You've Got to be Kidding!

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.

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©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.

The Sweetest Cat in the World Needs Us.

Maybe it was the big paws, the “mits” that look like baseball gloves, that did me in. When I first met Annie and her brother Andy, they had recently been rescued off the streets from a rough and tumble town south of here. It only took a look at Annie’s curious markings, her kohl lined eyes, her “tail light” white-tipped fluffy tail, and her extra toes, to capture my heart.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. My first meeting with Annie.

 

There was something else about Annie, a gentle sweetness that is rare in kittens. She didn’t fuss or fight. She didn’t hiss or growl during her veterinary exam. She was relaxed and calm. I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe her true kitten-nature would come out once she had time to eat some good food and relax in the safe surroundings of her new foster home with me, but she remained as-ever, relaxed and at ease.

 

I admit I love Annie, and Andy far beyond how I feel about most of my foster cats. They are very lovely animals. I knew they’d get adopted right away so I made sure to spend a lot of time with them, knowing we’d only have a short while together.

I got many applications for the kittens. Most of them I turned down for one reason or another. One of them was from a VERY affluent senior citizen who lives in a multi-million dollar home overlooking a lake. She and her husband could provide anything they wanted, but, during the home visit I didn’t see anything for the cats other than a very old, ratty cat bed and some well-worn toys and a poisonous plant I warned her about. Her reaction was that the last cat never touched the plant so it wasn't an issue and I had to insist it be moved or removed from the house. Judging by her reaction I felt I was getting lip-service. She had no intention of moving the plant. As I spoke with the woman, she went to great lengths to show me her amazing home and tell me the history of it, but when she began to tell me about her former cats I began to have serious doubts about her as an adopter.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Never far from each other Andy with sister, Annie.

Thankfully, I was with one of our dear friends, who also is an amazing artist and volunteer for our rescue. She heard the same things I did about the woman putting her cats down after either not providing care for them, even though she knew they were sick (because apparently in her mind that’s what you do, just let them decline and die in pain) OR she spent a lot of money only to give up on the cat when the cat needed further care for a few weeks to a few months. She acted as if she was a Saint, when she was heartless and cold. I thought perhaps I was misjudging her, weighing too heavily that she was also 74 years old and I wasn’t sure any of her adult children (one had 6 kids of his own and is a busy physician) would even step in should something happen to her.

No sooner than we left the opulent grounds of the estate, my friend said; “No f-ing way.” I agreed. You can’t have cats, then not provide proper care when they were in bad shape. You can’t let them just die especially if you can afford to provide whatever care they need. If it takes effort and work, you do it. You don't just kill your cat. She was cruel.

 

I got a lot of flack from the woman because she was not used to anyone saying no to her. I’m sure she just threw money at whatever she wanted because she’d hinted to me at a big donation to my rescue at adoption. Money doesn’t buy me or my kittens. Now, I’m even more glad I said no because surely Annie would be dead right now if she was in that home.

 

Not long after the failed adoption, Annie got sick. She had a soaring fever, was slightly anemic, had high white cells. We did tests and put her on an IV. She got somewhat better, but not truly well. We later found out via ultrasound that she had an intussusception, a folding in of the intestine into itself causing a blockage, which is a life-threatening emergency.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson.

I got on Facebook, crying, and begged for help. So many of you jumped at the chance to provide a precious gift so Annie would get the surgery ASAP. It was one of the most difficult, but amazing days of my rescue-career because Annie did great. The surgery went smoothly and she recovered very well. The surgeon was thrilled. We all thought she was out of the woods. Next stop, find Annie and Andy a forever home.

But something still wasn’t quite right.

Annie seemed thin. She also seemed a bit too quiet. She was always a quiet cat, but…

 

I compared Annie to Andy. Andy is bigger, more robust, but kittens often aren’t the same size. Annie was eating. She wasn’t vomiting. Didn’t have diarrhea. She just seemed to be a bit limp. Was she really sick or was I imagining it?

 

Last Friday I was to drive Annie and Andy to Fairhaven, MA, to attend a cat show where they would be our Kitten Associates representatives. For fun I was going to have them judged, too, in the Household Pets Division. The night before we left I thought Annie was a bit flat, but by morning she was perky and eating like a champ. I decided I was being too protective and thought she’d be healthy enough for the trip.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson.Chillin' in the hotel, but sadly no room service.

 

Annie did great. She and Andy were superstars at the Cat Show. Out of 20 cats in their division, they always made the top 10 over the 5 times they were judged that weekend. I was so proud of them. They had fun in the hotel room. They ate well. They used the litter pan, but…one of the judges thought she felt a bit thin and that set off alarm bells.

 

I decided to get Annie checked out. I found a good adopter for her and Andy, but I wanted to make certain she was all right first.

 

We visited Dr Larry yesterday. He did an exam and thought Annie looked good. I told him my gut feeling was that she was not well and he told me that 18-25% of the time the only way a Vet can know if a pet is ailing is because the owner is very observant and knows when their pet is not right. That’s when he knew we needed to do some tests.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. First time in the judging ring Annie scores 4th place!

We ran blood work. Annie is anemic and her white blood cell count is up. There are other issues with her blood, too, but her kidney function and other organ function is good. Dr. Larry thought the IDEXX machine was not working right and wanted us to come back the next day to re-run the test. If Annie truly had these issues, something concerning was going on and we would need to get to the bottom of it fast. Kittens don’t get anemic for no reason.

We returned to the vet this morning and after the year I’ve had, I was not happy to be there. I was scared. I was scared for Annie, that it was going to be really bad news. Our cat Nicky just died a few weeks ago and the health scares with our new foster cats Belle and Buddy did a number on me. Here we are at the cusp of the Holiday season and I am terribly behind in my work and holiday planning. I have too much on my plate, but nothing is more important than the well-being of our cats.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Ready to go home. Annie jumps into my suitcase as I pack the last night of the cat show.

 

The second round of blood tests showed Annie IS sick. She does have an infection somewhere and is anemic for some reason. They did an x-ray and saw nothing, but x-rays aren’t the best diagnostic tool for a situation like this one. Annie needs to have an ultrasound done as soon as possible. Dr. Larry couldn’t say what was wrong, but it could be a result of the surgery she had or sadly, it could be something that has been going on, undetected for a long time.

 

 

We looked back over Annie’s medical records and saw that she was anemic before her surgery and now she's worse. She had a high fever and responded well to antibiotics back in October, but maybe she had TWO things going on…the intussusception AND some sort of infection that we didn’t get a handle on 100% and now it’s coming back…or does she have a chronic type of anemia? We just don’t know right now.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. On the way to the vet this morning.

The only thing I do know is even though we just raised money for Annie, then for Belle and Buddy, we need to raise more. We are down to our last few dollars and between Annie’s two vet visits and tomorrow’s ultrasound with a specialist, we need to raise $1500 by TOMORROW afternoon.

We may need more than that if Annie needs additional care, but I don’t want to ask for more until I know we need.

 

Annie is the dearest, most lovely kitten I’ve ever rescued, but now she needs ALL OF OUR HELP so she has a chance to get better. Please consider a Tax Deductible Gift of any size. It all adds up! If you can't help with a gift, then please share this with your friends because that helps, too.

 

It's easy to donate just use these links:

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

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

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

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

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

 

To mail a check, make it out to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692. Thank you for helping Annie!

Lovely Annie R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Can you help save my life?

UPDATE 12/15: We are $500 short of our fundraising goal. We did further testing today and it looks like Annie has some sort of infectious disease. We're to start antibiotics and shore her up wtih Vit B12 injections and iron-rich food as she has non-regenerative anemia and high white blood count. We REALLY need funds so we can continue with vet care costs. We're praying for a holiday miracle that we can still get help for this sweet girl.

Kiss Your Kittens. Don't Kiss Your Kids!

Erin Ross, in her recent article Kitten Conundrum: Cat-Scratch Disease is Making People Sicker, suggests that if you want to stay healthy, it would be wise to “avoid kittens”, citing a recent report by the CDC about Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) or Bartonella henselae. The article warns that CSD may have the the potential for causing serious illness, particularly in children and those who are immune-compromised.

But let’s take a closer look before we start euthanizing more kittens because they won’t be getting adopted due to irresponsible fear-mongering.

While I agree it is vital to provide information to the general public regarding zoonotic disease (illness that can be transmitted between humans and animals), it is equally, if not more important, to take a common-sense approach when reading information about such findings. Yes, it’s possible in a very few cases to become very ill from CSD, but if you look at the numbers, it’s so low I have to ask myself if it's certainly worth all the fuss the press has been making about it. If you're immune compromised, of course you're at a higher risk to get ANY disease. You might not want to share your home with a pet at all, not only for the CSD risk.

Again, common sense must prevail. Wash your hands. How many times did your mom tell you to do that? If your cat or kitten nips or scratches you, WASH the wound to prevent infection. DUH. Really, people, do you have to be told this?

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©2013 Robin AF Olson. Pizzelle, wondering what all the fuss is about.

I have fostered over 500 kittens in 15 years. I have NEVER gotten ANY illness from my cats or kittens. Okay, wait, I did get a spot of ringworm once. I kiss the kittens. I give them baths. They bite and scratch me, some times by accident, and some times on purpose. I’ve been to the ER once for a bad bite that was my fault. Did I get CSD? No.

What my concern for articles like the one found on NPR's web site and many others across the globe is that it can take a toll on the most innocent of creatures – kittens. It’s hard enough for shelters to find a foster home or a forever family for their most fragile residents and with this biased reporting it puts how many more lives at risk?

Kittens are euthanized every day in shelters across the country because they catch a cold or get a treatable skin condition like ringworm. Now with families afraid there’s a hidden disease in seemingly healthy kittens, that their kids are going to get sick enough to require hospitalization from being in contact with them, they're going to give up on adopting cats. Clearly there is little concern that the article could send a shock-wave of panic resulting in needless death, and cause rescues to lose foster homes and adoptions, just to make a buck on a click-bait headline.

Let’s look at some facts:

• Number of owned cats in the USA 85,800,000

• Number of people sickened by CSD per year 12,000

• Number of those people seriously sickened by CSD per year 500

• Highest average annual CSD incidence for outpatients and inpatients was among children 5–9 years of age (9.0 cases/100,000 patients and 0.4 cases/100,000 patients, respectively)
…and, by the way, DOGS can also transmit CSD so maybe you better get rid of your dog, too.

What About Kids? If You Want to Get Sick, Kiss a Kid.

While everyone is panicking that little fluffy Puff is going to kill their kids from CSD, what about the other way around? Want to get SICK? BE AROUND KIDS!

This is from Pinkbook, the CDCs guide to routinely used vaccines and the diseases they prevent regarding Influenza:

"Healthy children 5 through 18 years of age are not at increased risk of complications of influenza. However, children typically have the highest attack rates during community outbreaks of influenza. They also serve as a major source of transmission of influenza within communities. Influenza has a substantial impact among school-aged children and their contacts. These impacts include school absenteeism, medical care visits, and parental work loss. Studies have documented 5 to 7 influenza-related outpatient visits per 100 children annually, and these children frequently receive antibiotics"

What Does This Mean?

9 out of 100,000 or .009% of people get sickened by CSD and 5000-7000 of 100,000 people or 5-7% get sickened by KIDS.

GETTING SICK FROM A KID IS 550 to 770 TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN GETTING SICK FROM A KITTEN.

Even the CDC study mentions its own failings:

"Our study has several limitations. First, the case definition relies on diagnosis by clinicians and subsequent coding by clinicians or billing specialists, both of which are subject to error. For example, the 078.3 code could have been inappropriately used for care of a cat scratch wound but not actual CSD. Also, in some cases, the 078.3 code may have been recorded as a rule-out diagnosis when CSD was not actually confirmed. To our knowledge, there are no data on the sensitivity and specificity of the 078.3 code for CSD."

They also state that they expected the results to be higher! So what are they telling us? Hey, maybe it’s not that bad.

"The lower incidence of inpatient admissions found by our study is surprising, given that the number of US households with cats has increased in recent decades to an all-time high of 45 million." (there are now 85.8 million “owned” cats in the USA alone)

Minne and Family
©2013 Robin AF Olson. Minnie with her kittens and what would have become of them if they'd been in a shelter effected by a drop in adoptions and foster homes?

The last point that chaps my ass is the one that’s missing from the article. There is no mention on the toll CSD on the cats themselves. My rescue, Kitten Associates, now routinely tests for Bartonella and we DO find positive cats and kittens from time to time. We do this not only to protect our adopters, but because bartonella can mimic other illness. It might end up being overlooked while the cat ends up suffering for years, secretly sick. I’ve even randomly screened my own cats and was surprised at how many were positive, even though they were indoor-only cats and didn't have fleas. My Vet suggested that up to 20% of cats could have some level of infection (from mild, suggesting exposure but not needing treatment, to strong positive which requires treatment) and most people don’t even know it.

Ross ends the article saying not to kiss your cat until they are flea-free, which ignores the fact that if the cat has CSD, treating it for fleas is NOT going to fix the problem. You need to keep your cat INDOORS, keep him or her flea-free, test for bartonella, treat with antibiotics if there’s a strong positive, then run a titer in 6 months to make sure that cat is free from the infection. In my opinion, during the entire process you can KISS YOUR CAT all you want (I wouldn’t tongue-kiss though because that is GROSS). Let them lick your face. If they bite or scratch you, do what your mom told you to do and stop worrying about getting sick, especially if you're not immune compromised.

And get out there and adopt a kitten; better to adopt a pair. We have plenty ready to go right now!

But stay away from KIDS!

Sheesh.

Quad Shot of 4 Kittens
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Which kitten is going to infect you with a horrible disease? Adopt one to find out. (top left: Slinky, top right: Herbie, bottom left: Aunt Bee, bottom right: Mr Peabody).

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Cats Shows and Breeders and Haters, oh My.

I like to think I’m open-minded. I try to give everything and everyone a chance, resisting the temptation to make a judgment about an issue based on little or no facts. With my life, via this blog, being part of the fabric of social media, I find that people are very willing to express their feelings about what experiences I've written about and can be quick to make negative comments. It gives me pause. It makes me wonder if I should not write any more or if it’s worth it to constantly open myself up to a volley of negativity.

As always, I will go to my center, where my goal is simply to tell my story and through my experiences possibly educate anyone who takes the time to read these words. Success AND failure is something we learn from. My ups and downs are like anyone else’s, except for that they’re a lot more public and open to scrutiny.

I ask that you remain open-minded as I tell this tale because I know it’s a minefield and may fill some of you with a lot of strong emotions ready to fire off, but I have to speak my peace.

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve left the house for more than a few hours, and even a longer time since I’ve gone anywhere overnight. As much as I love my cats and Sam, I needed a break.

I was supposed to attend an animal rescue related conference in early April, but I got the flu the day before I was to leave. I was so sick I didn’t do anything for three weeks other than lay in bed and feel miserable. I was so angry, feeling robbed of my one tiny chance to get away. I cursed at the sky and asked whoever the Big Boss is, why, someone who helps others, who is so poor, who works so hard, gets the flu the one day she is supposed to do something for herself (which in truth will help others since she’ll learn things about rescuing cats).

I still had one more trip to look forward to this year and I decided early on that I’d get there, no matter what. I’d been invited to attend a cat show in Massachusetts as a Guest Judge. Judge? Cat Show Judge? Me?

Not only that, but little Freya, our pooping-wonder-cat, was invited to be the Guest Cat! If I wanted to, I could show her in the Household Pet Cat division. Did I? Gosh, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but it also was an opportunity to educate people about the importance of saving the life of a cat who was deemed “un-savable.”

Freya is our Mascot after all. It’s through her that we were able to help save more kittens with atresia ani and put a spotlight on the importance of helping kittens with birth defects reach a happy adulthood.

Okay. I decided to give it a try.

I know what some of you are going to be thinking, and you’ve already voiced your opinion on my Facebook page about how cruel showing cats is and that any animal breeder should be punished, their animals not paraded around to the benefit of their owners and that how could I, as the President & Founder of Kitten Associates, dare do that to our Mascot, leaving her terrified in a tiny cage while waiting to be judged?

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I’d have to admit that before I attended the cat show, I did have reservations. Sure, I’d been to cat shows plenty of times before, but only to oooh and ahhh over the pretty pedigreed felines and buy cat toys. I thought about how many cats are in kill-shelters, how many are starving and dying horrible deaths and that cat breeders just made the problem worse by adding more cats to the population problem.

I’d heard stories about breeders euthanizing cats that weren’t up to Standards, or not breeding their cats responsibly and causing birth defects or genetic health issues, then selling the cats for twisted amounts of money under the guise that they were healthy and robust.

I’m sure that there are those of you who know every fact and figure to prove the point that breeding should be outlawed completely, so how dare I spend the weekend at a cat show, showing my little cat in the Household Pet Cats ring?

There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Firstly, there is no black and white about cat shows and breeders being all good or all bad. There are degrees of both states, just like in anything else. I did a lot of thinking about this topic as I walked around the show floor. I wanted to hate the breeders and be pro-cat-rescue, blinders firmly in place.

But then there were the cats.

Holy shit they were stunning. I thought about what the world would be like if no one preserved or created new breeds of cats (like the Napoleon who I just saw this weekend who was so cute I practically melted or the mind-blowingly magnificent orange Maine Coon with paws as big as my hands).

Baccaruda R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Baccaruda, one of my new BFFs gets shown. He is all fluff, all the time.

What if we DID outlaw breeding and all we had were what I usually see in my rescue-world—an assortment of tabbies, gray cats, lots and lots of black cats, fluffy cats, orange cats, calicos or torties, but I wouldn’t see a magnificent, mellow-minded Birman, with big white mitts, sapphire blue eyes and chocolate coloring that fades along the abdomen and darkens at the paws. I wouldn’t see a delicately proportioned, trouble-making, Singapura with a ticked coat and pale green alien-like eyes who had so much energy she was practically vibrating.

What goes beyond looks is that these cats are also bred for temperament. Some are chosen for being curious and playful, while others are gentle giants. I never know what I’m going to get when I rescue a cat. Usually they’re sick, thin, full of fleas. When they feel better, they can sometimes become pretty obnoxious, while others might become fearful once they’re strong enough to show their true nature. I work hard to help them become confident and loving, but if they were genetically predisposed to be sweet and I knew that ahead of time, gee, there is something to be said for that.

I’m not looking to start a big argument about what is right or wrong, but I am hoping that maybe some of you will just be open-minded enough to think about a world without purebred cats and focus your anger on anyone who is cruel to animals, period.

Do I love that these cats are sold for crazy amounts of money? No.

Do I love that there ARE some cats who are stressed out of their minds and should not be shown. NO!...but we’ll talk more about that in my next post because I did see some pretty amazing changes in the cats as they quickly acclimated to their surroundings (including Freya).

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Stunning Maine Coon KITTEN.

That said, I would never condone making a cat miserable just so I could show him or her off and I am clear in the fact that there are breeders who do horrific things to their cats in the name of the almighty dollar.

Then there’s something I’m not sure many folks consider. There are a few people who do the cat shows who would otherwise have little or no contact with anyone in society. They use their cats as bridge so they can be comfortable around others. It gives them reason to get out of their home, socialize, and make friends when they probably can’t do that very well in their day-to-day life. I honestly think it improves their mental health.

Is it right that cats could be seen as being used to help humans? Well then what about service dogs? Horses? Police dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, cancer-sniffing dogs, therapy cats? Is it so different that some of these cats provide their guardians with a feeling of safety and security in social settings?

And lastly, when you look at any cat, what’s one of the first things you do after cooing over how cute it is? You try to sort out what breed it might be. I think it would be a sad world if we were reduced to describing our cats, as, well, cats or by color or fur pattern alone.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Freya "helps" me pack up for our trip.

Slowly, over generations of not preserving breeds, we’d end up with a mixed bag of cats, who have no interesting personality traits that we can count on and probably less and less remarkable coloring or characteristics. I’m not sure what the impact would be on over-crowded shelters because the sort of people who don’t spay/neuter their cats isn’t going to change. Yes, some unscrupulous breeders dump their pet-quality kittens or adults at shelters, but my gut tells me the folks who don’t spay/neuter their cats or give kittens away for free on Craigslist without them being vetted are a bigger concern.

As humans, it’s in our nature to categorize, identify and create. Over the millennia, we have come to do that with our cats, too. We have bred cats who are sweet lap cats and cats who are glorious athletes. Just as humans are diverse, so are our cats. Do we really want to get rid of cat breeds because some breeders are rotten apples? Do we really want to close down cat shows because some of the cats experience stress for a few hours? How many cats are in homes that experience stress 24/7 due to their guardians behavior or suffer stress from the other pets in the home because they were not introduced properly or don’t have appropriate places to flee when they experience fear?

While I can’t say I love every aspect about breeding cats, maintaining a standard, or cat shows, I can say that after being part of one I see value I couldn’t see before. I hope you can, too.

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So, yeah, I judged a cat show, but first, I had to get there and let me tell you, THAT was a story in and of itself.

Warning Lights R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Anti-lock brake, brake and traction control warning lights come on 12 hours before I have to drive to MA. Do I stay home or risk driving a car that's about to crap out on me?

Next up…the trip from HELL, in a hateful car, with a dead phone and no way to navigate my way out of a horrific traffic jam where I was traveling at a blazing 4 MPH. How determined was I to get away for a few days after all? Maybe I should have just stayed home?

This Precious Life: We'll Never Really Know. Conclusion.

(Continued from Part 1)

I asked about the moms and she said yes to me getting them spayed, at least.

In the end, she adopted out 8 kittens that were not fixed and I doubt had any vetting of any kind. Who did she sell them to? What really happened with them? I do not know. The few times I asked I got a different answer. One answer was it was good homes to good families then it was to friends and to their own family members. I was livid. I knew if those kittens were alive, all of the rescues in CT just had 8 more intact cats to deal with. God knows how many more kittens they would have before they were vetted, IF they were even alive.

Chapstick at 2 weeksish
Chapstick/Miracle beating the odds.

I begged to help the moms get spayed and we finally were able to set up an appointment to get it done. I was so excited that we could get these cats vetted. Everything was going fine. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I had found out they were moving to Georgia soon, so it was good this was getting done. An HOUR before the appointment I got a text…“sorry but Jon worries the moms will throw a clot on the trip down to GA because it’s so soon after we have to leave so we have to cancel.”

Once again I found myself in utter disbelief. What a crock of shit. Really? Instead of getting these cats vetted for free, they’re going to move them intact into the state that has a horrifically high kill rate in all the municipal shelters. Those cats, if they ever got lost or kept breeding had a very bad future ahead of them. I was at the end of my rope, not to mention I had to be rude and cancel on my Vet which hurts my relationship with him.

Photo 2
One of the other mama-cats.

Unwilling to give up, I took yet more time to send them info on low cost clinics in their new home state so they could get all the cats vetted once they got there. They always assured me that the cats would be taken care of and it would be fine, but I just felt placated.

The final straw was this week.[editor's note: this was over a year ago] I thought they were long gone but they were still here, living in a hotel. Now they wanted help getting their two moms (the ones I’d offered to get spayed) a new home, along with the male who I’d had neutered. They were moving in a few DAYS and couldn’t keep all the cats. Could I help?

Belly Happy R Olson
Tiny tummy.

I should have said no, but I wanted to help the cats so I said I would try. I begged a BIG favor from a dear friend who does rescued and she offered to take them, but…she asked after Miracle. What about her? Of course, she needed to be spayed, too. I told her she would have to make the deal with the couple. That I would go get them, I would help vet them, whatever I could do, but in the end if she was taking the cats she would have to make the arrangements.

She talked to them a few times each time getting a different story. I didn’t even know they’d kept a male kitten from one of the litters so they had a male and female kitten who were intact. When she told them she’d take ALL the cats and get them vetted, then give them back the kittens they balked. First, they suddenly changed their minds that the fixed male could stay with them and that they only wanted the two females to be re-homed. They wouldn’t answer certain questions. It was Wednesday, they were moving on MONDAY. We had to RUSH to get every cat vetted. Then all of a sudden they wouldn’t answer Katherine’s texts asking them when we could come get the cats.

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Miracle with one of her stepmoms.

Clearly they did not want to give up the kittens, but it was okay to give up the young adults that had just had litters of kittens. Why? Was it because the new “adam and eve” kittens were going to be bred next? Had I unearthed a backyard breeder? I can’t say. I can ask questions because things didn’t line up. It’s one thing to change your mind, but it’s another to change your story depending on who you’re talking to. I was furious.

I got up very early Thursday and called my vets. I again begged for an appointment to S/N the kittens. We could do the adults later. No one could help or if they did the costs were outrageous. I knew I had a litter of kittens coming up on a transport the following week. It runs back to Georgia so it would buy us time. All I had to do was get the kittens vetted, then we’d pay to transport them to Georgia and Christal could pick the kittens up when they were in their new place. It was crazy, but it was the best we could offer. My friend would take the adult moms and get them vetted and find them homes.

Opening Eyes
Looking more like a kitten than an alien.

Then yesterday…the final straw. Now they were leaving the next day (today) instead of Monday. And she tells me; “thank you for your help but we’ll just get vouchers” (her patented answer every time we challenged her about really getting her cats S/N. You can only get one per family in CT and she needed at least 4-again more BS. When they get to GA they will take care of it and to forget it but they will just keep all the cats—even the ones they asked us to re-home.

Sure they will.

So I blew my top. I went online to Facebook. Christal had unfriended me. All the photos she’d posted on my timeline of Miracle were gone. I did a search on her name and it came up empty. Why do this if they are so innocent? I searched for Jon. Same thing. Gone. I decided to let them have it. This is my final text message to them:

"Never in my life have I ever been so manipulated, lied to, used, taken advantage of. You’ve wasted SO MUCH of my time that could have gone to helping cats who really deserved help. Shame on you. I can’t believe you won’t get your cats S/N. Backyard breeders are the lowest of the low. There is no excuse. Let me be clear, I find what you do disgusting and reprehensible. Saying you will get a voucher or find a service is a lie. Everything you’ve said to us is a lie. I have news for you. You can’t make a buck off kittens in Georgia if that is even where you’re really going. All you’ve done is guarantee that poor chapstick will have a hellish life and the others will, too. We offered to help you, no matter what it cost us in time and resources and you just made up another excuse. This didn’t have to happen. All your cats could have been traveling healthy and not been able to reproduce ever again. Thank you for reminding me never to trust anyone or give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry for the rescues in the state where you’re moving to next. All the rescues need to be warned about you as well as the DOA [note: Dept of Agriculture who oversees animal welfare issues] and if I can I WILL get the word out about what you’re doing. That’s not a waste of time in my book as you have been. Have a great move. Thank you for leaving Connecticut and all those intact kittens you sold to “good homes.” I’m sure we’ll be cleaning up that mess for years to come."

With his new mamas c peruzzi
Latched on.

She replied that she was sorry. That she would agree to get the cats spayed some day and they were NOT backyard breeders. That there were things going on she could not talk about-too embarrassing-that caused them to make the choices they did—that they wanted to keep all the kittens the mamas had, not just keep the 2 but it wasn’t feasible.

I didn’t write back. I don’t know what to think. It would be one thing if it was only me who felt uneasy with how this transpired but my friend was distrusting of them from the first moments they began to talk. She was very leery of the answers they gave her and how they kept changing their tune. I wasn’t being paranoid. I could trust my evaluation of the situation.

Because I don’t want to vilify anyone I will leave it up to you to decide what you think is wrong or right with this big mess. Maybe Miracle will be just fine. Maybe she will be vetted one of these days when this family gets back on their feet. Maybe we should be compassionate and help this family through a tough time and understand that this was all a bunch of unfortunate coincidences and because we don’t know the FULL story. We can’t judge.

IMG 8437
Eating on her own.

So. I’m not judging, but I DO feel like I’ve learned a lesson. In my friend Chris’s words this is a cautionary tale. There’s a point at which you have to walk away from a rescue situation. This time the cats are leaving the state and it’s out of my hands. If they were staying here I know I’d still want to find a way to help, but can’t if I can’t trust these people and their intentions.

That poor little kitten barely clinging to life in a cardboard box, then nursed to life truly is a miracle, but what happens next to her…I shudder to think.

As for myself-I’ve learned I have to insist on doing paperwork every time we let someone foster for us, help us, work with us. The logistics and emergency nature of Mira’s rescue made that impossible, but I am going to make sure this never happens again. At least if I’d had the forms signed, I would have had a right to get her back even though I doubt I would have been successful.

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Last photo of Miracle I got.

I hate to think that this is yet another situation that will cause my heart to turn against people. I’ve heard it so many times. People who do animal rescue despise humans. They despise the bullshit, the lies, the cruelty. I don’t want to be one of those rescuers, but I have to admit it’s not going to be easy to remain open and caring with the next person who calls.

A House Panther's Painful Story.

It’s been a long road with Laney and her family, from two failed adoptions to a seemingly endless number of inappropriate adoption applications. After over a year in foster care I’m starting to wonder if the cats will ever find their forever homes.

Yes, it's my fault. I’ve decided that after everything they've gone through, Laney, Winnie and Piglet MUST be adopted together. Finding an adopter to take one cat is tough enough, but three? I must be insane. I’ve also decided that JellyBelly and brother Lollipop have to stay together, too, but Lolli is fearful. Who would want to adopt him? Lolli has never been cuddly and though he will sit next to me and sleep, he’s very jumpy. I know that in time he could improve, with the right family who would go slowly with him, but that’s a lot to ask.

Lollis hiding place r olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Lolli's hidey place.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to spend more time with the cats, playing with them and having cuddle-time, to encourage the kitties to be better socialized. The girls love it and Lolli loves to fly-high after the toys.

Jelly was equal to his brother in enthusiasm, jumping almost as high as my head to get after a feather-toy. But lately Jelly hasn’t been jumping. I had a gut-punching-fear that maybe Jelly had the dry form of FIP, just like what ended our 10-month old kitten Fred’s life a few years ago.

But Jelly didn’t have any of the other symptoms Fred had. Jelly just seemed to be a tiny bit off and more interested in having me bring him the toy, then to chase after it. I started to wonder if he twisted his leg or hurt his back from jumping, but he wasn’t obviously limping.

Jelly on Blankee R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Mr. Handsome-JellyBelly relaxing on his blanker.

The other night Jelly did something very strange. He laid down during play time. I knew something was wrong. Jelly never lays down for the feather toy. I stopped playing with the cats and carefully observed Jelly. There it was a very slight hitch in his back right leg. Almost as if his leg was giving out on him. When he jumped onto the bed I could tell he wasn't pushing off from the floor, but rather was pulling himself up by his front legs. I slowly ran my hand over his back legs, trying to feel for an obvious sign of a break or imperfection, but found none. Jelly walked normally, then his right side would subtly dip down, or did it? I wasn't sure. It wasn’t an emergency, so I didn’t have to get him to the vet that night, but I also couldn’t let this go on without getting him checked out.

I brought him to see Dr. Larry the next day.

Dr Larry Examining
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Larry & Super-Deb examine Jelly's legs.

As much as I believe I have a good basic understanding of our cat’s health issues, I still get surprised by what ails them, and some times not in a good way. I expected to have to do x-rays on Jelly’s leg, to cage-rest him and that he sprained his leg, but I was wrong. Dr. Larry made the face that I have come to fear; the grimace, the stern look as he felt along Jelly’s leg. He knew what was going on, now he was thinking about how he was going to break the news. My heart sank as Dr Larry told me that Jelly’s kneecap was going in and out of place. That’s why he seemed to be fine, then wasn’t fine. That it was likely a genetic problem, which is why we didn’t notice it sooner. These things get worse as the cat ages and gains weight. It also can effect both kneecaps. Thankfully in this case, Jelly’s is only on his right side.

I asked what can we do for Jelly? The answer: surgery. A luxating patella is graded in a range of 1 to a 4, 4 being the most severe. He rated Jelly’s at a 3, which also means the only thing we can do is surgery, which will repair the problem. Because he’s not at the most severe stage yet, he has a great chance to make a full recovery.

Scared Jelly
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Poor Jelly was scared but he was a really good boy through his exam.

This is where things get really tough.

The repair will cost $2700, including pre-op blood work (blood work is not listed below) and our discount. It has to be done by a Board Certified Surgeon. This is NOT a typical repair for a cat. Dogs get this issue all the time, but not cats. Jelly will need a long recovery afterwards, too and lots of cage rest. How will I ever get him adopted? And what about Lollipop? Does Lolli have the same problem, too? Will I have to separate the cats and adopt them alone?

Estimate
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Here's the estimate. We get 20% off the totals thanks to our super-awesome vet, Dr. Larry.

Then another problem.

We just did a fundraiser through Fairfield County Giving Day. We raised $3700.00. Great, right? Well, firstly I had prayed that we could have used the funds to refurbish our truly awful foster room. It looks like a dump and the cat trees are all shredded and falling apart. Updating the room is something I’ve been planning on for awhile now. Okay, that can wait another year but, Jelly’s leg cannot.

Then it gets worse.

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We don’t GET the money we raised for 60 days! This is a BIG PROBLEM. The longer we wait, the more pain Jelly will be in and worse-THE BIGGER THE CHANCE JELLY WILL COMPOUND HIS INJURY AND MOVE IT TO STAGE 4. If that happens, even with repair from a stage 4, there’s about a 50% chance it will happen again later in his life. If he gets the repair as a stage 3 the risk is zero! Who will adopt a cat knowing there’s a big cost involved one day?

We can’t wait. We can’t afford it with the funds we have on hand, so we have to try to raise the funds for him NOW and we know it's going to be tough.

Jelly and Winnie Better R Olson copy
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Jelly with Auntie Winnie (who is still hoping to find her forever home!)

Is Jelly a critically ill kitten? Nope. Is he a sad sack dirty, injured old kitty? Nope. He’s a gentle giant of a cat, a black “house panther” who loves his feather toy, his brother and his mom. He needs surgery to be pain-free, but we can't afford to help him and that's devastating to us.

Many rescues like ours face the sad truth that it would be a lot less expensive to go ahead and amputate Jelly’s leg instead of spend the money on repair. We could still afford to feed our remaining foster cats and Jelly would manage on three legs, but I just can’t stomach knowing that we’d ever let money stop one of our cats from getting the care they need. Also, what would happen if Jelly’s left rear kneecap luxated one day and he didn't have his right leg any more?

Knee
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Jelly can bear weight on his leg-sometimes-but this is the knee that's giving him trouble.

There are LOTS of ways you can help. I am not going to use a fundraising web site because they take a percentage of what we raise OR they grossly hold up on releasing the funds when we need them NOW. I will report back here and on our Facebook page should we reach our goal of $2700.00, so we don’t take on more than we need.

3/24/16 UPDATE: WE MADE OUR GOAL! YOU GUYS ARE FABULOUS!!!! THANK YOU! I'm booking Jelly's surgery appointment today!

3/22/16 UPDATE: OMG! THANKS TO AN AMAZINGLY GENEROUS DONOR YOUR DONATION WILL BE MATCHED UP TO $1000! So that means you donate $1 and it comes to us as $2 (and so on) 3/22/16 SECOND UPDATE: THE $1000 DONATION HAS BEEN MATCHED ALREADY! WE ONLY NEED ABOUT $550 MORE TO GO!

1. Use DONATE TODAY button to make a donation via our PayPal account. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 Non-Profit so your donation is tax deductible. Our tax ID is 27-3597692. [MAKE SURE YOU READ BELOW BECAUSE ALL GIFTS OVER $25 GET A THANK YOU GIFT FROM US!]

2. Call our vet’s office, Maple Ridge Animal Clinic, at 203-262-0595 to verify our need and to make a donation to our account: Kitten Associates “For Jelly."

3. Mail a check to Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354 and put in the notes “For Jelly.”

4. Purchase cat food from our Amazon Wishlist. We spend a tremendous amount of money on cat food and if we don’t have that concern we can use some of our remaining funds for Jelly.

5. Share this post socially, with your cat-loving friends, and ask them to help. It doesn’t have to be a big donation because together they all add up!

You Get Something Awesome, Too!

Everyone who donates $25 or more will get a special gift from our friends at Satiama. You WANT these gifts. I just got a set of them, myself, and I have to say between the quality and the love that’s put into each piece, whether it be an a multi-award-winning CD, a multi-award-winning book or multi-award-winning Spirit Animal Cards, any item would bring great joy.

Satiama for blog post copy

If you have kids or are grandparents or just love nature, they are especially meaningful. The Spirit Animal Cards are used to help parents teach children as young a 4 years of age (and upwards into teens) valuable lessons and gain compassion for themselves and others. The beautifully illustrated and high-quality cards come with a guide for parents, too. Partnered with that there are two volumes of Children’s Spirit Animal Stories on CD, with music composed by Grammy-award winner Barry Goldstein. These stories dovetail perfectly with the cards and help make connecting with nature and our own hearts even more fulfilling.

The story of “How the Trees Got Their Voices” goes beyond simple storytelling, by combining colorful illustrations with entertaining facts about the flora and fauna all around us. This book is meant to be read over and over with a fresh meaning discovered each time.

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To take advantage of this offer, pop over to THIS PAGE and look at the options. Remember which one you want then use the DONATE TODAY button and add to the NOTES section which item you’d like (1 book, card set or CD per person please) making SURE your mailing address is included so we can ship the item to you! (yes, shipping is free, too).

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Cute Jelly R Olson 475
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Jelly is such a sweet boy but these days he feels better sleeping on the floor so he doesn't have to face the pain of jumping onto the bed.

A BIG BIG BIG Thank You to Karen Stuth one of the Founders of Satiama for her generosity. She is getting NOTHING out of any of the donations and is simply providing free books and CDs and shipping costs out of her own pocket. We at Kitten Associates are VERY GRATEFUL to her for her support and love during this challenging time.

In a Perfectly Shitty World. Returning Home in One or More Pieces.

(continued from part 1)

I just couldn’t get my mind or body to feel settled as I began the drive to Boston. My pants felt too tight. My jacket was bunching up in the back. My sunglasses had smudges I couldn’t wipe away. I had to use Sam’s hands-free dohickey because my old one doesn’t hold my new iPhone. I really needed something that worked in case I got a call. Add to that problem was just figuring out which car to drive. My car has a seal that’s broken along one door so the interior temperature isn’t great and there’s a windchill advisory here. With the uneven temperatures inside the car, it often fogs up as a result. My only other option was to borrow Sam’s car and it’s a lot bigger than mine is and I don’t drive it very often. I figured I’d have enough on my plate just getting to the location. Adding feeling awkward driving didn’t make sense either so I took my ol’ beast and hoped the windows wouldn’t constantly be fogging up.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. I wondered if Winnie would still be as sweet after the ordeal she'd been through.

It was a bright crisp winter morning, but no sooner than I got on the road, my thoughts drifted. Lady Saturday was back at the vet getting her urine re-tested. She has a very bad, very dangerous bladder infection that the antibiotics may not cure. Add that to her poor kidney function and this is a cause for concern.

The hope was that 3 weeks of meds would have kicked the infection down, but would it?

My phone rang and I couldn’t answer it. The Bluetooth was acting up, or the phone was acting up, or I was just crabby and trying to drive in heavy traffic and not get into an accident answering the phone. I pulled over and listened to the message from my vet; where was Lady Saturday? No one showed up for the appointment. No one is answering their phone.

I texted Saturday’s foster dad, really chapped that I had to deal with this on top of everything else. There are a lot of terrible things going on that I can’t even talk about, but they are BAD things that require lawyers, so at this point I really didn’t need “one more thing” to go wrong.

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©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. And what of Piglet? She's been adopted and returned TWICE? WHY?

I called Betsy, my buddy at Dr. Larry’s office. She assured me it would be okay, but I said I was very sorry. I don’t want our rescue to be the cause of issues with their practice. It’s not professional and it’s rude. I can’t risk losing my vet-not that I would over this, but still. It’s not cool.

I got back on the road and tried to keep a good pace while I couldn’t get settled. I knew most of the trip by heart since it meant basically driving to Boston. The problem was where it stopped being the usual trip-it meant going against the way my GPS would route me and I had to memorize the last 30 miles, until I got close enough that it got me on the track I intended in the first place.

Getting lost on the crazy roads with crazy drivers in south Boston is not my idea of a good time.

I got to exit 14 off the Mass Pike. This is where the drive was going to get hairy. The traffic thickened up. There was construction. I was paying careful attention while the GPS was telling me to do something else. I made it to 93 heading north without ending up on Cape Cod. By just after noon I pulled into the icy driveway next to the home where Laney, Winnie and Piglet had been living for the past 11 days.

Laney on the Bed
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson. Laney waits forever for a family to call her own.

I was greeted by Michelle, the pet-sitter, since the adopter was still out of town. She was very nicely dressed and had carefully applied lots of make-up. She had a thick Boston-accent and I found myself unable to understand all the words she said. It was like a phone call with a spotty connection where every so many words drop out of the conversation. It was enough so that I understood, but if there were any nuances I missed them.

I’d never seen the home in person though I most often do home visits before adoption. I’d seen photos so it wasn’t much of a surprise. It was a cute 1940’s era bungalow. All the heavy oak trim had been painted white. Most of the walls and furnishings were white and there were a few very nice period pieces of furniture, but there wasn’t much of a sign of anything for the cats other than a very tiny, short cat tree that wouldn’t stand up to much more than a kitten.

Winnie and Laney 400
The only image I have from their adopter, before she left the girls.

I looked down and Laney came over to me, tail up. She looked much as she had before, only a bit thinner and she had dandruff, which alarmed me. It’s usually a sign of diet issues and I wondered what she was being fed. Winnie and Piglet were nervous. They knew something was up.

Michelle and I filled out the Surrender form, then we discussed how we’d get the cats in their crates. I had hoped to lure them into the bathroom where I’d have easier access to them, but it didn’t work. Only Laney went after the treat and I easily put her into the bigger of the two carriers. I’d noticed a few weeks before that she seemed to like being with Piglet so there was room for her inside the crate, too. We just had to get her.

Winnie was tough to wrangle, but eventually I was able to get her crated. She began to cry and so did Laney. I knew getting Piglet might be nearly impossible. She would certainly know something was going on and she'd already dove under the sofa to hide.

We tipped the sofa back and it surprised me but Piglet shut down emotionally when I reached for her. I quickly scruffed her and lifted her into the crate with Laney. Laney, her devoted grandmother, immediately hissed and swiped aggressively at Piglet.

Great. Just great. I had no other place for Piglet. We’d just have to deal with it. Maybe they’d calm down?

There was no fanfare. No goodbye. It didn’t look like a home that had cats. It looked like a home that was going to be in a magazine and it didn’t have room for messy cats. Part of me wanted to do something mean. Break something. Say something cruel, but what would be the point? In the end, Michelle gave me directions to the highway and instead of following her, I just left. I wanted to put this behind me as fast as I could. I’d been in Boston for 30 minutes. That was enough time for me.

Winnie was upset. She cried. She cried ALL THE WAY HOME FOR THREE HOURS. Laney flipped out and attacked Piglet. There was nothing I could do. I had to drive safely. I wanted to scream. At one point I did. I yelled at them to shut up, but that didn’t fix anything. I quickly realized that if I drove over 65 mph, the cats would cry even more and Laney would lay into Piglet again. I couldn’t even try to get home fast. I had to balance driving with the nutjobs who were focused on getting out of work on a Friday afternoon and getting to somewhere better. With the constant shrieks from Laney, I had even more pressure on me to get home before Piglet was gravely injured.

I knew I could stop to check on them, but again, it would just drag out the trip. I wanted to get this over with. I was already really tired after driving the first 165 miles of the trip. Now I had to do it in reverse.

I had planned to stop at a deli on the way home and get some treats for Sam and myself. Sam was going to place the order ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to wait, but I was already in such a bad mood I called him and said not to do the order. I had to get home. No stopping. Just driving. It was bad enough that I pulled over at a rest stop to call him because the hands-free thing didn’t work very well. Stopping didn’t soothe the cats. Three more hours and I’d be home.

I hated my life. I hated the crying, fighting cats. I hated that they were going to be messed up from this experience. I hated that they were going back into a small room. It wasn’t fair to them. I hated that I would have to cancel my plans on rescuing some kittens because they were taking up space that could go to them. I hated that it seemed like all I had in my life was bad news, heartbreak, stress. Nothing was good any more. I was probably gaining weight back, too. The thing I fear so much after giving up everything I loved to eat was that I couldn’t maintain the weight loss. My pants felt like they were strangling my waist.

Sun Dog
©2016 Robin A.F. Olson.

And then I looked up. It was a sun dog. As I drove along the Mass Pike, I realized it was a full sun dog. I’d never seen one before. As the cats cried, I whispered; “thank you,” not sure to whom or what being, just a general thank you for the reminder that there is good and beauty in the world. It’s all around us. In our darkest hours it’s there. We just have to open our eyes to see it.

©2016 Robin A.F. Olson.

Next up: Home Again. Will Jelly and Lolli remember their mom? Will Laney continue to flip out? Is Piglet badly injured?

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A Rescuer's Worst Nightmare. Hoarding.

I just did something I don’t feel good about. In fact, I’m shaking.

I just got off the phone with a Humane Enforcement Officer because I needed to let her know about a situation that has weighed heavily on my heart these past few days. Due to the legal implications surrounding this case I have to change names and locations of all involved. I hope you understand that before I go on any further. The last thing I need is for this to blow up, but I can’t keep this story to myself either.

Last week I got a call from a lady who lives out-of-state. She’d called me a few years ago asking for help with kittens. I was able to put her in touch with a great gal who does rescue in her area who could help her. This woman was a bit difficult to work with and seemed easily stressed and somewhat paranoid, but my goal is to help the cats whatever it takes, so I did my best to focus on the task at hand. The very nice gal took two moms and 12 kittens. Everyone of them was spayed and vetted and the moms were returned to the woman. The kittens were all adopted. At the time, I was told there was no concern for the living situation of the cats and that the great gal did not see any sign of hoarding.

When the woman called again the other day, things went differently. The woman told me she had two cats who were pregnant and about to give birth any day. She’d called on other rescues and shelters but they would spay-abort the cats and she couldn’t allow that to happen.

I understood her feelings and I have to admit it’s something I haven’t done, either. This is a divisive topic between people who do rescue. They don’t usually talk about aborting kittens. Frankly, I don’t want to even think about it, but…the woman told me the pregnant cats were 9-10 MONTHS OLD. They were still kittens themselves. The stress on their bodies, their smaller size, their inexperience could add up to a very bad situation. Our foster kitty Winnie was very young when she gave birth and only one of her kittens, Piglet, survived. Piglet only lived because Winnie had parenting help from her cat-mother, Laney. Who would help these cats?

Trying to remain calm I asked about other cats in the home. The woman admitted to having over 30, brushing it off, blaming her husband for taking in a stray male cat who was intact and the fact that they couldn’t get the cats fixed until spring when the mobile spay/neuter van came around. I told her I’d find her a vet to do the procedures sooner and that we’d even pay for it if that would help, but she continued on saying her home smelled like cat urine, as if that was something anyone in her situation would expect.

Then she, matter-of-factly said something that made it tough to not crawl through the phone line and throttle her. She told me that last year she lost (died) 16 kittens to a “URI”. SIXTEEN KITTENS DIED. WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON.

Clearly there is a much bigger problem going on beyond needing a rescue to “get rid of” (her words) the kittens who would be born soon. She didn’t suggest they be killed, but she wanted them out of her home, just like the last two litters…well they weren’t the last two litters that were born. The last kittens I knew of were born years ago and she's telling me that kittens are still being born because she added there were a bunch of kittens running around “but we’re going to keep them. We just need help with the ones that are being born soon.”

I offered to take the pregnant cats and that I’d work with a rescue/s to get the moms back to her once the kittens were weaned in about 8-12 weeks. She flipped out. She began to rant that the cats couldn’t leave her. Why couldn’t I just come get the kittens in 8 weeks? They could be born in her home. She had them locked up in a cat carrier in the bathroom so the other cats couldn’t get to them. I told her about the health risks since she had so many kittens die that certainly there was an illness in her home and she volleyed back that her cats only had worms and that she used Frontline on her dogs and used the SAME stuff on her cats to save money (which can be DEADLY! DO NOT USE FLEA TREATMENT FOR DOGS ON CATS).

I explained that complications can arise during birth and asked her if she was ready to take the cats to the Vet should something happen. She said she didn’t drive and was handicapped. I suggested that it would be much safer for the pregnant cats to leave her for now and that I was sure any rescue who took them would give her updates on how they were doing. She got more and more upset, saying she didn’t have email and she couldn’t bear for the cats to leave her. They were “her life” and that “they got upset if she ever left the house.”

The conversation was going south fast. I tried everything I could think of to get her to let me take the cats. She said she’d have to think about it and call me back. I knew she would never call again. As I hung up the phone, I imagined the cats, suffering, probably quite sick, pregnant, in a home that struggled to provide for them.

And then I made the mistake of going on Zillow.com to look up her address. She lives in a 470 sq ft trailer WITH OVER 30 CATS. I knew then I could not hope for the best. I had to do something about it.

I did some research and there wasn’t much available online. I managed to find the number of that state’s SPCA. Though they did not have jurisdiction where I needed help, the did tell me a few things: 1: Over 24 animals requires a breeder’s license, 2: if there are unsanitary (cat urine!) conditions then it doesn’t matter how many animals are on the property.

The officer gave me the contact info of a Humane Officer who could help and today was the day we were finally able to speak about the situation.

She agreed this person needed to be investigated and also that the part of town was notorious for having issues with animals. Though this person wasn’t on her radar she felt it was definitely something she had to check out. I don’t know when she will go there, but I do know that the local shelter is too small to take all the cats. I’ve already started to reach out to some rescue folks for help but I plan to do a lot more once I have some answers and know what is needed.

I asked Sam to give me a hug after the call was over. I felt like the fate of these cats was in my hands; that if they were put to sleep it was because of my call. Sam reminded me that these cats would have died anyway, perhaps a lot slower, perhaps in much worse conditions. Maybe they’d die giving birth? I hate myself for doing this, but I'd also hate myself if I didn't make the call.

For me, there is no winner in a situation like this. It's unlikely that all the cats will get out alive. What's likely is that this woman and her husband are being sickened by the ammonia in the air in their their trailer. I want to think of the good that could come out of this. Perhaps not being stressed by the responsibility for caring for so many animals in too small of a space would help them, but I doubt it will happen. I think the woman is going to flip out…way out…if they take her cats away and my fear is she's going to come after me next.

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In a Perfectly Shitty World

This year has sucked and it’s barely February. The suck-factor far outweighs any highlights there have been, especially now.

Eleven days ago I, once again, gave up something I planned to do that might have been a fun excursion so I could be home to hopefully do an adoption. I spent a good part of the day before cleaning the house and the foster room so it would be presentable. A few days before that I had to spend a better part of the afternoon running the cats to the vet to get their Health Certificates for travel outside the state. It cost almost $200. I would not get that fee back, but I knew the girls were going to a good home so it was a loss I could handle.

Winnie in the WIndow
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Winnie the last morning before her adoption.

I got up really early, because the adopter didn’t want to drive home in the dark and she had a long trip from out of state. I took the adopter to the pet store we use so I could help her learn what foods were best for the cats. I gave her items from the foster room, like a huge cat scratcher, so the cats would have a familiar scent in their new home.

Laney, Winnie and Piglet got adopted that day, or so I thought. I agonized over having to let them go, crying and miserable after they left. I knew it was what needed to be done, but part of me felt a bit unsure about this being a forever placement.

Turns out I was right, but it wasn’t a good realization.

Piglet by Tunnel R Olson
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Piggie got sick the morning of her adoption. Maybe she knew something I didn't know?

Laney, Winnie and Piglet are being returned not because they aren’t great cats, but because their adopter has “family issues” and has decided via a very terse email, that they need to be given up. At least I got the email, instead of the girls being dumped somewhere. I want to be gracious about it and I believe I have been (so far), but I'm also pissed and resentful that in the THREE MONTHS I’ve gone back and forth with this person, she has the cats for a day or two, then has to go out of town, then gives up on them before she even comes home.

Are these sweaters that are the wrong color? Did you worry that your precious antique furniture was going to get scratched by Winnie because you didn’t want to put cat trees in your home? You complained she really likes to jump up on things and hoped that would end. Maybe that was a hint there was trouble brewing.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. After Piglet threw up, Jelly Belly looked after her.

In all honesty, she offered to drive them back here a week from Sunday, but why wait? It would be better for them to not get settled any more than they already are. Their pet sitter told me they are doing really well and seem very happy to have room to spread out. They’re eating well and friendly, but how would they be treated if the adopter knew she was giving them up? Would she just feed them and ignore them? Or what’s worse—I wouldn’t want her to change her mind AGAIN and decide to keep them if she spent the next week with them. I can’t risk it.

Now I have to drive three hours to go get them, turn around and drive home with them crying in the car for another three or MORE hours (with rush hour). At least they’ll be in a familiar place once they get here and Jelly and Lolli will be thrilled to see them again, but it still sucks.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Poor Piglet. She is going to be emotionally scared forever.

And Piglet. She’s been adopted twice and returned. She’s going to be a wreck. And I love Winnie and I don’t know if I can let her go again. This is messed up, but I have to face it and take care of it.

I'm miffed because I'd hoped to move Barry and Mia into the big foster room since only Lolli and Jelly were left in it. Barry and Mia haven’t had any sunshine for months. Their room faces north. I feel really really badly about it. I need them in a better space and I need to make room SOON for the spring kitten arrival.

I also thought I could finally take a break, too. Five and a half years since I’ve only had my cats in the house. Now our numbers are going back up by three. I’m happy it’s the girls, but I’m busted up because I need a freakin’ break.

Next up: the trip to Boston. Please let it be a safe, easy trip...or is that asking too much?

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The Crossroad. Chapter 3. What Lies Ahead.

(continued from part 2 and part 1)

Lisa was the Tech. She was a pretty blonde with a slight southern accent. I tried to chat with her but she was all business. The room was not much nicer than the waiting room and certainly not any more cheerful. There was a treadmill flanked by two computers with a hospital bed next to one of them. Lisa told me to remove everything on top and put on a smock with the front open. I balked, being shy, and said I wore a sports bra thinking that the underwire from my other bras would have caused a problem. She apologized and said everything had to go or it could interfere with the test.

I did as I was told, trying to have an out-of-the-body experience. I am not a fat girl, half naked in front of a stranger. It was bad enough having to be naked at all. I wished I was home, scooping one hundred litter pans over doing this.

I knew seeing my boobs was nothing of interest to Lisa because she’d seen a million bare breasts before mine. She was very careful to keep me covered as much as she could as she wiped my chest with rubbing alcohol so the suction cups attached to the leads on the ECG would stay in place. She did her job quickly and effectively, then asked me to lay on my left side so she could take a baseline ECG and ultrasound of my heart. The harness was bulky so I had to move slowly. Once I got into position she warned me that the gel might be a bit cold. I didn’t care. I just wanted to live through what was coming next.

As Lisa began to roll the ultrasound device into my flesh, I looked up at the screen and saw it moving in black and white…my heart. My little heart beating away reminded me of a Kissing Gouramis fish, gulping what looked like air, but I knew was blood. Very quietly I said; “Hello, heart” as tears filled my eyes.

And in that instant I fell in love. There was my faithful heart, pumping lifesaving blood throughout my body. I’d never given it much thought until now, yet there it was, doing its job, keeping me alive. I wanted to care for my heart, protect it. For the first time in my life I felt love for my body. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. I only hoped it wasn't too late.

Cardiac Dobutamine stress echo
I had no way to take a photo of the moment I saw my heart, but this is what a typical stress echo looks like.

Lisa explained that the cardiologist would be in soon to do the test. He would be monitoring me the entire time and that I shouldn’t worry. Meanwhile, she handed me some paperwork stating the inherent risks of the tests, including death, and would I sign it please.

Lisa left the room for a few minutes. I sat on the end of the bed noticing a readout on the wall. It was showing the beats per minute of my heart: 110. I didn’t need to see that to know I was in a panicked state. I tried to focus on my Buddhist training; settle your mind, let go of your thoughts. My heart slowed down to 89, but only for a moment before it returned north of 100. Pure adrenaline and terror pulsed through my veins with every beat. Not much was going to change that.

The doctor came in and said hello. I told him about my concerns and he told me in 30-something years only three people had been pushed into a heart attack and one died but they revived him. He must have told this to every patient because he was moving through the motions at a fast pace. He assured me not to worry and to step onto the treadmill. I was to walk at increasing speed and sharper angle to push my heart to a target zone. This was it. Make or break.

I started to walk and my heart felt all right. The doctor quickly increased the angle of the treadmill and I started to falter. I told him I had pain but it was coming from my gut and my lungs more than my heart. The aspirin had done a number on me and so had being sedentary for six weeks. I couldn’t do it. I broke out into a cold sweat and warned I was going to vomit. He asked me if I could go another 30 seconds. I did, but in the end I couldn’t reach my target heart rate. As directed earlier, I got off the treadmill as fast as I could and laid back down on the bed on my left side. I was panting, desperately angry at myself for not reaching the target heart rate, but glad I was still alive.

Lisa fumbled around, searching for a vessel for me to purge into while she mumbled about how she thought she had one somewhere. As I tried to keep everything down, she finally dug out a dusty rose colored plastic dish from the innards of a cabinet, placing it in my free hand that was out of the way of the wires of the harness. She quickly began moving the ultrasound device around my chest grabbing video of my heart. As she focused on her task, the doctor said, very matter-of-factly, as he left the room, that he didn’t see anything wrong with my heart and that everything looked good. He went to fetch Sam as I laid there clutching the dish, trying not throw up.

I heard the curtain move and I looked up. Sam gave me a small smile and sat down, not saying a word. He reached out and squeezed my toe. I tried to smile back while Lisa kept making records of my heart, switching back and forth from one computer screen to another. It took about five more minutes until she was done. She gave me a towel to clean up with and said we were all set and I could go home.

I was done. I was okay. I could go home and watch the next episode of The Bachelorette where Kaitlyn would continue to suck face with guy after guy; the romance of the show long gone. I used to love these trashy programs, but now I didn't care any more.

As I got dressed I held my breath. I felt shaky and stunned. I was certain my next stop was going to be Yale-New Haven hospital, not home. I didn’t say anything to Sam until we were back inside his car. Once seated and belted, Sam fired up the engine. I felt cool air blowing on my face. I looked up to see more geriatric patients entering the building, but I was leaving. I was going home. As the shock of the past few days began to wane, I felt my body slowly rock back and forth as tears ran down my cheeks.

----------

The next morning I got a call from my G.P.’s nurse. She said my heart looked fine so there was no need for our appointment on Thursday. I told her that I was still having chest pain so I was going to come in. After all this, I had no idea what was bothering me.

For the next few days I focused on my new eating “lifestyle.” I had to cut carbs very dramatically. I read that I should to try to keep it to about 50-55 grams per day. After a lifetime of eating a lot more than that. I had to work on portion control along with what I was eating. I never even gave myself a chance to say farewell to my favorite foods. I just stopped eating them.

I came up with a game plan. I’d work very hard to be careful for the next few months or however long it would take to lose enough weight to get out of the Diabetes-zone. I didn’t even know how much I had to lose. From what I’d read it would need to be a percentage of my weight and that would be a good bit of weight. Ideally I need to lose even more than that. The painful truth is I need to lose at least 30 pounds if not 50 pounds or more. I couldn’t look at it as one big number. I’d have to chip away at it. I’d do it reasonably and thoughtfully. I know I’d have bad and good days. I’d try to be as cutthroat as I could with carbs until I was out of danger, then slowly re-introduce SOME carbs back into my diet, as long as I was exercising (which I hate doing-yay!).

But what pained me more than changing my diet, was in trying to sort out who I was now. Eating is also a deeply social thing for me. I love to go out for breakfast with some of my rescue friends and we have a joke about how pancakes always soothe our souls. Now I can't eat pancakes.

I'm a "Foodie." I love go on road trips and discover out-of-the-way diners, little mom and pop restaurants where the locals like to eat. I also know I use food for neurotic reasons like boredom or anxiety and God knows running a rescue means preventing stress-related eating is going to be a BIG factor...oh and I LOVE to cook. What am I going to do?

The best I could aim for is that I could do this for a few months, then maybe try to go a year, then maybe it would become my new routine and it would be harder to go back down that path full of sugar and carbohydrates since now I see what it will do to me...but can I do it?

Thursday arrived. It marked one week since I’d been diagnosed. This time I was anxious for the nurse to weigh me because I felt thinner. I thought maybe I’d lost a few pounds, but I prepared myself for only a pound or two. I lost SEVEN pounds! Not only that but my blood sugar was normal. This was a very good sign that maybe I wasn’t too late.

I spoke at length to my doctor and she admitted she thought I had agina and she apologized to me that she hadn’t said something sooner. When I told her about taking so much aspirin she gasped. No wonder I’d been so sick. She can’t even tolerate one baby-sized aspirin. I asked her to not hold back any more and to just tell me what she was thinking about. Hiding things from me wasn’t working. I was figuring it out on my own.

We talked about the weird lung pain, gut pain, neck pain, back pain on walking up stairs or some other activities. She said she had no differential diagnosis unless it still was angina and that was something I was not ready to hear. My heart might still be in trouble.

Meter
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. My new BFF. Fortunately for me, I only have to test if I feel woozy to make sure I don't have hypoglycemia.

She told me that angina presents very oddly in women and that if not angina I might have some sort of problem with my stomach or esophagus. There’d be more tests to do, of course, but I was worried about doing too much and making things get worse. I told her that over the two months it wasn’t as bad as before and that maybe I should give it a week or two and see how I was feeling then. I did not want to take something to turn off the acid pumps in my stomach. I just wanted to give my body time to adjust. I prayed that maybe I’d luck out and it would go away because one treatment for angina is the same as diabetes—diet and exercise. That said, wondering if I have a ticking time bomb in my body is no comfort. I just want to be pain-free and well enough to begin exercising.

The problem is that I don't have a lot of faith in myself. As much as I love my heart (my new BFF) and treasure the health I have, I don't know if I can do this long term. I've already had dreams about eating carbs and repeated uncomfortable cravings. That said, I know what lies ahead for me if I don't do it.

I am NOT going to be a cliché: Middle-aged, fat, unhealthy, crazy-cat-lady. No. Get ready world. Some shit is goin' down in this town.

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