You've Got to be Kidding!

Kitten Associates Featured in the December 2013 Issue of Cat Fancy

On December 14, 2012 my neighbor was murdered in her bed. Her son took off, armed to the hilt and for reasons we may never know, headed for our local elementary school and murdered some of the staff and 20 children.

From the moment I heard the news, I knew I had to do something to help my community. I didn't have much to offer, other than a house full of foster kittens, but what I take for granted, I knew other people might find unique. What I also knew is the healing power that resulted in spending time with kittens. Pet a kitten. Watch them play. You can't be sad when you're in a room full of kittens. The day after the tragedy, my program Kitties for Kids was born. A year later I can say that it was possibly the best thing I've ever done in my entire life.

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I had no idea we'd get accolades from the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association or that I'd meet someone I look up to-U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who also awarded our program with a Special Certificate of Recognition. I just wanted to help my broken-hearted community and had no idea or expectation that anything would happen to me as a result of giving back.

Our program was extended into the spring of this year, then it faded away when our dear kitten Fred, grew ill and later died from the dry form of FIP. I didn't give Kitties for Kids much thought. I was too busy grieving. We didn't get requests for visits and I thought it was time to close the program.

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This summer, I was surprised when Susan Logan, the Editor of Cat Fancy contacted me and asked me if I'd be interested in having them do a story about our program for their December 2013 issue. I didn't hesitate to offer to write the article myself, but in all fairness she said it would be better reporting if she sent someone to me to do the story. I agreed, though as a cat writer, I admit to being a bit frustrated to being so close to writing for a national publication I'd admired since I was a kid.

I met with Kellie Gormly, a cheerful, chatty, cat-lover early in April. We talked at great length about not only doing rescue work, but how the residents of Newtown were coping. I took her on a tour, showing her the Newtown Healing Arts Center where the arts were used to help the children express their feelings and where many donations of artwork were displayed from around the world. I showed her other areas that were about being positive and hopeful, instead of focusing on a tour of where grisly events unfolded. We paid respect to the little fire station near where Sandy Hook Elementary once stood. On its roof are 26 bronze stars, one for each of the victims in the school. It was a cold, bright day, not unlike the day of the shooting. I didn't want to be anywhere near this place and was glad to leave it behind.

Kellie got to work on the article while the design staff at Cat Fancy reviewed the photos I sent them and made their selections for what would make the issue. At the time I had no idea which photos were going to be used where, nor how long the piece was going to be. I hoped for at least a 2-page spread, but had no idea what they'd end up doing.

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The article about Kitties for Kids starts on page 16!

My dear friend Ingrid King sent me an email with the subject saying something to the effect of: "OMG DID YOU SEE THIS??!” Ingrid had attached a scan of the article. Unbeknownst to me, Cat Fancy came out early to subscribers and Ingrid hadn't known Kitten Associates was going to be featured. I imagined her turning page after page, then seeing someone she recognized…there's ROBIN and Spencer!

To quote my mother, I think I “plotzed” when I saw the scan. There, on the very first page of the article was a photo of me with Spencer. It took up more than half the space. When I envisioned the photo being used, I assumed it might be a thumbnail-size near the end of the article. Oh no…it was me in all my glory. Holy moley. I wondered if this is what it's like to be a celebrity? I admit to feeling a mix of delight and horror. Yes, I need to be out there in the public so my rescue can get more help, but wowie it is a strange feeling to see yourself in a magazine you often read.

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Here's a sneak peek of the December 2013 Issue of Cat Fancy. To get your own copy, visit Cat Fancy online.

The next day I had to bring some kittens to Dr. Larry's and the second I walked in the door, I ran over and grabbed their copy of Cat Fancy. I asked if I could do "show and tell" during my appointment and they looked at me like I was crazy (which they are also used to by now). I went into the exam room and looked at the article. It blew me away. Kellie did a great job and I loved the layout. It is 4 pages long and full of photos from our program. They even honored Fred's passing, which meant the world to me.

My parents died many years ago and this is one thing I wish they had lived to see. All the hard work, the tears, resulted in something wonderful for Kitten Associates. When Dr. Larry looked at the spread, his face lit up. He smiled. He was really impressed and proud of me. In that moment I realized how meaningful it is to get a reminder that you're doing the right thing. It gives me fuel to keep going when times get tough.

Kitties for Kids hasn't come to an end. After careful consideration, we have decided to do a special 2-week run of our program. It will start on December 14th, the first anniversary of the tragedy and will run until December 28th. Though we hope no one will feel the need for kitty play-therapy because their hearts are healing, we'll be ready in case we're needed. If you live in Newtown, CT and would like to book a play therapy session, just email us at info@kittenassociates. org and we'll fill you in on how to sign up.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the December 2013 issue of Cat Fancy, check your local retailers right now or visit Cat Fancy online. Be sure to check out their Cat Channel which has loads of helpful information about cats, their health and behavior issues. Oh, and don't forget to LIKE them on Facebook!

The Clementines Arrive with Lots of Unwelcome Friends Part 1

Three weeks ago Sam and I drove to Philadelphia. With miserable traffic on a Friday night and rainy roads it took 5 hours instead of 3, but we were determined to get there. Our goal was simple, eat a big sandwich at Tony Luke’s and pick up 6 orange kittens who were scheduled to arrive via a legged transport. They were nicknamed the Clementines, but some might have called them the Lucky Ones because we had rescued them from a small rural animal control in eastern Kentucky just hours before their lives were scheduled to end.

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There were six kittens from one litter and one kitten (the dilute calico pictured here) from another litter. The dilute was “pulled” from the shelter by a rescue group right away, leaving the orange kittens behind.

I’d never done a rescue from Kentucky before and I had to trust people I didn’t know who promised me they would make sure the kittens were quarantined properly and vetted before they arrived. It left me feeling very uneasy because I had no choice but to hope that the kittens were really cleared of fleas, de-wormed, given their first vaccination and checked before leaving for Connecticut. I feared that coming out of a shelter they would be sick, but was assured they were healthy. The last thing I wanted to do was put my other foster cats or my own cats at risk of getting a disease or parasite.

Before we even started our trip, I got a call from my friend, Izzy. She and her hubby, Mark, will frankly drive just about anywhere to help cats in need get to their home and on this day they’d offered to drive from Pennsylvania to West Virginia and back to Philly to rendezvous with us. I’ve depended on them many times as my link to make some of these rescues happen. Izzy’s voice sounded a bit funny as she started to speak. I knew something was wrong.

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©2013 Friends of Powell County. Not a life for such lovely creatures. I'm so grateful we could get them out thanks to the efforts of people in Powell County.

“Did these kittens get treated for fleas, by any chance?”

I told her they had been bathed only and a vet had seen them just the day before to give them a clean bill of health.

“Well I just killed a little bugger coming off one of the kittens and now I’m seeing another one.”

My heart sank.

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©2013 Foster Home in KY. Just for the record, this is NOT QUARANTINE.

During the supposed two week quarantine, I learned that the kittens had been brought outside, Vet’s orders. He said they needed 15 minutes of fresh air every day. When I learned that I just about popped. What kind of foolishness is this? I sent my contact a number of emails, furious that they kept breaking quarantine by going outside. She wouldn’t understand why that was wrong. I saw photos of them in a cage outside in someone’s yard, but when I saw photos of then running around in the grass that just infuriated me. You can’t have quarantine if the cats go outside! Am I crazy? I felt like I was losing my mind. They just didn’t get it and I knew they were exposing the cats to who knows what. So much for having “clean” kittens arrive. It also made me very worried-did they REALLY get ANY vetting? How could a vet see them the day before, say they were ready to travel, when they were crawling with fleas? You might get a stray flea after seeing the vet, but a lot of them? No way.

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©2013 Foster Home in KY. Blossom enjoying "quarantine."

“What do you want to do?” I asked.

“Well, we can stop at Walmart and I can get some supplies and bathe them while we’re driving.” Izzy said without skipping a beat.”

“What?!”

“It won’t be perfect but it will be something. I’m seeing a lot of fleas.”

“Great.”

So Izzy rigged up a small container with apple cider vinegar and a drop or two of dish soap and water. She soaked the kittens up to their necks as Mark drove 65 mph towards Philly. She picked off and killed as many fleas as she could while I sent off an angry email to the folks in Kentucky.

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©2013 Izzy. Fleas anyone?

Once I had time to let the news settle I became fearful I was now going to have to deal with an explosion of fleas throughout my house.

I made a few calls and talked to some of my rescue friends. They assured me it’s not that big of a deal, but to not take it lightly, either. There would be a great deal of vacuuming in my future and washing all the linens that the kittens were exposed to.

Due to having limited space for fosters, I had planned to crate the kittens in the one room we NEVER allow cats. It’s the room that has the expensive family heirloom rugs and precious family items I can’t risk cats destroying. I didn’t want the kittens in the room, but thought for just one night it would be okay since they had been vetted. Now I had to worry about the kittens dropping fleas all over the rugs and them getting into the nearby linen closet. I just didn’t have much experience with fleas. You’d think I had after over ten years of doing rescue, but most often the cats have been quarantined before I get them.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The photo is not great, but the dark blobs in the photo are clumps of dead fleas. The bottle was full of them

I had a big tub of diotamaceous earth. It’s fossilized algae and it gets onto the exoskeleton of the flea and basically dries them out and they die. It’s very safe for pets so I sprinkled it liberally all over the room, the bedding where the kittens would sleep, anywhere that made sense. The plan was to re-bathe them at their new foster home that would open up the following morning. I just had to keep the fleas at bay for one night.

This foolishness cost me. I had to buy 16 doses of Revolution® to cover my cats and the foster cats. I could not risk letting one flea start a nightmare throughout my cats. I had to buy another 12 doses (for now) to cover the kittens (a 2-month supply) once they were big enough to be treated. I didn’t dare do it right away because I was told they were all very underweight and probably a bit too young for much more than a bath.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. After three tries I finally named all the kittens. We have: Mango (top left), Sherbert (below Mango), Marigold (center), Mandarin/Mandy (lower right), Buttercup (top right) and Blossom (not in photo) .

I couldn’t give them Capstar, which kills fleas in 45 minutes, because they were too fragile. It was very frustrating.

We arrived in Philly around 8:30pm and had a few minutes to eat before Izzy and Mark arrived. The sandwiches we’d been looking forward to were VERY spicy, not at all what we remembered. Just as we gave up on finishing them our friends arrived.

Izzy got out of the car. She was holding a plastic bottle that at one time held a beverage. She showed it to me. It was the wastewater from bathing the kittens. It took me a minute to make sense of why the water was MOVING. There were probably over 100 fleas wiggling around in the fluid. I felt sick.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sherbert before things got really bad for him.

“I didn’t get them all, but I got a lot of them, nasty buggers.” Izzy said as she shook her head.

I bent down and looked into the cat carrier. It was dark and tough to see the kittens. I could barely make out their faces, but I could see their coats were ratty and they were anxious, unsure of what had been happening. I told them it would be okay and that they were almost home, but I feared this was just the tip of the iceberg with having problems with the kittens and sadly I was right. Having fleas would be nothing compared to what was to happen next.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The first sign of problems to come. Blossom's eye is infected. Will this happen times 6 kittens?

Part two next up…

DEAR FRED WINS 2013 DOGTIME PETTIE AWARD FOR BEST BLOG POST!

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I'm absolutely shocked and thrilled to share our good news that thanks to ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT and VOTES we've WON the Dogtime Pettie Award for Best Blog Post for “Dear Fred,” which honored the last day of Fred's life before he passed away.

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If you'd like to see a rebroadcast of the Awards Show, go HERE

More than anything I'm so grateful that now Fred will live on. His short life was truly precious and knowing that in some way his story will be heard by so many is a humbling gift.

I'm also overjoyed that my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates will be getting the prize money-a $1000.00 donation that will go directly to our newest rescued family.

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Not only are we celebrating our win, but our dear friend Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat won Best Overall Pet Blog (for a second time!) and Ingrid has generously offered her prize money/donation to Kitten Associates, as well! This will make it very easy to tell our super-foster mama, Maria that YES, we can afford to take the abandoned kitty-family she found and be able to provide care for them without worry.

Rescue never sleeps-awards or not. Meet Biscotti & Pizzelle. Two of a family of four just rescued. Stay tuned for more about these sweet 4-week old kittens, their two siblings and their mama!

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and THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH to my dedicated friends who made this award happen. THANK YOU!!! This award means the world to me.

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PRODUCT REVIEW and MYSTERY: The Case of the Neko Flies String

Your cats are bored. They get into fights. They bite your ankles or the just lay around with a glazed look in their eyes. They're little hunters with nothing to hunt (unless you let them outside, but please don't do that!). Can you imagine not having an outlet for your deepest desires? To be crass, that would really stink.

I try to have play time with my cats every night, but getting them to chase after a toy can be daunting because my cats are either 2 years old or 12 years old or older. What would I use that appeals to all of them?

Some cats are “air hunters” while others prefer to stalk prey at the ground level, so I'd need a toy that works well dragged on the floor, mimicking the movements of a bug, and something I could gently whip back and forth to get my air hunters to jump.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stan is the consummate high-flyer when Neko Flies are around.

Usually I've solved this problem by having more than one toy in my arsenal. I still believe that you should offer options for your cats, from small balls to faux mice and catnip laden toys. That said, I can only hold so many toys in my hand at one time and I needed something that covered all the bases. At last I've found a series of interactive toys that gets cats off their big behinds and turns the lights back on in their eyes. I give you, Neko Flies!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Jellybean Mel inspects mysterious package.

Unlike many wand toys I've used in the past, Neko Flies feel well made. Their clear plastic rod has a comfortable rubber grip. At the opposite end of the grip is a clip with a charming braided green and black cord that's attached to a variety of “Lures” that resemble and move like real bugs or mice.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey grabs her Kattiepede.

Ellen, the creator of Neko Flies, underscored the importance of creating unique, carefully crafted (some elements are done by hand) toys that are as safe as possible for cats. She told me they constantly look for ways to improve their product, from finding ways to use less glue (they already only use a few drops), to finding thicker material for the wings of their Kragonfly cat toy as well as for better ways to anchor the loop into the toy so it doesn't pull free when cats tug on it. Ellen seems almost obsessed with designing toys that truly appeal to cats and are not just a collection of feathers glued to a string or that utilize materials that are so cheap they fall apart after one use.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What IS this?!

It was tempting to write the world's shortest review by stating: I LOVE NEKO FLIES. Rather, my CATS love Neko Flies.

But then something happened…

One of the cats bit the green and black cord, severing one-third off it, along with the Kragonfly. I took the fly away so they wouldn't eat it, thinking I would just trim the end of the cord and reattach the Fly to it. In the meantime, since I was cooking dinner and trying to play with the cats at the same time, I would just have them chase after the string, without the toy attached because they seemed to like it just fine.

Ahhh…hindsight is 20-20 vision, as they say.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Love at first bite.

I'd gotten into the habit of hiding the Neko Flies where the cats couldn't get at it to keep them from destroying it. These toys are SO ENTICING you can't leave them laying around. It's just not safe. Really. If only I had READ THE BOX the Neko Flies came in because I would have seen the WARNING on it. I didn't read the WARNING on their web site, either, which I'm sharing with you here:

Some cats become so enamored and hooked on NEKO FLIES that they have been known to try and get the toy off a shelf by themselves! This is an interactive toy for a human to play with the kitty, so keep your Neko flies tucked safely tucked away in a drawer or closet until you are ready to play with your cat again!

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[Neko Flies Lure is attached to a card with this warning printing on it. See? They told me so!]

“Neko Flies are designed as a toy for you and your cat to play with together. The lures at the end are designed to move in a lifelike way which is a great part of their appeal, even to cats who usually are not interested in toys or playing. However, these toys are not intended to be left with a cat to chew or destroy (as she would actual live prey). Once your cat manages to catch a toy you should praise her and then get her to release it right back to you by offering her a really tasty treat - doing a "bait-and-switch" the way you would with a human toddler or a dog who have gotten something you don't want them to possess. Because the Neko Flies lure toys are so enticing to cats, there is a warning that they should never be left anywhere your cat can get to them without your participation. This is a wand toy, not a chew toy! Neko Flies satisfy your cat's primal instinct to hunt and chase - but it is up to you to then protect the lures from your cat's instinct to "kill!"”

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I turned my back on my cats to check on dinner. I didn't even leave them alone for more than a minute. I looked back and the green and black cord was one-third the length it had been. Clearly, one of the cats had chewed it off and possibly EATEN IT. In decades of being a cat-mom, this was the first time I ever had to worry that a cat ingested such a large part of a toy.

I searched the living room. I knew the culprits were either my tiny foster cat, Mabel or my big bruiser, the DOOD. I had a bad feeling it was DOOD because he's, well, not the sharpest pencil in the box.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stanley goes nuts for Neko.

I couldn't find a thing. In a panic, I called Neko Chan, home to Neko Flies. Ellen, herself, called me back right away. We talked about what materials were used in the cord (polyester).I called the ER Vet and told them about what material I believe one of the cats ingested and they suggested I bring both cats down, spend $1500.00 per cat on endoscopy-that was IF they could get an internist to come to work late on a Sunday night. They also told me to get a cat to vomit is some sort of “holy grail” treatment because the chemicals they might use to make them vomit usually kills them.They told me to watch for the cat to become listless, vomit, not eat and if that happened to RUSH them in for EMERGENCY SURGERY because the cord could twist up in the intestines and basically KILL the cat.

OR…it might pass on its own…out the “other” end.

Great.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Petey prepares to pounce.

The next few days were absolute Hell on my nerves. I ripped apart the living room the next day and checked everywhere I could, but no string was found. I hovered over the DOOD and Mabel, but they ate as usual and seemed unaffected. Then I started to worry that maybe it wasn't them, but another cat. I have 9 cats running around! This was going to end badly, I just knew it.

Ellen checked in with me, hopeful I had good news, but there was no sign of the missing string. I thought maybe I was getting Alzheimer's and this was the first sign? I was so paranoid that I carried the remaining section of cord in my purse, in case I had to take one of the cats to the ER so they would know what to look for yet still…nothing.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey and Joey enjoying their new toy..

Six WEEKS passed. I was getting breakfast ready for the kittens and I saw a GREEN ball with pale colored ball next to it on a paper towel on the counter. I asked Sam what it was and he said he found it when he was scooping the litter pan. I looked at it for a moment, then the alarms went off in my head. It was cat excrement with the STRING from the Neko Flies in it!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Woah. Green Poo (and no ham).

Being the offspring of two scientists, I HAD to get a magnifying glass out and inspect the green stool. We feed our cats a raw diet so their stool is VERY pale, hard and dry. I teased apart the green ball and saw fibers. I put the section of string I had in my purse next to the questionable object and the color matched. Whoever ate the string passed, at least some of it out. Thank God.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Six weeks later, the green string is found.

Although I'll never know if that was ALL of the string, hopefully it was enough so that it won't adversely effect the cat who ate it (most likely the DOOD). I don't know if the raw diet slowed the process down since the cats don't pass much stool or if it helped. All I care about is that my cats are fine and my pocket still has a few bucks in it.

After all this would I still tell you to go out and buy Neko Flies. Absolutely, YES I would! I want you to know about my foolishness so that you truly appreciate the warning from NekoChan. Their toys are so enticing we must be careful in how we use them and our reward for that mindfulness is that our cats will get the exercise they need and have their hunting desire sated. I'm still using the Kattipede today and hope to add more Lures to my collection soon.

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If you'd like your very own Neko Flies: Foxifur Kittenator with Rod, simply leave a comment in this post to enter. Tell me what's the weirdest thing your cat has eaten or just give me a good reason why you should win. Make it funny, entertaining, creative.

Best entry as Judged by me, Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair, will win ONE FOXIFUR KITTENATOR with ROD. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2013 at 11:11 AM EST and is open to residents of the USA and CANADA (yay Canada!) only (sorry guys outside of those areas!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. DOOD.

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After careful consideration, from time to time I write product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ (I can only hope there will not be any ER Vet visits!).

Christmas in August Thanks to 1800PetMeds

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh boy! What's in the boxes? What's in the boxes?!!!

It's one thing to order a little something special for yourself, then anxiously await its arrival. The doorbell rings and the delivery person leaves a box by your door. You have a moment of joy anticipating what's inside the box, even if you already know what it is.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What is it?

So imagine for a moment what it's like when you open your front door and there's an enormous stack of boxes sitting there and you don't know where they came from. You start searching your mental database of what the heck you did. Did you have a late-night pity-purchase jag that's going to set you back even further into debt? You know you're credit card is in a lock box because you really can't be using it right now so where on Earth did these boxes come from?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Embarrassment of riches!

You brighten, realizing you behaved yourself, this one time. It's not some crazed shopping spree, it's a donation from 1-800-PetMeds®. Wait…THIS IS A DONATION?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This Igloo Cat Bed is so nice I don't want to let the cats use it.

As I opened each box, they revealed eye-popping delights—a very fancy Refined Feline® Igloo Cat Bed, Omega 3 Capsules (much needed by my cat, Gracie, who suffers from skin issues), a SmartCat® Garden and Peek-a-Prize (the kittens will love this), 1800PetMeds treats, catnip, and as I opened the final package, the trumpets blared, Ta-Da!, a box containing a much desired Refined Feline Cat Clouds Cat Shelf™.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's not the Starship Enterprise! It's a Cat Clouds Cat Shelf!

It would be one thing if I could go out and buy all these things for myself, but I can't. Putting gas in my car is a big accomplishment, so these items mean even more to me and my cats. I'm not sure which cats will be enjoying some of these items, but with eight cats and nine fosters, I'm sure they'll all benefit in some way.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen likes the boxes, best, of course.

These days not getting bills in the mail is a good day, but finding a stack of huge boxes by your door from a well-meaning company is a humbling delight. Thank you Dana and friends at 1-800-PetMeds for really making my week, if not, month and thank you for offering up some lovely products I can use or donate to my rescue.

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BarkAid Has Gone to the Cats

A few months ago I got an email from a cat-loving friend of Covered in Cat Hair who lives in Rhode Island. She told me that she wanted to help out Kitten Associates, but didn't have a lot of resources to make a donations. Instead, she told me about a program called BarkAid and suggested I contact the Founder, Patrick Lomantini, and ask him if Kitten Associates could be part of his fundraising efforts.

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BARK. AID? Isn't that for dogs?

After visiting BarkAid's web site, I came to understand the following:

Patrick owns Lomantini the Salon in Wichita, Kansas. He loves animals even though he couldn't have one as a child AND he's somewhat allergic to cats. He wanted to make a difference helping animals in need, but didn't want to focus just on his local rescue. Sure, he could do a cut-a-thon, something he'd done in the past, but it would only help one rescue. It wasn't enough.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Three years ago, Patrick had the crazy idea to get in his car and travel to one state per DAY, team up with a local salon, cut hair for 12 hours and charge just $20/haircut. At the end of the day he'd donate the money to a local rescue group. Yes, it's nuts, but Patrick is a physical specimen of manly hunkatude who can handle the challenge he set for himself. His 6-pack abs have abs and his biceps would make Popeye blush. Patrick has close-cropped hair and wears tight black t-shirts and jeans, with a big hunky watch. His blue eyes could charm anyone he meets. There's a bubbling energy about him that's contagious, which won him over with folks as he blazed a trail across the country.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Patrick decided he had 50 days to accomplish his mission and somehow he pulled it off. What is more impressive is that he decided to do it again the next year and again this year, with a small team of volunteers at his side.

Patrick NEEDS a big, fat corporate sponsor for these events, but right now Patrick is paying for the trip out-of-pocket. He wants each rescue to get as much money as they can, so he donates 100% of his profits to them, only asking for tip money to go to the volunteers to pay for gas (last year was $6,000.00 alone) and food. He hopes that the rescue groups will be able to put his team up for the night, too, to help offset costs.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Zach, Patrick (Center) and Alexis.

As fate would have it, just a I was contacting Patrick to ask him if Kitten Associates might take part he happened to be looking for a rescue group to work with in Connecticut. Apparently he hadn't had the easiest time here and was hoping for a better match this time around. I told him we're a TINY rescue and that there are bigger ones in town that could do a lot more, but Patrick had faith in us and said that the smaller rescues always worked a lot harder to publicize the events and support his team.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I figured I'd give it a try IF I could secure a salon for his team to set up shop. My first and only choice was Salon Michele, where I get my fancy-pants hairdos from time to time. I ran the idea past Maggie, who has been doing my hair for a few years now. She is a cat lover, so it wasn't tough for her to say YES. Of course we had to ask the owner, Michele and I realized it would be basically asking her to shut her salon down for the day and let me use it to raise money. Thankfully the date they chose for us was a Tuesday, so it was a slower day for business which might make it easier to give us the green light.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I gathered all my info and presented it to her. She didn't take long to think about it and said YES! From that moment on was a whirlwind for me. I had to do a lot of planning, getting permits to put out directional signs, finding out how to get a 25-ft long banner hung over the main street in town, making list after list of what needed to be done, who needed to be told. I struggled with how to get the word out and my dear friend Mary Shafer of Word Forge Books helped me get the Press Release sorted out.

For two months I was obsessed, but my biggest challenge was HOW to explain this event and NOT have people think that it was either Haircuts for DOGS or a fundraiser for DOGS?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

I got everything sorted out and spent a lot of late nights working on this. I began to realize right away that we'd have to spend a good deal of money on advertising-YES, not just doing free ads online. Our town paper, The Newtown Bee, was the key way to get the word out to everyone in town. After all, we are the hometown cat rescue and we knew they'd help us. As luck would have it, an ad space opened up that was PRIME location and it hit the streets a few days before our event. I worried about spending $450.00 for this huge ad. It would be on the front page of The Bee Extra, The Bee's free paper, as well as inside their main paper.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Alexis with the Mascot-dog plush (a gift from Kitten Associates)

I had to take a risk. If we couldn't reach people, what was the point?

I was very glad my graphic design background came in handy. I put together designs not just for flyers, but for table top signs, HUGE window signs that would re-skin Salon Michele, directional signs and a twenty five foot long banner-the biggest piece I've ever designed.

It also dawned on me that this is something I was meant to do. When I was a kid, I put on plays for my parents, then when I was at school, I was in Student Government where I came up with events like "Bring your Camera to School Day." In High School and College I took it up a notch and planned big events. My pride and joy was a 1940's Prom with a big band for over 600 guests. Why couldn't I do a fundraiser for my own rescue group?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Because I had to take care of RESCUES, too!

In the two weeks before our event, I helped rescue about twenty cats and kittens. All of them went to other rescues, but I did a lot of emailing, phone calls, driving around with a car full of kittens. It seemed that Minnie, too, got the message because she relapsed and got sick again and ended up having to have emergency spay surgery a few DAYS before the event!(she's recovered now and doing well)

I was having all sorts of stress dreams. The worst was the morning of the event, I dreamt I was waking up with most of my hair laying on the pillow and no way to hide that I was bald.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Beth, one of our awesome adopters with Patrick.

When the banner was hung and the ads were printed, I knew I'd spent about $1000. and that was about half of all the money we had. I started to fear we might lose money, but my friends kept reminding me that getting our name out is valuable, too (tell that to the Vet when he wants to be paid!).

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Kathy, the super-star who works the front desk of Salon Michele contacted me and said we had 3 appointments for haircuts. My heart sank. We had one week to go and I worried not only would we lose money, but it would be embarrassing to everyone who gave up so much to support our group.

A few days later the banner was hung and more calls came in. We were up to 14 appointments, which was still far too few. We needed 50 to break even.

The Friday before the event, the big ad in the paper came out. Nothing happened for three days, then on Monday, the day before, we were up to 50 and rising. Between the banner, the ad and word of mouth, things were heating up. By Tuesday I knew we had over 60 with whispers that it might even go higher than that.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Busy Bees cutting hair and raising money for our kitties!

Tuesday morning, the BIG DAY, I drove over to Salon Michele to get set up. It really hit me that a lot of people had stopped what they were doing to help Kitten Associates and most of them I didn't even know. I fought off crying, but it was very emotional. When you work really hard and often have difficult situations to deal with, you don't have time to think about what you might get out of it. With cat rescue it's just focusing on helping the cats however you can. You know there are lots of people who love cats, but they wouldn't get their haircut because of that, would they?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. These cupcakes from the DOrazio Sisters Bakery tasted SO GOOD that I am craving one or ten right now!

So I got to work. Patrick and his team were already there even though the first appointment wasn't for 30 minutes. They'd arrived at 1am and were already back up and ready to go at 7:30am. These guys were amazing and they hadn't even started!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

While I set up, everyone got to know each other. Zach, one of the stylists graciously helped me put out the directional signs at the perimeter of the parking lot. We got chatting and he told me this was the first time he'd been east of Montana and that his home state was Idaho! I couldn't begin to imagine how amazing and exhilarating it was for him to see so much, in so little time. What a wild ride. I was tempted to offer to join them.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Alexis, one of the other stylists, offered to do something with my hair. It was really kind of her to help me look less like a mop and more professional, plus it was just plain fun to get fussed over after all the weeks of preparations were finally over and I could (sort of) relax.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Then, as they say, the rest is a bit of a blur. People were coming in, a few almost begging for appointments, we were filling up to the point of having to turn people away! From 50, to 60, to 70 haircuts. The day raced by. I answered a lot of questions about cats and around noon, Sam brought three of our kittens to remind everyone why we were there. They did great and had a lot of fun. Everyone wanted to take them home, but Irene, my faithful friend and volunteer, kept a watchful eye over them so none of the kitten “accidentally” left the salon.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's not a party unless you have tattoos!

I was really hungry. Our friends, the DOrazio Sisters from Brooklyn who opened a bakery here in Newtown, kindly and generously donated 4 dozen cupcakes. We had them set up on a lovely cupcake tower stand and it was tough not to eat them ALL. I managed to sneak one..okay two, but no more than three, when no one was looking. I still have a jones for another one!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

It was clear we were going to do okay. Somehow amidst the chaos, a lot of people were getting really nice haircuts. One lady donated her hair to Locks of Love, which really touched my heart. Another lady talked about being at the Sandy Hook Elementary on "that day" and I think it helped her with the healing process to have Patrick fuss over her and listen to her heartbreaking story.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

We had lots of kids come visit, too, who told me stories about their cats or other pets. Even though I've lived in Newtown for over 20 years, it honestly was the first time I felt like I was part of this community. Not having children, I never had need to go to any of the town events or schools. I've yearned to feel closer to the people in this town and surprisingly, that finally started to happen because of K.A. Kitten Associates is on the radar of more people in town. It was definitely a dream starting to come true.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

In total, Patrick and his team, as well as Maggie, Michele, Jackie, Mary, Kathy and others from Salon Michele helped get 84 haircuts done, which was the SECOND HIGHEST number of haircuts in BarkAid's 2 1/2 year history! I was really really REALLY thrilled! We were able to cover our expenses and the rest will go to caring for our kittens.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A donation for Locks of Love! What a wonderful woman!

By 8pm we all pitched in, packed up, cleaned up and were ready to call it a day. Patrick and team were professional, friendly, outgoing, charming, everything good. Thankfully Michele's salon wasn't trashed. It was respected by all and I think that we all parted with genuine smiles and goodwill for each other. Patrick said he was ready to do this again next year, as he hugged me goodbye. I just shook my head, wondering how he does this, because I wanted to go to bed and not get up for a few days I was so tired.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

Patrick is on Day 20 of his trip. He's doing great work for the rescues in this Country. If you'd like to help support Patrick's efforts-they REALLY need donations to, at least, cover travel expenses, please visit their web site and donate HERE

In lieu of a proper photo album, enjoy some images from our big day!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Michele, owner of Salon Michele giving a great haircut and big smile to a customer.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Patrick hones his craft.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Alexis and Ruby (who was SO adorable!)

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Ruby steals the show.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The team with Minnie's kittens: Gracey, Mellie and Joey.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Zach and Gracey.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How to know it's time for the kittens to go home.

Kitties for Kids is a WINNER!

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On December 14, 2012, after my town's heart was broken, I sat on the sofa watching the news in tears. I couldn't just sit there and do nothing. I didn't have much to offer, except a house full of cats and foster cats. I realized not everyone knows what it's like to be in the company of so many cats at one time and perhaps there was something about the wonder of living with cats that I could share with others. I knew we couldn't take the cats out into the public because that would be a hot mess. I left that job to the therapy dogs.

I worried about opening up our home to the residents of our town. Could they spend time with our cats without it turning into a big liability? What if someone was bitten or scratched? Would I lose the house if someone got hurt? How could I protect my cats and our visitors or was this just a stupid idea? I thought about it for a few minutes, realizing I had to take the chance. I needed to help my neighbors. It was worth the risk. That night Kitties for Kids was born.

I've written more about our program (you can see the post HERE).

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The invitation to the 2013 CVMA Awards.

But what I've been keeping secret for a few months is that our program was chosen by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association to receive their Pet of the Year Award! This special award is given to honor our FOSTER KITTENS for their outstanding achievement in helping our town's kids find their smiles again.

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When I was first contacted about this award I thought it was a joke. I called my vet and Dr. Larry said he'd been part of CVMA for years and that CVMA has been around since 1884 and was a very distinguished organization. Wow.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I was a bit sad that no one jumped into the fountain at the Awards Banquet, but there's always next year.

On Tuesday, March 26th, Sam and I drove to Hartford, CT to the Wadsworth Atheneum to attend the Awards Banquet. Now any of you who have read this blog before, know that I've been the President & Founder of Kitten Associates, Inc. for almost three years. To be in a room FULL OF VETERINARIANS was a DREAM COME TRUE! I felt like a kid in a candy store! I wanted to run up to every Vet and make friends with each one. The heck with the award, I need to find more vets to work with (at a discount, of course!).

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes, the cauliflower is naturally purple!

Part of me worried that if I found a cute single Vet I might be tempted to leave Sam behind and run off, but the thrill of the evening and the upcoming award forced me to (sort of) temper my enthusiasm.

The Wadsworth is a gorgeous Gothic Revival styled Art Museum. We couldn't explore the galleries, but were kept to a large courtyard with a lovely fountain in the center of it. We hadn't taken more than a few steps into the room, when we were greeted by Dr. Chris, the former President of CVMA. He warmly welcomed us and thanked us for being such an inspiration to others. Who us? What? I couldn't believe it.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Addie the Comfort Dog. She is clearly excited about winning her big green ribbon.

Dr. Chris is an emergency room Vet. He likes the thrill of not knowing what's coming in the door next and works and sleeps at the hospital for four days in a row, then takes a few days off to be with his wife, two kids and their menagerie of animals he's taken from owners who could no longer provide care for their animals. This guy has a heart of GOLD and it was very clear he had a passion for caring for animals.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Senator Blumenthal gives his acceptance speech.

We also met with TD Bank sponsors, who were also gracious and friendly. They were chatting with our co-recipients from the Golden Retrievers of Lutheran Church Charities who had brought their dog, Addie with them. We sat down and chatted about, what else, dogs and cats. It was a pleasant start to the evening.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The cover of our Certficate from Senator Blumenthal.

Chris came over and told us that Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has been a hero of mine for years, was going to be attending the banquet and that in addition to his receiving an award, he had insisted on giving US a Certificate of Special Recognition for the work we do!

I was stunned and thrilled. A certificate from our own Senator meant the world to me. This accolade was from our STATE, where I've lived most of my life. This sort of recognition was something I could have only dreamed of and here it was about to happen.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My pride and joy.

A few moments later, Senator Blumenthal entered the room. He gracefully made his way around the room, shaking hands and taking photos with people. I knew we would get to meet him so I tried to ready myself for the moment. He shook my hand and thanked us for our service to the people of Newtown. I quickly said a few fumbling words and before he could leave I gave him my card and I asked for a photo. I kept thinking, this man has been to the White House. He knows the President of the United States. Wow.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Proof! Senator Richard Blumenthal and Robin A.F. Olson (me!).

Dr. Chris made the opening remarks and introduced Senator Blumenthal. The Senator gave a very moving, well articulated and heartfelt speech. He had no notes. I thought about how many speeches he must have given over the years and that it was probably second nature to him. I was glad I didn't have to give a speech that night because I doubted I could do as good a job-even with notes.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A close up-I'm so honored!

Dr. Chris returned to the podium and began to talk about Kitten Associates and our Kitties for Kids program. I'd sent CVMA information about us and thought I'd hear back what I'd written, but Chris had his own special commendation for us. Hearing it made me blush with joy. I couldn't get over that this was our moment in the spotlight. All we had to do was get up, walk across the room and accept our plaque and certificate.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our CVMA Pet of the Year Award.

BUT I WAS WRONG!

Chris handed me the awards and he whispered to me to go ahead and say a few words. WHAT?! Make a speech? NOW?!

I had NOT prepared a single word, but I pulled myself together and I knocked one out of the park. Thank goodness I didn't flop in front of all those juicy Veterinarians!

I was buzzing from all the adrenaline coursing through my veins. The rest of the ceremony flew by and no sooner than it was over, the Vet of the Year, Dr. Eva Ceranowicz of Bloomfield Animal Hospital, came over to introduce herself to us. Again, I was floored to get this sort of recognition when I was planning to introduce myself to her.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. We did it!

She was delightful and charming. We had a quick, intense conversation, then she was off to talk to more guests and we followed suit.

I got to talk shop with a few Vets who were clearly amused by my knowledge of all things de-wormer related. I tried to make quick BFFs for future reference, but most of the Vets I spoke with had their Practice too far away from Newtown.

The evening was winding down and just as Sam and I were going to leave a gentleman introduced himself to us. He said his name was Gordon and turns out he's the Executive Director of the Connecticut Humane Society! As if talking with a room full of Veterinarians and meeting Senator Blumenthal wasn't enough, here was someone I admired from the rescue side of things and he's a GUY. A GUY WHO DOES RESCUE(who is also adorable, but I didn't say that to his face). Wow again!

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Wendy and Sam really had fun taking part in our Kitties for Kids program (with Barney in the background).

We had a lively conversation and I hoped we would be in touch. He was glad to work with us and vice versa (in our small capacity). Of everything that happened that night, this was definitely a highlight. We shook hands (he has a nice, warm, strong handshake) and said goodnight. I walked out into the cold night air, floating on cloud nine.

I never expected the night to go so well or to be so honored for our Kitties for Kids program, but I learned that if you follow your heart, it will take you in the right direction.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have another family coming to visit our kitties and I need to get the room ready!

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Make sure you LIKE the CVMA Facebook page. It's embarrassing that they only have 141 likes!

Also, make sure you visit the Connecticut Humane Society FB page and say hello from Robin, but don't tell them I have a crush on their boss.

My Secret Shame. Part 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then everything went to Hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Control took ALL OF THE ANIMALS into custody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth Is…

I didn’t plan on writing more about life here after the shooting in Sandy Hook. My blog is focused on cat rescue and the challenges of living within a multiple-cat household, but something happened today that must write about.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

This post is regarding people who call themselves “truthers” or conspiracy theorists. They play detective, purportedly sniffing tiny “details” out of a tragedy that when taken out of context or when twisted about to suit their agenda and strung together with bits of dried up tape and spit, turn into their version of “the truth.” They supposedly get their data from credible news outlets or mysterious unnamed “sources.” They make things up. They see something in a photo that only their twisted perception can reveal.

Their capacity for self-deception is breathtaking. They crave attention, yet calling them “truthers” is a misnomer since they clearly perpetuate lies and only hurt people who are REALLY involved.

The case in point is what happened here in Sandy Hook.

Suddenly these bullies are appearing out of the woodwork and I will not give them yet MORE publicity by saying who they are. They declare that the shootings didn’t happen at all-that the kids aren’t dead! The 20, 6-year old kids are fine. They’re alive.

They say the shooting was faked, portrayed by “crisis actors,” not “real people” (these actors DO exist, but they are used for Emergency Training seminars, etc. These folks concur-they had no role in what happened—DUH!). They are determined to prove that the situation was used to push tougher gun control laws. Really?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

Wow. If the U.S. Government was that creative do you think the economy would be in such dire straits? No way! They’d open a movie studio to rival Paramount Pictures. They’d be profitable, save the economy and we'd all have jobs being hired out to be actors in the next, as-yet-to-happen faux-tragedy to befall our Country!

To be behind an event like this would be a logistical nightmare. Who has time for such tomfoolery with everything else going on in this Country? They’d have to hire a shitload of actors, who would have to be made up of PEOPLE I KNOW. One such person is someone I’ve known for over 30 YEARS. I find it impossible to believe that my dear friend, who is the Lieutenant in a local police department, who was one of the First Responders, was an actor. Bullshit. That what he saw was phony. Bullshit. The fact that he will probably need to go on a paid leave of absence after what he saw-NOT bullshit.

The other thing that makes my blood boil are the attacks on another person I know here in town named Eugene “Gene” Rosen. You may recall that Gene was the gentleman who lived down the street from Sandy Hook Elementary. Victoria Soto’s surviving students took refuge in his driveway after the massacre. Gene just happened to be home feeding his cats. When he discovered the children, he opened up his home and his heart to these kids until they could be reunited with their parents. What a good deed. How could such kindness be seen as merely staged dramatics? Disgusting!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

Gene is a Pet Sitter and I’ve known him for years. Gene is a sweet, gentle person who loves animals. We serve together on the newly formed Advisory Council for the Newtown Animal Care & Control Center. I just saw him a few days ago at our last meeting. He was very quiet, clearly distressed by what has befallen him and this was BEFORE the “truthers” started attacking him.

What these “truthers” are saying is that Gene is an actor; that Gene did despicable things to the children that I will not repeat. They make outrageous claims stating they can do so because they have proof. Oh really? Do they KNOW Gene? NO. Do they live here in town? NO! Are they being “mean boys and girls,” picking on an innocent senior citizen? YES!

What I say is this: there is too much heartbreak in Newtown and we're ALL struggling to find a way to move forward. We were blessed by so many people across the world who selflessly gave their love and support, food, toys, gifts, and donations.

As always happens, those good intentions begin to fall to the wayside and people go on with their lives as the days pass. That's not a problem. It's appropriate, but the invasion of “truthers” reminds us that the flip side of compassion is stained with cruelty.

We’re still here. We’re still hurting, but we’re taking time to heal, surrounded by people we know, love and trust—our community.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

There are people out there who have too much time on their hands, who probably never got picked to be part of any team, who are paranoid, maybe a few French fries short of a Happy Meal™? They sit around looking to make trouble, to get attention, to stir things up, to make people who are in obvious pain, feel like they have to defend themselves about a situation that does not require defending.

They say; “we need to see photos of the bodies” because it can’t have really happened if there are no photos of bodies, yet if there WERE photos of those tiny figures under white sheets they’d say; “Oh those are mannequins, that’s not real. Show us the bloody, broken, heaps of flesh. Then we’ll believe it’s real.”

“But it could all be Photoshopped®,” they’d say next.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

They will always come up with some reason for why they can’t believe it. A mountain of photos or miles of video will never satisfy them. Hopefully NO ONE will feel like they need to feed this ugly beast. There is nothing to prove. We don’t need to see photos of little corpses lined up in rows waiting to be taken to the morgue. I’m okay with NEVER seeing that. Why aren’t they?

Are there some “facts” that seem odd? Did someone believe they saw more than one shooter run away from the building after the massacre on a video? Can’t all that be faked, too? DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHAT THE DETAILS ARE? DOES IT CHANGE THE FACT THAT DOZENS OF PEOPLE WERE MURDERED A MONTH AGO?

I say to you “truthers” to rename yourselves-“the kids that didn’t get enough attention from their parents, who have nothing better to do than stand cowering behind Freedom of Speech, then shout out whatever hateful, disturbing, UNTRUE things just to get a rise out of us.”

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

Yes, you got a rise out of me, but here’s one for you.

I dare any of you “truthers” to stop your foolishness and apologize to the people of this town. Beg for forgiveness before the rest of the world turns their backs on you, shunning you for the cowards and hateful people you are. Shame, shame, SHAME ON YOU!

What slays me is that all this energy could have been spent finding a way to protect our kids, to protect our people, so they can go see a movie or go to the Mall and not be scared shitless they might DIE going on a simple outing.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

All this energy could have been used to share loving-kindness with each other or ask; “how can we soothe your aching heart?” instead of “show me the photos of the dead people so I can believe it’s true.”

But that would be too much to ask for, just plain decent behavior between fellow human beings. No, some of us have to piss in the pot and make life suck for everyone and make someone like Gene end up getting threats. He and his poor wife are afraid for their lives! Is that right? Pick on an innocent person?

This is APPALLING and it needs to stop. Some of us need to GROW UP and find a new way to get attention, if that’s such a precious commodity, and they need to LEAVE THE PEOPLE OF NEWTOWN ALONE. Leave decent brokenhearted people alone to grieve one of the worst tragedies to befall us in recent times.

Go find another tragedy to pick apart because the truth of what really happened here got my fellow Newtowners international media attention that NONE OF US WANTED. Are you so desperate to attach yourself to this story that you'd say or do anything to get some press? That's just depraved.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

The truth is, you don’t know jack about what “really” happened here and you can ask a million pissant questions, but it doesn’t make you a better person for doing so and it will never amount to anything more than static, irritating noise. We ALL enjoy the power of Freedom of Speech but that doesn't mean we ALL have to say EVERY STUPID THING that comes into our head.

I have better things to do with my time. I suggest you do the same.

2012 The Year of Heartbreak and Hope Part 2

July

July was even more difficult on us than June. Maria had taken in two more kittens from her neighbor who were very sick. A buff tabby named Tater Tot was the most ill. The Vet told us it was the “wet” form of FIP which is fatal. His sister, Latte was struggling with a terrible upper respiratory infection. Maria took time off from work to care for the cats around the clock. Neither of us slept much. I researched alternative treatments, testing, anything I could think of while we expected that Tater wouldn't be with us for much longer.

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©2012 Maria S. (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our amazing survivor-Tater Tot.

Because Maria is so good at what she does, she noticed that Tater had tapeworms. We ran more tests. His belly was big and round from the tapeworms, giardia and what was almost pneumonia. Once we started treatment he began to show improvement. It took a few weeks but we were very happy to take FIP off the table as we saw Tater eat on his own and gain weight.

King arrived in my home for a few days. He was quite the charmer, but he wasn't meant to be here for very long. Sam and I drove King to New Hampshire, to his new home where his mom, Judy was waiting to adopt him. I loved this home for him and this good woman and her sister. I never thought King had a chance and here he was 1400 miles from the palette factory in a safe, loving environment.

Two of my dear friends adopted Sabrina and Cutie Pie. Their mom, April, found a home in Brooklyn, NY and their sister Bon Bon was adopted in June.

August

We took on another pregnant mama named Winnie and got a new foster home here in CT. Donna and her husband, Paul are great foster parents. Winnie had five amazing kittens on 8.10.12 named Buttons, Bandit, Honeydew, Charly and Pinkie.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Mama, Winnie (inset) waiting to see Dr. Chris. Buttons flying high while Honeydew and sister, Bandit look on.

I took another fistful of Xanax and flew to Topeka, Kansas to tour the Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center. I tiptoed through the “dark side,” but made some good friends and learned a lot more about pet food ingredients.

Something horrible happened to my cat Spencer. He stopped eating and hid. X-rays showed a strange mass in his sinus. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. It turned out to be a false alarm which added many more gray hairs to my head.

September

I was honored to be chosen as one of five members of the Animal Control Advisory Panel, overseeing the operations of our brand new town's Animal Control facility here in Newtown, CT. We had our first meeting and I was delighted to be nominated as Co-Chair of the committee.

Just as I was about to get inundated with kitties from Maria and Cyndie, I found a foster home for two of the remaining black kitties and the final one, Hello Dahlia, was adopted. We got the word that Miss Fluffy Pants found a GREAT forever home and Coco, Chichi, Choco, Tater Tot, Latte, Fred & Barney, and Willow arrived!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. (inset) the DOOD resting in his cage while his mysterious back injury slowly healed and a few months later enjoying the new cat tree in my office.

Chichi and Choco got adopted right away into a great home.

One morning, the DOOD couldn't get up and walk and was in terrible pain, growling or crying if we touched him. We did x-rays that showed nothing and began talking about taking DOOD to a neurologist or starting him on steroids. It took six long weeks, most of it forced cage rest, before he was well enough to walk again without pain. I think he fell down the spiral staircase to get into the basement where we store food for our feral cat, but we'll never really know what happened.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson getting oxygen before we raced him to the Emergency Vet and Intensive Care (inset). Jackson at home feeling better.

Jackson fell ill with a temp of 105.1°F. We put him on antibiotics and waited two weeks to do a re-check. At his re-check, since Jackson did NOT like to be messed with, we had to sedate him to get a good x-ray. I didn't like the way his chest looked when he breathed. That day Jackson went into heart failure from the effects of sedation and we almost lost him. He had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and was in poor condition. The next day Jackson was supposed to be adopted. Instead, Jackson fought for his life in intensive care at an emergency Vet. We took Jackson home later that night, unsure of how much longer we'd have with him.

With Maria having space in her home open, we took on a kitty named Bongo who has nerve damage to his front leg. It had been a Hell of a month, but we kept on.

October

Opal went to a sanctuary and is doing well. She is becoming more friendly each day and she may one day be put up for adoption.

There was troubling news about King. He'd been struggling with chronic, severe and frankly bizarre ear infections. He had to have surgery, loads of daily cleanings, antibiotics. The other cats in the home weren't too sure about him. King faced losing his ears and his home, but his mom never gave up on him.

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©2012 Maria S. Bunny Boo Boo (inset) with Bongo (left) and George (right)-who are all ready to be adopted! Email info@kittenassociates.org for more info.

I rescued a knockout silver tabby Maine coon mix named Nico from a kill shelter in Georgia because I knew I could find him a home and I wasn't going to let him die.

Maria found a kitten in a parking lot she named, Bunny Boo Boo that she rescued on her own and we took on another cat whose former mom was going to lose her home if the landlord found out she rescued a cat from the parking lot nearby. We named him George and he and Bongo and Bunny Boo Boo are great friends.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hurricane Sandy, no power for almost a week-just a bad flashback to the year before when we got nailed at almost the same time by “Snowmageddon.”

Hurricane Sandy killed the power and made life HELL for a week making a mess of my home in Sandy Hook, CT.

November

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You are deeply missed, sweet girl.

More vet runs, some of Winnie's kittens found forever homes, but all that didn't matter after learning the shocking news that Bobette, who was now named, Kissy, had passed away shortly after surgery to remove the same leg we'd tried so hard to save. JaneA drove five hours to be with us over Thanksgiving so we could all mourn together. I had a breakdown, sobbing uncontrollably, saying I wished I could make it better or could have done something different. JaneA comforted me when I really wanted to comfort her. I'd rescued Kissy over a year before and suffered when three of her kittens died a few days after rescue from a kill shelter. Here it was just over a year after I'd saved her life. I'd never worked so hard or for such a long time to make a cat's life pain free and happy and now she was lost to us forever.

December

Nico arrived and was adopted a few weeks later. The rest of Winnie's family found their forever homes. There were lots of inquiries about adopting kittens since the Holidays were approaching. Tater Tot, in a surprising twist, got adopted instead of Willow, who the family had come to meet. Willow, Fred & Barney and Latte were still with us waiting for their forever homes.

I got good news that King overcame his severe ear issues and was finally settling in with his new family. The other kitties were slowly accepting him and King was finding his place. His mom is the sort of adopter I always wish for-after a very rocky start, loads of vet bills and difficulties, she kept on. She never complained. She was completely devoted. My only hope is that her reward is enjoying the love of a very dear cat and hopefully a much easier future.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Our mascot of Covered in Cat Hair and my baby, Spencer before and after surgery.

Spencer had a very challenging dental cleaning where he lost two more teeth and surgery to remove a mass from one ear and another from inside the other. I prepared myself for bad news, but the shock came as the test results indicated it was an apocrin gland cyst with “no content”-meaning NO CANCER.

Sam and I cleared out the garage of recycling one bright sunny morning. After we were done we went to Panera Bread to have a late breakfast. While we were sitting there we saw police cars racing past. I knew something bad had happened and a few minutes later I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which you can read more about HERE and HERE.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My home town will never be the same again. The school is a few miles from my home.

Wanting to reach out and help heal the broken hearts in our town, I created “Kitties for Kids” a kitten-therapy for the children, first responders and residents of Newtown, CT. We were featured on national television news and major news outlets online. We got loads of donations of plush toys and the first children and parents began to arrive to visit our kitties.

Although we had no Christmas and sent out no card (for the first time in my adult life), the joy of knowing I was helping people and the overwhelming honor of so many people reaching out to us was my gift.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We will never forget and find a way to heal our hearts.

As the year draws to a close, we have saved over 60 lives by networking, rescuing, fostering…and many of those cats were tough to place. I also helped people keep their cats by offering them suggestions on how to work with their cat's behavior and health issues. I even covered the Vet bill of a few cats in dire need so they would keep their homes, too.

It's been quite a challenging and painful year. I realize that 2013 may be no easier. All I can do is hope that I'll be better able to handle what is yet to come and that for the cats out there who need me, that I'll have the resources to help them when the time comes.

Happy 2013 to All!

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