats to take on. I wasn’t getting the feeling until I got an email from Betsy, who helps cats and dogs in the same Georgia hometown as Maria. Betsy sent out a photo of a tiny black and white kitten she found, tossed away like trash in a hot metal dumpster. His nose and paws were burned. He was very tiny and underweight.

He looked like he belonged with the family Maria had so I contacted Betsy to find out where she got him. It wasn’t near the same area, so they couldn’t be related. I emailed Maria and asked her if we were idiots to take this kitten on, knowing that we risked the health of the ENTIRE FAMILY if this kitten sickened them or vice versa.

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©2013 Maria S. Safe and resting comfortably at Aunt Maria's house.

I asked my friends on Facebook about how safe or stupid it was to put a sole kitten in with a new family. I asked a few Vets. I kept getting the same answer-you weigh the options. Without the nurturing and friendship of his new mama and siblings, he would not thrive. The mama might not accept him because Betsy had put him with another family she had and they beat him to a pulp.

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©2013 Betsy Merchant. Our first glimpse of Biscotti. His paws and nose are burned from being trapped in a hot metal dumpster.

Maria and I felt like we had to risk it, so Maria made arrangements to take the family and the new kitten to the Vet. Her first stop was to pick up the lone kitten and go to her sister’s house to drop off the car she borrowed. She let the kitten meet her sister’s dogs and the kitten enjoyed being around them. When Maria sent me the photos I thought; This is one tough cookie. He can survive being in a dumpster. He survived being beat up by other cats. He likes dogs. What would I name a tough cookie? Biscotti. Of course.

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©2013 Betsy Merchant. The little fella is only 3-4 weeks old. What a rough start to his life, but he's a fighter.

The Vet determined that the kittens are about 4 weeks of age, even Biscotti. The mama is about a year old. She was negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia, so that meant odds are the kittens were okay. They were too young to be tested, so we have to hope for the best and will test them when they get older.

The mama and kittens were very friendly, so they’d been around people, which was both good and bad for obvious reasons. Someone loved them for a few weeks, but then decided it was better to cowardly dumped them in the middle of a road, on a hot late summer day, than it was to ask for help. I had to stop imagining what I'd like to do to that person and focus on worrying about how Biscotti was going to get along with the others.

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©2013 Maria S. Fearless Biscotti with Dale.

Will Biscotti like his new family? Will they like him? Will it be safe for them to be left alone or is Biscotti’s life still in danger if his step mom wants to harm him? Will I ever decide if I can take on five more foster cats in my home?

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Discarded Cats Diary!

When Rescue is the Worst Thing that can Happen

When I started doing rescue over a decade ago, my goal was simple— save lives by home-fostering cats and kittens. Now that I run my own rescue, I have a great deal more on my plate. Because I recognize I can do a better job and help more cats if I network with others, a majority of what I do these days is to locate good shelter or rescue partners to work with in a variety of ways.

One of my dearest relationships is with Animals in Distress in Wilton, CT. I know the ladies that run the organization. I’ve been to their shelter many times and they’ve taken on some lovely young adult cats that I’d have a tough time placing because I don’t have a brick and mortar facility. Over the years, I‘ve come to trust and regard Connie and Katherine, who run AID, as both rescue-peers and good friends.

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©2013 Tina B. (Used with permission) Meet Romeo before he left Georgia for a rescue in upstate New York.

Sadly, earlier this year I learned a painful lesson about working with other rescues and it came with a price. What I never would have dreamed of happened- that just because a rescue steps forward and offers to help, doesn’t mean they’re going to provide the loving care I expect. They may not provide the health care or clean conditions I would insist upon. They might falsely represent themselves OR they may truly be good-hearted, cat-loving folks, but who have taken on too much and are overwhelmed, leaving the cats to fall victim to stressed and over-crowded conditions.

Two years ago I rescued a number of Siamese mix kittens from a municipal shelter in Georgia. The group was large so I placed them into two foster homes-one group went to super-foster, Maria.

Another person I’ll call Jane, who lives in New Jersey, offered to provide the funds needed to care for the cats, as well as make sure they would be safely transported to a rescue in upstate New York, called HEART. Great deal, right?

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©2013 Tina B. (Used with permission) Romeo, struggling to survive, but still a loving, sweet kitty.

I was too quick to trust. I’d seen Jane around on the group emails and she was often paying for cats vet care and transport to either HEART or other rescues she worked with. She seemed reliable and trustworthy. She told me that HEART was a good place and Maria, made sure her kittens would be in a safe place by contacting the woman who runs HEART. She was assured they did home visits, were a non-profit rescue and truly loved and cared for their cats.

The kittens were vetted and transported. Maria checked in after the kittens arrived and heard that one of her kittens might stay with HEART and the other was getting adopted. We didn’t think twice about it, after all we had more kittens to care for. Everything was going great and now we knew if we had more Siamese mix kittens that we could get them off death row and head them north to find great homes.

 

But that’s not what happened.

 

 

A few months ago (which was two years after we'd sent our cats to HEART), I got an email that made me sick to my stomach. The woman who runs HEART had just been arrested and charged with Animal Cruelty. Over 80 animals had been taken from her home. Of them, a good number were cats, living in filth-and I mean FECES inches deep. The cats who had originally been healthy were now VERY ILL-MANY of them now had Feline Leukemia and other life-threatening conditions.

 

 

Sending these cats to HEART was worse than sending them to the Kill Shelter; at least death would have been swift—here death would come slowly and in horrific conditions.

 

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©2013 Tina B. (Used with permission) Meet Peppy. She was healthy and thriving before going to HEART and now, due to a severe URI had had to have surgery on her eye.

The Broome County Humane Society in upstate New York (Facebook pg is HERE) was called to take in all the animals. I contacted them and spoke with the Director, only to find out they had no microchip or photo match for any of our cats. Maria frantically wrote to the Director of HEART who said the cats had been adopted out and that there was more to the story but she could not comment on it at this time. We checked her Petfinder page, which was only working for a day after we found it. We saw our kittens listed under the “happy tails” section. It meant nothing because any administer of Petfinder can set the listing to adopted and it goes to “happy tails.” We had to hope that because it was two years ago that the cats got out before it was too late.

It’s easy to immediately vilify the Director of HEART for causing these problems, but we don’t know both sides. I contacted her to offer her a chance to make a statement, but did not get a reply. I thought about what would happen if I was taking on kittens from other rescues. I trusted them to test the cats for feline leukemia and FIV, but maybe they didn’t really test the cats, then I put them all together in a group room. All it would take was one cat to sicken the lot of them.

I’m not trying to defend what happened, but I have to try to be fair and give her the benefit of the doubt…but…

A rescuer from Georgia contacted me. Her name is Tina. She sent HEART a lot of cats very recently and many of them were affected by the disgusting conditions in the home. Tina was the one who contacted Animal Control and turned HEART into authorities, but wait…Tina lives in Georgia so how did she know?

Tina had been calling HEART for an update on her cats. She couldn’t reach anyone or got suspicious answers. Whatever she was told, it didn’t sit right with her so she got in her car and drove over 1000 miles to HEART's location What she found shocked her to the core.

 

I don’t know how Tina managed. Many of her once healthy cats were clinging to life. Some had to be put down, some cost her (and are still costing her) thousands of dollars in Vet care. Her rescue group is small, with few resources. One particular cat named Romeo was in severely compromised shape. Undaunted, she managed to get her cats from HEART and brought them back to Georgia, furious, horrified, and heartbroken.

 

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©2013 Tina B. (Used with permission). Teensy, a kitten who had to have her eye removed after the URI she had destroyed her eye. This could have been completely avoided if only she had been kept in a clean environment and provided with Vet care when she first fell ill.

A rescuer should never have to worry about what happens with their foster cats if they go to another rescue. We can look them up on the web, see their web site, see their 501(c)3 papers filed with the IRS, we can see their Petfinder page, we can ask to talk to their Vets. Somewhere along the line we have to trust that this rescue will continue the good work we started.

 

In this case it was sending them to a slow death. We also found out later that the person who ran HEART DESTROYED ALL THE PAPERWORK she got from the rescues so none of the cats could ever be traced. We'll NEVER really know what happened to OUR FOSTER KITTENS.

 

It begs the question: How do you find a reliable rescue to work with? How do you trust again?

This is by all means not a complete list of what to look for and I welcome comments and suggestions because this is something we need to sort out together.

1. GO THERE. Go to the rescue group and take a look around. If they’re located too far away, then you’re going to have to do more work to determine if they’re legit.

2. Do they have a working website that is CURRENT or is it many years old and out of date?

3. Will they give you references to Vets they work with? What about adopters? What about fosters or volunteers? Some of that information may be private, but the more they are willing to give you the information you require, the more likely they are also transparent about how they do business

4. Do a Google search on them. Look for negative comments or positive ones.

5. Do they have a Facebook page that’s current?

6. Ask your friends that do rescue if they have heard of them-word of mouth can be very important

7. Make sure you have email, phone number and physical address. Using Bing Maps you can see an ariel view of the facility/home. You can also use Zillow to look up their residence.

8. If you have funds you can do a background check for criminal records. There are many websites where you can do that in a matter of minutes.

9. GuideStar will also show you if the rescue is a non-profit

10. Ask to see a copy of their adoption application or don’t they have one? That is a problem to not have a screening process for adopters.

11. Ask for photos and video of the facility if you have no other way to see it. It’s not foolproof but again, if they won’t do that, then there’s a problem

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. You can see our kittens any time via our Web Cam.

With my rescue, Kitten Associates, for example, we have a web cam going 24/7. You can SEE the conditions in the foster room. You can also see what we’re up to via my blog or facebook page. We have a Petfinder account. I welcome questions and challenges about anything we do, any time. Our web site has our tax number and other information about us on it and you can easily contact me and I can give Vet or volunteer references. Being transparent about our operations and earning the trust of our peers and our community is something I take very seriously. It’s our credibility that’s on the line and I’m really proud of our good reputation.

With HEART, I can’t say what happened or if they were ever up to snuff. They seemed to be legit, but I never went there and I will NEVER let another cat go to a rescue unless I HAVE been there or I have a trusted friend go there and send me photos and videos. Even with that, the conditions can go to HELL. At some point you have to have faith they are doing a good job and will continue to do so and you have to keep checking in with them to make certain their facility maintains proper health standards and care for their cats.

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©2013 Tina B. (Used with permission). Romeo, sick, clinging to life, needs very specialized surgery that only one place in Georgia can do and it's very expensive.

 

As for Romeo, the year old cat who’s suffering from multiple-severe health issues, a YouCaring Fundraiser has been created by his foster mom, Tina. She details Romeo’s journey on her fundraiser page, but this excerpt explains why Romeo needs our help so very much.

 

“...Then last month (4/1/13) Romeo turned worse after a short stay in boarding. He had stopped eating and playing. Romeo seemed much more congested and having trouble breathing. He also started gagging if he tried to eat. I suspected his esophagus was burned from an antibiotic. I started med's and syringe-feeding again but he was not improving like expected. I finally took Romeo to a specialist this week (5/21/13). The specialist found two very bad things that seem inter- related. The first problem is that his nose has completely closed over (choanal atresia) from chronic rhinitis so that he can no longer breathe through it or smell, hence the problem eating. The second problem is that he has a hernia - his stomach is coming up into his esophagus, probably because of him trying so hard to breathe. To get an idea of how hard it is to eat and breathe at the same time, try plugging your nose and seeing how hard it is to breathe and then try to eat something. It is hard and awful! No wonder Romeo is having such difficulties, but he definitely still wants to live.

The only fix is surgery to put a stent in his nose to open up the passageway. A stent is needed to keep it open permanently, otherwise, it would scar closed again. This would relieve the pressure and most likely ALSO fix the hernia. The cost is close to $4,000 which includes a CT and $2,000 for the stent alone. It is a complicated, although relatively short, surgery with great success and would give him immediate improvement. Right now, Romeo is on 3 different medications to keep his esophagus from getting more damage and he is being syringe-fed. ”

Your donation is tax-deductible and I hope you’ll be able to add your donation to the many already pouring in. We’re only to the halfway mark and Romeo’s time is running out. I just heard the Romeo is doing worse and we can't get him the surgery until we have ALL the money we need. Please SHARE if you CARE!

If you'd like to follow Tina's long-journey trying to re-save the lives of all her foster cats, you can visit her Cat Whispurrer Rescue & Consult's web site blog page.

 

Tina and I have both learned a heartbreaking lesson. As with all troubling news, the light at the end of the tunnel is that there are LOADS of TERRIFIC rescue groups and shelters that do amazing work, that are filled with devoted, loving volunteers and who will go to the ends of the Earth to provide appropriate care for the animals under their roof. To those organizations, I applaud you, as I hang my head in shame.

 

Maybe It Was Meant to Be?

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©2012 Maria S. Our first glimpse of Willow-stuck up in a tree.

Almost a year has passed since our-Maria rescued a stray kitty out of a maple tree. We didn't know her story, only that she was probably dumped and a pit bull saw her and chased her up the tree. Maria had quite the time getting her down, but from the very first moments, we knew that Willow was going to be a special kitty. (read more about Willow's rescue HERE).

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©2012 Maria S. (inset) and ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow's transformation.

From day one, Willow was very sick with some sort of upper respiratory tract infection. She was thin. Her coat was ragged, but Willow was very easy-going and friendly. In fact, Maria soon realized she could put a harness on Willow and take her for walks and even jokingly put a baby doll dress on her. Willow was fine with whatever came her way.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow enjoying the sunshine…

We tried many rounds of antibiotics to cure Willow's sneezes and runny eyes. They worked for a time, but she would get sick again and again. We tried 60 days of doxycycline, only for it to return. Willow had been in our program for over six months with no real idea of what was ailing her. I finally decided to try to test her for Bartonella this bast January.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. …and the view of the woods.

Due to a mixup, I never found out that the test was a STRONG POSITIVE until MARCH! Once we knew, we began treatment and she got better right away.

Of course, I couldn't easily put Willow up for adoption if she was sick, but between cycles of her illness it seemed she was fine so I processed LOTS of applications and even went on a few home visits, but NOTHING EVER PANNED OUT.

 

I wonder if on some cosmic level I had to figure out what was truly ailing Willow before she could find her forever home because I was baffled at how many adoptions on her fell through.

 

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A tender moment with Fred.

I got an application from a gentleman named, Matthew. He's young and married and has a nice home north of here. I did a Vet check and it panned out. He was very sweet when he talked about his cats and I really liked him.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow has tortie-patterned paws-you can just see it here.

 

We were about to do the adoption when I found out about Willow having Bartonella.

I knew that telling an adopter about a cat being sick could have them give up on her. Many folks will just think they're getting a terminally sick cat and move on to another rescue. I worried that Matthew would not want Willow but he just asked me if it was contagious and I said no. I didn't hear from him for a day or two and finally he wrote that if I could medicate Willow and keep her here, that he would be happy to adopt her after her medication was done-which would be another month.

 

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©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. On the way to her new home, Willow's journey is almost complete.

Willow is such a sweet cat. She's become the mother-figure to all the other fosters. They adore her and cling to her and she calmly reassures them as she grooms them. I didn't mind having her for awhile longer.

The day finally arrived to bring Willow to Matthew. I was very sad because Willow is a "top 10" sort of cat. She simply had no unwanted habits, she was always friendly to everyone and affectionate. She was silly and seemed to always be happy and she is so very lovely to look at-with her crazy, undefinable patterning and colors. I loved her dearly and definitely would be missing her a great deal-and I worried that Fred & Barney would, too.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Back seat driver!

We got Willow packed up. I had all sorts of toys, food, a scratcher, catnip, a cat bed-everything I could think of to get Willow off on a good start. I even brought extra toys for her two new kitty friends. She didn't want to be in her cat carrier, so I let her out. She panted a bit, out of fear and excitement, but eventually she just sat on top of her cat carrier and watched the world go by. What a GREAT cat!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is so cool she can even travel in the car in style.

We got Willow settled and she immediately started to PLAY in her new room! She didn't hide or run off. She rubbed her face on the furnishings, marking her new space with her scent. She went over to Matthew to get some pets. She seemed completely cheerful, as ever. Meanwhile, Roo, one of her new friends, was sitting outside the door, wondering what was going on.

 

I'd gone over how to do cat to cat introductions with Matthew and we started right away. I opened the door so Roo could see Willow and vice versa. They saw each other, but there was no negative reaction of any kind. A good sign-but I closed the door while things were still good and Willow resumed playing.

 

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©2013 Matthew R. Willow, in her new home eats while her new sister, Roo, eats on the other side of the door.

I didn't want to leave Willow, but as it always goes, I have to do it. I have to do it so I can help more cats. I gave her a kiss on the “M” on her forehead, her silky soft fur brushed my lips. I told her I loved her one last time. With a heavy heart I went home wishing she could have stayed with us. I crossed my fingers and said a silent prayer that I hoped I'd made a good choice for Willow and that she would have a lifetime of happiness with her new family.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our last moments with Willow before it was time to head to her new home.

 

The thing is, how could I not adopt Willow to Matthew? He's an Arborist, after all!

 

Now We are Seven-Covered in Cat Hair's Blogversary

Who knew the need to vent my frustrations, living with an ever-changing number of cats, would lead to all of this?

It began with this post.

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©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Here's my cat, Cricket (center) flanked by his brother, Boo-Boo and sister, Sophie. Back then, Boo-Boo was one of the inspirations to starting my blog (because he was so annoying!)Boo and Sophie were later adopted together.

For those of you interested in the origins of Covered in Cat Hair, you should know that this blog was meant to be a book project entitled: Covered in Cat Hair: the Mostly True Stories of a Life Spent with Cats. James Frey had just been busted for lying about his tome: A Million Little Pieces and I figured I had to add the “mostly true” part just in case I goofed up on some facts.

My brilliant idea was that since I stink at cold-calling Editors and Publishers and writing pitches, that simply the fact I was writing a blog would be enough fodder to lure them into discovering my fresh voice, and shortly thereafter offering me a lucrative book deal (which, to date, I'm still waiting for).

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©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. A few months after Covered in Cat Hair began, I inherited my Mother's cat, Bob Dole, after she passed away. My Mother never read my blog or any of my work, saying she would wait for it to be published, first.

In the meantime, I began writing my book, not really focusing too much on blog-length posts. I wrote about 90,000 words (yes, that's a lot, but not quite enough for a book). Each chapter is a short story. Some of the stories are poignant and some flights of foolish fancy. I was determined to finish my book, but I realized no one would want to read such long posts online so I had to change course on my blog.

I was fostering for a rescue group and thought I'd write about the cats in my care. There were many stories to share, but my “boss,” the Director of the group, did NOT like me writing about her or anything else we were up to. I also couldn't post photos with my stories, which frustrated me endlessly. I grew up with a camera in my hand and telling stories and sharing photos is natural to me.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Blueberry and her brother, Blackberry were rescued from South Carolina.

So what did I do?

I kept writing. I used aliases. I waited for technology to get to the point where I could share photos and I began to write posts to help other people with their cats, as well as to continue telling stories about my foster cats.

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of the Pi Day babies, Happy and Jelly Belly.

In 2009, I came face to face with the cruel truth of what happens to cats in the southern part of the USA. It was something I'd already heard about, but I didn't know just how horrific it was. I'd been sheltered, pardon the pun, from knowing about abuse, over-population and mass euthanasias of cats, because I felt I was “too sensitive” to handle the truth. I did my fostering and kept out of the rescue part. Once that curtain was parted, my life changed forever.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson & A. Merritt. The Halloween Express-four kittens in a kill shelter in Georgia didn't have a chance. We rescued them, did quarantine, and placed them in a month-ALL TOGETHER with ONE FAMILY! You can see how well they're doing, laying crammed next to their Mom's lap in this recent photo.

When I found out that about 95-98% of cats don't make it out of southern (and other) municipal shelters, I thought I would die from the news.

I imagined all those cats, many of them newborns and kittens, dead in a pile waiting to be…who knows…taken to the dump? Incinerated? Used in pet food? (I'd heard that was true, but could never prove it).

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©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. The now infamous, Huggy Mama, the first cat (and her two offspring, one pictured here) I rescued out of a kill shelter in 2009. She and her two boys were adopted TOGETHER.

I could keep turning away or I could look, stone-faced and soberly at this HELL and I could raise my hand and offer to do something about it-even if it only helped a small handful of cats.

I met with a great deal of opposition. It was difficult work, but I had an excellent team in Georgia offering to help me led by Maria and Bobby. It pushed all my boundaries. I was rescuing cats I never had a chance to meet before agreeing to rescue them. I had to hope they would be nice, adoptable cats who didn't have serious illness. I raised money for these rescues and was overwhelmed by how many people cared, to the point of being willing to send me $5 when that money was the WORLD to them.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. 1 in 7 million are the odds that this little calico named Gingerbread would be a male. He surprised us all.

I left the rescue I was with under great duress and with a great deal of anger for how I was treated. I opened Kitten Associates, scared out of my mind that I was taking on more than I could handle. I knew enough to get myself in trouble-and I did just that, but I kept writing, buoyed by the supportive emails and calls I got from so many of you.

If nothing else, I figured I could be a warning to others about what not to do with your life.

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©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Poppy, about a week old.

Where Covered in Cat Hair has taken me, I could have never imagined. I've been honored with many awards and accolades. I've met wonderful people who share my passion to save cats, enrich their lives, to help their guardians cope with behavior problems and to feed cats a species appropriate diet. I cherish my cat-lady-babes, every one of them.

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©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Will & Grace.

The biggest surprise to me, and the most humbling, is that no matter what kind of trouble I get myself into, what heartbreak I share, what triumphs I achieve, you are right there with me, cheering me on, offering your shoulder when times get tough and sharing your insight and stories from your life in return.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. CallaLilly & daughter, Sunny.

I am so in love with all of you and so very grateful for your support these past seven years. Thank you for being part of my journey—it's one I hope will continue for a long time to come.

My Secret Shame. Part 1 of 2

I’ve been skulking around, carrying a shameful secret in my heart for almost three years. Only a very few trusted friends knew what was going on. For legal reasons I couldn’t say anything online about what was happening until there was a verdict in the court case. Yes, COURT CASE.

I suffered in silence, but I deserved it. It was part of the penance I had to pay for what I did.

Simply put, I made a terrible judgement error. I trusted a stranger when I should have been more careful. Although I consider myself to be a responsible person, I trust others too easily. When I take something on, I do it to the best of my ability. If I fail, I take the blame. I hold my head up and apologize and do my best to make it right again.

Because of my actions, a cat suffered in a most unfair and despicable way. I know that even now going public with my story may risk serious backlash from the other person involved in this horror. She will rain down on me, make untrue accusations, she will whine and twist her words. She may even do more than that, but I don’t care about her feelings after what she's allowed to happen.

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In July of 2010, we opened the doors to my Non-Profit rescue group, Kitten Associates. We were still getting things sorted out, building our web site, setting up the foster room, sorting out what cats we rescue and how we would find them good homes. I already had almost a decade of fostering and working with other cat rescues, so this was a natural next step. I was scared. I was excited. I hoped I could help make a positive difference for cats and the people they live with. This was a big test for me.

At that time this blog, Covered in Cat Hair, had been going for over 4 years. I had a growing readership and my stories about rescue life were going very well. I leveraged my readership to help me get the word out on cats at kill shelters in the southern US who needed rescue. It was working to make a difference and continues to be an exciting part of what I do.

I’d already rescued cats from a few Georiga shelters in the past so when I heard about a calico mama and her two, cow-patterned kittens, who needed to get “busted out,” I jumped at the chance to help.

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©2010 Maria S. Cali-Mama our first rescued cat, just after her spay surgery. She is mama to Pattycake and Moonpie.

For years I had it drilled into my head that adopting out adults from a foster home is really tough and keeps one from rescuing more kittens. People don’t make an effort to go to a private home, by appointment only, to see an adult. In other words, don’t rescue mom-cats, just take on orphan kittens.

I was worried about what to do with this cat, who we called Cali-mama, but just after I broke the news that we were taking on our first rescues, one of my readers contacted me saying she wanted to adopt the mom before we'd even gotten Cali OUT of the shelter!

I was over-the-moon happy. It didn’t occur to me to have her fill out an adoption application. We spoke on the phone at great length and shared many emails. I was so relieved she wanted this cat that I didn’t even charge her an adoption fee or ask her to sign an adoption contract! Yes, I was STUPID.

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©2010 Maria S. Cali and her daughter, Pattycake.

Within two weeks, we had the cat fully vetted, since the kittens were already weaned, and our friend, Bobby, drove her to her new home in North Carolina. Cali-mama was our first adoption.

Then everything went to Hell.

Bobby told me he didn’t like the look of the woman. The first warning sign – she wouldn’t let him drop the cat off to her at home. Though he offered many times, she wanted to meet him a few miles away-and this is after he just drove a few hundred miles with the cat - what was a few more? He said there was something about her he didn’t feel comfortable about and he wished he’d kept the cat, instead of let her go. When he told me that I feared we'd made a terrible mistake, but it was too late.

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©2010 HCC&C. From my original post announcing that Cali had been adopted.

I got a few updates telling me that the cat was renamed Tansy. She was doing okay but a bit uncomfortable with the dog. She’d tried to get out of the house a few times, but seemed to be calming down. I didn’t worry about Tansy. It sounded like she was adjusting, so I continued on with rescuing more cats.

In June of 2011, almost a YEAR later, I got a call from the adopter. She was very upset.

I asked her to tell me what happened. She went into a long rant, saying all sorts of things about the Home Owner’s Association saying that there was a stench coming from inside her home that could be smelled outside her home. It that was so bad they eventually called Animal Control. She said she was getting vilified and it was unfair; that there was some sort of pond causing the odor, not her house.

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©2010 Maria S. One of the last photos we'd see of Cali for the next two years.

Pressing for more details, I finally got my answer. When I heard it I felt like throwing up, then passing out, as the blood went out of my head, into my toes. WHAT HAD I DONE?! When I had a second to process her words I wanted to reach through the phone line to let’s just say do something really bad involving causing this person a lot of PAIN, but I said nothing at first. I was too stunned to talk.

She was either a hoarder or really damn close to being one. Unbeknownst to me, she didn’t have two dogs and a cat or two, she had 24 cats and two dogs. If I’d done ANY sort of reference check I probably would have found out there was a problem, but I didn’t do that.

What happened next literally took a piece out of my heart.

Animal Control took ALL OF THE ANIMALS into custody.

This person, who I will call Sue (not her real name), tried to convince me she was a victim and that I should help her get her animals back.

Shaking, I told her that it was my responsibility to provide care to Tansy. That I would do whatever it takes to get her back and that I was sorry, but that I felt I should no longer speak to her any more and I suggested she see a Lawyer. If Animal Control seized the animals, clearly something was missing from her story.

I was able to find out where Tansy had been taken, so I immediately began calling and emailing them to get more information.

I found out the that conditions in the home were terrible. They would not say more than that for legal reasons. They said they would not euthanize any of the animals unless they became seriously ill, so Tansy had a chance to get out alive.

Humiliated, I had to tell the Director of Animal Control about my terrible error adopting out this cat to Sue. I couldn’t even give her a microchip number because we hadn’t started doing chips then. I had a few photos and luckily they matched one of the cats in custody. They took down my information and were a bit terse about dealing with me. I deserved it, but at least they knew I would be there for this cat, with bells on, if I could only get her back.

And then the wait began. The fear left me breathless each time I emailed Animal Control to ask for an update. I didn’t want them to forget me. I feared if I waited too long I’d miss my chance to get this poor cat back, so I just kept contacting them, hoping for good news.

I thought about Tansy’s life—living in a tiny cage with no sunshine or fresh air, most likely living near barking dogs - what torture for her. It would be a few weeks before the case would be heard, but certainly it wasn’t a long enough time for being back in a kill shelter to do any harm to her, right?

But Sue wanted a fight so she got one. The case dragged on. It went to a higher court. There were delays and more delays. MONTHS passed. Each time I had to contact Animal Control for an update, my heart sank when I saw they’d replied. Were they going to tell me I was too late or worse, that she went back to Sue?

In part two, the wait continues, as does the fear that I will never get Tansy back alive.

Our Lovely Ladies Find Their Forever Home-At Last!

The main foster room is quiet now. I don't hear the thudding, stomping, or occasional crashing sounds from above my office in the room where Coco, Latte, Willow, Barney and Fred lived. Three young cats still live there, waiting for their forever homes, but as of this afternoon, two have moved on.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The perpetually lovely, Coco.

I'm sad. I'm always sad to see them go. They were here far too long. These cats were in our program for almost a year-which astonishes me since we had them when they were kittens, but at that time, when they were most adoptable, many of them had health issues and we had to wait to place them.

I was also up to my ears here, having taken on a litter of all black (save for one) kittens who were taking far too long to adopt out, as well. It meant this group from Georgia had to wait even longer to arrive and once they did it seemed like either no one wanted them or one adopter after another fell through.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Ready to pounce.

I must have gotten 50 inquiries and many of the applications on Coco. Of course everyone would want her being a Flame Point Siamese mix. Who wouldn't want a cat with peach and china blue eyes and delicate orange points (a creamy coat with darker facial masks, ears, tails, paws, nose leather and paw pads. These darker areas are known as their points.).

Of the many applicants there were a very few good options. Some just lived too far away, in states with tough animal importation laws, and there were too many other things going on, too. I have no volunteers to help process applications and the task can be daunting for me.

I did one home visit, thinking I had Coco's home, but with all due respect, it was too cluttered and though the people were so very nice and lovely, I just couldn't place Coco there. Knowing she tends to be a bit “Princessy” I imagined her hiding under a bed for the rest of her life. I still feel badly about that, but I had to move on for her sake.

A local family stepped forward to adopt Coco and I thought this was FINALLY who I'd been looking for. They came to meet Coco a few times. They promised they were going to adopt her just as soon as another family member's cat returned to his home with his guardian (they were visiting). Two months went by and I got an email; "Sorry, our daughter didn't do some [no idea what] chore and she can't have the cat.”

What could I do? I moved on. Coco was 7 or 8 months old by now. Lucky for her she still had her looks even if she wasn't a sweet little kitten.

Sifting through more and more applications I finally hit a good one from a very nice lady and her husband. They live north of here and didn't currently have any cats or pets. I was worried that Coco would be sad, but I also was feeling like I had to get her a home and she would be treated so well that perhaps she would be happy being on her own? Her new mom didn't work full time so Coco wouldn't be alone a lot.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I did the home visit and it went very well so we made plans for the couple to meet Coco in a few days.

The next day, I got an email from the couple; “Family emergency. We have to fly out of town. Can you please hold Coco for us?”

“Oh no, not this again.” I thought.

I liked this family so I gave them a break and said to let me know when they got back from their trip, worrying that I would never hear from them again.

Though there was very sad news for the family, they wanted to move forward with the adoption and let me know when they returned, as promised.

But now Coco was sick! She had a slight fever and wasn't eating. She wasn't running after her toys so I took her to the Vet. They gave her SubQ fluids and sent her home. Hopefully whatever it was would pass. Of course-perfect timing.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The goofy twosome.

I almost lost the adoption again when I had to tell the family Coco was sick. There was some confusion, but in the end it worked out. They waited a few days and came to visit Coco when she was nearly well enough to be adopted. It had taken almost a month to get to this point. I was very hopeful this was going to be the one that would stick.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Those heart-stopping eyes.

During the visit, Faith, Coco's new mom, talked to me about adopting Coco as a sole cat. I was honest, but not pushy. I preferred Coco go with one of the others, but I would never try to manipulate someone to do that. I explained the benefit of having two cats who are already friends-watching them play, groom each other, sleep together. She'd know they'd keep each other company when no one else was home. Since the house was large and there were no other pets, why not, if the family could afford a second cat.

Right away Faith started looking around the room. Her eyes fell on Latte who was rolling around on the floor getting litter dust on her fur.

“I like that one. What do you think of her going with Coco?” Faith asked.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I nicknamed Latte, La-La and she often came to me when I called her by that name.

I tried not to jump up and down. Here was the cat I had NO applications for-NONE-possibly going to be adopted with the cat who had the MOST applications of any cat we've ever had!

There was some discussion back and forth about maybe Barney being a better choice. The husband wasn't a big fan of Latte's but I had a feeling she would win him over later. In truth, these were Faith's cats. He just had to nod and smile, which he did with resigned elegance, I must say.

Latte and Barney Hunt R Olson.jpg
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Latte and Barney ready to pounce.

I encouraged them leave without taking ANY of the cats. I wanted them to think about it over night. I promised I'd bring the cats to them, whatever they decided. This is a big commitment to take on and it should not be rushed.

The next morning I got an email from them. I was afraid to read it, but once I did a big smile spread across my face. They wanted both girls and could I please come soon? They didn't want to wait any longer.

Coco and Latte Alt R Olson.jpg
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Raised together as sisters and will now be adopted together!

This afternoon I packed the girls up into cat carriers and also packed up some food, toys and two cat beds that were made for us by Mrs. Medaugh's Third Grade Class at St. Rose School in New Lexington, Ohio. I packed Latte's favorite Kong toy and I added a catnip banana to the mix since we had a few that were donated to us. The girls were silent the entire journey. I knew they'd be scared, but I knew they'd work past it. My job was to get them settled and say my farewells though I had a very heavy heart.

Willow and Latte R Olson.jpg
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Latte and Willow had become very close with Latte turning to Willow as she would her own mother. I saw them grooming each other from time to time and I hoped that Latte would find the same affection from Coco one day.

Faith cheerfully met me at the door. She carried Coco into their new room while I took Latte. I suggested that we start the girls off in just one room, so they didn't run off and hide somewhere, never to be seen again. The room Faith chose is a lovely corner space on the main floor. There are french doors on one side, with windows all around. It's brightly lit, clean and warm. Faith set out a big cat bed-enoguh room for two, some cat scratchers, a tiny scratching post and some toys. We sat on the floor together as the girls explored, but mostly hid, in their new home.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The part of the story we're never sure we're going to reach when we first do a rescue. Tiny Coco was living outdoors in terrible conditions when we rescued her. You can read some of her backstory HERE.

I probably told Faith too many little things to make sure she did, so the introduction phase went well…things like not to go after the cats but let them come to her..not to move the litter pans too soon into the basement and to not move the girls out of the room until she saw them walking with their tails held high and were confident in their new space. It would take time for them to adjust, but going slowly would pay off later.

I'd already kissed each cat goodbye before I put them into their carriers and left for their new home. I only had a last glimpse of Latte's nose and tail pocking out from under a dresser and no sign of Coco at all. I knew they were under the dresser together, but I was sorry our final moments weren't a bit sweeter.

Latte Before and After R Olson.jpg
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Latte and her brother, Tater Tot were terribly ill-especially Tater. Latte blossomed into a big, strong beauty. She and Coco were born on the same property to different mothers. It's possible they may share the same father. Some of her backstory is HERE.

I have to let go, just like I always do, so I turned and said goodbye and quietly closed the door behind me. It's time to move on. I have more lives to save and Kitten Season is here. There's no time to waste. I need to make room for more…for more stories and for more sweet kittens to fall in love with, who I will gladly let break my heart again and again. It's an exercise in my dedication to these cats.

To Coco, you are a true beauty and I'm so happy for you. To Latte, watching you blossom has been an honor; from terrified to a little gem of a warrior. You have a sparkling soul and I adore you. I hope you and Coco will know a lifetime of love. I've done my best to make sure you have the best chance at finding it. The rest is up to you.

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