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2017. A Look Back on a Tumultuous Year.

2017 was a lousy year that followed another lousy year (2016). That I’m alive and have a roof over my head sort of surprises me. I’m VERY GRATEFUL for what I have, so grateful. I’m lucky, even with very serious financial problems because it could be so much worse. I feel for the millions of people who lost their homes this past year due to floods, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes…not to mention all the suffering caused by social upheaval, reports of rampant sexual abuse, and the fears stemming from the actions of the so-called leadership of our precious country.

January

Annie, one of our Kitten Associates fosters, fell ill yet again. She’d been punky after recovering from intussusception surgery in October of 2016. Even though Dr. Larry said she looked good, I pushed to do blood work. It revealed Annie was seriously anemic, to the point of an Internist feeling she might have lymphoma. I asked if we could treat her for my nemesis, Bartonella, because there are some forms of the infection that cause anemia. We couldn’t re-test her so we tried a new treatment. Within a few weeks and some TLC and vitamin B12 injections, Annie bounced back and regained her good health, but just as she was recovering I got a disturbing call.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Fly Free sweet Lady Saturday. We miss you so much.

Lady Saturday was ailing. She was skin and bones. I didn’t know. Our foster family called and said she needed to see the Vet. She’d been pretty weak and eating a lot less. When Dr Larry saw her, he was shocked. She only weighed 4 lbs and was near death. We didn’t know how old she really was, but we knew she’d had kidney issues for the nearly two years she’d been part of our foster program. She’d gotten fluids, a heated bed, good food, supplements, but we couldn’t cure old age. On January 16th we said goodbye to our sweet girl.

With all of that going on, my cat Petunia began having focalized seizures. We didn’t know the source even after taking her to a neurologist. We started her on Phenobarbital in the hopes it would give her some relief, but did she have cancer? Would she eventually have a grand-mal seizure and I’d come home to find her dead?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Petunia is doing better these days and no longer needs medication to control her seizures.

The year wasn’t off to a good start, but thankfully it was pretty quiet as far as rescue went. After years of saying I was taking a break from taking on kittens, I decided I would really do it. Then I saw a post online about a huge feral colony in Waterbury, CT. Over 50 cats were struggling to survive and were breeding out-of-control. Read about the first cat we rescued HERE along with follow up stories them HERE and HERE) While doing TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) isn’t my forte, I thought I could help raise funds for these cats and do some social media outreach.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. My first sighting of the Waterbury Ferals.

My mistake…I decided I had to go to the location to see for myself what was going on, to take some photos, then start raising money for the #Feral50 #waterburyferals. Once I saw a horrifically sick cat, I knew I had to get more involved. I had no idea that instead of taking a break, I was going to be busier than ever for the sake of these cats.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. This little sweetie is feral. She was eventually named Tulip and was the first cat trapped. You can read about her story HERE.

February

I pushed the limits of what I could handle and was pushed beyond my limits by another volunteer who worked doing some of the trapping of the feral cats in Waterbury. The things I saw, some cats barely clinging to life…I found placements for 10 cats, but it wasn’t enough. I had to do more and more and more until February 13th when I ended up in the hospital during a snow storm. I was diagnosed with an ulcer, along with an anxiety attack that I was certain was really a heart attack in disguise. The stress was just too much.

But in rescue "too much" always ends up becoming "just help one more." I decided to take on a pregnant feral from the Waterbury colony.

It was very risky, because I didn’t know what I was going to do with her after the kittens were born and weaned, but as so many other rescues, I just took it one day at a time. Solve one problem at a time-that’s the key. The cat had been named Waverly. She was covered with oil and metal dust. She was too dirty to give birth, but we have a great foster mom who is gentle and patient and who was able to wipe Waverly down every day until Waverly was clean enough to give birth-and just in time, too. By the end of the month, Waverly had given birth to three kittens. Sadly only two of the three survived. I knew that if we hadn’t taken Waverly on none would have made it.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Happy Birthday Willoughby and Weatherby!

I’ve come to the understanding that in rescue you shouldn’t try to do everything. Rescue the kind of cats you can handle and do your bit. Other people, who are great at things you may not be so great at can do their part. It all adds up to be much more effective than trying to take on more than you can handle and getting sick from it. What I learned is that I am not cut out for TNR. I want to give every cat a chance to become socialized. There isn’t time or space to take that on.

While I respect every cat who just can’t become social kitties, and I will return those cats to the outdoors, it kills me because I know their future will be very difficult, even with a great caretaker looking after them.

Meanwhile, Spencer had a re-check of his blood work because in late 2016 we found out his kidneys weren’t working very well. The new test results showed us that Spencer might only have a few months left because his values changed for the worse, so very fast. We were to start him on fluid therapy and see how he did in 6 months.

March

Things started looking up. I was a Guest Speaker at the first ever, Cat Camp NYC. I had a blast, made new friends and saw some of my most cherished cat lady friends. It did my heart good to be reunited with them and energized me for Kitten Season, which was right around the corner.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Artist Cathi Marro (left), Me and Jodi Ziskin of Treatibles (right)

We took on #FairfieldCountyGives and had our best fundraising day ever, raising over $3500 in a single day-most of which were $10 donations. We’d be ready to take on kittens, but where were they?

I got an email from a guy who asked for cat behavior help with his 5-month old kitten, Holly. She’d been peeing on the family beds. The guy turned out to be musician and songwriter, Stephen Kellogg. What transpired next even surprised me. You can read about this crazy trip in these stories HERE (including links to all 5 chapters). I’m glad to say that after all the trials and tribulations that Holly is in her home and that Stephen has become a good personal friend and newly minted Cat Daddy.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stephen visiting Holly while she was here being evaluated for behavior issues.

Weird April

I wasn’t getting calls about kittens. It was very strange. Then I thought about why it might be so quiet. We’d had a very mild January giving intact cats plenty of time to become pregnant, but in February we had a few brutal snowstorms dropping a lot of snow. I didn’t want to imagine it, but I started to believe that perhaps a lot of kittens just didn’t make it and that the “season” would be starting later in the year.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Will Bills was a bit too wild for Bill.

For once I got out on my birthday for a short road trip and lunch at O'Rourke's diner. We stopped at a crazy place called Wild Bill's. The namesake and owner was there as we strolled down the aisles. I didn't think he looked so hot. I guess I was right. He died a few days later. I couldn't help but feel like I better not take having another birthday for granted.

May

Ah, Stormy; a purebred Russian Siberian cat whose owner really was allergic to her entered the picture in May. Her mom, Kim, was sick all the time and though she felt terrible about it, she needed help getting Stormy a new home. The problem was, Stormy was not very nice. I thought it might be due to her being declawed. Perhaps she was in pain? So we did a lot of tests to see if that was the problem.

The bottom line was I promised to help find a home for this 9-year old aggressive cat, but how was I going to pull it off?

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy.

I found what I thought was a good home in Boston, but the people were terrible, fearful, posers. A few weeks later they brought Stormy back to Kim’s where I was under even more pressure to find Stormy a placement because her home was about to undergo a serious renovation and they’d have to put her in a boarding facility if she stayed much longer. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever be able to find Stormy a home. I even tried to get a breeder from the CFF Cat Show, where I took part as a guest judge, to take her on, but with her anger issues it was a lot to ask.

June and July

I wasn’t going out of my way to find kittens to rescue since I never got a break over the winter, but then I got a call from my friend Joan. She told me one of the shelters down south had 65 kittens. They were going to start putting them ALL DOWN in 12 hours. Could I take even a few? She’d foster for me and even go get the kittens.

I decided to take 6 kittens, which turned into 8, except that they counted wrong and there were twins so 8 became 9 and I got another rescue friend to approve taking 3 and somewhere in the middle of that Moe, our other southern foster mama asked me if I could take just one more to make it 13 kittens.

Yes. I’m insane.

I nicknamed the group, the #SweetSuperheroes. If only they had lived up to their name. I wrote about what happened to them, how it broke me in ways rescue never broke me before, but I never published what I wrote. I may some day reveal all the details when I feel I can tell their story without it wrecking me.

In a few words, it was our first experience with Feline Panleukopenia. Within the first week, two of the kittens were dead and the threat of many more hung over us as poor Joan feverishly scrubbed and cleaned, while I spent thousands of dollars on vet bills, cleaning supplies, cages, food and litter for the remaining kittens.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Some of the kittens we rescued. Thankfully, our offering to take so many inspired other rescues to take kittens, too so a majority of the kittens made it out alive.

Some of the kittens were in isolation at the vet in Tennessee, while some remained at Joan’s foster home. We both did as much as we could to get the survivors healthy for the long transport to Connecticut, but in all honesty I did not want to bring them here at all. I was terrified my cats would get sick.

I’m not a fan of the FVRCP booster vaccination, but we had to make the difficult choice to booster most of our adult cats right away because there is no definite period of time for how long kittens who are exposed to PanLeuk are still contagious. To be safe, the kittens were isolated for 6 weeks, which ruined their window of adoption by a great deal, but I also didn’t want them here if there was any chance at all they’d sicken my cats, too.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. In honor of Super Nibs, who died from PanLeuk. You are forever in my heart. I wish you had a chance to grow up and find your forever family as your siblings did.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. and Major Muffin. He died so fast there was nothing we could do to save him from the ravages of Panleukopenia.

I spent most of the end of June and into July crying, worrying, researching PanLeuk and trying to prepare things here for their arrival. It was the first time in years I dreaded taking on more kittens.

Stormy was proving to be a tougher case than I imagined. The shocker, what I realized much later was that Stormy had reverted to being feral from not being handled for many years. She wasn’t in pain at all.

Because she had to be moved into the in-law apartment in the home and be in close proximity to her family, Stormy ended up getting handled more and sure enough Stormy became friendlier. So friendly that a lovely lady named Annabelle flew to Connecticut from Philadelphia so she could adopt this magnificent cat. They’re doing great and Stormy no longer lives up to her name.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy says farewell to her sweet mom, Kim and hello to her new mama, Annebelle.

August

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Leslie Mayes gets ready to interview us for #CleartheShelters.

My rescue took part in #CleartheShelters, a national program to help pets get adopted in a 24-hr period. We were off to a great start because Heidi Voight, journalist and Anchor on the local NBC affiliate came over to interview me and meet the #SweetSuperheroes. We did an hour-long live Facebook event and I think we were in the news about 10 times over the next few weeks.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ready for their big adoption day, most of the Sweet Superheroes.

The problem was, we didn’t have a shelter to clear, so that meant doing an adoption event at Watertown BMW. Being surrounded by $100,000 cars and anxious adopters and yet more news media was literally a crazy ride. The folks at Hoffman Auto Group BMW were awesome, but some of the potential adopters left something to be desired…yes, screaming kids, demanding kids who wanted a kitten “RIGHT NOW” and unapologetic parents shocked and angry with me. They asked why I would deny their application to their face when the dad would declare they would let our kittens outside even after the mom hushed him and said “They don’t allow going outside. Don’t you get it?” Followed by "dad" getting so angry I thought I was going to have to call the police.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The Kitten Associates, associates from left to right: Grace, Me, Sam, Adria, Jame and Frances.

Thankfully, one kid was nice and his parents were just as sweet. They saw a poster of Buddy and Belle, my ex-boyfriend’s two cats. They’d been in our rescue for almost a year with not one application for their adoption and they would be too scared to be at the adoption event so the best I could do was have a poster advertising them.

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©2017 Kathleen. Buddy & Belle in love with their new mama.

I told the lady their story and she was smitten. A few weeks later, Buddy and Belle were adopted. Her new mom says it’s like they were home from the second they arrived. They’re doing great and the new joke is her son likes to blame things he did on the cats.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Poor Fluff Daddy!

And then Fluff Daddy got really sick, really fast...Horrible, bloody mushy stool. I was terrified it was PanLeuk. How did he get it? He had to be confined to a cage, then a few other cats got very mildly ill. Tests came back positive for Giardia. How could he get it? Guess what I didn't know? Adult cats can have chronic episodes of it or it can be intermittent! Gah! It's really contagious, but thank God it wasn't PanLeuk.

Shitty September

The brown month. Diarrhea. Kittens with diarrhea. Kittens squirting the walls, floors, bedding, pretty much everywhere but the litter pan, with stinky, pudding poo. I could not get most of the foster kittens to resolve their runs. We did so many tests and trips to the Vet followed by a zillion de-worming protocols and found NOTHING.

Joan had warned me about Tritrichomonous Foetus. It’s pretty much impossible to test for, though we did do a PCR fecal test (negative) and treatment can cause neurological damage and may not even work. I was to a point where I didn’t want to go into the foster room because it would take over an hour to clean it every time I entered it. I was so angry and frustrated that I imagined kicking the kittens outside, but I would NEVER DO THAT EVER. Instead I just cried as I scrubbed the floor yet again. The kittens were oblivious to my suffering. They were not sickly at all, unless you counted them leaking stool out of their rear ends while they were playing.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Yes, it's poop. The poor kittens couldn't have much of anything soft in their room because it would get filthy so quickly. I don't think any of us got any decent rest that month.

I put the cats on a raw diet. They got better quickly, so as the kittens got adopted, their new families had to promise to keep them on the raw diet. So far, so good.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The good with the bad...de-wormer for the kittens first followed by a freeze-dried chicken heart treat.

The highlight of the month was my play date in NYC with Mario Arbore who is an architect by day and fantasy cat furniture designer by night. I can’t do better than to have a buddy who builds cat furniture, right? His business is called Square Paws (humans measure space in square feet, so Mario’s coined the term “square paws” to indicate how cats measure space).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Mario putting the moves on Fluff Daddy.

Mario had been graciously helping me design a brand new foster room for Kitten Associates. We’d bounced a few ideas around over the summer that were truly inspired. The main foster room in my home is totally run down and I want to create a showpiece for our kittens and to allow us to increase adoptions and have a safer, more entertaining home for our fosters. Mario is incredibly creative and though our workload has prevented us from locking down a theme, I hope we’ll get there in 2018.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Uncle Mario surprised Fluff Daddy and the rest of the kitty-clan with a hand-built giant mouse trap for our cats! Check out more of Mario's wild designs at Square Paws.

October

The Big Chocolate Show returned after being on hiatus for a few years and boy was I happy it came back. The show was fantastic. I learned that there’s some kickass chocolate coming from Ecuador and that I will eat as many samples of chocolate as the vendors will hand out.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thank God for chocolate.

Adoption Day
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thunder Cake and Wonder Waffles get adopted together!

With Buddy, Belle and many of the kittens adopted, I took time to focus on trying to make a living and for a quick escape to New York City!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. I actually left the house! Here I am at NY ComicCon where I got to meet one of my idols, Bob Camp, who did the animation art for Ren & Stimpy. I also had a chance to get back to work as a Graphic Designer. I love working with Royal Bobbles on their carton graphics for the main cast of Better Call Saul.

I also had the honor of creating the carton for Bob Ross, the afro-hairdo-headed painter who had a show in the 1970s on PBS that’s in re-runs on Netflix even today.

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To see more examples of my design projects, visit Ultra Maroon Design.

The biggest thrill was having a chance to design the new cartons for over half a dozen of The Walking Dead figures. Those designs are still in development so I can’t show them, but I’m crossing my fingers they’ll be greenlighted into development in 2018. The only problem with this project was I felt I needed to watch all 8 seasons of TWD so I could do a better job with the design. It’s a compelling and interesting show, but watching the entire program over the course of a month left me feeling a bit paranoid. I had to fight off the urge to strap a weapon to my leg when I did a run to the grocery store.

November

Waverly found her forever home with a retired couple named Molly and Sam. I was thrilled that the cat we feared was feral was really just a sweet, mild-mannered lady. Her kittens, Willoughby and Weatherby were adopted together over the summer.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Dear Waverly with her daughters.

Then one night, just before Thanksgiving, my dear 16-year old cat, the Mascot of this blog, Spencer vomited. It was a lot of food. He sounded like he aspirated some of it. Normally I’d wait it out and see how he did, but something told me to go to the vet right NOW because they were going to close soon.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Waverly on her Gotcha Day with Sam & Molly.

Dr. Mary found a big mass in Spencer’s abdomen and feared it was an aggressive cancer. So began our journey of tests, scans and treatments until we realized that the next step would have to be surgery or palliative care and prepare to say goodbye. We'd already lost 4 cats in 2017. I prayed there wouldn't be another.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. The x-ray that changed everything for Spencer.

December and Beyond

Every time my cats get really sick, I get sick with worry. I try to take a breath, have faith, focus on my cat, but I often find myself not sleeping, not being able to concentrate on work and wanting to bury my head in the sand. But it was Spencer. I had to face whatever it was. I had to face that maybe this was it and I had to face that I couldn’t afford to provide surgery for my beloved cat even if there was a chance it could give him more time.

I almost didn’t ask for help, but in the end I did do a fundraiser. Thanks to A LOT of REALLY REALLY REALLY AWESOME people, we raised just enough to have the surgery done. I still can’t believe it happened at all and am blown away that we got the funds together in just four days.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. What do you mean SURGERY?!

Now that I had the funds, I had to decide for sure if we were going to move forward because there were lots of risks involved and quite a few could happen after the surgery was over.

On December 5th, Dr. Weisman removed a 6cm mass off the very tip of Spencer’s pancreas. The amazing thing was it wasn’t cancerous, but there WAS small cell lymphoma found in other areas. It’s extremely rare that a cat has a benign mass like Spencer’s and I was so grateful, because those sorts of masses often are very aggressive cancers and lymphoma is slow-growing. At the time, I didn’t know if removing the mass would help him, but now, a month later, I can say that Spencer is so much better that he often surprises me.

He’s had a lot of ups and downs and I have to carefully monitor what he eats because he did get pancreatitis after surgery. He’s eating all right, not quite enough. He’s given me some very bad scares, like trying to eat cat litter when he got badly constipated and was battling anemia (He lost a lot of blood during surgery and I read that cats who lick cement or cat litter often are anemic.).

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Doing well and I am oh so very very very grateful to have this extra time with my boy.

We recently did new blood tests to confirm the pancreatitis and anemia and were surprised to see Spencer’s kidney values had improved some.

Today, Spencer’s getting up the stairs to come to bed and tuck me in just like he used to do. He’s also smacking foster cat Andy in the face and chasing after toys. He LOOKS better. His eyes aren’t so sunken. He’s grooming himself more. I honestly am completely thrilled to see him like this.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Naked belly requires a heated bed for full napping comfort.

It’s time to start him on Chlorambucil, a form of chemotherapy that we hope will retard the growth of the lymphoma and help him feel even better. I already have him on CBD Oil, which may also help and will certainly keep him comfortable even if it doesn’t effect the cancer. I’ve decided to put off starting him on prednisilone because it IS a steroid and Spencer’s oncologist is ok with not using it right away. I’m hoping the CBD oil will take the place of the pred for now. Why? Because steroids really do a number on the body and I’d rather help give him vitality and protect his failing kidneys for as long as I can.

Needless to say, with all the vet runs and care Spencer needed, Christmas cards didn’t get printed and I didn’t do much to plan for “the day.” Somehow it was still a really nice holiday, aside from all the guilt I had for not getting everything done and for not being able to buy presents for anyone except Sam.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Our Holiday e-card.

Sam and I have had one thing after another go wrong with our finances and honestly I’m terrified that if things don’t improve we will lose our home. We’re trying to keep the faith and we’re both working as hard as we can. So many people have it far worse off than we do, I can’t complain. I’m happy I have a home, it’s not on fire or swept away by a hurricane. I have my dear cats, as much as they often annoy me, they’re still one of the few reasons I get out of bed in the morning.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Bye bye Sprinkie! I'm going to miss you!

And I’m determined, after nearly eight years of constant fostering, to take this winter off and focus on work and getting funds for Kitten Season. The other cat rescue in town surprised everyone by deciding to close after many years.

Their reason, they aren’t needed any more, which is completely absurd. They spun it into making it sound like they solved the feral and free-roaming cat problem in Newtown so they can look like heroes and get out of doing rescue any longer. It just puts a bigger strain on Kitten Associates so we’ll need to ramp up.

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Macaroon is a total goof head who loves to fetch her pom pons. Her new family promised to make sure she has as many pom pons as her heart desires.

I expect 2018 to be very busy for us as we shoulder more responsibility in helping local cats, but in a way I’m excited for the challenge and crazy as it seems, I really do miss having little ones here.

Here’s to 2018. May we all have a safe, loved, prosperous and Happy New Year!

Oh, and the last two kittens from the #SweetSuperhero rescue were adopted just after Christmas. Congratulations to the Mighty Macaroon and Professor Sprinkles!

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Last night Mackie and Sprinkie met their new family. Here's Suzanne and Maddie, totally psyched to have their first kitties ever!

-----------------A few hours later------------------

….I just got a text message…“Robin, I just found a kitten. Can you take him?”

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©2018 Robin AF Olson. Uh oh...

The Rock Star's Fifth Daughter. The Perplexing Case of Holly Kellogg. Part 5

(continued from Part 1, 2, 3 and 4)

Then this happened…

 

…I got to meet my cat behavior mentor, Pam Johnson-Bennett.

 

 

Seventeen years ago I read Pam's book, “Think Like a Cat” and it changed my life. A light went off, a fresh awareness blossomed; cats are not humans in little furry outfits nor do they think like them. They think like cats. It may be stating the obvious, but understanding how to decode those motivations, behaviors is eye-opening. A cat peeing on the bed or other unwanted (by humans) behavior is perfectly appropriate in the cat-world. They're sending a message in cat-language, but when they live with humans who don't speak "cat," that's when conflict occurs.

 

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The meeting almost didn’t happen. I’m dealing with two sick 7-week old kittens, Weatherby and Willoughby, and I was worried about leaving them alone while Sam drove us to New York City to attend Pam’s Cat Wise Cat Cafe Tour (thanks to Wellness Natural Pet Food) at Meow Parlour.. It was to celebrate the launch of her latest book, Cat Wise. I knew there wouldn’t be another chance to speak with Pam and the timing couldn’t be better for Holly. I could ask Pam about Holly’s case and get feedback on whether or not I was nuts to take her to my home as part of the solution for her inappropriate elimination problems.

I fed the kittens and cleaned their goopy eyes right before we left. I figured we could do the trip in about five to six hours, most of it being the drive-time between Newtown and New York City. It was a lovely cool spring afternoon and fortunately with good weather meant the drive time should go smoothly.

Or not.

We had planned to arrive by 6:30 PM but the traffic was so bad we got to Meow Parlour just as the event was going to get under way at 7:30. Thankfully, even though we were running late, I had a chance to get my photo with Pam. Many people didn't show up regardless of the event being booked solid. Not only was it rude of those folks to skip out, but I couldn’t imagine why they’d miss this rare opportunity to meet Pam if they were cat lovers. The good part about it was I got to have more time with Pam...and I freely admit that I was all "fan girl" with her. Totally embarrassing, but what the heck. I love PAM! She's my heroine!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Pam giving out tips while one of Meow Parlour's foster kitties looks on.

 

Pam gave the audience some great tips and things to think about to help them better understand their cat. What delighted me is she was willing to take on cat behavior problems and offer suggestions. One of the folks there stunned some of us by saying she took her cat on the subway every weekend and that she was worried about the stress on the cat. Then she added, the cat traveled loose inside her PURSE. No wonder the cat was scared!

 

Even though I wanted to scream at the woman, Pam was calm and relaxed. She gave very clear suggestions and explained why these things needed to be done. Meanwhile Sam and I were rolling our eyes at each other, stunned that anyone could be so foolish.

I asked Pam about Holly and she began to suggest things I’d already done but didn’t have a chance to tell her. She quickly realized we were well down the path of things cat behaviorists can suggest. Then I told her about my out-of-the-box idea of bringing Holly to my home for kitten bootcamp. She said it was a good move and the right choice. She confirmed what I’d wondered from day one-Holly needs a buddy. Her peeing on even a shower curtain covered bed, on her “mom’s” side of the bed is saying she wants to bond with her family and is anxious they are going to leave her alone again.

This explains why that after almost a week here, Holly has used her litter pan perfectly. Even though I'm not in the room that often, Holly has become friends with Andy and even Annie is starting to tolerate her. This was the answer I needed. Of course it begs the question of “now what?” "How do we take the next steps?"

Holly has been introduced to Annie and Andy already and they do well together. Would Stephen and Kirsten go this far for Holly? I knew they’d be ok with a buddy-kitty for Holly, but two? At least they didn’t have to spend another thousand dollars doing more testing on Holly, so that was good news.

This is somewhat uncharted territory. My gut says they should all three together because it would be easier on the family. It’s a known quantity. They don’t have to introduce a new kitten to Holly and frankly I don’t know what Holly might do in her home with a new, unknown cat there. Pee more? If they don’t do the introduction correctly, then what happens? BUT, it means adding two more cats because they want to keep one. That's just crazy!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Pam Johnson-Bennett (left), me (center), Sam (right).

 

I so was energized by talking with Pam. It also helped my confidence soar. I identified the problem early on but I had to go slowly and rule out other things before jumping to adding a new family member.

 

The true test is to return Holly to her home. I could probably return her tomorrow, when the Kellogg ladies come to visit. It would mean Holly leaving two weeks early, but without Stephen home it wouldn’t be a fair test. And do I tell the Kelloggs NOW about what I’ve learned or wait at least another week to see if once Holly is settled down she’ll start to pee on the bed?

As excited as I am I should wait a bit longer. Holly can stay here and I can be even more sure it’s the right thing by the time Stephen is back from being on tour.

 

The only problem is, I just found an adopter for Annie and Andy.

 

[To be continued…]

2016: The Year in Review

I’m not certain if there was some weird alignment of stars or something funky in the water, but 2016 was the worst year ever, not just for me, my rescue, my cats, but for a lot of folks. Do I want to look back over the year? Not really. Honestly, I could easily sum up the year in a volley of expletive-deletives and leave it at that.

January

Sick cats. Lots of sick cats.

Winnie and Barry, the big lug who had bitten me four times, had to be medicated for a month, each. Yes, to treat good old Bartonella. I’m constantly discovering Bartonella positive cats, and witnessing the mayhem it causes. At least they both responded well to treatment.

Bright Side

Winnie, Laney and Piglet got adopted TOGETHER! It had been a VERY VERY LONG road (well over a year) to find the right adopter, but I was so thrilled they went to a nice home in Boston. Sure, it meant me taking them ALL to the vet one last time to get their Health Certificates so they could travel out-of-state, but it was so worth it.

No, it wasn’t.

 

A week later, the adopter gave up on the girls, forcing me to drive to Boston while she was out of town, to bring the girls back home. It was six hours of miserable driving conditions, three of those hours spent listening to the cats hiss and growl at each other. Read more about the “fun time” HERE.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. After a year and a half, the girls finally get adopted together...or do they?

February

My beloved washing machine crapped out…for two months. It cost $1000 to fix it (6 visits from different techs) and the whole time I’m pretty sure it was because a part wasn’t plugged in properly (vibration pulled it apart?), but I will never know for sure. I've come to detest laundromats as a result. Also, yes, I know I could have bought a new washer, but when this misery started I only thought it was going to require a few hundred dollars in repairs.

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After a few months of wondering, and being too scared to talk to them about it, it was clear that I’d managed to lose my biggest design client or, at best, had been downgraded to getting work very rarely instead of being counted on for everything. It resulted in the rest of 2016 becoming a financial nightmare. I’m not great at replacing clients and I mourned the loss more than I can write about here.

Bright Side

Larry and Louie get adopted together by a very nice local family. My faith in humanity was restored!

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©2016 the McCubbins. The boys in their new home.

March

Something was not right with Jelly Belly’s leg. Was I imagining it or not? Vet said he had a luxated patella and, surprise, he needs surgery and 8 weeks of cage rest and his other patella isn’t in such great shape, either. Ka-ching!

Bright Side

A couple was interested in adopting Jelly and Lollipop, but since Lolli was so shy they decided to come over ONCE A WEEK and hang out with the cats until they were ready to adopt and had their house completely cleaned, repainted and prepared for their new cats to arrive. The guy was a chatterbox so their visits went into multi-hours long, including me setting them up with carafes of tea to sip while they visited the cats. It was okay they stayed, but they kept putting off deciding even though they brought treats and toys for the cats each visit. They had multiple conversations with Dr. Larry about their patella issues-and I even had to bring Lolli in to get him checked. BINGO! He had the same issues, too, but not as bad. Hey, do you want to adopt two cats who will need surgery?

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Poor Jelly, home from surgery, feeling lousy.

 

I jumped over and under and through every hoop to make the adoption happen, but in the end the father-in-law of the chatty guy showed up with a pair of kittens and, of course, they could not say no to him and make him feel bad. Instead they wasted my time, resources and tea!

 

April

I decided after having the worst birthday ever, I was going to treat myself and finally dye my hair MAGENTA, ORANGE AND YELLOW. DO NOT DO THIS. REPEAT. DO NOT DO THIS.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Looks cool, right? Don't do this to your hair.

My stylist told me that you have to strip the color out of your hair first or the color won’t be vibrant. What I didn’t realize is it causes your hair to get so brittle it will break off and fall out in clumps after awhile. The only solution is to chop your hair off. This began THE GREAT HAIR FAIL OF 2016 (that I'm still recovering from).

Also, no one but Sam even saw it because right after that…

…there is no bright side….

 

I got the flu from being at the salon. I got it so bad, I had a high fever and violent headache for over a week, followed by vomiting for six hours, laying on the floor in the bathroom, praying I wouldn’t die, then passing out cold. Followed by being so weak I could barely stand for another month. I had to miss out on my one scheduled trip to a conference given by the New England Federation of Humane Societies and I got way behind on everything else. All I did was sit in bed and feel lousy.

 

I was so ill, I didn’t pay close enough attention to Jelly after his surgery. He got at his surgery incision and it got infected from him licking at it. He almost had to have another surgery because of my poor care of him. Thankfully, we both recovered, but I still feel guilty about Jelly.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Sweet Cricket.

My sweet boy, Cricket got sick. He tested positive for Hyperthyroidism. We began treatment, hoping he would feel better soon.

May

A couple came to visit Laney, Winnie and Piglet. I was so resigned to them never being adopted together that I was surprised when they had a connection to the girls. They both had that “glow” about them that told me this might be the match I’d been hoping for, but I didn’t want to get too excited about it.

The home visit went great and the girls got adopted. I began waiting for the email or call saying they couldn’t manage all three cats, but the call didn’t come.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Lap full of love with Laney, Piglet, Winnie and Jelly.

Meanwhile, a superlative lady named Hallie, came to visit Jelly and Lolli. She knew about their issues and was appropriately cautious about adopting them. She was going to Yale to get her Masters to become a Midwife. She understood their health challenges and wasn’t turned off by Lolli being shy. She was going to move soon so we agreed she would come visit every week (sound familiar?) until the time was right to decide about the adoption once she had moved.

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©2016 Hallie M. They boys in their new home.

She decided to do the adoption. There’ve been some rough patches along the way but Hallie and the boys are doing great. Lolli came out of his shell and loves his mom. Hallie had to be patient for a long time, but I’m glad to report it was worth it.

June

Rescue Month was in high gear: Izzy and her four kittens arrived. A week later the six “Bee” kittens came up from North Carolina, then I took on four kittens from Bridgeport, CT. The Bees were full of fleas (surprise!) and so begins “THE MISERABLE FLEA OUTBREAK OF 2016.”

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Izzy and the McFarlands.

 

ALL OF OUR TEN CATS GOT SICK, REALLY REALLY SICK. Spencer and Nicky got pancreatitis, all the others were vomiting, not eating. Cricket didn't respond to treatment for hyper-t at all. Something was terribly wrong. Spencer was so ill we almost have to put a feeding tube into him, but thankfully at the last moment he began to eat a very little bit.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Resting after one of many flea baths.

I think all I did in June was go to the vet about a zillion times.

July

Some of my cats began to improve, but Cricket did not. Juggling over a dozen sick cats (some foster cats) was taking its toll. We didn’t take a day off or celebrate our anniversary (sam and mine and the 6th anniversary of Kitten Associates). Nicky had to be hospitalized for five days on an IV. I was terrified, wondering when things were going to get better.

Spencer with blitz under the table
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My poor 15-year old cat, Spencer barely moved or ate.

On July 6th, Cricket had to be hospitalized and placed into a oxygen chamber while we frantically tried to sort out what was wrong with him. Thank God for one of my friends. She knew we were drowning financially and she threw us a life-preserver so we could afford Cricket’s care.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Cricket looked so beautiful, but he was terribly weak and could no longer survive outside of the oxygen cage.

 

Cricket, who was just 12, somehow suddenly seemed to have lung cancer, which is usually a secondary cancer. It meant he had cancer somewhere else, but we didn’t have time to find it. Cricket couldn’t leave the chamber or he’d die. It’s called Oxygen Cage Dependent. On July 14th, we had no other choice but to put him down.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson.

Sam and I were shell-shocked. We’d lost Gracie just nine months before. We hoped we were done losing cats.

August

The Bee kittens were passing around an upper respiratory tract infection so my vet visits became almost a daily occurrence. They were jammed in the blue bathroom and I was anxious to move them into the bigger foster room, but Barry was still with us and I was afraid he wouldn’t get along with the kittens.

Bright Side

As fate would have it, a great family contacted me asking if Barry could be with young kids. They had a 4-year old daughter and they were just in love with Barry’s photo, but I’d put on his Petfinder page that he couldn’t be with kids because he’d bitten me so many times. He’d come a long way and hadn’t bitten me in months but I didn’t want to take a risk. The mom said that’s how cats teach kids not to be idiots. Her easy-going attitude made me decide to take a chance. It was a love connection from the moment they met Barry.

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Barry loved this family. It was as if they’d been together forever. Barry was featured on their Christmas card, along with a note that made me cry. Barry sleeps with everyone, gets belly rubs and hasn’t bitten anyone. He had been with us for two years, but I was glad I worked with him. It really paid off.

September and October

Things were finally quieting down a bit. Spencer and Nicky had their appetite back and we were working hard to get them to gain weight. Annie and Andy got sick from being in the same room with the Bee kittens, but I could finally start getting everyone spayed/neutered so they could get adopted. Annie and Andy would wait until they got better.

The Bee kittens adoptions happened fairly fast once they were ready to go. Slinky and Beanie are first to find a home, then two of the McFarlands got adopted. Aunt Bee and Mrs Beasley were next to find a home. That left Mr. Peabody and Herbie, Annie and Andy and Noodles and Oodles (Molly).

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Mr Peabody, Slinky, Beanie and Aunt Bee.

Since we had space in our program, I agreed to take on a 2-yr old deaf cat I named Pippin. Pippin went to our foster home with Linda, where he remains today and for good. Linda was so smitten with Pippin she decided to adopt him (even though he loves Linda’s daughter, best).

Aunt Bee and Mrs B
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Aunt Bee & Mrs Beasley, boy was this almost a foster fail!

 

But something was wrong with Annie. She was vomiting, lethargic, not eating. She had a 105°F fever and had to be on an IV. Her blood work showed an infection, but we couldn’t determine the cause. She came home after a few days but she REALLY vomited this time-a huge lake of watery vomit. Annie was in a crisis.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Annie's boo-boo belly (all healed up now).

Turns out Annie needed emergency surgery. It was life or death for Annie and it forced me to go on Facebook LIVE and CRY and BE EMBARRASSED and have to BEG for $5000 so we could get the surgery done that day. Thankfully you guys saved Annie with your generous donations AND Annie’s surgeon is a rock star. Annie recovered well from her Intussusception repair. Things were good again, right?

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Felling better? Maybe not quite yet.

November

I was done with vet visits and sick cats. Turns out my cats had fleas. I had been cleaning and scrubbing down everything I could to prevent that from happening, but it happened. So began “The MISERABLE CLEANING and RE-CLEANING of the HOUSE” to get rid of the damn fleas.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle eventually lost 15 teeth she was in such bad shape when she arrived.

We’d done enough adoptions where I finally felt like the pressure was off, so of course one of my ex-boyfriends contacts me out of the blue, says he has terminal cancer and then begged me to take his cats.

Ugh.

 

Belle and Buddy (more on them HERE) are 6-years old and never went to the vet. Buddy needed emergency surgery for bladder stones and Belle’s teeth were FALLING OUT OF HER MOUTH they were so bad. My ex didn’t help with funding nor would he respond to me begging for some financial support for his cats. Both cats had to be at the vet at the same time. Meanwhile our 16-yr old cat Nicky didn’t look so good. He had a seizure at my feet so I raced him to the vet about an hour after I’d just gotten home from dropping Belle off there.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Buddy before sugary.

Nicky’s kidney disease had progressed to the point where his kidneys were failing. It was causing the seizures. He was severely anemic. We had three cats at the vet, but only two returned home with us.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Final moments with our boy, Nicky.

 

We had to make the painful choice to put Nicky down. It was shocking, unexpected and completely shattered us. We’d lost three cats in a year. Our heartache was immeasurable.

 

Nick and Nora 2007 R Olson
©2007 Robin AF Olson. Nicky with sister, Nora, who is mourning her brother's passing.

December

By now it was clear 2016 would not end joyfully. I had a quick break, judging a CFF Cat Show in Fairhaven, MA. I brought Annie and Andy with me, just for fun, but something was bugging me about Annie. She seemed thin and was a little bit off. One of the Judges mentioned it to me, too and that pushed me to get Annie to the vet the day after we got home.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Andy kicks butt at the cat show, but is something wrong with his sister, Annie?

Annie had non-regenerative anemia and an infection. We repeated her ultrasound and words like neoplasia (cancer) and FIP were mentioned. We started Annie on a questionable treatment for Bartonella that could harm Annie for life if she had a bad reaction to it. There were many phone calls between myself, Dr. Larry and Dr. D (our Internist). I began the treatment and right away Annie started to perk up.

Bright Side

Annie is responding to treatment. Her anemia is beginning to resolve and she gained a full pound in the two weeks between vet visits. We’re still observing her and she had more blood tests done, but right now things are looking up for this adorable girl.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. It's been a very tough road for Annie, but we're hoping she'll have a full recovery soon.

A gal named Danielle came to meet Mr Peabody and Herbie. It was another love-match so the boys got adopted. They’re re-named Simon and Theodore and they have their own Instagram account. You can keep up with them HERE.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Last day with Mr. Peebs and Herbie.

Final Words about 2016

After six years of running Kitten Associates and of losing a tremendous amount of potential income by doing so, the ramifications are clear. I need to make changes in 2017. I also need to take care of myself. My heart has been broken over and over again and the stress of running a rescue has aged me.

2016 took a lot out of me and Sam. We’ve had no chance to recover and if we don’t build our business back up, we’re going to lose our home. We can’t live like this, but we have to sort out what our next steps should be. It may mean moving away. It may mean doing less rescue. I know I have compassion fatigue, but not so bad that I don’t care at all and I’m not turning to drugs or booze (okay maybe carbs though).

 

Helping people, educating them about feline wellness, nutrition, behavior, saving the lives of little kittens and adult cats, makes me happy. It’s something I NEED to do, but I need to find a way to do these things and still have a roof over my head (that doesn’t also leak), and where I don’t have to fear the phone ringing and the bank asking where the mortgage payment is again.

 

I don’t know how 2017 will unfold and I'm glad I don't know what lies ahead, but I'll try to have faith that with the New Year comes a fresh outlook and fresh start.

May we all have a loved, peaceful, Happy New Year and may we do right by the next cats we rescue.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Goal for the New Year, meditate more. Freya knows best.

Of Cancer, Carbs and Cats: Return of the Ex. Part 1 of 3

I’m trying to figure out how to tell this story without sounding like a heartless bitch. I’ve written a few drafts, thrown them out, completely frustrated. I felt I had to write a heart-wrenching tale about someone with terminal cancer, who reached out to me for help, and how emotionally draining it all was. That part was true and I even know the person, but...I also felt manipulated, and as the days pass, I wonder if I was maybe just a sucker.

My old flame (O.F.) got in touch with me after 19 years. He needed a favor. We’ve been Facebook-friends for a long time, but we rarely ever communicate. I’ve seen photos of him, taking numerous fishing trips around the USA, but most often based out of his hometown of Sheepshead Bay, New York. He’s always pictured holding a big, dead fish. He’s proud and smiling. He’ll probably eat the thing later. I remember him being a good cook. He must have killed thousands of fish by now.

He lives with his girlfriend and she has a soon-to-be “tween” daughter. They look like a Hallmark-card-of-happiness in the images I've seen.

That’s why I was shocked to hear from O.F. I figured things were just ducky with him. He said he had bad news. He didn’t mince words. He was just diagnosed with cancer. Having two dear girlfriends who are also dealing with stage 4 cancer, I knew a lot about what he might be telling me next, about treatments, cure rates, staging.

The problem was they caught it very late in the game. His cancer, which started as a tumor in his stomach, metastasized (spread) into his liver. His liver was 90-95% full of tumors. The cancer had spread into his bones, too. The only treatment option was chemotherapy, so at least there was some hope he’d have additional time.

 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, his girlfriend and her daughter were moving out. Their relationship was over. O.F. would be alone during his remaining days. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t understand how someone could leave a relationship when things got tough. I couldn't believe this guy I'd known for more than half my life just got a death sentence handed to him.

I later mentioned this to my friend Pam, who just spent the last year getting cancer-related treatments and surgeries. She told me that a lot of women who get breast cancer also lose their husband or partner. Many people take off instead of lean in and support their mate when times get tough. I thought about all the sick cats I’ve dealt with, like Freya and Fred. I’ve never given up or walked away, no matter how painful the situation. I couldn’t fathom being so cruel, especially to my own partner.

Then, in a shaky voice, O.F. began to cry.

 

“I’m begging you. I need you to take my cats. The doc says I have to get rid of anything I have responsibility for. I had to quit my job. I can’t work. I can’t even walk around the block. How can I care for my cats? Can you help me? Please?”

 

Normally I can’t take on adult cats. We don’t have a brick and mortar shelter where they might get the attention of an adopter. Having the cats in my home meant someone would have to make an extra effort to meet these cats and it was unlikely that would happen given their age. I knew if I said yes, I’d have the cats for a long time—easily over a year. Where would they live? They were six years old. O.F. said they were friendly but that the boy, Buddy, had started peeing outside the litter pan. Something was wrong.

He told me he managed to get his soon-to-be-ex to take the cat to the Vet, but he was very vague about what they found out. I’d have to deal with that issue myself. Buddy’s sister, Belle, had no known problems but weighed 25 pounds. I thought O.F. was joking, but I later found out the joke was on me.

 

I had to say yes. I didn’t want to. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a day off in SIX YEARS. I promised Sam I wouldn’t take any more rescues until 2017 so we could have some down time over the winter, but how could I say no?

 

Then the reality of their possible health issues made me think twice, too. How could I afford to provide care for a potentially very sick cat? Buddy might block up and the surgery to help him would easily break our bank account. I did not want to do this, but I couldn’t turn them away. We would deal with it somehow, some way.

A few days later, Sam and I spent the day driving back and forth to Brooklyn, NY, in terrible traffic, to meet and transport Buddy and Belle to our home. The plan was to get them acclimated, then move them to another foster home where they would enjoy a lot more space. I figured they’d need a week here, tops, then I’d work on promoting them and finding them a home after I got their vetting done and they were in their new foster home.

 

I was uncomfortable seeing O.F. again. It had been well over a decade since I’d seen him. He’d also been the guy I dumped Sam for. Ironically, I dumped O.F. after he cheated on me, then I went back to Sam after that. Yeah, awkward!

 

I also wondered if this might be the last time I saw O.F. alive.

Being in Brooklyn again was surreal. I missed the beat of urban life as we walked past the brownstones lining the streets to reach O.F.’s apartment. Years ago I spent most weekends in Brooklyn. I only had two cats at the time. I fed them dry food back then, so I could load them up with a pile of food, take off and have a weekend of going to restaurants and movies, while blindly thinking I was madly in love with someone who often acted like a drama queen and made me second-guess my value to him. It was so long ago it felt like another life that happened to another person.

I was worried about how Sam was going to take all of this, but as usual, Sam was understanding. He knew we were both there for the cats, not for a heartfelt reunion. It was business. It was a rescue mission. We’d done this before. We’d do it again.

Belle waiting
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Belle waiting for Sam to arrive and her journey to begin.

Seeing O.F. was definitely unsettling. Here I was back in his apartment. This is where I used to spend my time with him. It hadn’t changed that much. It was even darker than I remembered, being a third floor walk-through apartment with windows at either end of the space. I began to flash back to fragments of memories, but pushed them away, trying simply to focus on the task at hand.

 

I got a hug from O.F. when I reached the doorway to his apartment, but it didn’t feel familiar or comforting. O.F. was very distressed, far more so than I’d ever seen. He was older, still plump, still with a head of thick black hair, though now with added slivers of silver threaded through it. There were the killer dimples on his cheeks that once fooled me into thinking he was a sweet guy. Even though I recognized him, he was a stranger in many ways.

 

I understood his distress. I’d be distressed, too if I had his diagnosis, but as he spoke he seemed off. I’d ask a question and not really get an answer or get a different answer than he’d given me before. I realized it would be best just to ask about the cats and get as much history on them as I could. I was very matter-of-fact about it because I didn’t want to burst into tears thinking I was taking this man’s last comfort away from him when he needed them most.

He angrily declared his girlfriend told him to “suck it up” when he told her about his diagnosis. She’s a nurse. You’d think she would understand he would need her, but she said she was moving out and that she didn’t want her daughter to see him die. Really? Is that what you teach your child? When the going gets tough, go? I hoped O.F. was being dramatic. It wouldn’t have been the first time. If it was true, I couldn’t imagine much worse. He said he loved that kid and would have adopted her. Now they were leaving him to go through chemo and to face whatever future he had left on his own. There were moving boxes stacked near the dining table where we sat, but the woman did not want to see me take the cats away so she had left for a few hours. I wondered if she would have cared for the cats and perhaps if O.F. only wanted to hurt her by preventing her from giving them a home.

O.F. never asked me anything about my life or remarked on how seeing me again was good/bad/indifferent. He barely acknowledged Sam’s presence. He just went off on different tangents that didn't add up to anything that made sense. I kept trying to ask as many questions about the cats as I could. I knew we only had a few minutes. O.F. was getting tired and wanted to rest. We had to sort out getting the cats out of the apartment without being able to park near the building. It turned into a “thing.” Sam had to go get the car, which was parked a few blocks away, while I waited with Belle, alongside me in a cat carrier in the lobby of the apartment building. We’d tried to get Buddy into the carrier with Belle, but he flipped out. I left him upstairs to cool off.

Buddy being held by OF
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Buddy's last moments with O.F.

Thankfully we brought two carriers, but had left the second one in the car. Sam would illegally park by the building, I’d run out with Belle, then he’d give me the second carrier. I’d run up a few flights of stairs, load up Buddy, then bring him to the car. Sam would stay with the car to avoid getting a very costly ticket.

 

Things went as planned, but my heart sank when I got upstairs with the carrier for Buddy. O.F. was sitting on the end of the bed, holding Buddy in his arms. This was their final goodbye. Oh God, I felt awful taking the cat from him. He was visibly upset. I asked him if he was sure about this. If the chemo worked he could live another year or more. He nodded he was sure. We put Buddy into the carrier. I didn’t have much time to talk to O.F., other than to say a few words…and I struggled with what should I say.

 

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Buddy, terrified, begins his trip to our home.

 

Maybe this was it, the last time I'd ever see O.F., but there wasn’t time to fall apart. I touched his shoulder, giving it a hard squeeze and looked him in the eyes. I told him to fight, to not give up. I told him I understood this was dire, but that if they offered chemo it meant there was still a chance for good quality of life. I said, “Fight” with all the conviction I could, then leaned down and kissed him on the cheek.

 

I grabbed the cat carrier and with a heavy heart I made my way down the stairs as fast as I could. I’d just taken two cats from their dad when he needed them most. The only thing I was grateful for was that there were some really good Italian bakeries nearby. I had every intention of carb-loading in historic amounts to offset the horrible day we just had. I only had to keep it together long enough to get into the car as the poor cats cried out in alarm, their lives about to change forever.

Mounteleone
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. The best pasteries I've ever had, but they didn't make up for the emotional train wreck and terrible traffic we had to face.

Part two is up next...where I turn into a heartless bitch followed by turning into a heartbroken shell of my former self.

The Crossroad. Chapter 2. Life and Death.

(continued from Chapter 1)

I had a really really really terrible weekend. My diabetes diagnosis was on Thursday and by Friday I was terrified I had stable angina, too. I decided to be safe and began taking aspirin. It couldn’t hurt, right? I began to experience a mild reduction in symptoms. I wasn’t certain whether it was from the medication or the beginning of my new eating regime.

Speaking of which, Diabetes SUCKS. I read web site after web site of material trying to understand what to eat, when, what not to eat, how much of this or that to eat and it’s VERY CONFUSING. I should have been sent straight to a nutritionist instead of being given a few page printout telling me how I had to be careful about my nutrition choices and why I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I got to a point of frustration where I just went to bed and slept, even though it was in the middle of the day. I didn’t care. I was too angry and tired and my gut was killing me—I assumed from not eating much.

I was taking aspirin, two, every 4-6 hours, with a shaky hand. My gut hurt. I didn’t really want to eat. I had to force myself to eat something. All I thought about was the stress test on Monday and if I was going to live through it.

I was so scared all I did was have crying jags and try to come up with something meaningful to say if I died. What would my last-ish words be? I told Sam how sorry I was for the shitty things I’d put him through and that I loved him.

I told him we should end our engagement after seven YEARS and finally get married if I survived. He knew my duress was extreme, pushing me to say things like that, but in my heart I meant them.

Sam Moore Robin Olson BW
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Our engagement portrait.

My Will was out-of-date so I sat down and wrote something, anything to ensure some changes might be made if I died. I tried to write up a list of Bequests, too, but I was a member of crazy-town by then and my mind just couldn’t make sense of much of anything.

I looked over to my cat Spencer and I thought of him without me and what would become of him and the others and what of the foster cats? I knew if I did die I’d be leaving one huge mess for Sam and that upset me even more.

I tried to just sit in front of the TV, hoping to zone out and take a break from worrying, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. All I kept thinking was; “Is this pain the sign of an impending heart attack and if so am I going to live through this? On Monday am I going to the hospital after my test? Will I need a stent? Why did I let myself get so damn fat? Why couldn’t I take better care of myself? Why couldn’t I love myself?”

As Monday dawned, my gut felt even worse. I had palpitations I was so anxious. At 11AM we had to be at the Vet to bring our 15-year old cat, Nora in for her first acupuncture treatment. I could have stayed home but part of me felt like maybe this was my chance to say goodbye to the staff. I didn’t want to think like that but what if I missed this chance? OR, would I seem like a nut worrying about what was going to happen and everything would be fine?In the end I decided to remain as stoic as possible and focus on our cat.

Thankfully, I was distracted by meeting our new Vet, Dr. Carmen. She was great with Nora and we were stunned to see Nora walk comfortably for the first time in years right after her treatment.

Nora getting acupuncture
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Nora tolerated acupuncture very well and was purring through most of it.

Sadly, my anxiety returned as soon as we were on the way home. My appointment was at 2:45 PM so there was yet another two hours to wait until it was time to leave…the longest two hours of my life.

Sam drove me to my appointment, taking yet more time off from working. He’s been incredibly busy the last year and was getting very behind with his clients. I felt terrible about it, but I needed him more than ever and boy was I being nice to him to make up for it. I wonder if he thought he was with a different person? I'm usually not such a delicate flower to live with.

As he drove, I tried to make jokes. I told Sam I felt fine so we could go home. I noticed we were going to be quite early so I suggested he stop and get some coffee (because you do not want Sam’s coffee meter to go low-trust me on this). Sam pulled into a parking space at the mini-mall as I stayed behind, resting in the car, while he got his caffeine delivery device.

I looked around at the mall, watching the cars slowly pass by. It was a slate gray day and rather warm and humid. I wondered if this was it-this was the last thing I was going to see. I wondered if I did have to have some sort of scary procedure that I needed to just face it and go through with it so I could begin work recovering as soon as I could.

I have never been more scared in my entire life.

Sam drove us a few more blocks, then into the parking lot. There were a lot of cars parked at the Medical Building. It comforted me because I thought that if something happened surely there were plenty of doctors in the building who could help me. We entered the front doors passing some very senior citizens who had aides or family members assisting them. As I walked slowly past them, I felt very old, too.

The irony, perhaps, is that in my great fear, I wasn’t sure where we were supposed to go. I didn’t know the name of the office, only that they would do the stress test. We read the list of tenants, but none of the names sounded familiar. Fortunately I had made a notation on my calendar that said “Suite 107.”

It was just down the hall.

As we entered the room what struck me was how dingy and airless it was. There were no windows and the only light was those barbaric florescent tubes suspended in the ceiling that make you feel like your eyes are burning. We took our seats across from a small coffee maker/refrigerator that had a sign on it “For Stress Test Patients Only.”

Did they really want us having a cup of coffee before the procedure? We were the only people in the waiting room. There was no one at the desk. There was a note taped to the window by the desk that said to just wait and that someone would come out shortly.

I looked at the clock. It was 2:45 PM. I weakly held Sam’s hand as we sat there in silence. I wanted to say a million things to him, but there wasn’t time. I hoped that maybe he would say something important to me, but a few moments later the tech opened the door and called my name. I turned to him and gave him a quick kiss. I tried to look brave as I handed him my phone and purse. I wouldn’t be needing them any more.

The stress test did not go as expected. Find out what happened in my next post.

What the Heart Knows: The Fire Dept asks Us for Help. Ch 1.

I’ve come to the understanding that doing cat rescue is more often based on gut instinct than rational thought. Is one better than the other; one more appropriate to doing rescue? I suppose being rational would leave less to chance, but I also think that something gets lost in being so very careful. Mistakes are made, but lessons follow. Perhaps that’s how I make sense of this next story about a fearless little kitten whose accidental separation from his mother may have also been his saving grace.

My back has been killing me over the past week. So much so that the pain flares up to the point where I have to catch my breath and to sit down after standing for a short time. I blame it on no exercise, sitting here at the computer for hours without getting up, and having too small of a bed with too many cats vying for the same small space. Waking up with pretzeled limbs is okay some days, but after chronic repetition, my body had to revolt.

After lots of ice, heat, ice came some small relief. I had a bad health scare two weeks ago, heading to Urgent Care, certain I was having a heart attack. Fortunately, it was a confluence of issues, one being a possible ulcer from taking too much naproxen to counteract constant headaches-again from sitting down at the computer, eye strain, poor position at the keys. The other was from lifting too many heavy objects (aka taking cats to the vet) which pulled on the joints on either side of my sternum. The resulting double-whammy caused severe chest pain.

Something had to give.

I made big sweeping changes. I quit gluten and sugar. I don’t sit at the keyboard for long periods of time. I had to stop pain killers, for now, to let my gut heal. When my back started to go out, I decided to treat it with ice and heat, no meds…some rest…go easy…hope for the best.

With all that I did start to feel quite a bit better, other than missing having cake or a big fat croissant.

My back was improving. I figured another day or two and I’d be okay. That’s when the phone rang. It was after 6pm and usually I don’t pick up calls on the Kitten Associates line that late in the day. I need to have time for myself and I have to make boundaries, but I did look at the Google Voice transcript of the call. Even though the transcription leaves a lot to be desired (e.g.,“police station” is transcribed to “please state one”), I did see three words that caught my eye: Kitten and Fire Department.

There were two messages one right after the other. I listened to them both. One was from an associate who does wildlife rehabilitation. She told me that I’d be getting a call from the local 24/7 Vet hospital about a kitten that had been trapped in a wall and needed help.

 

Alarmed, I listened to the next message from the Vet. It said that a Lieutenant from the Danbury Fire Department had brought in a kitten that needed help and though they were sorry, since the “finances” couldn’t be provided, that they could not provide care and that I should call them to arrange to help this kitten since they turned it away.

 

I’ve had a problem with this Vet hospital for a long time. They’ve taken advantage of us before, having people call us when they can’t afford care, putting the burden of the life or death of that animal on whether or not we can pay the bill. I’ve had words with them about this. We’re a small rescue. We paid $1200.00 for one cat that did not even belong to us AND they called us at 10 PM the night of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to put that life or death burden on us! What would we say-especially on THAT night? It wiped us out.

Here they are calling yet again, but this time for a tiny kitten they easily could have helped. At least they could have shown the Firemen how to feed and void the kitten. What would that have cost? The Fireman didn’t have to save the kitten. They did what they felt was the right thing to do. They pitched in. They didn’t charge anyone for their efforts. Why couldn’t this Vet give this kitten some support? No. They sent it away. Now it was on my rescue, with few resources, to take care of this fragile creature. Who know how many hours had passed since the kitten had been found? When did it eat last? Little ones need to be fed every few hours or even more often if they are neonatal. Every second wasted put the kitten at higher risk of dying.

 

Perhaps I was fueled by anger as well as the need to help this kitten. I didn’t know how old it was or when the last time it had been fed. I knew we had Celeste, our mama cat, who might accept a fifth kitten, especially since Fiorello, her third-born had died. I also knew it was a BIG RISK to put an orphan with another family. Without testing the mother, we’d never know if the kitten carried Feline Leukemia, FIV or something else. Potentially, he could sicken or even kill our entire litter of foster kittens OR Celeste might carry something that would sicken and kill the orphan.

 

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Star looks on as her mom, Celeste feeds the rest of the family. Would Celeste accept a fifth kitten?

Did I really want to try bottle-feeding again so close to just losing and failing another? What if this one died, too? Could I stand the heartbreak; the shame of failure?

 

It’s just one kitten. Surely I could find a place for him.

 

I called Lieutenant Katherine and spoke to her about the kitten. My heart was racing. What was I getting myself into? Time was of the essence. I couldn’t back out. My instincts told me to hurry along and not worry about the consequences.

Lt. K. told me the shift before hers had been on a call to a property where there were people living illegally. They reported hearing cries coming out of the inside of a wall. Since calling for help also meant they would be kicked out of their illegal squat, they weren’t particularly happy about calling the Fire Department. I’m not sure why they called. They could have opened up the wall on their own, but then what would they do? They might not have realized it was a tiny kitten crying. Perhaps they thought it was something wilder?

What I know is that the mother and siblings were nowhere to be seen. The firemen looked for them but were told she had probably left the crawl space she’d been hiding the kittens. One kitten was left behind-the one that was in the wall. He was very thin and crying for his mother. They discussed leaving him there to be found by his mother, but they felt the people living at the location could possibly harm the kitten. It was decided to remove the kitten and find him some help. They had no idea what to do for the kitten, other than keep it warm. They weren’t sure they should give it cow’s milk, which was all they had, so they opted not to give him anything.

I asked Lt. K. to tell me how big the kitten was. Was it’s umbilical cord still attached? From what I was told, that’s what I expected. Her reply surprised me. She said, no, that he was walking a little bit, that his eyes were open, but were blue. I asked if his ears were straight up and down and she replied no. From what she told me I figured we had a 2 to 3 week old kitten. Okay. I can do this. Bottle-feeding an older kitten isn’t so tough. I thought I could manage his care.

 

I surprised myself by saying I’d be there as soon as I could. Here I am jumping in with both feet. I didn’t ask if the kitten has fleas, if he was sickly, what he even looked like, if it WAS a “he.” It’s a kitten. It needs help. Case closed.

 

Chapter 2 is up next, where we finally meet the little kitten and try not to drool on the sexy firefighters.

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Forever in My Heart

It’s been less than a day since our former foster girl Bobette, who was named Kissy after she was adopted in May, passed away. Just typing those letters, “p-a-s-s-e-d” makes me cry. I’m still in shock and still hoping someone will call me and tell me it was just a bad dream, that the Vets figured out a way to save our sweet pumpkin girl and she’s going to be okay—but no one calls.

The events leading up to Kissy’s death, I’ll leave to her “mama,” JaneA Kelley of Paws & Effect to write about. This is her story to tell, with her cat. My post is about my reflections about a foster cat who just barely a year ago arrived in my home, with her three young sons. They’d reached the part of their rescue-story where all the shots are done, they are spayed or neutered, and all that’s left is for them to just have fun and wait for their adopters to find them. It’s usually the part of the story where we all can relax, knowing the worst is over and the best is yet to come.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. A stray cat dumped at a Kill Shelter with her six newborn kittens waits for rescue.

Kissy didn’t have an easy life. I wrote a great deal about her and her boys, Jakey, Mikey & Teddy…and their three siblings, who passed away a few days after we rescued them from a Kill Shelter in Georgia. If you do a search on Covered in Cat Hair using the phrase: “Bobette” you can read all the stories, but here are a few: Life in the Pumpkin Patch
Bobette's Secret Pain
Harvest Time for Bob's Pumpkin Patch
and the Cat Writers' Association Certificate of Excellence winning: It Had to be You about Kissy's adoption.

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Kissy was rescued in honor of my cat, Bob Dole, after he passed away in September of 2011. He was a beautiful, brilliant orange Maine Coon tabby mix with piercing green eyes. When I saw Kissy’s photo and her brilliant orange coat and piercing green eyes, I knew I had to rescue her and her family...which also explains why she was originally named, Bobette.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Not eating for four days, Bobette was in dire straights.

Thanks to Maria, I had a foster home for the family until they were ready to come to Connecticut. Thanks to Bobby Stanford, I had someone to go bust this kitty and her babies out of the shelter before they got sick or were euthanized. The pieces fell in place. It was meant to be.

Kissy was far too thin and far too young to bear the burden of having six kittens. She began to recover and eat again, but after the loss of three of her kittens perhaps part of her shut down. She was a good mother for a time, but as the remaining boys grew, her love for them waned. She taught me that not all mothers and kittens suffer being separated. In fact, Kissy did better without her boys, though I know they missed her a lot.

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©2011 Bobby Stanford. Moments after rescue.

Kissy was just 9 months old when she had her kittens. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to be away from them, as she was barely a kitten herself.

Yesterday when JaneA called me and told me that Kissy had passed away, I broke down and sobbed, completely heartbroken. In that moment I realized something that I’d known for a long time, but perhaps was too close to it to see the truth—Kissy had taught me something else, my foster cat hadn’t just died, MY CAT just died.

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©2011 Maria S. Safe in Maria's home Kissy can finally relax.

The pain I was feeling was why many people can’t foster cats. They fall in love with them along the way and they can’t bear to be parted from them when the time comes. I realized that all these years of fostering cats that I truly do love each and everyone just the same and just as much as I love the cats who live with me for their entire lives, not just for a few months.

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©2011 Maria S. Kissy and her boys.

Each foster cat charms me, delights me, challenges me to learn more, to make fewer mistakes, to remember to cherish each day. I fall in love with each foster cat, not just a little, but fully, completely. I can’t build a wall to protect myself from how I feel about them. Instead of running away from that fear, I push into it. It does me no good to hide from feelings. In facing them head on, perhaps I gain some gentleness about saying goodbye when they get adopted.

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©2011 Maria S. Her spay surgery over, Kissy relaxes in a comfy bed at Maria's.

When I go for a drive, I often pass homes where my foster cats now live. They are still my cats, they just live with other families. I still feel the tether that connects us. I sense they’re out there and they’re okay and because of that, I’m okay, too.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally in my home, Kissy and I get to know each other.

Maybe I’ve been kidding myself for a long time that I love my foster cats, but never enough so I can’t let them go. It’s not true. I love them no less than my own, I’ve just been practicing letting go and rationally telling myself that I must do this so I can help more. It always hurts, but the pain is bittersweet because I know they'll be happy where they're going.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Family portrait with proud mama.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Kissy and son, Churchy (formerly Mikey).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lap time with Sam as Kissy recovers from her corrective surgery. In the end, the surgery didn't help Kissy live more comfortably. Her leg was too deformed to be corrected.

Kissy only lived for two years. She knew a lot of pain in that time, but in the last year she knew a lot of love; love from Maria, me, Sam and finally her true mama-JaneA. She knew it from her fans and friends online who were rooting for her surgery to go well and for her to take her first steps without pain. That didn’t get to happen. We’re all shocked and terribly sad that Kissy’s story didn’t get to have the happy ending we all wanted for her. Frankly, I can't stop crying about it.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Such a good girl.

Kissy’s short life will not be in vain. I don’t know what I’m going to do right now, but I’ll be doing something to honor her. Kissy taught me a lot and made me realize I was foolish to think that love could be restricted or spooned out in measured amounts. It’s all or nothing and I loved that cat completely. I will never forget her and I thank her for what she taught me. Maybe we’ll meet again one day? I can only hope so.

For now I share my grief with those of us who fought hard to give her a great life and who will keep fighting for other cats so that they may have the same chance Kissy did. She will never be forgotten and always be in my heart.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fly free, my sweet. No more pain.

The Winds of Change-Part 4 of 4

The Cutest Kittens in the World

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Charly & Buttons.

Charly and Buttons are still here giving me a reason to smile. They are such darling creatures. I love spending time with them.

It looks like one of them will be getting adopted. I don’t want to jinx it by saying more, but I promise to update you when the time comes. Until then, I’ll greedily hold onto them and try to enjoy every second.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Clean those dirty toes!

Since writing this a few days ago, a few things have happened. Charly's been adopted by a wonderful couple from Boston! (Read his new mom's blog to keep up with Charly's adventures) Though I miss Charly a lot I know he's got a great home. Buttons is keeping me company and to help him, I asked foster-mama-Donna to let me take Bandit, Button's sister. That way Buttons wouldn't have to be alone.

The problem-Bandit is NOT happy to be here at all! Oops.

About the title: The Winds of Change

There’s a huge hurricane headed our way. They’re calling it Frankenstorm or simply, Hurricane Sandy. I’m having terrible flashbacks of a year ago when we were hit by “Snowmaggedon”—the worst week of my life without electricity or friendship (Sam and I had had a bad fight and spent the week ignoring each other…I broke off our engagement and gave back the ring.) With no heat, frigid temperatures, no water, no nothing I thought I was going to lose my mind. You can read the multi-part series HERE HERE and HERE and see a visual journal of my week from Hell.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Taking five from wrestling.

A year later, the same things seem to be happening again, as if on schedule. Because I know he reads this blog, I’m not going to say much other than a simple moment of irritation on my part turned into a full blown war on his. Sam has declared he is leaving me, we are done. It’s day five when we should be planning on getting through this next storm, but we can’t even recover from the one between us.

There’s a cascading effect once these cruel winds blow. There’s the obvious sign of bags and boxes being packed, but beyond that there’s a joint business being run that saves the life of cats. There are design projects that might have been worked on hand in hand and will now be done by other firms. There is a loss of livelihood and most likely a loss of my own home.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Game for Cats is a hit with these two.

Almost twenty years have ticked past. There have been plenty of storms along the way. The winds always bring us back together and we find a way to rebuild. With all the stress in our lives I can’t see where the resources are to find a place where things are okay again. I’m so beat down by everything else it’s just one more thing. It makes me sad to write that because it should mean so much more, but my bank account is almost empty and so is my heart.

That’s why I haven’t been able to write much this week. It’s hard to write when you’re looking out the window and know something horrible is coming your way. As if in a bad dream you can’t lift your legs and run, run, run. You have to stay there and wait and let the wild winds crash the tree limbs around you, let the rain wash over you, while you pray you don’t drown.

Calling All Angels for Jackson Galaxy (the cat)

Somewhere out there is a very special person who can accept the pain of loss as part of the cycle of life. Someone who doesn’t run away from fear, but can sit with it, feel its vibration run through their veins and not fall apart. They may wince or shudder, but they can stay in place, take a breath and have faith that another breath will follow. That in this moment everything is okay—even if one day there will be moments of great sadness.

They realize that their experience on this mortal coil is not all about them, but about helping others and being present in the moment and cherishing every second of what remains.

This person could look at a situation like the one I’m facing with Jackson and accept that life with him will be bittersweet.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson's ever the scamp with a big personality to match his big heart.

The test results are back. Jackson’s thyroid function is normal. It takes off the table any hope that his heart problems stemmed from something else that we could control or even cure. It also doesn’t resolve why he attacked my cats or why he still howls at night. His kidney function is slightly off—not a concern right now, but may be in the future. Jackson has a worsening bacterial infection, possibly in his gut, but we’re not sure. It will mean a longer course of antibiotics as he only got Baytril for a week. It may be why I caught him peeing outside the box once or twice and explain why he’s been fairly quiet the past few days.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting for Dr. Larry.

 

The report from the cardiologist just came in. Jackson’s heart is in bad shape. Dr. April describes his condition as “Severe, Advanced Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.”

 

The lasix, ACE inhibitors and aspirin (a tiny amount every 3 days) haven’t caused any positive changes to his enlarged heart. It’s only been 10 days, but I was hoping to see more signs showing the medication was helping him—although he does seem to be more comfortable. Dr. Larry feels that Jackson's always had a bad heart and that it didn't stem from a virus or other issue.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

The other thing Dr. Larry mentioned was how difficult it is to handle Jackson. When he’s at the Vet, Jackson gets amped up. They can handle him for a few minutes but to do more than that Jax begins to get nasty with the staff. His heart rate soars and his breathing becomes labored.

It’s possible that just going to the Vet could push Jackson over the edge.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Taking a break at Dr. Larry's, but even with a hands off approach Jackson is still vexed.

That’s why I chose to have extra blood tests done since we had the sample available. I don’t know when we’ll be able to draw more blood. I don’t know how we’ll be able to repeat Jackson’s echocardiogram in a safe way next month.

We can’t sedate Jackson, so how do we expose him to a long car ride AND an exam at the cardiologist?

 

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Jackson at the Kill Shelter.

I’m tempted to look at this situation and think that Jackson was meant to be with me. I saw his photo in a mass emailing, asking rescue groups to save this cat at a Kill shelter in Georgia. Something about him made me want to save his life. Then cruel thoughts emerge—maybe he would have been better off if they euthanized him at the shelter? Was it worth all this stress, transport to Connecticut, living in a shelter, being moved back and forth in cars because his previous adopters traveled a lot, then losing that home and coming to mine—only to have little time left to live?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Home from the Vet, Jackson still prefers to hang out in the cat carrier.

 

I took a chance on rescuing an adult cat, but I never thought it would mean taking on one with a fatal heart condition.

 

If I hadn’t been so diligent about finding out why his breathing looked odd to me, Jackson would probably be adopted with a ticking time bomb inside him that would destroy his unsuspecting family.

We know what ails Jackson, but we don’t know if there’s anyone who lives close by (we can’t transport him far ever again) who would want to open their home to a cat who probably isn’t going to live a very long time. Dr. Larry said months, years if we’re lucky.

Truly only someone with the heart of a lion would adopt Jackson and I hope very sincerely they’re reading this post. Jackson deserves a home where he doesn’t have to vie for attention as he has to do here. He’d be happy with a cat or two to make friends with, but that’s a quiet place full of love and compassion.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I don't know why Jackson prefers cardboard, even after I bought him a nice new cat bed, but he likes what he likes.

I turn my head and see Jackson curled up in a cardboard canned cat food tray that’s on the floor. It’s not fancy, but he likes it. He’s resting quietly. All is well. I look at him and tears burn my eyes as I struggle not to cry. My life is about rescuing cats, about saving their lives and finding them wonderful families to share their life with. It’s not supposed to be like this.

 

Jackson is supposed to get better. I want his story to have a happy ending, not a tragic one.

 

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I wrote most of this post yesterday before Dr. Larry told me about the severity of Jackson’s heart condition. After a brief discussion…

…it was clear to both Sam and myself that Jackson already found his angels-if I may be so bold to refer to ourselves like that. We’ve decided we’re going to keep Jackson here where he’ll become the face of Kitten Associates.

He shouldn't have to endure the stress of moving to another home and trying to adjust. He has his home here with us. It’s not perfect, but we do love him. We’ll keep him in our program because we honestly can’t afford to provide for another cat and had no plans to add to our family. We’ll set up a special donation page for him and continue to update everyone on how he’s doing since I know so many of you care about him and ask after him.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson holding his catnip heart.

I had no idea that one day I’d say I was living with Jackson Galaxy, cherishing him and protecting him until his last day, but there you go. Life is full of irony and surprises.

I’m just trying to keep my chin up and be brave for Jackson and enjoy every moment we have together until there are no more.

Jackson's Broken Heart

Perhaps it's fitting that as I write this my chest feels tights and my sinuses are plugged up. My sole goal for today is to write this update then finally go to bed and rest. With all the effort surrounding Jackson and his care, I couldn't let a cold stand in my way, but I realize I've been flirting with getting pneumonia (again) and if I'm sick I can't care for him.

Jackson. How's he doing?

Jackson responded to the lasix and ACE inhibitor treatment over the course of Wednesday evening. First, the crackling lung sounds subsided, then were gone. The fluid build up in his lungs was resolved. This was a great sign.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Waiting.

Jackson's respiration was still too fast, but slower than it was when we first brought him in. This told us the lasix was working to remove the fluid around his heart that was making him feel so uncomfortable in the first place.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Here's Jackson! At last!

By Thursday morning, Jackson was off oxygen and in a “regular” cage. After retesting his blood pressure and respiration, the Vets, including a cardiologist and critical care specialist, felt that Jackson was getting close to being stable enough to go home. On Jackson's chart was a warning note-that he was fractious and for the staff to handle him with caution. Perhaps it was the treatment or simply feeling better but Jackson stopped being aggressive and the staff found he was a joy to be with.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. With boo-boo bandage still intact, Jackson finally heads home.

They also asked me what Jackson was being fed and I told them not to feed him dry food, at least. They gave him canned Friskies, which they knew I'd not be thrilled about, but Jackson ate it right up, the final clinical sign that told the Vets he was ready to go home.

Yesterday afternoon Sam and I drove to VCA Shoreline Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center. We knew we weren't going to pick up a cat who was cured of his illness, but at least we were going to pick up a living cat. Jackson had begun a transformation, but I didn't know how he would be different; would he have more energy? be cranky? be difficult to pill?

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

The other big question was; NOW WHAT? What would become of Jackson?

The brutal blow about all of this was the news I'd been keeping secret. Jackson was about to be adopted.

A great family met Jackson a few days before and had decided that he was the one for them. I couldn't ask anyone to take on the care of a cat with a terminal disease. It was too much to hope for that they'd still want to bring him home after I told them the sad news.

In a way, the possible adoption saved Jackson's life-that and the sad fact that my dear cat, Stanley died of HCM when it was too late to do anything to help him. Stanley's respiration mimicked Jackson's and for that reason I felt that I wanted to get Jackson checked out one more time before he got adopted. I had a feeling something was off with Jax and at least, even with the costs and fear for his future, it was worth it. Maybe we caught it in time to still give him a good quality of life?

We spoke with Jackson's Vet and she went over the many details about his care going forward. First, Jackson must be medicated with 2 TINY pills, 2 times per day. He's also on a short course of Baytril since he did show signs of having some sort of infection/upper respiratory issues. Jackson will also be on a small dose of aspirin every 3 days. This is to prevent his blood from clotting. Cats with HCM can “throw a clot” which often causes their back legs to become immobilized. It also can cause death.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

In addition to medications, Jackson will need MORE tests done. Doing a FreeT4 blood test is important because heart problems can be brought on by hyperthyroidism so that needs to be ruled out. Jax will also need another echocardiogram in 2 to 3 months and followup blood work to check his kidney function. The problem with HCM, in addition to the obvious, is that the extra fluids we need to keep off Jackson's heart put a strain on the kidneys. If Jackson has renal disease, it's game over.

It's too early to say what Jackson's future holds. There's more to be done to find out the root cause of his heart ailments.

We have to wait and see how he'll respond to the drug therapy over time. We couldn't even discuss if he has years or months. We thought Jackson was two, but turns out he's closer to five years old. He's still a young cat, so perhaps he'll be with us for a long time to come.

Last night we got Jackson home and he hit the litter pan and had what must have been a very satisfying pee. He wanted to be fed but only nibbled on his food. He spent an hour on the bed but most of the night inside the cat carrier we used to bring him to the Vet. This morning he didn't want to eat, but I managed to get him pilled.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. At home on the bed with Spencer.

This morning, as I started to put a game plan together of what to try to tempt Jackson with, he started to meow. He came over to me and rubbed up against my legs. I asked him if he was hungry and he meowed in reply. I grabbed some cat food, warmed it up and offered it to him. Sam and I had to stand as sentries to keep the other cats away since they were still waiting for their breakfast to thaw out while Jackson finally ate.

It was a marvelous sight.

Though he didn't eat well, he DID eat, then wanted a bit more a bit later.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. This morning.

I find myself watching Jackson's chest rise and fall, trying to be prepared at any moment to run him to the Vet. His breathing is more fluid, smoother, slower and more normal, but it's tough not to feel panic. We have to stay watchful, but we have to give it time so we can all adjust.

Jackson just cried just now. I went upstairs to check on him. He got out of his cat carrier and came over to me. He purred as I petted him. I lowered my head down to his and he rubbed his forehead against mine. Maybe he was telling me “thank you for saving my life” or maybe he was just feeling a bit lonely. Whatever the reason, I was glad to see this sign of him feeling better. He really IS a good boy.

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A sweet note from some of Jackson's fans.

It's time for me to go back to bed and finally get some rest. Jackson needs it, too. It's been a tough few days on all of us, but this reminds me never to take even a single day for granted. You really don't know what tomorrow will bring.

If you'd like to join the MANY WONDERFUL PEOPLE who have donated towards Jackson's growing Vet bill, please visit this link on ChipIn to donate. THANK YOU!

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