Welcome!

These are the stories of my life, rescuing, socializing, and standing up for the rights of cats everywhere. It’s an amazing journey, one of inner and outer tribulation and triumph, of heartache and hope. As I struggle to make ends meet, get my Non-Profit cat rescue off the ground and simply find my way in the world; I extend my hand out and ask you to join me in my dream of finding a home for every cat and to stop the insanity of euthanizing adoptable animals as a way of population control.

And I do all that while caring for my own 8 cats who leave me somewhat cranky and perpetually Covered in Cat Hair.

Welcome.

When Mother's Day Means Only Betrayal and Rage

I’m not the only person who had a challenging relationship with their mother. I get that, but a few weeks ago something happened that changed how I think of my mother. It left me with so many unanswered questions, mixed with a frenzied desire to know the truth. It gutted me, shocked me, uprooted the foundation of my entire life. Now I find myself going back and thinking about so many moments, having to re-write them, now flavored with different meaning. I am so angry, hurt and confused. I’m not sure how I go on from here knowing that my life has been a lie.

April 7, 2018

My birthday is April 3rd. It fell on a Tuesday this year. The weather was dreadful but Sam and I planned an afternoon away from home. We’d walk around New Haven (ended up being in the rain), visiting a museum, a cheese shop and get cupcakes. It was fine, nothing special, kinda damp day.

Saturday the 7th was set to be “family fun night” with my nephew, Ryan and my ex-sister-in-law, who I consider to be my sister (but who is very private so I’m not even going to say her name). These are the two, most cherished members of what’s left of my family.

Easter Pie Creation
©2002 Robin AF Olson. It would take all afternoon to make these pies but it was always worth the effort.

My mother died in 2010 and my dad in 1999. I have a brother, sort of, but we had a falling out after my mother died. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in 10 years. It’s not a big surprise, but we never got on that well as kids, either. For my part I tried to get along and tried to love him. It hurt me that I never could find a way to feel close to him except when we were joking around. We both have a great sense of humor, but other than that we are very opposite. After thinking about it a lot, he scares me. I find myself trying to please him, be a good older sister. He lived with me for a time, after he got divorced. He was supposed to look after my cats so I could go away for a few days. I came home and a cat was MISSING. He hadn’t paid attention and let her out when he was busy with his young son. He never told me she got away and got mad at ME when I yelled at him for being so irresponsible.

The cat had one eye and was very old and didn’t know the area where she was since I’d only recently taken her into my home after my mother refused to provide vet care for her. Sure, she’d feed a friendly stray but when the cat showed up one day with one of her eyes bulging out of her head, she withdrew, dug her heals in and demanded that the cat was FREE. FREE to do what she wanted, go where she wanted to go. That what happened to it now was mother nature. I don’t know why my mother said this about the strays she fed, but she said it more than once. I think she felt trapped in her life and was somehow living vicariously through the strays. It made me sick.

It left me feeling furious to the point where I could no longer have contact with her.

My mother had plenty of time and money to take the cat to the vet. Instead, the burden was on me to provide for the tiny gray cat I named Sasha.

When I confronted my brother about Sasha, he shrugged his shoulders, uncaring. I told him he was my brother and I loved him. I couldn’t understand why he’d do this to me. He just stared blankly at me as if I was speaking another language. After that point I began to realize I was stupid for trying to be kind to him. I think his heart is made of dollar bills because that’s all he ever cares about…that and being an all-about-me-drama-queen.

I eventually found Sasha and got her back home.

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

There are so many things that go on behind closed doors that never are spoken about. There are so many tiny events that only add up to something much later. I never understood why my mother made me feel bad because I wasn’t as cheerful as my brother. I suffer from clinical depression but she labeled me as being “crabby” and make a joke of it.

She always urged my brother and I to get along, yet she played favorites. Only until the last years of her life did she realize my value. It was Dan she favored and that was a bitter pill for me to swallow.

I just wanted my mother to love me.

She never said as much, ever. She was often cold, distant. She manipulated me by telling me a shocking story about her first (then ex) husband Donald, who murdered her new sweetheart in a jealous rage in the lobby of the apartment building she lived in. He was a guy nicknamed, Kaz. Yes, she told me this, crying. Unburdening herself of decades of keeping this guilty secret, then denied it days later after I’d lost my temper and demanded we contact someone and find out if this was true, maybe even the police.

After she changed her tune, saying she did it to get a rise out of me, I stopped answering her calls and wrote her a farewell letter. I didn’t want to have such a toxic person in my life. I was separated from my husband and I needed support, not more drama and lies.

I didn’t speak with her for nearly a year and I was never able to find out about her Ex or Kaz.

This is the same person who I would defend when my father would say nasty things about her when she wasn’t around. He got so mad he tried to kill me when I protected her. He said something really bad about "Jews" and I couldn't stop myself from pushing his buttons, saying; "You married one." He flew into a rage unlike any I had ever seen. I ran upstairs and locked myself in my bedroom and somehow shoved a wall unit across the door before he could reach me.

He got his rifle. Yelling at me to come out of my room. He hit my door with the butt of his rifle, cracking the door in the middle. He eventually realized he couldn’t get in and left me alone, stomping off enraged.

Meanwhile, my mother wasn't home. She was the Crew Chief at the EMS in town and wouldn’t be home until after 6AM because she volunteered during the night shift.

I snuck out of my room around 5AM and hid on the neighbors back deck. I was taking care of their house while they were on vacation but forgot to bring the key. I shivered in the early May cold, waiting for my dad to go to work and my mom to come home. I knew she would comfort me and be proud of me for having her back, but I was wrong.

Instead she shouted at me “Why did you do that? I don’t need you to protect me.”

I was floored, betrayed. I was 16. I wanted to run away, but I had nowhere to go. I went back to my room and tried to move the wall unit to its original location. I couldn’t. It was too heavy.

I never knew how she was going to react, I just knew it would not be what I’d expect from a mother. She even told me, more than once, to never have kids, to never marry. Instead, regarding men she said; “love ‘em, lay ‘em, and leave ‘em.” I thought it was a joke, but looking back I fear it wasn’t.

She was brilliant, a genius with photographic memory, but born too soon because she lived in a world where women couldn’t achieve what they can now. I’ve written about her talents before, but I’ve never said much about the dark side of her icy behavior and her secrets. Most of the time I felt inadequate around her or that I didn’t please her. I wanted to feel the comfort of a hug, but she didn’t want to be touched, especially after my father took his own life.

Years after she died, I found a diary entry saying she could have stopped him, but didn’t. She’d seen him do it and after that shock, she didn’t want anyone near her ever again. She never told us.

She alluded to having a lot more secrets, but by then I didn’t want to know.

Yet, I still tried to make her happy and give her something to laugh about after my dad died. We had our moments where there was a true, clear connection, but it wasn’t very often. I was so stressed out about wanting to make her happy, I would end up failing or her reaction would just gut me. She hated getting gifts, but she liked to push me away when I tried to offer her something. It was about as far from what I would dream of as a relationship with a mom than I could imagine and it still hurts me to this day.

But who really was my mother?

April 7, 2018 2PM

My family fun night was going to start early, at 2PM, so we could bake Easter Pies. It was a family tradition from the Italian side of my family (my dad’s side), though it was ironic that my Jewish mother took over the care and sharing of the recipe. She wrote directions a few times so I’d be sure to continue on after she was gone. Making those pies was one of the few happy memories I have. We’d cut up the meats and slice the hard cooked eggs. We’d catch each other up on what we were doing and make lots of jokes. We’d drink tea and soak up each other’s company.

DSC 2200
©2006 Robin AF Olson. The making of the last Easter Pies. My mother died a few months after this photo was taken.

After the pies baked we’d have the annual discussion on whether they tasted better cold or hot (mother liked cold, daddy liked it heated). This year I had anxiety about making the crust. The last time I tried it didn’t work out. My mother always made the dough the night before so it was the missing piece of how to make the pie great. I’d try again. I found a recipe online that was very close to what I remembered. I made so much extra that I knew I’d have plenty for the top and bottom crust, but wasn’t sure it would hold together once I rolled it out. Even if it failed, it would be fun having my family there. We’d have a little celebration for my birthday and some cake and that would be good enough for me.

But then the doorbell rang.

I opened the door, wondering why Ryan didn’t just walk in. He’s family. He can come right into my home. It wasn’t Ryan. It was my brother and his second wife. I just stood there wondering what to do, what to say. Was he going to pull a gun on me or have a happy reunion? I squeaked out “Hello.” They said hello back. I started to cry. The pain of a decade-long separation got to me, even though I knew I shouldn’t care any more. Seeing my brother suddenly 10 years older was a punch to the gut. I didn’t care what he was going to do. I reached out for him. He gave me a hug. I continued to cry. I wondered if they knew about his son and ex coming over. Maybe they were going to join us and make pies? I should have known better they weren't there to celebrate.

He said he had something important to tell me and thought it would be ok to stop by since he knew I was having company. I thought he was going to tell me he was sick with cancer and was going to die. I was literally shaking as I invited them into the house.

I offered them tea. He said no, his wife said, yes if decafe. Then she didn’t believe me it was decaffeinated so I showed her the container. My brother stood in the kitchen looking ashen. He began to tell me about how his wife had taken a DNA test. We all knew she was adopted. She’d met her bio-family, but wanted to know about her health markers and what issues she’d have to be concerned about (so she listed all her worries over and over again “macular degeneration” “parkinson’s”…she’s all about ME ME ME). My brother decided to take the test, too.

I didn’t know what he was going to say next. I’d done a DNA test years ago and it was pretty much what I expected: lots of eastern European and some southern European DNA, no American Indian as I’d heard rumors about as a kid. My brother took out his phone and brought up the app. He showed it to me. Something was missing.

No Italian DNA.

I’d just read that siblings don’t necessarily match in their DNA and I told him as much. I was about 25% Italian, but maybe it was fine that he wasn’t? Then he dropped the bomb. 23&Me showed him family matches of other people who take the test. He didn’t see my results since I hadn’t taken that particular DNA test, but it did show him something shocking.

My brother has a half-brother none of us knew about.

My brother also has a FATHER that is NOT the same father as I have.

My brother is only my HALF-SIBLING. (I have no other siblings)

I almost collapsed, shocked to the core. I couldn’t believe it. My brother said he’d pay for me to take the 23&Me test and of course I agreed right away. This had to be a mistake, right? Because if it wasn’t it meant some terrible things.

It meant that my mother had cheated on my father barely 3 years into their marriage. Some guy, who still lives and is in Florida, is my brother’s dad. This guy has a SON who is my brother’s age so that means…THIS GUY fathered his son and my brother AT THE SAME TIME.

 

Goody  Joe Wedding
©1957 Feminella Family. My parents wedding day.

So much emotion settled into my heart that I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. It was too much to consider being possible. So many questions began forming in my head…WHY? Who was this GUY? Was she in touch with him over the years? Did he know? Did my father KNOW? Why did my mother LIE TO US? She had 6 years after my father died to tell us the truth without him knowing. WHY DID SHE LIE? I could not stop thinking about it.

My brother asked me point blank-Did I know?

Without missing a beat, I looked him straight in the eye and told him I would never keep something like that from him, even if he hated my guts and vice versa. I had no idea, but then I realized that was why he came over, to see my reaction.

And meanwhile all this is going on in front of my nephew and my “sis”…who had no idea, either. What a way to drop a bomb, with no concern for how anyone would take the news. It could have been done in private, out of respect for me, for his son, for his ex, but no, it had to be a big drama-filled event.

I asked if he contacted his bio-dad. He hasn’t yet. He reached out to his half-brother, but there hasn’t been any reply. I told Dan I’d go through my mother’s papers and search for clues. She left some journals and letters behind. Maybe I’d find an answer there. There is no one living, other than my brother’s father, who knows what happened.

After that they hugged me and left. They didn’t want to make pies or eat them. They were going out of town for the next week. If I had any info I’d text him, but other than that he didn’t have more to say to me.

The Feminellas Judith Joseph Robin and Daniel
My family.

My precious sis handed me a bottle of vodka. She grabbed a can of cranberry seltzer and asked me if I wanted a drink. She doesn't put up with anyone's shit, especially my brother's...err half-brother's. She was furious at his behavior and said as much. She was kind and understanding and said she was very happy my nephew didn't get his DNA test back first. It would have made it appear that my sis had cheated on my brother and that Ryan wasn't his son. She laughed because it's crazy to even consider, but I was glad that wasn't even a issue. I don't usually ever drink but went to my cupboard and selected a small glass silkscreened with pink elephants. It's a cocktail glass from the 1950s. I figured if I was going to get drunk, I was going to do it right. I handed my sis the glass, then said "Fill 'er up" as tears slid down my cheeks.

The next few days I was in a trance, obsessed with going through my mothers old letters. There was a journal started from the day my brother was born. She wrote about me and how much she loved me, that she didn’t think she could love anyone more and felt badly about that. I don’t remember ever feeling love from her so this was a surprise.

She noted that my brother had a “weak chin.” Those words shocked me. Why say that about your newborn child?

She also wrote about me staying with her friends on their farm while she was in the hospital. How I was so happy being surrounded by cats. That I was in my element. I was only 2 ½ years old.

Later she penned a rather plain description about moving away from Fulton, NY to Westchester County, NY, about how she was happy to put the last 18-months behind her. She hinted there were dark days, but I have no idea why. I have many letters from my father written to my mother during those days. He was devoted as ever and his tone was loving and affectionate.

What happened?

I don’t know.

Though I still have more letters and some journal entries to read. I don’t think I’m going to find the answer I’m looking for. The small pile of papers has sat untouched for a few weeks. I think I need to move on, even though I don’t know how.

I keep looking over my life and feeling like it was a lie. I don’t have to feel badly any more that my brother and I don’t get along and that we will never be close in a way I dreamed of. I doubt the doorbell will ring again and he will be standing there, with a sad awkward smile on his face. We never got along because we’re not completely related. He has another family whose blood runs in his veins.

I am the only child of my mother and father.

And I think of my poor father, how he was cuckolded, how he was proud of “his son,” who is not his son. How devastated he’d be. I don’t think he knew. He would have brought it up as a weapon to hurt my mother at some point, but he never did.

My father loved his family and was completely devoted to us, even though he and I had a very few, very bad days. Most of the time I was “daddy’s girl” and felt protected and cherished and now I realize that I really was his one and only child.

With every memory of my past, it’s now colored differently. This is the first Mother’s Day since I learned the terrible news. I find myself wanting to say “F--- you” to my Mother on this day of mothers and get rid of those mementos of hers I used to cherish, but more than that I want to free myself from trying to be a good daughter to someone who clearly did not deserve my devotion.

And my brother? I checked on him via a text when he got back from his trip, asked how he was doing. "Good" was his reply. Any news? "No." I told him I'd always be his sister and if he wanted to go out for coffee, just us, to talk, I would be happy to do that. I wanted to be there for him. He did not reply, but maybe that was his reply. He got what he wanted from me and was going back to his fancy life where I am the poor relative, now half-sister who is not worthy of being in his life. I had already mourned losing my brother so many years ago, before he showed up at my door, and now he was probably gone from my life forever.

Robin and Dan 8 1969
©1969 Judith Feminella. Big sis and little bro.

For Margo. Ch 2. THANK YOU!

Margo and casper rt

We made our fundraising goal for Margo's surgery! Hopefully she will only need one procedure but there's a chance she will need up to two more. We will only know once the first surgery is done and she's healed up. Then we'll see how her function is going, if she has any infection or failure of the reconstruction. She has one of the top surgeons in the country doing her surgery so we hope that will help her have the best outcomt possible. 

Next steps: Visit to GP Vet on Friday the 27th where they will do pre-op blood work and some other tests. Then we wait until May 8th for Margo to meet Dr Ellison, at U of Florida Small Animal Hospital. They will be examining her and determing if she is ready for surgery or if we need to wait longer.

Thank you to everyone who made this chance possible for Margo. She would literally die if we don't try and now she, at least, has a chance and that's because of ALL OF YOU for donating, for caring, for sharing. 

 

For Margo. CH 1. Save Her Life.

I truly believe there’s more going on in this world than science can prove with a test. That on a cosmic, metaphysical, religious, however you want to label it-level, there’s something that brings people together for a reason, seemingly rising out of random events. Looking back on it we see the threads connecting us and, as we look forward, we wonder what the result of our connection will bring. Perhaps in our heart we already know the answer and that’s why we’ve found each other at this point in time.

Freya in strawberry r olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The first days with Freya.

Four years ago I took on a very tiny kitten named Freya. She fit in the palm of my hand. Her family could not provide care for her so they surrendered her to my rescue. She was born with a very rare birth defect called Atresia Ani with Recto-vaginal fistula. It basically means that because she was born prematurely, parts of her body never developed either at all or completely. She has no tail. Where her rectum should be was skin. She could only void a little stool through her vagina, which is a very dangerous problem. Eventually the amount of stool would build up to the point that it would overtake her intestines and possibly burst, killing her from sepsis and internal bleeding.

The vets gave her at 10% chance to live.

Freya will be four years old in August. It was a very difficult and terrifying journey (you can read about it HERE with links to her entire story and the final chapter HERE). I had no one to talk to about this. The vets barely understood it and certainly had no idea on what nutrition she could survive on until she could have surgery. If I had someone to support me, guide me, it would have made a huge difference. It's scary enough having to face this with a fragile kitten, but being alone makes it all the worse.

Freya
©2018 Robin AF Olson. Freya today, long recovered from life-saving surgery, now beating up our 20lb cat, Dood and otherwise being the tiny boss-cat of our home.

As a result of my experiences with Freya, and because I created a special Facebook page for her, from time to time someone will find me who has a kitten with atresia-ani. I always help those people because I want them to know someone has their back. Some kittens don’t make it because they got the diagnosis too late. Many vets don’t even know what this birth defect is and diagnose it incorrectly. Some don’t make it because the repair can’t be done, or it’s too expensive to do, or the kitten doesn’t survive the procedure. It IS a risky venture, but some kittens DO make it and live a relatively normal life afterwards.

There are issues that can arise after surgery, ranging from incontinence to death. The kitten might require a second or third procedure because megacolon can occur from the kitten holding so much stool inside her body for such a long time. Another challenge: kittens can’t simply have surgery at any age. They have to be big enough to handle sedation. Their body needs to be big enough so the surgeon can perform the procedure at all, but how do you feed a kitten so she doesn’t fill up with stool? It’s not possible, but it IS possible to slow the pace down by not feeding kibble (EVER) or feeding high carb canned food.

So then one might ask, why bother? The surgery is expensive; the risks many.

We bother because these little lives are precious. We try because it’s possible to save a kitten’s life and give her a GOOD life. We may fail, too, but if we do nothing that kitten WILL DIE and die in a horrible way.

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Ten days ago I got an email from a lady named Kathy. She lives in Florida on a little farm with chickens, a cow, a dog, two cats and a handful of children of all different ages. Her husband works hard to provide for them. Their life is not full of frills, but they live a good life. Just as they were about to have their cat Pearl spayed, they realized she was already pregnant. This would be Pearl's first and last litter since they know that it’s important not to let things get out of hand.

Close up baby pix
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo is born.

On February 4, 2018 two kittens were born. Pearl is a good mama-cat, but her kittens both had birth defects. The boy only had one fully developed eye. His sister was in more challenging condition. One eye did not develop at all and the other was developed but not enough. The kitten was completely blind.

First photo of margo and fam flat
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. My first look at Margo, seen here with mama-Pearl and her dutiful stepdad.

Cats are amazing in how they can adapt to pretty much anything, so Kathy found a home for the boy and kept the girl who was blind. She called out to the kitten, “Here Kitty!” but the kitten would not react. (In those early days she thought the kitten was a boy until she figured things out). As a joke she called out; “Marco!” as one might do playing the game, Marco Polo. The kitten turned to her and came over. So the kitten was initially named, Marco before she realized a name change was called for. Meet Margo.

Margos no eyes copy
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Being blind doesn't stop Margo from loving life.

At eight weeks of age, Kathy noticed something wasn’t right with Margo. Since Pearl no longer cleaned her kitten, Margo’s behind was very dirty looking. Upon close inspection, Kathy saw the malformed rear end, signaling that something was terribly wrong.

Kathy began to do research online and found me. She wrote, asking for help for her little kitten. She attached a photo of the wee lynx point Siamese mix kitten hugging her mom. Those cosmic strings tightened and I knew I had to take action.

Margo in hand
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Tiny sweetheart.

My reply was short, “Call me.” I said and left her my number. I explained to Kathy that Atresia-ani has to be dealt with very carefully and quickly to keep the kitten stable until she’s big enough for surgery, IF surgery can be done. I told Kathy I would find a rescue in Florida to help her with her kitten. Though it pained her very much, she said she would give up the kitten to a rescue if it meant she would be cared for, because sadly, there is no way she can provide the funds needed for surgery.

I began to search, contact all my rescue friends in the south, and ask them to ask around on my behalf, for help. I spoke to a number of rescues, and boy do some of those folks LOVE to talk and talk and talk, but only one offered to help. After some digging around I found out their rescue had been visited by the animal control and had over 28 animals removed from the property. There was NO WAY Margo was going there.

Margo in shoes
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo had a rough few days after she began treatment to keep her stool soft so she took refuge in a slipper.

I worried that wherever this kitten went, if I wasn’t 100% sure she was safe that I could not move her at all.

Meanwhile, I asked Kathy to get Margo to the vet just for an initial check and test for FeLV and FIV. I knew if a rescue would take the kitten it would be easier if they knew she didn’t also have another health challenge. Kathy wrote back and said Margo didn’t have FeLV or FIV, so that was great news. She only weighs a bit over a pound, so she has a long way to go before she could have surgery.

But now what do we do? What do I do to help this kitten who lives over 1000 miles away? My non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, has helped cat owners in the past by paying a small portion of their vet bill when they prove they cannot afford it. We usually can’t provide much, but when we have it we do try to help. It wouldn’t be out of the question to help Margo, but we have never had to raise thousands of dollars for an owned cat. It could effect my ability to fundraise for my foster cats. I grappled with what to do. What would our supporters think? Would they help us or tell us we can’t help a cat who has a family already?

I had many conversations with Kathy trying to sort out what to do. She sold three of her chickens to pay for Margo’s initial vet bill. I could not, in good conscious, walk away from this situation when someone tries so hard to help their kitten.

Back to the “cosmic” threads I mentioned…earlier this year I said to Sam, my VP of Kitten Associates and partner in life, that I was thinking maybe I wanted to focus on difficult medical cases and only take on a few cats a year, not try to fill up the house with kittens.

Margo Full
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. THIS.

I put that intention out into the universe and I thought that Pistachio and his sister, Catshew were the answer to that need, but in truth though they battle health issues (mycoplasma pneumonia), it’s not really what I had meant.

Then I learned about Margo and I realized I could do more. I CAN help this kitten. I CAN try to provide the funds for her life-saving surgery. It doesn’t matter whether or not she is in my foster program.

Wraped in Towel
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo in her tiny diaper.

Helping Margo simply is the right thing to do.

Our Goal: we’ve found terrific Board Certified Surgeons at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital, not too far from Kathy’s home in northern Florida. We’re putting together a plan for Margo, but it’s not perfectly laid out just yet.

Normally, I get a detailed estimate on costs, then ask for help. Without 100% transparency how would anyone trust our need? In this case, we can’t get a line-item estimate just yet, BUT we need time to raise the funds. We won’t get a complete estimate until just before Margo has surgery, but by then we won’t have time to put the funding together!

We need to act NOW to be ready when the time comes.

I’ve pushed the matter of the estimate with UofF, but all I have is a rough estimate of $3500-4500. This won’t include, pre-op blood work. We may need to do an ultrasound. In my perfect world we WOULD do a CT Scan, but it’s another $2000 and we can probably get by without having to do that, too. My goal is to ask for a reasonable amount and no more, with the understanding that we could need a lot more if things go sideways.

My goal is to raise, $5000.00 for Margo. My rescue will hold the funds and disperse them directly to the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital. That way all donations are tax-deductible. Also, should we NOT use ALL of what we raise, I will either give Kathy the leftover funds for future needs, or if she wishes, we will use the overage for our foster kittens. Either way all donations will go to provide for Margo and/or our foster kittens.

If the worst happens, and we lose Margo after we raise the funds, but before surgery happens, we will direct the funds to the other cats in our program.

FUNDRAISER UPDATE 4/20/18: WE HAVE ONLY RAISED $2600 OF OUR $5000 GOAL. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS BECOME ONE OF MARGO'S FRIENDS. WE HAVE NO HOPE OF SAVING HER LIFE WITHOUT MAKING OUR GOAL. YOUR SUPPORT AND LOVE MEANS THE WORLD TO MARGO AND HER FAMILY and ALLL OF US AT KITTEN ASSOCIATES. THANK YOU!

Be a part of Margo’s Life Saving Team:

DONATE

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

Quick shortcuts to donate a specific amount :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Smile Margo
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Margo is a happy kitten even with all her challenges.

There’s so much bad news in this world, I hope all of us can join together to make some good news happen for this precious little sweetheart.

Thank you everyone. Remember, sharing is caring, too. If you can’t help with a gift, maybe one of your friends, can.

Sleep Margo
©2018 Kathy Ray. Used with Permission. Sweet dreams, precious girl. We've got your back!!

UPDATE: WE MADE OUR GOAL!!!

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2017. A Look Back on a Tumultuous Year.

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

January

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March

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

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

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

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

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

Weird April

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

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

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

May

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

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Stormy.

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

June and July

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

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

Yes. I’m insane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

August

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Poor Fluff Daddy!

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

Shitty September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October

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

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Thank God for chocolate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

November

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

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

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

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

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

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

December and Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pistachio at NCC
©2018 Robin AF Olson. Uh oh...

Saving Spencer: The Everlasting Now. Ch. 3

(continued from ch. 1 and ch. 2)

For a long time now I’ve had this calming feeling as I take my walk around the neighborhood. I’m enchanted by the wind as it scoops up the dried autumn leaves causing them to swirl and dance, and equally charmed by two squirrels who playfully chase each other across a well manicured lawn. I hear birds chirp merrily along as I see their silhouettes on a sun-kissed branch. It reminds me that I’m part of all these things and we’re all part of something much bigger.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Another day, another walk.

On a deeper level, I feel a state of interconnectedness that has no sense of time. It just is. It is just now, but it also feels like all of it has already happened, will happen, is happening. It’s a very big feeling in my soul that as I take another step I’ve already finished my walk, it’s another day, it’s the first time I tried to take a walk and could only walk to the top of the driveway, it’s years from now when I can’t walk any more. It’s not a sad feeling. It feels full, like I don’t have to worry about Spencer because in each breath he’s just being born or has already passed away or is purring on my lap all at the same time. It’s fluid, not tangents on a path. It’s more like a river with a wild current that curls and froths and bubbles up around itself and back again.

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The other day Sam and I finally moved an old tube TV set out of our bedroom to make a space to add a litter pan, now that Nora is 17. She still gets around fairly well, but we’d like her to have a pan upstairs so she doesn’t have to travel too far. Moving the TV was no joke. It’s awkwardly weighted and there’s nothing to hold onto, just smooth edges. We managed to slide it down the stairs on a big flat cardboard box with a blanket wrapped around it like a sling. I held the sling and pulled towards myself as Sam guided it down the stairs. Somehow we didn’t break the TV or our legs.

There’s a place at the town dump where they recycle old electronics. It’s inside an old semi-truck trailer. I wasn’t certain how we’d get the TV out of the car and make the 12 steps or so trip to the trailer. I said as much aloud as Sam opened the hatchback of his old red subaru. A man unloading his car ahead of us heard what I said and offered to help carry the TV. It was such a kind, surprising gesture and I was so very grateful for his help. It made me less sad that in this moment we were throwing away something that took me many hours of work to earn the money to pay for. There was a time I yearned to be able to acquire a nice TV for my bedroom and it was quite an accomplishment to get one, but now it was junk, maybe salvage for its parts and that's about it. This TV saw me through a few uncomfortable days or weeks when I was sick and had to stay in bed, but for many years it’s only gathered dust in the corner. I haven’t even turned it on. It’s too old to work with a digital cable box.

Sam says for me to think that yearning for something and knowing, even in that yearning, that the object is already decayed and dead is very Buddhist of me. He also said something about a relation to quantum mechanics and atoms but that’s too far over my head. The gist of all this pondering is that if you take a step back far enough and look at the world, heck the universe and beyond, we’re all just made up of stardust in different, constantly ever-changing forms. I suddenly feel like I understand reincarnation in a way I never did before. It’s very likely that the form I was in before I was a cat mom was something else. It may not have been a human, it could have been a little bit of many different things, even an old tv. What happens to my body next is it will become a different form that will become a different form again and again. It makes me feel a little bit less sad about Spencer’s future. He’s already part of me and I of him. It’s all the same little bits of stardust, just in different shapes.

Monday 12/4/17

Somehow I managed to raise $4300 in 4 days to cover Spencer’s surgery. I honestly don’t know how I could be so lucky and so honored to have so much support. The stress, the fear of if I could raise the money in time, did a number on me. I didn't know if we'd make it until the night before his surgery date.

I hate to ask for help, but I really felt that doing the surgery was the right thing for Spencer and I needed to make it happen. With a mass inside him, at least it was uncomfortable and, at most, it was killing him and needed to be removed. I assumed it was carcinoma because there was a mass and not tell-tale inflammation that would make us consider it was lymphoma. Big masses usually mean, big bad things. In the morning we’d have a beginning of an answer when Dr. Deb opened Spencer’s abdomen and took a look inside.

In bed one morning
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Our last morning together before surgery. Spencer's belly was shaved to do the ultrasound the week prior, but even more was removed later that day.

The night before surgery, Spencer ate well and purred away, as he always does. He came upstairs and got into bed and tucked me in as he’s often done over the years. I had to sleep in a weird position so I didn’t bother him. It was an honor to do that. I didn’t know if it would be our last night together. I didn’t know if he’d ever be able to come upstairs again or if he’d even survive the procedure. I was sick with worry and kept wondering if this was the right thing to do. I could still call it off and just do chemo and hope that did the trick and maybe he’d have a better life, maybe shorter, but less pain…I had to stop over-thinking it. I’d consulted 4 vets and 3 said to do the surgery. In my gut I felt we had to try and give Spencer a chance. I just prayed I wasn’t wrong.

Tuesday 12/5/17

I tried to be cheerful about taking Spencer to the vet, think positive, non-jinxing thoughts, even though I felt sick to my stomach. I wore my brand new Lil Bub Sweater. It’s so colorful and adorable, I felt like Bub was watching over us and would keep Spencer safe. How could anything bad happen if I was wearing something so upbeat, right? I told myself that no matter what happened, my memory of Spencer would never leave my heart. I could still hear his wheezing even if he didn’t sleep near me any longer. Whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. I couldn’t control anything. I just had to remain present, be kind, and be open to however things unfolded. I had to be prepared to say goodbye, knowing I did everything I could, even if one day soon I would hate myself for making a choice that ended in Spencer losing his life. I gave Spencer a kiss and handed him over to the vet tech. I tried not to burst into tears.

Watching traffic
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Traffic cop, Spencer.

I gave the vet tech a new ziplock bag with a note on it to please save all of the fur they shaved off of Spencer’s belly. I wanted to keep it to make a memorial out of his fur one day. I was embarrassed to ask for such a silly thing when surgery was all I should focus on, but being a realist I also knew I might need that fur sooner than I’d like to admit.

I was told that surgery was going to begin around 11:30 AM. In a way, I wish they hadn’t told me. It was possible that at the last minute an emergency would come into the hospital and that they’d have to bump Spencer’s procedure to later in the day. Alternatively, I knew that if the procedure was quick, they either got the mass out or Dr. Deb decided it couldn’t be removed at all.

IMG 1069
©2017 Robin AF Olson. It's time.

I sat with my phone either next to me or I held it in my sweaty hand. The ringer was turned on and turned up. I kept checking the time. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour. My heart started to sink as it approached 2PM. Finally, Dr. Deb called.

We go it out! All set! His blood pressure went down a bit too much during the procedure but we were able to get him back up. He’s in recovery now and we’ll be keeping a careful watch on him.”

Dr. Deb explained that the mass had been attached to the very tip of one of the lobes of Spencer’s pancreas. She had to remove that tip, but it was only a very little bit. Even so there was concern that Spencer would get pancreatitis, which would be a very hard on him. It’s something that scares the heck out of most cat parents because it can go on and on causing the cat to not want to eat. If it goes on too long, they can get “fatty liver” disease and die unless there’s a lot of intervention on the cat parent’s part, even a feeding tube may be required. We’d have to be very careful.

The good news was that Spencer’s liver, which had shown lesions on ultrasound, was in very good shape-no signs of cancer there. Dr. Deb said she looked at everything else in his abdomen and everything looked as she would expect. The pathology of the mass would take 3-5 business days so I figured it would be the following week before we knew what kind of cancer it was.

The game plan now was go visit Spencer that night and hopefully get him home the next day.

Spencer was alive, for now. The next few days were going to be really hard on him. I needed to stay strong, but first I needed to take a nap. I felt like I hadn’t slept in a decade from all the stress.

----------

Around 10PM Sam and I drove to NVS to visit Spencer. I tried to prepare myself for seeing him stitched up, wearing the dreaded “cone of shame” around his neck, probably looking a lot older and weak.

Spencer after surgery 400
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Nothing is a worse indignation than the cone of shame.

But before we could see him we had to wait until they could get him ready for our visit. They had a nearly record number of animals being treated-about 18-at the time, so we had to wait for them to move Spencer into an exam room. While we waited, a couple came in with a pug dog. We knew what happened well before they got close to the reception desk-a skunk sprayed their dog. My GOD did the place suddenly stink to the high heavens. The lady kept apologizing, saying she’d changed her clothes three times. Lady, it’s not YOU that got sprayed!

The dog got scratched by the skunk but it didn’t even need a stitch. They needed to update the dog’s rabies shot, but otherwise he didn’t need anything other than about 50 baths. The receptionist shooed them out the door saying they should have called first so they could have treated the dog outside the building. As it was the place had no open windows and we were all suffering. The couple went into the vestibule between the two front doors because it began to rain. It only created an inescapable stink-zone that everyone who entered or existed the building was going to have to walk through. I started to wonder if all the bags of chips in the nearby vending machine were going to stink like skunk, too.

Spencer Eating Baby Food w Cone
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Baby food to the rescue.

We were finally able to go visit Spencer. Thankfully he was too drugged up to be bothered by how badly Sam and I and my Lil’ Bub sweater smelled. His pupils were huge. He waxed and waned between being asleep and being crabby. The tech told us he hadn’t eaten. I offered him a spoonful of chicken baby food. He furiously licked at it, going through the entire jar of food as fast as I could spoon it out. We made a huge mess because we weren’t allowed to take his e-collar off, so some of the food went onto the plastic barrier and some into his mouth.

I took a few breaks to wipe off his face and get the collar cleaned up. Sam held Spencer up so he didn’t fall over. He had an IV line in his leg and the pain meds made him weak. Even with all that it was good to see him eat. I hoped it was a good sign.

Since Spencer got crabbier the longer he had to sit up, we decided to get him settled back in his cage for the night. It would be our first night apart in 15 years, but I knew he was in good hands.

Weds 12/6/17

Spencer pretty much hates being messed with, for any reason. Even drugged up he red-zoned at NVS to the point of them realizing he’d do better at home then be in the hospital for another day. I couldn’t argue the point. I’d set up my home office as his space for the next two weeks of recovery. I’d also be ripping that cone off him the second we got home. If he tore his stitches out that was on me, but he’d be a lot happier without the cone on and hopefully he’d be too tired to do much with the stitches for the next few days.

This is when I decided I better write down everything I was doing with him in case things took a turn for the worse. I made a list of all his pain meds (buprenex, gabapentin, onsior) and when they were to be given. I wrote down what he was eating and how much. I made notes if I noticed he was having side effects-which he did-like diarrhea and extreme weakness. I knew I had to just see this through. I had to support Spencer’s needs, keep him warm and clean. Make sure he ate enough and was comfortable. He might not be himself for some time. I had to have faith he would be feeling better in week or two.

Thursday-Friday

Spencer was a mess. He was so weak he could barely make the trip of a few steps to his litter pan. Once in the pan he would fall over and just lay in the litter. Thankfully I had been meticulous about keeping his pan clean, but seeing him laying there broke my heart. I helped him up, careful not to touch his belly. He strained to pass stool, but could not go. I looked up side effects of all the meds and called the vet. One by one I pulled him off most of the pain meds a day or more early because he was just too sick from them.

Sam gave Spencer fluids every day. It helped him feel better. I gave him an injection of B12 and offered him raw chicken liver. He’d lost 40 mL of blood during surgery. No wonder he felt awful.

Spencer barely moved. He mostly slept. I kept out of my office so he could have peace and quiet. Not being bothered by the other cats was good for him, too, so my door stayed closed.

That night I called NVS. Spencer just wasn’t eating well and I wanted to start him on Cerenia, which combats nausea and could possibly help him want to eat. I started him on the medication that night and prayed it would work by morning.

Saturday 12/9/17

The first real snow fell. It would have been something to enjoy if I could forget the guilty feeling that we didn’t rake the leaves out of the front yard yet and now we’d probably have to wait until spring to do it. Spencer wasn’t eating very well and sleeping a lot. I spent time brushing him because he likes it and he needed it. I hoped the comfort it gave him would help him want to eat, but he had a long way to go before getting back to his old self. I was very worried about his appetite issues so I called our vet and asked for an appetite stimulant if we really needed it-we did.

Sunday 12/10/17

Spencer wasn’t eating more than a few bites of food. I offered him a zillion different options. He’d eat, at most, an ounce of food. I offered him food about 10 times that day. I added it all up and it came to 3 ounces, barely half of what he should have been eating. The good thing was that Spencer was a bit brighter. He was grooming himself and though he still had diarrhea, he was not falling into the litter pan any more.

Now if he would just EAT.

Monday 12/11/17

We gave Spencer mirtazapine, an appetite stimulant. I got varied answers on how long it would take to work-the average sounded like a few days. In the meantime Spencer’s appetite was still lousy and I finally began to syringe-feed him a meal once I’d seen if he’d eaten enough over the day. If he didn’t, I syringe-fed him.

What was interesting was that he seemed basically ok with it. I expected a fight but he almost appreciated it. He even ate something about an hour after I syringe-fed him. I started to wonder if he just needed a jump start to get going.

By now Spencer definitely looked a lot better. The contusions on his belly were starting to fade and though he didn’t move around too much, he was much sturdier on his paws than before.

Tuesday 12/12/17

Dr. Deb called. The results were in. I expected her to say carcinoma, but she didn’t. Dr. Larry, my vet for over 20 years, has this joke about my cats. They’re called “Olson cats.” The reason why is that more often than not, my cats have things go wrong that he has either never seen before or so rarely sees that it’s only because my cats are the ones it happens to. He even knows to look for the weird diagnosis when I bring my cats in for an exam.

It’s extremely rare that a big mass in a cat isn’t cancer, but the mass in Spencer’s abdomen, is NOT CANCER. It’s benign. It’s gone. It’s over and done.

It’s also extremely rare that removing a non-cancerous mass leads to the discovery of actual cancer, but it did. Spencer DOES have cancer. Cells were detected that are “consistent with small cell lymphoma,” so it’s not 100% sure but it’s pretty darn likely.

That said, it kinda IS a miracle because if a cat is going to get cancer, then small-cell lymphoma is the one to get. It’s treatable for a good long time. It grows slowly. It’s not an expensive treatment and Spencer can possibly have a good year or MORE of quality life. That would put him at about 17-18. If it had been carcinoma, we’d be lucky to get 9 months, if that. More likely we’d get about 3 months.

With Mama at Vet
©2017 Robin AF Olson. The power of the Lil' Bub sweater is strong. Good Job, Bub!

And as the day passed, and the fog of the shocking news lifted, I realized that one thing was very clear-doing the surgery was the right thing to do. If we hadn’t done it we would have assumed it was a carcinoma and treated him with the wrong chemo drugs. It would have been a waste in so many ways, but now we know what it is, what to do, and how to do it…or do we?

But this is an Olson-cat, so things may go a little differently than one would expect.

Next up…meeting with the oncologist and considering a potentially cutting edge treatment that could be a game-changer. The only problem is there’s no research on it yet, only anecdotal information for dogs, and even less for cats. Oh yeah and Spencer's eating...cat litter!

Note from Robin: Thank you VERY MUCH to everyone who made this story possible. Your donations, which ranged from $2 to hundreds of dollars, all added up to making Spencer's surgery a reality. YOU are his lifeline, his rescuers, his friends, and for that I am eternally grateful.

With Heart
©2017 Robin AF Olson Thank you from Spencer, too.

Saving Spencer: Is it Really Cancer? Ch. 2

(continued from chapter 1)

I’m sitting back on the bed in the foster room, propped up against a few ratty old pillows. Foster kitten, Mighty Macaroon (Mac for short), is sitting high up on my chest, purring loudly, rubbing her face against my cheek. Her nose is wet. It makes me squirm. One at a time I can feel the tip of one of her claws extend, then retract, extend and retract as she flexes her toes. It hurts. I realize Mac is overdue for a claw-trim, but I can’t get to it right now. I’d rather sit here and stare at the TV while she makes tiny pinholes into my skin. Being in this room is my escape from what is in the room below me, Spencer, laying on the heated bed, wheezing ever so slightly as he sleeps. He’s doing all right, right now, but I don’t want to think about what may or may not be inside his abdomen.

It’s the night of Thanksgiving and I am not thankful for anything. I’m just tired and angry and scared. Getting lost in a TV show is my escape. A healthy, purring kitten makes me forget about the senior who is not, even if my escape only lasts a little while.

I haven’t been going for my walks. The pain in my knee is too much. I’m not eating well. I know I’m gaining weight. After all I did to drop over 50 pounds, my fear of it coming back is likely to be realized. The stress is too much. I should probably start boozing it up or taking anti-anxiety medication or running away from home and getting myself into more trouble, but I also know I can be strong. I can face these things I fear most and I can fight to protect my loved ones. Maybe I just need a break and “hiding” in the foster room is as much as I’m allowed.

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

Dr. McDaniel reviewed Spencer’s case with us. As often happens, though we did have needle aspirate results, they only pointed to the likeliness of it being carcinoma, but it was not definitive by any means. There are times when you must know what you’re dealing with, but many times it’s a gray area. 

©2017 Robin AF Olson. Resting on the way home from yet another vet visit.

In Spencer’s case, it’s becoming more clear that we need to know for a variety of reasons.

Dr. McDaniel reviewed our options:

1. Surgical removal of the mass. Have it biopsied. Examine the pancreas, liver, kidneys, etc and biopsy or remove the liver lesions if appropriate. We would have to talk to the surgeon, Dr. Weisman, to get more details on how this would happen. Being that Spencer is 15 and has kidney disease and is cranky are all factors to consider. That said, it's likely that removal of the mass could extend Spencer’s life a YEAR or more if we follow up with some sort of chemo.

2. Chemotherapy administered in the hospital via an IV. This is not an option for Spencer because of how fractious he is so we didn’t discuss it much. She did add that this sort of chemo might not give us much of a different result than her third option.

3. Palladia®. It’s a relatively new therapy for dogs with mast cell tumors. Apparently it can work very well on different types of cancer and that cats can tolerate it well. It does have some scary, hopefully short-lived, side-effects.

It can possibly stop tumor growth and reduce the size of any existing tumor. The pill is given 3 times a week at home and it would require a monthly vet visit to check blood work. Dr. McDaniel has had good results with it in cats and feels like it could be beneficial for a time. We could skip the surgery and just go to Palladia, BUT ONLY IF SPENCER HAD A GOOD response to the chemo. He might get 6 months or so.

4. IF Spencer is a good candidate for surgery, the best result we could get would be surgery plus Palladia, or potentially another drug, given at home once we have biopsy results post surgery. That way we could target the medications to what sort of cancer Spencer has.

But…

Spencer has a weird cough. It started early in the autumn. I thought it was seasonally related and mentioned it to Dr. Larry. He said we’d explore that when I brought Spencer in for his 6-month recheck in December since Spencer wasn’t in distress. Since we didn’t get to do that and I mentioned it to Dr. Mary, she did see something on Spencer’s x-ray. Dr. McDaniel saw the x-ray, too and wanted to get a better angle on Spencer’s chest because she was concerned there was a mass behind Spencer’s sternum.

Dr. McDaniel explained that there’s a lymph node in the area of concern and it could be inflamed. Though odd to imagine, that lymph node is responsible for draining fluid build-up in the abdomen. So, it would make sense that this could be lymph involvement instead of cancer. Could we do another x-ray? It would mean Spencer would have to be lightly sedated again.

Knowing that a mass in Spencer’s lungs would tell us the cancer had metastasized, would also mean it wouldn’t be worth considering surgery. We’d have been too late in the game to try so I agreed it was worth getting a second look at his chest. Spencer was none too happy about it, but thankfully they were able to get a good image.

Dr. McDaniel wanted a radiologist to review the image and give us a report. It was the cusp of the holiday so she was hopefully she’d have news that afternoon, but it wasn’t a sure thing. Once again it was time to play the waiting game. Every time Spencer coughed or swallowed awkwardly, until we got the report, I wondered if it was a mass.

We brought Spencer home to recover. He was really hungry and it was comforting to see him chow down. He bounced back from the sedation very well, but meanwhile I was left to wonder where the update was and why I wasn’t getting any news.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. Snack time. I love Spencer's spots.

Of course…the holiday craziness…so I waited…Friday passed, Saturday, Sunday…I called and left a message for Dr. McDaniel to call me. I found out she didn’t return to work until Tuesday. I called to speak to Dr. Mary and found out the same thing. I was resigned to waiting another day, but it was killing me.

Monday night, Dr. Larry called. He’d gotten the report and said the radiologist felt it was not neoplasia (cancer), but normal geriatric changes. Though it seemed to be good news, he warned me that sometimes he’s pushed back on a report and got different results. He said that it still could be cancer and to talk to the oncologist about it again.

On Tuesday, Dr. McDaniel called and left me a message. She was bright and upbeat. No cancer in the lungs. All was well. I was hesitant to be happy about this news until I heard the rest of her message…she’d asked her colleague, Dr. Porter, who is the Emergency & Critical Care Specialist, as well as our surgeon, Dr. Weisman, to look over Spencer’s x-rays. They all agreed it was geriatric changes, NOT cancer. Maybe there was some light at the end of the tunnel? Our next steps, she suggested, would be to talk to Dr. Weisman about surgery if we felt that was an option for our boy.

I reached out to my friends and colleagues and asked them their opinion. Some said that Spencer’s had a good run and to not do the surgery on him, that it would be too much on him and what if:

• They open him up and find he’s full of cancer. They’d put him down right then and there. Could you live with that?

• What if he doesn’t survive the surgery?

• What if he dies shortly after the surgery?

• Why not just do the chemo at home and make your peace with it? It’s certainly more affordable and less stress on everyone.

Yesterday we met with Dr. Weisman. She’d done surgery on our boy, Bob Dole, five years ago. Last year she saved Annie’s life when we discovered she had an intussusception and needed a portion of her intestines removed and stitched back together. I trust Dr. Weisman completely. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything and is a straight shooter. I like and respect her very much. She has the skills and is Board Certified. If someone was going to cut Spencer open, I’d want her to do it.

Before we arrived at our appointment, Sam and I spoke about what to do for Spencer. One vet said not to do the surgery and just do Palladia, but what if Spencer didn’t have a good response to it? What if it wasn’t the right treatment for his type of cancer? We wouldn’t know what we were dealing with so we’d waste resources trying this and that.

Spencer’s been doing well at home. He brightened back up. He’s eating. He’s grooming himself. He even played a little bit a few days in a row. If we’re going to do this it has to be soon, while he’s strong. Also, the mass is large and it must make him feel uncomfortable.

Is it fair to Spencer to let him live out the rest of his life feeling uncomfortable with a mass inside him?

I was thinking maybe we shouldn’t do surgery, but I changed my mind once Dr. Weisman filled us in on what she was planning on doing and how she felt things might transpire. Then she blew my mind telling us something I didn’t even want to hope for.

She reviewed Spencer’s records and even with his age and kidney issues, she felt he was a good candidate for surgery. She does these mass removals, literally EVERY DAY. What a sobering fact that cancer is on the rise that a majority of her surgeries are mass removals. She says pets are living longer so it’s natural they would get cancer. I’m not sure I agree with that, but the bottom line is, she has a great deal of experience doing what she called an exploratory surgery on our boy.

Dr. Weisman would open Spencer up and assess the situation, then quickly come up with a game plan. She described some masses as being a simple blob with lots of fine tendrils hanging off it. It’s really easy to remove that type of mass and get it biopsied. It takes all of 15 minutes. The question is, in Spencer’s case, there are concerns that the mass is connected to a portion of his pancreas or his bile duct.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. You want to do WHAT to me?

Dr. Weisman explained that she could remove the ends of the pancreas but that depending on how it was connected to the mass, she might not be able to remove anything. She would, of course, biopsy the mass so we could target treatment more appropriately. We’d also know what else is going on with his intestines and the lesions that were seen on ultrasound. Whatever needed to be removed, would be removed and/or biopsied.

I asked about her putting Spencer down during surgery if he had a belly full of cancer. She said there was NO WAY she was going to do that. Even if he did have cancer all over, since he was doing well at home, he could come home and we’d still do chemo and give him more time. We’d just know we probably wouldn’t have as much time as we had hoped for.

I asked about him surviving the surgery and her assistant said 95% chance, which is pretty normal of most surgeries.

I asked about protecting his kidney function and they would do everything they needed to do to make sure his kidneys didn’t get worse, but, like anything else, we don’t know 100% how his kidneys will respond. In my mind they’d just be more fluid filled and flushed out so in theory Spencer should not feel any ill effects from that.

The bottom line was that Dr. W. felt Spencer was a good candidate if we didn’t wait too long. We could take a few days to consider our options, so we set a date for the surgery so we’d have it if we wanted to move forward. It would mean a two-week recovery time for Spencer at home, with one to two days in the hospital right after the surgery was over. I’d have to prepare myself for him not being his perky self and trying to find faith that I could not only get him back to feeling good, but maybe even help him feel better than he’s felt for a long time.

The devastating problem is, as much as I feel the surgery could give Spencer a very good year, or maybe more, there is no surgery if there is no way to pay for it.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Even with all he faces, Spencer still gets playful and enjoys life.

I’ve begged, borrowed, drained out my 401K. There’s nothing left. I have to depend on the kindness of all of you to consider helping Spencer have that blessed bonus year. There are no guarantees, but…Dr. W. said one thing that made my jaw drop.

It might NOT be cancer. It could be a necrotic fat mass. Though the odds were about 25% that it was a benign mass, there’s still a tiny chance it’s not cancer at all. We will never know if it’s not cancer, or possibly give him chemo that he doesn’t need, if we don’t do the surgery and find out what that mass is.

To possibly gain a year or more of GOOD quality of life, Spencer MUST HAVE SURGERY on TUESDAY, 12/5/17.

I feel a lot of shame asking for help, but I need it badly for my boy. I’ve been asked to please not post a photo of the costs of each procedure or service, but I can post the total costs. I need to raise at least $4300.00 by MONDAY night (eastern time), December, 4 (a 75% deposit of the high amount is due when I drop him off before surgery). I realize it’s a breathtaking amount of money, but I have to try.

How to give Spencer a bonus year…

Don’t donate if it’s a hardship. You don’t have to tell me you wish you could, but you can’t right now. That’s ok. I totally get it so don’t worry. If you feel like it, let your friends know our mascot needs their help and maybe some of them can provide a loving gift…tell them that a lady who has spent so many years helping others, needs it now, more than ever, for her cat, not for herself.

Give a gift to Spencer HERE. Your gift is tax deductible and this is a great time to get a deduction before the end of the calendar year.

It's easy to donate a specific amount 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.

If you need to write a check, those gifts will go to Spencer’s ongoing care since they won't arrive in time. Please make out your gift to: Kitten Associates and send it to: P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354 and add a note that it’s for Spencer.

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


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Konked out. I can see your pink belly!

My goal is to make the most appropriate decision for Spencer, not a rash, emotional wish. I know that only hindsight is 20/20 and the rest is well-meant, hopefully thoughtful and not selfish, good intentions based on advice from medical professionals. The rest is up to him, his body and the secrets that lie within.

Please send Love & Light to my baby boy. Let’s crush f-ing cancer together!


©2013 Robin AF Olson. Me with our Covered in Cat Hair Mascot, Spencer.

If you have any questions about this fundraiser or Spencer’s care (by the way, we also plan on working with a holistic veterinarian and I hope to have some helpful information for you regarding those treatments) you can contact me at: info@kittenassociates.org

…to be continued…

Saving Spencer: One Cat's Cancer Journey. Ch. 1.

The semi-truck appeared over the crest of a hill on a curve in the road. For a moment our vehicles faced each other as I travelled in the opposite direction. All I had to do was stay on my side of the lane and all would be well, but I couldn’t help but feel the desire to turn the wheel hard left. It would take a flick of the wrist to put me into the truck’s path. The impact would certainly destroy my little car and end my life. I was so distraught that the idea of ending it all gave me a momentary reprieve from overwhelming, gutting heartache. I was desperate to stop the pain. As that moment ticked on to the next and the next, I steadied my hands and stayed true, a thick slab of yellow dividing paint on the road the only thing keeping me from making a fatal choice.

A few days later I sit here in my office and try to write. My words have failed to come for so long. I’ve thought over and over about what I would say, how I would let you all know that my love, my friend, my little shadow is going to leave me. I didn’t even want to think about it, I was so shocked at the news. The discovery was revealed so simply, really, but perhaps it was intuition that guided me to do something out of the norm, this one time. Or, maybe my guide was something more divine?

Spencer, the 16-year old mascot of this 12-year old blog, my first “foster fail” 15 years ago, is terminally sick. There is no cure. There are treatments. There may be some things I can do to keep him comfortable for a time. How much time I may have with him has yet to be determined.

This is what I know…

A week before Thanksgiving, one of the cats threw up. Not usually a dire situation, but then Spencer vomited, so I worried there was a virus going around the cats. It was a great volume of food. Spencer has had life-long breathing problems, stemming from scar tissue in his right sinus after suffering from what must have been a terrible infection that occurred a long time before I ever fostered him.

I spent two years doing different tests and treatments thinking he had asthma or allergies, only to find out the most simple answer was the right one. As a result of the scar tissue, Spencer wheezes. I’m always very careful about when he has to be sedated and sadly, because he also can get VERY stressed out in the car (he hyperventilates) and VERY stressed at the vet, I try to limit his trips.

That’s why it was strange that when he vomited, my first reaction was to run him to the vet. He sounded quite bad. I worried he might have aspirated food into his lungs or sinus cavity. I could have opted to wait an hour or two, but my vet was going to close in less than an hour and if I rushed over they could check Spencer out. I was planning on bringing him in for his bi-annual exam in December because his kidneys have started to go downhill and we needed to update his blood work. Something in my gut to told me to go now and not wait. It’s not like I have funds to throw around, but I imagined they’d do an exam and we’d come home and all would be well.

The fates must have aligned that night because Dr. Larry couldn’t see us. His partner, Dr. Mary was the one who examined Spencer not long after we arrived at the clinic. Dr. Mary doesn’t know that examining Spencer is a difficult task. Spencer “red lines” quickly, often hissing and snapping with Dr. Larry. He has to be quick about it or Spencer can require oxygen he gets so upset.

But Dr. Mary is always upbeat and cheerful and speaks so sweetly to all of her patients. She’s very soothing for all of us to be around. She didn’t know about Spencer’s history. I even warned her not to do too much, but she cheerfully continued her exam, while Spencer’s pupils began to dilate with rage when she palpated his abdomen.

“I feel a mass!” Dr. Mary exclaimed.

Dr. Mary's cheerful veil fell for a moment. Sam and I both said that maybe it was stool she was feeling. We’d just brought our senior girl, Nora, in the week before for the same issue-raw fed cats often have very hard, crumbly stool. Dr. Mary shook her head no. She couldn’t break up the mass. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She asked if she could do blood work and an x-ray as my knees went weak with fear.

I agreed we should do the tests if Spencer would allow it, while I tried not to cry. Maybe it was just constipation? Maybe he was just fine. Maybe she was wrong.

Spencer’s blood work looked ok. His kidney function was a bit better in one area and a bit worse in another. Mostly he was doing all right, which was great, but then she showed me Spencer’s x-ray. It was very clear there was a big mass in his abdomen. She explained that it looked like it was in Spencer’s omentum-it’s like a net that holds the intestines in place. She felt it was likely some sort of cancer, but that we should get an ultrasound done right away to learn more.

All I could think was “no...no…not CANCER…not my baby!”

Dr. Mary was very kind and stayed late, even though the clinic had closed for the day. She got Dr. K on the phone to find out if she could come the next day to do the sonogram. Thankfully she could, but it would have to be first thing in the morning. I couldn’t be there. I’d injured my knee over a month ago and was starting physical therapy. Sam said he’d get Spencer to the appointment, but I wanted to skip my therapy and take him. It was a mess trying to juggle Sam’s busy schedule along with feeding all the other cats and foster kittens, while I tried to figure out how to maneuver rush-hour traffic to get to my appointment.

Somehow I managed to keep it together, thanking Dr. Mary for staying late, being polite to everyone and thanking them for helping Spencer, but the second after we left the clinic and the door closed behind us, I burst into tears, nearly howling with anguish.

The next morning, as I drove to physical therapy, I started adding up how I was going to pay for all of this, get Spencer what he needed, and hopefully find out this was all just a big scary monster and that everything was going to be okay.

Except that it wasn’t okay.

Dr. K had to sedate Spencer he was so upset. She found small lesions on his kidney and his liver. The mass in his abdomen might be connected to the “tail” on his pancreas or his bile duct. They called me during the test to ask if I wanted them to do needle biopsies of these organs and the mass and I answered yes right away. We couldn’t waste any time, even though I knew that needle aspirates don’t always provide a definitive diagnosis. We had to try.

But the needle biopsies caused Spencer to have internal bleeding. He couldn’t come home for now. He’d have to stay for the day. They would do a PCV (packed cell volume) test on him every few hours to make sure the bleeding was stopping. I thought I was going to faint from stress. After the shock of the bad news, now I had to worry that the test was going to kill Spencer before I even knew what was going on.

By closing time, Spencer was allowed to come home. The bleeding had slowed and it looked like he would be all right. We were to keep him comfortable and give him time to recover. The test results might take a day or two so there was nothing more to do for now.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. The setup in my office for Spencer.

I have a huge dog bed in my office that has a pet safe heated pad on it. I set up a litter pan not far from the bed and a water dish nearby since Spencer drinks water due to his kidney problems (he gets sub q fluids too). I didn’t want him to have to go too far for anything. He needed to rest and get the sedation drugs out of his system. He walked around like a drunk, but thankfully was very hungry after his ordeal. He ate well, then retired to his bed.

Spencer stopped coming upstairs to “tuck me in” as he has done so many nights over the years. Spencer barely left my office, though in all honesty I didn’t give him much reason to. Spencer would join us in the living room once a day for about an hour but then would wobble back to his heated bed. His appetite was okay, not great. He was still Spencer, but in those days it seemed like he aged a million years.

During those next few days I had terrible anxiety wondering when the test results would come in. I started to pace around the house during the time when Dr. Mary might call-usually either when she first got in for the day or at the end of the day. Around those times I had my phone in my hand, a pad of paper and a pen nearby so I could take notes. I knew that whatever she told me, I’d probably blank out. Better to write some things down so I could look everything up later.

But there was no call Thursday or Friday.

I felt like a zombie. I couldn’t concentrate. I did some research and talked to a few friends. I played a guessing game with Sam about when and how and why I wasn’t hearing from Dr. Mary (an asteroid hit the lab and Spencer’s samples were destroyed…she had an emergency come in and would call me tomorrow…she’d call when I was going to the bathroom).

I imagined we were probably dealing with an aggressive cancer because Spencer had a mass, not thickening of the intestines or lymph nodes, which would suggest a more treatable lymphoma of some kind. I wanted to know how the Hell this could have happened. I prayed to God that it was just some weird benign thing, not something that was slowly killing my cat. Every time I checked on Spencer my gut hitched with fear. I didn’t know if he was slowly declining…did the needle hit something bad? Was he still bleeding internally?

As Spencer slept, I could see his bubblegum pink belly where he’d been shaved. I saw the tiny round red scabs from where the needles entered his body. I wondered if the fur would grow back before Spencer died. I wished I didn’t think things like that.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. Spencer dreams while I have painful thoughts.

Saturday I took Annie, one of my foster cats, to the vet. I didn’t want to bring up Spencer’s test results. I didn’t want to talk about him. I didn’t want the staff to give me that look, the one I’ve seen too many times, the one that says “I’m so sorry I know your cat is going to die. I’m sorry I can’t do something about it. I’m not sure if I should talk to you about it or not so I’ll just not ask out of respect because I also fear that you’ll burst into tears…“

Annie checked out all right. She’d had a cough for a few weeks and I wanted to make sure it was nothing serious. I couldn’t handle any more bad news. I spoke with Super-Deb, the vet tech and my friend. She talked to me about Spencer after I asked her to review his ultrasound report. She explained that because it was a mass it was probably an aggressive cancer. I was right in my thinking, but I wished I was wrong.

She reminded me that what comes next will partly be due to how Spencer handles being at the vet. He won’t sit still for an IV full of chemo drugs. He might not be a good candidate for surgery, even. She surprised me by saying that Spencer was the top 5 angriest cats she’d ever dealt with—and she’s dealt with a lot of cats in her over 20 years as a tech.

So I went home, heartbroken, wondering when I’d get the news. The weekend passed and so did Monday. I started to get angry, wondering what was taking so long. Of course the call came when I didn’t expect it-when I was just leaving my second physical therapy appointment. When I was alone in the car.

It was Dr. Mary, sounding as cheerful as ever. Somehow the word CANCER didn’t sound so bad when she said it. Even when she said she was sorry, her voice softening ever so slightly, as she suggested I take Spencer to an oncologist I didn’t get upset. I’d already made an appointment for him with Dr. McDaniel since it was Thanksgiving week and I worried that if I didn’t move fast we’d lose another week. I didn’t cry. I already knew it was carcinoma and I was resigned to this truth. This news was just sealing Spencer’s fate.

The day before Thanksgiving, when so many other people were racing around, doing their final errands before celebrating with their family the next day, I was sitting in a waiting room with my beloved cat waiting to talk to an oncologist. I never want to be an ungrateful person, but I honestly did not feel thankful for anything this year. It’s been financially the worst year ever-with my poor fatally sick foster kittens nearly bankrupting Kitten Associates, too. I wrote a very very long blog post that I’m not sure you’ll ever read, but it talks in great detail about how very broken I am and what this year took out of me.

I’ve sacrificed the past 7 years of my life to saving lives and I’m exhausted. My family, for the most part, is gone. I’m very lonely. Holidays have lost their joy. They too often feel like just another day. It shouldn’t be like that for anyone.

And now, after all that, I discover my dear boy Spencer has a heartbreaking secret. I don’t know how I missed it because I watch my cats like a hawk. I try to keep thinking things will get better, but they don’t. I’m a rat in a maze with no way out. It’s hard not to turn the wheel and make it all stop, but I have to find a way.

Spencer needs me. I can’t let him down.

….to be continued….

next up…difficult choices and hopefully how to make good ones...

©2017 Robin AF Olson. A bit worse for wear, my precious boy.

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat

Cats are evolving as they navigate from living in the wild, to a life spent indoors with humans. The resulting problems that inevitably follow when two species try to get along in a shared space, but don’t speak the other’s language is the core of Jackson Galaxy, the New York Times bestselling author of Catification, and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell’s, latest book, TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat.

Galaxy kicks off this charmingly illustrated guide with a story surrounding a phrase he coined: Cat Mojo. What is it? Why is it important that our companion cats have mojo in the first place? It’s something we all notice, but may not have a word to describe it. Each of our cats have it to varying degrees, but each cat is different. At their core is a confident creature either yearning to blossom (and who needs our compassion and support to get there) or one who is already strutting his or her stuff, but may be causing other strife in the human home.

As others have written before him, Galaxy dives deeper, underscoring that we can never truly understand our cats until we look at the world through their eyes, not our own. We cannot have a relationship, yes, relationship with our beloved cats without getting to know what makes them tick.

Galaxy hits this point home in a heartfelt, passionate way, nearly imploring all of us to get down on all fours and look around. It’s a different view of the world from under the sofa or on top of the ‘fridge, when we’re terrified of the dog, the kids, or simply being a stranger in a strange land—as cats often feel entering their “forever home” for the first time.

 

To get to know our cats, Galaxy starts at the very beginning. It’s like we’re on a date with our cat and the first question we ask is “Where are you from?” He and co-author, Mikel Delgado, Phd, go into great detail about where cats were first known to exist millions of years ago, along with a timeline of how they slowly, but surely began a journey, living closer and closer to humans until only recently (less than 100 years), they began to live indoors with us full-time. This part of the book effected me deeply. It was a reminder in ways I hadn’t considered that my fluffy, purring, sleeping-on-my-lap-cat, is still a hunter, not far removed from his wild-child ancestor.

 

Being out of touch with our cat can result in all sorts of behaviors that we humans consider unacceptable. Those “bad” behaviors can lead to a terrible ending, literally, for the cat, when they get surrendered to a shelter, kicked out on the street, or worse, and Galaxy lays down the challenge line asking us to reconsider this label.

 

Once you understand your “Raw Cat,” Galaxy provides a section he refers to as his toolkit, a little like his guitar case, filled with in-depth information about the particulars of how cats spend their day, their natural rhythms, their need for predictability in their environment and what happens when that gets disrupted.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat, at 345 pages, is a must-read for anyone who just got their first cat or who has a cat or two (or eight), but who finds themselves completely frustrated by their antics. This book is filled with “ah-ha” moments, clearly written as if you’re in the room with Jackson himself and he’s your private tutor. Galaxy includes occasional asides that remind us he’s been there, too. This is no preachy tome. It’s very accessible to any cat lover and I highly recommend it.

Where I feel this book hits a bump in the road is with the amount of catch-phrases or special lingo. That said, if we are to truly understand our cats, perhaps we need a new lexicon and if so, this is it.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kitten Associates foster kitty, Annie Jones, showing off her #TotalCatMojo.

What I loved about TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat was that Galaxy gave reason after reason why free-feeding kibble is bad for your cat and for a cat to be truly Raw (and therefore closer to his ancestral self) he has to be fed a raw meat diet. He also goes into depth about the often dreaded litterbox issues many people face (Galaxy refers to it as “Raising the Yellow Flag”). I have a feeling many who read “Cat Daddy’s 10 Litter Box Commandments—Quick View,” will cheer, knowing that at last they have hope of a remedy that will work for everyone, humans and cats alike.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat is the universal translator to understanding your cat’s language and why it’s vital we be willing to invest in a deeper, more compassionate relationship with our cat. Cats have been misunderstood for decades, with deadly consequences, but with Jackson Galaxy at the helm, those notions are changing, and for that I applaud his efforts.

 

TOTAL CAT MOJO: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat is available NOW!

 

If you want to SEE Jackson Galaxy LIVE and in person, he’s starting a book tour starting November 1, 2017. Pop over HERE to get details of when he’ll be in a city near you!

 

Like what we're up to? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Learn more about our rescue, Kitten Associates!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from tarcherperigee. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

#TotalCatMojo #JacksonGalaxy #TeamCatMojo #CoveredinCatHair

Home, At Last

On a crystal clear afternoon last November, Buddy and Belle lost their home. They didn’t lose it due to a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma, but instead to a human crisis. Their dad, my former flame of decades ago, called me, begging to please take his cats. I have cancer he said. It was advanced liver cancer. He was probably not going to live much longer and would I take his cats?

I’ve been contacted many times by families who have lost a loved one, who don’t know what to do when a pet is left behind. Was this going to happen to my ex? How could I say no, but how could I say yes? It would be a terrible burden on my rescue.

His cats were 6 years old. It wouldn’t be a quick placement. I don’t have a shelter, so it’s not easy for people to just come and see them. They’d have to go through the adoption process just to meet the cats and with the competition of kittens available for adoption, the odds were slim Buddy and Belle would be adopted any time soon.

Belle waiting
©2016 Robin AF Olson. My first moments with Belle where I promised her it would be okay one day. She just had to trust me (and I had to hope I could really pull this off).

What was worse was their being in our foster network meant I’d have to say No to a lot of kittens who needed our help, because I’d lose that foster space to adult cats.

I wrote about my struggles and my anger about the situation in a 3-part post (links for them are at the end). I knew my ex was going to screw me one last time by dumping his cats on me, but I also knew that I’d say yes and take the cats for their sakes, not for his. He was prone to being a drama-queen back then and was still now. That sounds cruel, but it’s not, especially when you get the part of this story about what happened recently. Bear with me.

Poor Buddy. Poor Belle. It was clear they were in shock and stressed out when they arrived. They were in terrible condition, too. They were both overweight, had never had decent food, not even one bite of the worst canned food, ever. They ate the cheapest kibble, stored in a plastic jug that sat on the floor.

 

It cost my rescue $5000.00 in surgeries, medications and vet care to get them back on their feet. Meanwhile, our 16-yr old cat, Nicky was on his last legs. We couldn’t spend much time with him the week Buddy and Belle arrived. They had to be in surgery as soon as possible.

 

There was too much going on, but but I put my head down and plowed ahead. We quickly realized Nicky needed vet care, too. In fact, Nicky, Buddy and Belle were all at the vet on the same day. It was a nightmare to try to stay on top of which cat needed what treatment or procedure next.

Belle at the Vet first time 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Belle's first vet visit in her LIFE.

 

Sadly, Nicky never came home. We had to put him down that night after he’d had a grand mal seizure while on an IV at Dr. Larry’s. I felt like we had to sacrifice our last days with our precious boy to care for someone else’s cats. I was furious. This was not right. I sacrifice SO MUCH to do rescue yet it wasn't enough.

 

Nickys last day 600
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Ten months after this photo was taken, Sam and I still cannot talk about Nicky. The pain is too much.

Belle lost half of her teeth. Buddy had a bladder full of painful crystals and a suspicious cyst (Dr Larry biopsied it and it came back benign). Buddy was withdrawn for months. Belle, began to slowly flower, but I could tell she was depressed living in my blue bathroom.

Buddy Stones 650
©2016 Robin AF Olson. What cheap kibble does to the inside of a cat's bladder.

 

It took three MONTHS for me to get Belle to eat canned food and get her off kibble.

Thankfully Buddy had a better appetite. Belle slimmed down and began to eat better for me. I realized I had a brand of canned cat food that was made up of small, round shapes, similar to her kibble. I offered her one tiny piece of canned food and she ate it. She recognized the shape and would eat the food if it was broken up into tiny bits. It took a long time, but eventually she began to eat more and more brands of canned food. I could stop worrying about her losing weight too quickly, but it wasn’t good enough.

 

 

They were lonely. Pitifully lonely. I couldn’t spend enough time with them and it wasn’t fair. Now that I had them eating consistently, I could move them into a better foster space.

 

Enter Jame and family.

Jame (pronounced: Jamie) and her daughters, Grace and Frances, are my go-to foster home for kittens and friendly cats. I love this family like my own. They’re so smart and capable and eager to learn about cats. They graciously agreed to take Buddy and Belle knowing they might be in their home for months. They gave up fostering kittens for the spring and summer. I was so very grateful that Buddy and Belle would have full run of a finished basement lined with a row of big, sunny windows. They could enjoy a lot more attention than I could provide. I hoped they’d be happy.

©2017 Robin AF Olson. .

 

I worried about Buddy and Belle feeling like they lost their home with me, but it wasn’t the right place for them. I worried they would stop eating (again) or just hide for weeks on end. It was a rough go for a time, but eventually they adjusted. Having the attention of this loving family made a big difference.

 

Meanwhile, I kept trying to find them a forever home to no avail.

No one wanted adult cats, even though I lightheartedly described them as 72-month old kittens on their adoption listings.

Ten months later, my rescue, Kitten Associates, took part in the national event called Clear the Shelters (more on that another time). Part of the festivities included an adoption event at BMW of Watertown (thank you guys!). I was to bring all of our 14 foster kittens for the general public to meet and hopefully adopt, but I knew Buddy and Belle couldn’t take the stress so they remained at Jame’s house.

Final butt sniff R Olson
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle making sure Buddy is still Buddy.

At the last minute I decided to design and have printed two huge posters, one for each cat. There wasn’t much text on the banners, just portraits of the cats. I hoped I’d captured their essence in my images. They were goofy, loving, playful and so filled with love. They were gentle cats and had been with kids thanks to Jame. I just needed someone to believe in them and realize that kittens aren’t always the best option to adopt.

Buddy and Belle Posters copy

While we were setting up the showroom for the event, Kathleen and her son, Jace came over to me. She told me about their cat Morgan and how he’d recently died. How Jace, at only 3 ½ years old, could not truly process death. His understanding was to relate it to cars. When the car got old it went to be recycled and would come back as a new car. I asked him what he would call his new cat and he answered quickly, “Morgan, of course.” ...once it was done being recycled.

©2017 Robin AF Olson.

Normally I don’t consider it safe to adopt kittens into a home with such a young child, but Jace had already grown up with Morgan. He told me he missed his cat and was so sad. I also knew that Buddy and Belle had once lived with a little girl. Since they’re adults it was worth a try to place Buddy and Belle if Kathleen would consider adopting two slightly used cats.

 

I told Kathleen Buddy and Belle’s story. She teared up. She didn’t want kittens, especially after she heard their story. This woman is so sweet and compassionate, she completely understood their plight. Buddy and Belle’s home was long gone. They needed the love and support of a new family-one that would stick with them no matter what. Kathleen wanted to be that family if it was a good fit.

 

I was hopeful, but not sure if it would be a match. I moved forward with the adoption process and they passed with flying colors. Over a week ago Kathleen, her husband Jay and son, Jace met Buddy and Belle. I was worried the cats would run and hide with so many people wanting to interact with them.

As Jame, her daughters, and I looked on, Kathleen cautiously held her hand out towards Belle, who took a careful sniff, then leaned in to be petted. At that moment, I saw the look on Kathleen’s face. She lit up with pure joy. It made my gut hitch. She loved this cat. I could tell in that first moment, but I said nothing, afraid I might push too soon.


©2017 Robin AF Olson. The first moment Kathleen met Belle was magic.

Buddy and Belle took turns being a bit shy, then playing with Jace (which made him giggle with glee) or sitting to be petted by the family. Jame’s daughter Frances and I kept exchanging glances, our eyes wide. Without a word I knew what she was thinking.

This is it. This is the family, isn’t it?

Was it too much to wish for?

 

We had our answer barely an hour later. Kathleen shocked me by asking me if I thought it would be ok for them to make Buddy and Belle part of their family. They asked ME for my blessing? ME? Are you kidding? This was a love match if I ever saw one, so of course I said YES!

 

IMG_7596.JPGIMG 7596
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy and Belle with their new family.

Then Frances turned to me, stunned; “You mean they’re getting adopted now? As in RIGHT NOW?” I nodded somberly, yes, suddenly realizing the girls hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to their foster friends.

I invited the family upstairs to the kitchen to do the adoption paperwork while Jame and family had time to say their goodbyes.

I didn’t want to get excited. I was scared the cats would be returned right away. I warned the family that Buddy might shut down and to give him a lot of time to adjust. He might hide a lot and to leave his cat carrier out because he liked to de-stress inside it. They promised they would go slow and were so gracious and thankful to both Jame and her family and to me for taking them on. I asked her to update me if she would be so kind. We gave them Belle’s bed, Buddy’s hidey-cat-carrier, toys, food and even their old litter pan so they’d have familiar scents in their new home.

 

With the cats safely in a big carrier, we brought them outside, as a gentle rain fell from gray skies. A wave of sadness hit me. After the resentment and anger from all those months ago faded away, I realized I loved these cats as my own. They completely charmed me, but I would probably never see them again. I could only hope that I’d get updates from time to time. It was tough not to cry. They’d had a rough journey, but now they could finally relax for the first time in nearly a year.

 

The next day I got a promising update.

Buddy and Belle were home. Really home. They didn’t have to adjust to living with Kathleen at all. They took a nap on the sofa, Buddy choosing to snuggle next to his new dad. He didn’t hide at all.

Belle climbed up on the cat tree and looked out the window. They were already eating and using their litter pan.

Belle w jace.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Belle on her new cat tree with her new friend, Jace.

I was stunned. These cats had always been fearful, but clearly they were in the wrong homes. They were good homes, but not the right home. This was right. This was it.

 

They finally had what we all yearn for-a safe place to sleep, shelter from the storm of every day life and love.

 

In just over a week since the cats have been adopted, I’ve gotten a few updates. Each one is accompanied by photos of the cats looking completely relaxed and happy.

Kathleen wrote:

 

“Nearly first full week and we have learned that Buddy enjoys his nose being gently massaged. He also fetches and retrieves the krinkle balls.

 

Belle is just plain curious and silly. She loves investigating dresser drawers but is also well versed in creating her own shenanigans. She is pretty content so long as one part of her body is touching someone....or she is playing, she's a happy girl.”

 

napping w dad.jpg
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Buddy fell asleep next to dad, Jay, within a few hours of arriving in his new home. I guess he knew he was finally home.

 

And as for my ex, well his latest Facebook post declares he’s cancer-free and already fishing again in Sheepshead Bay. In the nearly year since we’ve had his cats he never once asked me how they were doing. He never answered my emails telling him we could not afford the burden of the costs of his cat’s vet care. That was on me to solve by begging for donations. What a creep. He just wanted someone to dump his problems on and he knew I’d be a sucker. I wonder if he’s going to adopt cats again? I sure hope not.

 

I feel bitter and want to hold onto my anger, but in truth, I’m ready to wash my hands of having anything to do with him ever again. He doesn’t deserve such amazing cats, or my complete dedication to providing for them. I’m damn glad I got them away from him.

IMG_2288.jpg
©2017 Kitten Associates. B&B with mama. I'm betting they'll be good lap-warmers as the days grow colder.

Buddy would be dead by now without me stepping in, no joke. Belle’s mouth was so painful with broken teeth and teeth falling out of her mouth that it would have been horrific torture to stay with him. He cheated on me and was completely unrepentant all those years ago, yet as I write this I realize here’s more proof that I will do anything to help cats, even if it means dealing with someone who hurt me so badly.

But then I look at the photos of Buddy and Belle with Kathleen and her family and my anger turns into joy. Their life begins anew, filled with the promise and hope that this time, this family, is theirs forever.

Cute twosome vinci
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I will really miss these guys. Good luck and happy life!

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

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-emergencies-all-around-part-2-3

http://coveredincathair.com/content/cancer-carbs-and-cats-end-and-beginning-part-3-3

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