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One I Hold in High Regard

The Feral50. The Beginning of the After. Ch 3.

(continued from Ch 1 and Ch 2)

I saw her this afternoon, ”Waterbury 1.” It wasn’t the heartfelt reunion I had hoped for, but in reality visiting a feral cat who’s recently had all her teeth removed wasn’t going to be all unicorns and lollipops.

She was curled up in the corner of a large steel cage surrounded by a few towels, but the cat behaviorist in me wanted to give her a smaller box or cat hutch to retreat to. She was on the bottom of a two-level cage, but I’ve read that cats in shelters feel safer higher up and I guessed that was the case here, too. I mean to talk to someone about this in case it will help W1 feel more at ease. (note: I was able to ensure that this will be taken care of soon.)

W1 in cage
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Little W1 after all her teeth were removed.

It was cold in the room. I wondered if W1 was chilled from having all her fur shaved away. It was a necessary evil. Her badly matted fur was filthy and her skin could have been damaged from the mats that tugged at her when she tried to walk. Being shaved down in January in Connecticut is the worst time to have it done, but one day her lovely coat will return.

I wanted her to have a thermal core cat bed and I was mad at myself for not bringing her one. But being at a vet’s office, W1, wouldn’t have the comforts of a home because her towels would be replaced daily and any bed I brought her would probably have to be washed as often and that seemed to be a lot to ask.

 

I’m sorry this isn’t an uplifting part of W1’s story. In a way it should be because the very worst is over for her. Her teeth are gone. Her infection is waning and no doubt her anemia will be resolving. She’s managing to eat when no one is looking. She has every chance of making a full recovery, but it will be a long road.

 

W1 in cage C R Olson
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Respecting her fragile state I did not open the cage door to disturb her.

W1 isn’t ready to leave the hospital, but I know she'll be well cared for while she’s there. I wonder if she’s missing her sister and her other friends in the feral colony. I wonder if she misses the pace of the day, of the familiarity of her home, but I can’t imagine she’ll always miss those things once she regains her strength and the comfort of a full belly.

I almost didn’t recognize her when I first saw her. Her whiskers are broken off and her face is still somewhat dirty. She seems half the size she was without her fur. Her pupils are large. She sat very still, watching me carefully as I sat across from her.

I know my being there scares her, so I sat on the floor, making myself as small as I could. I spoke to her in hushed tones. I reassured her that everything is going to be all right; that I’m sorry for what happened and that everyone is doing their best to help her feel good again.

I slowly closed my eyes, giving her a loving blink. She almost did it back to me. In that moment I felt hope for her future, but even with pain medication I’m sure her discomfort colors her mood. I know that as long as I’m there she won’t relax and get more rest. I’m torn between the constant yearning of wanting to pet her just one time. I want to open the cage door and at least let her catch the scent of my fingers, but more than that I don’t want to upset her, so I leave her be. She’s been through so much already that risking causing her more stress didn’t feel right to me at all. My mothering instinct, my need to protect her, would have to accept that I’d done as much as I could and that holding her would not comfort her at all.

Waterbury 1 by tire r olson
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. This moment will live in my heart forever. Thank you to Betsy for going back and trapping her the next day, then getting her to her vet for care.

Seeing her for the first time, under the semi truck trailer is something I will never forget. Her small form, huddled against the cold, still with enough life-force that gave her the desire to eat even though each bite crippled her with pain. She walked stiffly and was covered in filth and crusty mucous.

 

I didn’t imagine it was possible that just a week after I saw her I’d have raised enough money to get her vetting done. That just a week after I saw her, through a magical twist of fate, someone would see her in her sorry state and step forward, offering to give her a forever home, even if she may never pet this cat either. To honor W1’s dignity she has been given a proper name: Tulip.

 

Tulip’s life is precious to all of us who have worked so hard to save it. She has a chance at a comfortable and safe tomorrow. It’s clear that her life was precious to the many people who happily donated to provide for her care, too. Together we made a second chance fully realized for this tiny tux.

This is why we do rescue.

 

May the rest of your days be free from pain and suffering, dear Tulip.

 

W1 in cage B
©2017 ROBIN AF OLSON. Even though you don't know it, you are loved by many both near and far.

[Update: Tulip is still at the vet. It’s been a full week. She has giardia and a belly full of roundworms for which she’s getting treated. In another week she will be lightly sedated so the vet can look at her mouth. It will be an important exam because Tulip may have more going on than stomatitis. There is a chance she developed an oral cancer from not being vetted for so long, but because she’s eating very well, it’s hoped that her mouth ulcers are gone and no longer a sign of something more dire going on. No matter what happens with Tulip she is loved and will have all her needs met and we couldn’t ask for more than that. Okay maybe we can...she's getting a thermal core cat bed.]

The Feral50. Unimaginable Joy. Ch 2.

continued from Ch.1

It astonishes me how resilient cats like “Waterbury 1” can be, even with a mouth full of slowly dissolving teeth, infected gums and with burning sores on and under her tongue. Somehow through all of this, W1 has made impressive progress since I discovered her in a parking lot barely alive a week ago.

 

Her vet said she’d never seen anything so bad. W1’s teeth were either falling apart or were fused to her jaw from years of untreated stomatitis. If it was a human, the fragile gums would have been packed with gauze, but with the delicate bones of the feline jaw it wasn’t possible. The vet had to gently suction mucous and bloody pus out of the cat’s mouth before she could even intubate the cat and begin the difficult procedure. She had to remove the roots of teeth that were long gone and separate the teeth off the jaw bone. I don’t want to think about how much pain W1 must have been in and for how long.

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Sweet W1 before rescue, waits her turn to eat.

Every single one of W1’s teeth were removed. My guess is the root cause was bartonella gone unchecked for years, but it could also have been from other issues; we’ll never really know.

Her matted fur was completely shaved off. I asked if she got a bath, but they only needed to rinse her paws off because they were filthy.

I can’t help but imagine her wanting to use her front paws to wash her face before she gave up on trying. She had to have been rubbing dirt from her paws into her already infected mouth if she could manage to clean herself at all. I feel sick thinking about it.

 

Oddly enough she had no fleas, but does have ear mites for which she’s been treated. She’s on very heavy duty pain medication and is on an IV because she’s anemic and has an elevated white blood count.

With all her challenges, W1 still ate food barely a day after her procedure was completed. This remarkable girl wants to live. Though she shows no signs of being friendly, she has only been fearful with the staff, no hissing, no aggression so far.

Our new kitty
©2017 Robin AF Olson. W1's sister with a few of the other colony cats.

We’d gotten W1 medical attention, but the “what do we do now” question returned. There was discussion that W1 would come to me. We’d reunite her with her nearly twin sister, who was just trapped yesterday. I’ve read that relocating ferals is more successful if they’re paired. Thankfully, the sister is not sick AND to our surprise she was spayed a long time ago. We discovered she has a very badly done ear tip, so all she needed done was her vaccination updates. After vetting she was ready to be released back to the lot, but because we wanted her with her sister, we’re holding her for a few days. Maybe she’s friendly and we can work with her. We’ll have to see how it goes.

Or maybe we won’t…

Meanwhile…

 

…one of the Vet’s clients had come to the clinic to drop her cat off to have a dental cleaning. She saw W1 in surgery, then heard W1’s story, and was so moved she offered to adopt the cat if she needed a home.

 

Wait. Adopt a FERAL CAT? Would she live outside?

 

No.

 

W1 would live INSIDE her house, even if she was feral. The woman has a lot of experience with both feral cats and cats who have suffered the same dental issues as W1. W1 would want for nothing, ever. She would get the best care possible. It would be a far better situation than I could give W1, but what about her sister?

I try not to be jaded and maybe I’m afraid that telling you now will jinx it from really happening. That this amazing woman came forward at all turns W1's story into a fairytale of epic proportion. She added when we spoke this morning that she would consider adopting W1’s sister, too.

What I’m learning and finding terribly difficult is this is an extremely fluid situation-more fluid than my brain can process. Day and night I get emails, texts, calls about what to do, who I should call, who told me what, trying to track what everyone is doing or needs and sorting out where each trapped cat was going to go (though I am thankfully not in charge of that). One minute I have a feral cat in my garage (as I did last night). The next minute I find myself signing up to take on two feral cats that may not be a good fit to even live as ferals! I’m asking my foster homes if they can take on a cat or two, or maybe even a pregnant feral if we come across another one. Not to be a complete whiner, but I REALLY wanted to take a few months OFF from rescue and just REST. What have I gotten myself into?

 

Between work, the #Feral50 craziness and finding my cat Petunia having focalized seizures last week I am fried. (and very sadly it looks like Petunia may have brain cancer-which I will write more about later)

 

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Petunia mid-seizure. We lost her mother, Gracie just over a year ago.

There’s a great divide in my head about what I expected and what I’m experiencing. I realized tonight that it’s akin to dealing with a totally different kind of animal rescue. Getting a litter of kittens to foster takes some vetting and fussing and cleaning and de-worming and such, but with the ferals, it’s all about logistics. After trapping: where do they go? where do they get spayed/neutered? where do they spend a day to three days recovering? where do they go after that? Are they dumped-strays who are friendly and need a home? If so, is there a rescue to take them? If not, how can we get a rescue to take them or should they go back to the parking lot where we assumed all would go but may not be the case now. YIKES!

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. A few of these guys have already been trapped.

I’m surprised that of the first eight cats trapped we discovered a few of the cats were either already vetted and may be friendly and not feral at all. The people who have done a lot of trapping and working with ferals seem different, too. Maybe tougher in some ways and better at going with the flow. I can’t quite put the words together yet because it’s so new to me, but they seem okay with the constantly shifting tasks we need to accomplish times 50+.

And further surprises…

The gray cat with the strange fur was in my garage last night. I didn’t try to touch him, thinking he needed peace and quiet after being trapped. When he went into his foster home tonight he was head-butting his foster mom, soliciting pets! He didn’t even come out of his cat carrier the 24 hours he was here. I assumed he was scared and to leave him be, but he really wanted love.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Gray kitty needed help, too, so he was high on our list to be trapped.

 

Some of the others are not feral either. I don’t know how common this is that there are more friendlies than true ferals in a colony, but it’s heartbreaking. All these cats getting dumped for whatever selfish, thoughtless, heartless reason. As a cat behavior counselor I know there are many reasons cats lose their homes that are fixable behavior issues, yet here these poor creatures are, fighting for their lives in difficult circumstances.

 

Last night we had an ice storm followed by pounding winds and rain. I kept thinking about the cats, imagining them hiding under the blue tarps near the warehouse, huddled for warmth. It makes me even more anxious to get all of them whatever help they need. I know they were all getting fed and that goes a long way to keep them alive. Some of the team have begun putting out shelters and I hope the cats will start using them soon.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. They got him and now I've got him!

Tomorrow there will be more trapping. Eight cats have been trapped and maybe eight more will get grabbed. I thought we were going to have a game plan and do a big trapping all at once, but the folks in charge are just going for what they can trap with the traps they have. I don’t know what is the best way or if it matters how it’s done. It’s just amazing that it IS being done so fast when the donations are barely coming in the door for the spays/neuters. They're finding vouchers from other rescues or calling in favors. They’re just getting it done and I need to learn how to move as fast as they do, but I think I need more caffeine first.

IMG 7802
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Temporary lodging, gray kitty is hiding in his cat carrier. He ate 9 oz of food over night. Glad he has a full belly.

Waterbury1 is resting in her cage at the vet. She’s clean and beginning her life anew. Her vet wants her to stay at the hospital for the full week so she can continue to monitor her recovery. We raised almost enough for the high end of the estimate. If a few more donations come in we’ll be all set until we trap the other cats who are sick or injured.

This experience is all about how to face something difficult without having any idea beyond step number one about how you’re going to get to step number two. It’s about finding faith that you’ll get there¬—that it will all shake out just fine. If you don’t have enough faith, you’re going to fantasize about sitting in a darkened room with a big box of chocolate chip cookies on hand and plenty of time to eat every single one. Don’t ask me how I reached this hypothesis, but I just know it to be true.

As I’ve written in the past, a majority of the rescue process is about having faith that everything will be okay one day no matter how bumpy the path might be.

The tough part is believing it.

And lastly, W1’s adopter liked my choice of a proper name for her instead of W1: Hyacinth, but then, after some discussion, she added that perhaps she should name the cat, Robin.

NOTE: If you'd like to make a donation towards W1's care, there's complete info on ways you can help on the previous post. Stay tuned for even more news about the #Feral50.

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©2017 Robin AF Olson. Such beautiful creatures.

A Spoonful of Despair. Part 4 of 4

(continued from parts 1, 2 and 3).

There’s a kind of silence that occurs between people who have been together for a long time. It’s not the kind filled with tension you can slice with a knife or the nervous energy of being reunited after a long separation. It’s the kind that becomes sacred, where words only create meaningless static, where words do not belong. There is a desire for the silence to become a protective shroud, where no one has to face the fact that breaking the silence means facing a brutal, painful truth…that your cat is dying and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The past four days have been some of the worst of my life. The question of whether or not we should have done the test or whether we waited too long nagged at me.

IMG 2092
©2016 Robin AF Olson. On an IV, Cricket had to wear the "cone of shame" since he kept biting at the line. By the next day he no longer needed the line so the cone came off.

I lived like a zombie. I had to force myself to eat a little cottage cheese, but that was all I could manage to swallow. I was constantly tired, but never really slept because I each night I worried I’d get “the call” from the ER Vet saying Cricket had died. I tried to absolve myself of “shoulds” while work, emails and bills piled up. I didn’t care. I got the foster kittens fed. I scooped their litter pan, but other than that I waited for the phone to ring with news or laid hunched up on the sofa with my eyes closed while Sam tried to work nearby on his laptop.

Sunday, nothing was done. I don’t know why, but Cricket stayed in oxygen and had no further tests. We went to visit him that night and he seemed stable. They neglected to tell me he had collapsed earlier in the day when they took him out of the cage, which was one reason they did no testing. He had begun to eat a little bit on his own, but I struggled to feel hopeful.

IMG 2101
©2016 Robin AF Olson. If only I could have helped him understand what was going on. I hated seeing him like this.

On Monday I spoke with Dr. P, the vet who could do the wash. Once again we grappled with the decision. The problem was, would Cricket’s lungs inflate and would he be able to breathe after the procedure was over? The vet would give him a high dose of steroids, which wouldn’t harm future treatments, but would help him breathe more comfortably. It was rare that a cat died from the procedure but we had to know there were risks. I told him I needed to speak with the oncologist because we’d decided Cricket wouldn’t be able to handle chemo every week. His quality of life would be poor if he had to undergo so much stress. What I needed to know, which no one could tell me, was if we could try chemo even if we didn’t do the test at all?

I couldn’t decide until I had answers.

 

We got a phone consult with the oncologist, who shoehorned us in between appointments. She told me that 70% of cats respond to chemo very well and that about half of those cats can go more than three months and have very good quality of life. She said we could also do a cheaper type of chemo every three weeks, which I thought Cricket could handle. That we COULD try chemo even if we didn’t have test results---again just try and see what works. If the chemo had no effect, we’d know in 24 to 36 hours. If it did nothing then we knew Cricket had a very aggressive cancer and that there wasn’t anything left we could do.

 

Cage card rt
©2016 Robin AF Olson.

Sam and I had a long talk. Dr. P felt that Cricket would do ok. We needed to know what was going on. We decided to do the test so I called to greenlight the procedure. A few minutes after I called, Dr. Larry called me and warned us off doing the test. He said that the odds of us getting a result were small and that he knew we could not afford to do the chemo (he said it VERY respectfully) and that Cricket would be too stressed to handle it. I told him what I learned about the chemo, but still Dr. Larry suggested we do not move forward, that Cricket was too fragile.

I trust Dr. Larry completely. I was so tired and sad that I didn’t trust my own ability to decide. I called Dr P and said I was sorry and to not do the test after all. That we wanted to go straight to steroids and chemo and see if it would help.

IMG 2141
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Still our handsome, loving boy.

They began the steroids and after Cricket had chemo we went to visit him. He looked good. He was happy to see us. He was still “oxygen dependent” but he stood up for a moment and eagerly rubbed our hands. The temperature inside the oxygen cage was much cooler than in the exam area, but they had lots of soft blankets for him to snuggle on. We’d brought him a cat bed from home but it was too big. We brought food he liked and treats. Sam and I took turns offering him tastes of salmon, which he ate right up. I asked Cricket to please get better, for the medications to work so he could come home. Even if it meant he would only live another month or two, Cricket NEEDED to come home. I didn’t want him to die here. He needed to be with us.

 

The next day and a half was crucial, but it was pretty clear early on that Cricket wasn’t going to make it. He had no response to steroids (other than giving him some appetite), which also meant the test would have killed him. After a day he had no response to the chemo, either and I was told that taking him out of the oxygen cage stressed him to the point of risking him going into respiratory failure. He could not leave the cage, but he could not stay in the cage forever.

 

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. :-(

An oxygen cage cost about $100,000 so I couldn’t just go get one and hook it up in the living room. As crazy as that sounds, I would have done it if I could. I also knew that every 12 hours we were getting billed more and more for Cricket’s care. The oxygen cage, alone, was over $440 a day.

 

I was literally buying time for Cricket and I knew I couldn’t afford to do it much longer, but I also could not fathom euthanizing a cat who’s organ function was normal, who had normal blood work, who still knew and loved us. If only his lungs worked he’d be fine. How could we kill him when he wasn’t old and frail? What would happen when we took him out of the oxygen cage to kill him? Would just moving him kill him in a painful way?

 

All these questions swirled around my head while Sam and I took turns petting Cricket. He had a few more hours to go before we knew for certain if there was going to be any improvement. We walked back to the car and Sam started the engine and turned on the headlights. The A/C was cool against my face. We sat there for a long time, not saying a word, not feeling like we could move from that spot. If we left, we knew that the next time we’d come back here would be to put Cricket down. I thought maybe we shouldn’t put it off? Maybe we should do it right then and there. Why wait? Why put Cricket through sitting around twelve more hours? What the Hell had happened? How did we get here in the first place? Then I realized I was saying my thoughts out loud as I began to sob uncontrollably. It was game over. We both knew it, but we both promised Cricket we’d give him every minute we could.

Sam pulled the car out of the lot and headed towards home. We’d give Cricket a few more hours and pray for a miracle.

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©2016 Robin AF Olson. Another night, another visit, but Cricket was very weak.

 

That night I knew we would have to face this, to get it over with. Part of me couldn’t wait to be past this horrible time and I felt very guilty for that. I told myself a million things, that we couldn’t do anything else, that we’d prepare and give Cricket the best send off we could manage. I had a special cloth to wrap his body. I printed out a photo of me and Sam, just like I did for Gracie. We’d write notes on it to Cricket to be burned with him when he was cremated. I packed a cat brush to make sure he was clean and well groomed after he died. His body would be respected and honored. We wouldn’t just run away and not face this. We would create a peaceful environment for Cricket. Our tears, our anxiety had to wait…it was his time. That’s all that mattered.

 

The next morning I called Dr. De for an update. Although Cricket’s respiration was a bit slower, there wasn’t any improvement like they were looking for. She’d removed him from oxygen for less than a minute and he was breathing so hard his stomach contracted. We couldn’t bring him home and though she was very sorry there wasn’t anything more they could offer us. By then I felt angry, angry and cheated, not by her, but by what was happening to our cat. He didn’t deserve this. He was far too young. It happened so very fast. I had no time to process it. I had to stop being a zombie and be present and just do this already. Do it. Face it. Stop dragging it out.

I told Dr. De I understood and that we had decided it was time to let Cricket go. She agreed it was the correct decision to make and that she would help us whenever we were ready to do so. I know she was being kind, but she didn’t know me or our cat. If Cricket had to die I wished he could be at home and have Dr. Larry there to help him pass, but Cricket wouldn’t have even made it out the door of the facility, let alone survive the 15 minute drive home.

I took a shower and put on the nicest outfit I could. I didn’t bother with makeup because I’d end up crying it off later anyway. Sam chose a colorful shirt to wear with jeans. I made sure I had everything I needed. I knew they’d want to be paid and there was some issue with the bill, which had grown to over $5000. At that point I didn’t care. I just wanted to pay the bill and do this horrible thing. I was facing the brutal truth, but I didn’t have to like it.

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Though I could go into detail about how Cricket died, I don’t feel it would be right. It was our private time with our boy and it was his final moments on this earth. I will tell you that after it was over we spent time with Cricket since we didn't have to worry about him being outside of the oxygen cage any longer. Dr. De helped him pass very peacefully in Sam’s arms. I will tell you that we cleaned him and combed his fur so he looked as nice as he ever did. We wrote him special notes. I don’t know what Sam wrote. Those words were not for me. We folded the photo and slipped the paper under Cricket’s head and placed it on top of the special blanket he was resting on. Those two items would be cremated with him.

 

Robin and Sam for Cricket
©2014 Robin AF Olson. The photo of Sam and me I printed out to place with Cricket's body after he died.

I held his front paws in my hand. I told him how proud I was of him and how brave he had been, about how he was such a very good boy, but mostly how much I loved him and would miss him forever. Even in death he was beautiful. His coat was thick, plush, soft, and the deepest black.

We stayed for a long time, but eventually we knew we had to go home. The cats and foster kittens needed to be fed. Life would go on whether I wanted it to or not. The twisted anxiety in my gut was gone, replaced by a tightness in my chest, the rippling pain of heartache and grief was here to stay, an unwelcome old friend returned.

 

I had one last task left. I had to tell our nine surviving cats that Cricket was gone. I was careful not to touch anything after I petted Cricket for the last time. Once home, I slowly approached each cat and let them sniff at my fingertips. Some of the cats backed up, upset, but more of them took a long time, sniffing carefully as if they were making sense of what they were smelling, a few of them gently licked at my fingers as a way to say their farewells.

 

2005 Cricket and Me 475
©2005 Robin AF Olson. Our most beautiful boy when he was just a few years old.

I hate death. I hate cancer. I hate that it robbed our boy of the long life he should have had. Now I have to figure out how to go on with another hole in my heart.

Fly free darling Cricket. I hope to see you again one day. July 5, 2004—July 14, 2016.

Crickets Urn Insta Version R Olson 450
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Cricket's urn remains on the cat bed he spent many happy days upon, sleeping in the sunshine. In a way it comforts me to see him there, but it also breaks my heart.

EPILOGUE: July 24,2016. Here I sit, wrapping up this monumental post, while another of our cats has fallen ill. Our 16-yr old cat, Nicky has been hospitalized for five days and is on an IV. We suspect he will be there for at least a few days more. His kidney function is not good and he has a fever and infection somewhere…or his elevated neutrophils could be a sign of cancer. I keep wondering how we can go on with one cat after another becoming so ill, so quickly. I keep wondering if these events are related, but we knew Nicky had kidney problems for which he’s been treated with fluid therapy for 4 years. He fell ill so quickly it was terrifying. Despair has never left my side this past month. I need her to leave me and my family alone. We’ve had more than our share of heartache and I can't take another sip, even if she tells me I must.

REVIEW: The Cutest Book in the World?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harper Design. 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.”

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The Japanese are the masters of the cutie-verse like no other culture in the world. My lust for all things kitty-san started with Hello Kitty back in the 1980s (yes, according to die-hard fans, I know she was "born" in England, but Sanrio, the parent company touted with creating HK is a Japanese company). For many years I've been putting together a small collection of Japanese books, collectibles and toys featuring cute-ific felines, so you can imagine my delight when a certain book arrived in my mailbox. They had me at the title: AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet!

What IS Ami Ami? Using crochet, a new craft form called Amigurumi; which translated means knitted stuffed toy, was born...but what crafty artists do with this form is what makes it so special.

AmiAmiKittens pc c

In her latest book AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet!, Mitsuki Hoshi not only creates amazingly detailed crocheted kitten figures, she places them in perfect miniature scenes, each with delightful details that make the Amigurumi seemingly come to life.

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Excerpt from Ami Ami Kittens by Mitsuki Hoshi. Copyright © 2016 Mitsuki Koshi. A HarperDesign book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Used with permission.

 

I barely opened the book before I was swept away by the sweetness of each image, which spans the full width of every page. These may be the cutest photos I've ever seen. The tiny kitten figures are photographed as if they're real kittens; being mischievous, acting curious and carefree, only they're made out of yarn. They're so completely adorable that I immediately wanted to learn how to crochet OR beg Ms Hoshi to create some kitten toys for me.

 

Even if you're not crafty, just looking at the photos is enough reason to add this book to your collection because you'll smile every time you turn the page, whether it be the first time or the hundredth time. If you're a cat-loving crafter, there are complete instructions and patterns in the book so you can make your own tiny crocheted kittens.

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Excerpt from Ami Ami Kittens by Mitsuki Hoshi. Copyright © 2016 Mitsuki Koshi. A HarperDesign book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Used with permission.

 

 

TINY. KNITTED. KITTENS!

 

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Excerpt from Ami Ami Kittens by Mitsuki Hoshi. Copyright © 2016 Mitsuki Koshi. A HarperDesign book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Used with permission.

Details from the Publisher

AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet! (Harper Design; Trade Paperback; On Sale: March 1st, 2016; $14.99) is a craft book following on the heels of the great success of AMI AMI DOGS and AMI AMI DOGS 2, but now for cat lovers!

In AMI AMI KITTENS, crocheters will learn:

- Basic crocheting techniques (perfect for beginners!)

- Spiral techniques to ensure stuffing will not come out

- Patterns and detailed directions for many different types of kittens! Including: Tabby, Pointed, Black/White Solid, Calico, Black and White, Scottish Fold, Siamese, Russian Blue, Munchkin, Maine Coon, British Shorthair, and American Shorthair!

GIVEAWAY

 

If you'd like to WIN a copy of AMI AMI KITTENS: Seriously Cute Crochet! simply leave a comment here about something cute. Enter by 2/14/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear. BOOK MAY NOT SHIP UNTIL AFTER THE PUBLICATION DATE of March 1, 2016.

 

Tortitude: The BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude Review and Giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Passion Fruit Press. 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.”

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Years ago, when I first started Kitten Associates, some of my colleagues jokingly warned me about rescuing Tortoiseshell cats. I couldn’t imagine why, having never lived with one, but that soon changed. As fate would have it, my first litter of foster kittens included a “tortie.”

She was named Cinnaminnie and boy was she a pip! It is said that torties have big personalities, which can sometimes translate into being high-strung and more sensitive to their surroundings. A recent study done by UC Davis suggests there is scientific evidence to prove torties and their 3-colored, calico cousins can be “challenging” to live with.

The one thing they don’t mention is how devoted these cats can be to one person in their human family. I wonder if torties live big and love big, too?

Tortitude FC

Exploring that proposition is Ingrid King, author of the multi-award-winning blog, The Conscious Cat. In her latest book, Tortitude, the BIG Book of Cats with a BIG Attitude, King explores the mystique of these confetti-colored creatures. King is a long time tortie-devotee, stemming from her first tortie, Virginia, over a decade ago, to her girls Allegra and Ruby, who share their home with her today.

 

Tortitude is a love story, as told by King and championed in the forward by Catification expert, Kate Benjamin. In addition to their personal tortie-tales are fun facts about tortie-DNA and tortie-folklore. What makes up the majority of the book are carefully curated images of torties paired with charming quotes about cats.

[Full disclosure, three of my own photos are in the book. One is below.]

 

Periwinkle
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

 

Ingrid King clearly adores torties (there are no crazy cats here) and to anyone else who also shares her passion, this is THE book to choose if you want to celebrate the wonder of these multi-colored marvels. The only thing lacking is I wish there were even more photos (can’t get enough) and a picky request that I wish the paper was glossy, to bring out the full glory of the images. But even with that minor issue it’s clear that if you love these sassy beauties, you’ll love this book.

 

I had a chance to ask Ms. King a few questions about her passion and her dreams for Tortitude.

CICH: What was it about Tortoiseshell cats that won you over or was it just fate that you would meet and fall in love with one?

IK: Torties just sort of grew on me. My first encounters with tortoiseshell cats were in a veterinary clinic setting. During my training, I was often warned to approach these cats with a healthy dose of caution, so it's actually kind of surprising to me how much I came to love these cats. But it wasn’t until I met Virginia, my office cat at the animal hospital I managed, that I totally fell in love with these special cats.

CICH: What are your top 5 favorite things about torties that you think makes them stand apart from other breeds or coat color of cats?

IK: I love cats of every breed and color, but there's just something about torties... I love everything about them! I love the uniqueness of their fur and coat pattern. I love their strong personalities. Maybe it’s because I can identify with their strong sense of independence. Maybe it’s because they seem to live by their own rules. Whatever it is, I’m a tortie lover for life.

Tortitude interior Gigi quote
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

CICH: Do you imagine you’ll ever open your home to a non-tortie?

IK: When I was looking for a companion for Allegra after Amber passed away, I wasn't specifically looking for another tortie, but I just kept being drawn to them, and when I met Ruby, I knew that we were going to be a two-tortie houshold. It's hard for me to imagine not sharing my life with a tortie, but you just never know with these things, do you?

CICH: Do you feel that having two torties is two-times the trouble?

IK: At times, it's tortitude squared, but it's also two-times the love!

CICH: What was the inspiration for your book beyond your love for multi-colored cats? Were there any myths you wanted to dispel?

IK: The book was inspired primarily by my love for torties, but I also wanted to show that even though all torties have tortitude, they're also all individuals. I'm all about learning from our cats, and I think torties teach us that you should never judge anyone or anything based on appearance alone.

CICH: If you had to do it all over again is there anything you’d change about your book?

IK: I wish I could have included more photos. I received almost 1,000 photos from my followers, and it was really hard to narrow it down to only the ones used in the book. Of course, it also meant that for about two months, I had the best job in the world: I got to sort through hundreds of photos of torties!

CICH: If there’s one thing you could tell my readers about torties what would you want them to know?

IK: Life will never be boring when you share it with a tortie.

CICH: Any plans for a sequel?

IK: You never know...

CICH: I’m starting to ask this of all my interviewees: What is your favorite cat body part?

IK: How could I possibly answer that! I love everything about cats - I think they're the most beautiful creatures on the planet. But if I absolutely had to pick one body part, I'd have to say the eyes, because, as cliched as it sounds, they're the window to a cat's soul.

Tortitude interior Jackson quote
“Excerpted from: Tortitude: The BIG Book About Cats With a BIG Attitude by Ingrid King ©2015, used with permission.”

Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude is available NOW on Amazon (and can be pre-ordered from all other online retailers and will be available in stores after February 5th). Ms. King will donate $1 for every copy ordered before February 5 to the Jackson Galaxy Foundation to help at-risk cats.

 

If you'd like to WIN a copy of Tortitude, the BIG book of Cats with a BIG Attitude simply leave a comment here about something that shows your cat has tortitude (even if it's not exactly a tortie). Enter by 1/29/16 at 11:11PM EST. Winner, as chosen by me, will get one copy of the book. Entrant's mailing address must be in the United States for a chance to win. One comment PER person, please. Comments are moderated to prevent SPAM so it may take a few hours for your entry to appear.

 

Forever BUB

Lil BUB is a magical creature who's caused a mythical impact on her over 2.4 million (as of this writing) Facebook fans thanks, in part, to the careful marketing and image management by her "Dude," Mike Bridavsky. For this perma-kitten-sized cat (she barely tops the scales at four pounds), born to a feral mama in a toolshed in rural Indiana, that's a lot to live up to.

Yet one look at BUB's goggly green eyes and bazooka bubblegum pink tongue, which hangs over her underdeveloped jaw (she was also born without teeth and has 6 toes on each paw), and most cat-lovers are immediately smitten. She can never be just any old cat to her fans. Her likeness inspires artists to paint her portrait, create murals of her and otherwise celebrate her remarkable differences. Through BUB we learn that what makes us different is what makes us all stars in the Bubverse and we love her for that.

BUB's Dude utilizes BUB's curious likeness for good (he gives back to other rescues, created the ASPCA's Lil BUB's Big FUND, and supports small businesses who work with him to develop a line of BUB-centric memorabilia) in addition to bringing home the tuna for his growing family.

We've seen internet celebucats rise and fall, some clearly pushed towards a goal of making a buck and leaving it at that. I wouldn't write about BUB if that was the case, but I do admit that the more merchandising surrounding BUB, the more I'm going to buy it (full disclosure, I'm the graphic designer who created the carton design for Lil BUB's "Bubblehead" figure and you can see it HERE).

So last night, when I had the chance to travel to Beacon, NY to see BUB again (you can check out my last visit with her HERE), even though I was recovering from the flu, it wasn't going to stop me. (and No, I wasn't contagious!)

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It was a dark and rainy (not stormy), night. It didn't deter BUB's fans from waiting outside Audioccult for a chance to see her. The meet and greet was to celebrate the launch of BUB's first musical endeavor entitled, "Science & Magic." Owning a recording studio, BUB's Dude knew it would be a perfect fit to create a selection of original songs that include BUB's signature "squonks" (since she doesn't meow as most cats do, Dude calls it "Squonk").

If these songs could be seen, they would look just like BUB. In the song entitled: Rebirth you can hear BUB snoring in the background, but it's so subtle you find yourself transported along with the music into a technicolor wonderland (where you'll undoubtedly begin dreaming of BUB, too).

Store Front R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson.

Although I don't regard myself as a music critic, I enjoyed each song and I felt they captured a different part of BUB's personality. I also thought the album cover art was fabulous and certainly worth adding to any collection BUB memorabilia.

I spoke with a few "Bubbies" (a term I'm using to refer to BUB's fans) who were waiting on line. One couple took the day off and drove from Rhode Island to see BUB. They work at Hasbro in the Media Dept creating videos. They have a bank of monitors running all sorts of content day and night. It is now a tradition to run Lil BUB's Magical Yule Log video on a loop for the week between Christmas and New Years.

The Line R Olson 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Waiting for BUB.

Another couple drove over 120 miles (each way) to see BUB and were happy to do it. There was a dad, a bit embarrassed, holding a place in line for his two teenage daughters. While we continued to wait in line a woman came up to us holding a stuffed plush Lil BUB in her arms. She held it out to us and said "Hi, I'm 52 years old, how old are you?"

We all burst into contagious laughter since she said what many of us were thinking; “Look at us, most at least in our 30's if not much older, standing in the freezing rain so we can get our photo taken next to a cat."...and odds are everyone on that line had at least ONE cat of their own waiting for them at home on a nice warm, soft bed. How silly are we? We don't care! We LOVE BUB.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dopey me, already enchanted by the idea I'd be seeing BUB again soon.

I was scheduled to have a few minutes to interview Lil BUB and her Dude, but they'd hit bad traffic and arrived late with no time to spare. I took the bad news well, okay I whined a bit, wishing I'd get more than a fleeting moment with her, but knowing that BUB was also still recovering from a near-death scare last month made me wonder if she should even be away from home at all.

BUB accidentally broke her leg, which required surgery to repair. For most cats this wouldn't be a big concern but BUB has osteopetosis and that makes her bones more brittle and thicker. Though the surgery went well, the recovery from anesthesia did not. With BUB's small size meant it was harder for her to breathe and coming out of sedation didn't go well at all. BUB had to have a tracheotomy and the 36 hours following were touch and go. I don't even want to think about a world without BUB, but while most of us had no idea, BUB's family must have been suffering terribly with worry.

Bubs Hair Cut R Olson
©2015 Robin AF Olson. BUB's fur hasn't grown back yet from her surgery.

As Mike detailed on BUB's Facebook page, BUB is doing well and had the very best of the best care. As of last night I was told she's continuing to do well, but in all honesty, I think she looked tired and the cat-mom in me wanted to take her home and tuck her into bed. Now that her Dude is a daddy (to a human son), is married and has family obligations, there are hints on social media that perhaps BUB won't be traveling as much in the future. It made this night even more important to those of us who could meet with her.

Bub on Bed R Olson copy
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Lil BUB Ready to greet her fans.

The shop door opened and we were ushered into the small record store. I really enjoyed the decor as it was filled with oddball collectibles, along with a smattering of carefully curated LPs (yes, vinyl!). The shop owner, Sean, and his wife were cordial and had the event well organized. We were to sanitize our hands (even though we couldn't touch BUB), then bring our LP over to the table for Mike Bridavsky and Matt Tobey to autograph it for us, then we'd get a few seconds with BUB.

Mike Signing Adria Posing Bub R Olson 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. DUDE signing an autograph while my friend Adria meets BUB for the first time. Can you see that BUB-enduced glow in her expression?

Considering they had nearly 100 people in line, every single person was warmly greeted, treated kindly, and made to feel they would have a special moment with BUB. They made sure everyone had at least a few photos to take home with them, too.

And as I'd seen before, BUB's Dude was very protective of her, watching her every move out of the corner of his eye, making sure she wasn't disturbed too much and politely answering questions while letting people know they were welcome and appreciated, but...under all that I could sense he was quite tired. As with BUB, now I wanted to pack Dude up, too and just get them out of there so they could rest. I didn't care if I got a photo or not. I really wanted them to be safe. Yes, it's the Jewish Mother in me rearing up. I know they're fine and Dude is a tough cookie, but maybe when this tour is over they can take a very long break.

Robin and Bub Peeking R Olson 475
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Ever get the feeling you're being watched by a magical being from another planet?

Though my few moments with BUB and her Dude were just that, it will always be worth it to have a chance to see her again. BUB really isn't a cat after all. She is living proof that magic does exist in every day life.

Robin Mike Bub Selfie RT
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Selfie with BUB, her DUDE and moi.

And for that, I am truly grateful and forever a fan.

Good Job, BUB, Good Job, Dude.

Robin Mike Bub 450
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Hee hee.

Lil BUB's Science and Magic is available through the Lil BUB Store.

©2015 Robin AF Olson. A sweet moment between BUB and her DUDE.

The Birdman of Beverly Hills

Rescuing a senior cat takes a brave-hearted soul. You know that your new friend may have already given up a few of his nine lives when you bring him home, but maybe because of that you love him even more. Meet Sammi, a very lucky, loved cat who began a new life after the age of 14. He had great joy in his final years living to be 21 years old. The rest of this post is written by his mama, Jamaka, in his honor.

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©Jamaka. Used with Permission.

I had just lost my father and one week later, a beloved cat I had adopted from a local shelter just a couple of months previous (completely unexpected: her hind quarters gave out very suddenly and X-rays revealed a mass that the emergency doctor said was probably cancer. She was suffering. I had to make "the decision" and I didn't know if I could endure it, but I had to, so I did.) A dear friend told me that she and her husband had some friends, an elderly couple in Beverly Hills, who were looking to re-home their 14-year-old Maine Coon cat because they were infirm. At the time, I didn't know if I was ready, but after thinking about it, I said yes, if they could wait awhile. When I felt the time was right, I told my friend and she brought him to me.

 

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©Jamaka. Used with Permission.

I knew he was a Maine Coon cat, but I was totally unprepared for the sight that presented to me upon opening his carrier. To me, all cats are beautiful because all cats are loved; Sammi was something else entirely. I had never seen such a magnificent cat!  His coloring, in shades of amber, was leonine, as was his massive mane.  And I had never seen a cat with BROWN eyes, but his were a lovely shade of cognac. His kit included a sleeping basket, a (definitely required) Furminator, and food and treats in turkey formula/flavor. He was quickly installed in the room I had prepared for him, and our new lives began.

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©Jamaka. Used with Permission.

It took almost a year for this very territorial, formerly solo, declawed cat to adapt to his unfamiliar surroundings and fit in with his large family. There were times when I really didn't know if it would work out -- I only knew that it HAD to, because when I adopt, I adopt for life, and Sammi, as gorgeous as he was, was 14, not a tremendously adoptable age.

 

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©Jamaka. Used with Permission. Sammi's first day in his new home.

Our lives together were blissful. Sammi caught the eye of our queen, Rani, and they were quite an "item", curling up together and indulging in mutual grooming sessions. He enjoyed toys, and played with a lot of the huge variety we have all over the house. Having been deprived of his front claws, he was not much of a jumper or climber; and I fixed "steps" up to the beds so that he wouldn't have a hard time finding his comfort. His favorite spots included his very own faux sheepskin window perch in the dining room and his observation post in the entry hall, where he would watch the world go by and keep tabs on the birds. Twice, I failed to latch the back door completely and was surprised to find him taking a stroll out near where the bird feeder is, on alert. Of course I scooped him right up and brought him in, but he always remembered his trips to the wild, wide world beyond his "palace" and often asked to repeat them. I didn't honor his wishes, because I believe cats, especially those who have been parted from their claws, belong indoors, safe and protected.

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©Jamaka. Used with Permission. With friend Sahra.

Although he did slow down some, and his hind quarters were noticeably weak at times, he always seemed the regal and virile "lion kinglet" I met on that day in 2008. His passing came as a terrible shock, and seems very surreal to me. His "harem" are all freaked out and Tarifa went all over the house yesterday, calling incessantly for him. Every one of us needs lots of contact and reassurance. We are all wondering, I am sure, how we will get through this and adjust to being without our Birdman of Beverly Hills (so nicknamed because of his former home and his love for poultry, especially turkey). He will always be in our hearts.

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©Jamaka. Used with Permission.

Staying Strong for Gracie: Part 12. The Gift.

(Continued from Parts 1, 2 and 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11)

The weekend began with breakfast and gossip with my two friends, Gene and Adria. We’d been meeting for breakfast at the Sandy Hook Diner once a month or so over this summer. Gene and Adria have lived in Newtown (Newtown is the name of our entire town, though Gene and I reside in the district of Sandy Hook) longer than I have, which is saying a lot. They know everyone and everyone’s dirt. Silly as it might be, it’s fun to feel like a local, sitting in the local restaurant that’s buzzing with other folks that all seem to know each other, well, they know Gene. I think he’s the unofficial Mayor of the Sandy Hook Diner, if not all of Sandy Hook.

It was a welcome break to get away from the stress of life at home. I could forget for a little while as we all told each other stories and got caught up on current events. I guess it’s a sign of my own life changing that a good deal of our conversation was based on talking about our health issues and diagnosis each other’s maladies. I’d been struggling with discovering I was a Type 2 Diabetic in July and worked hard to change my diet. I’d lost a good bit of weight (but have more to go) and I announced that my Diabetes was GONE. I probably never had it in the first place because the A1C blood test I took a few weeks ago had dropped down to 5.6 which meant I was in “normal” range. I just had to be very careful for the rest of my life because I can become diabetic (my Mother was late in her life so I have a genetic predisposition), but for now I dodged the bullet. I really wanted to celebrate this milestone, but in all honesty, while I was beyond grateful, it would take Gracie feeling good for me to be happy again.

You need to understand that I live a very quiet life. My day is spent caring for Gracie, the foster cats, our cats. I start early and end the day very late, around 1 a.m. I don’t go out other than to get cat food, people food, or do a Vet run. Going out to breakfast is akin to attending a Gala. I rarely go out to eat or to the movies or to the mall or go on a what are those things called, a “vacation?” I’m pretty much always home.

It sucks.

Sam and I are woefully unhappy. We hoped to be able to finally get away for a weekend this month. It would have been the first time in 5 years we had some time to ourselves. I’m not complaining. It just didn’t work out. We need to continue to be home, but the toll it’s taking on us is palpable. You know something is deeply wrong with your life when you have a breakdown because some of your cats won’t eat their breakfast, yet again, and you have to fuss with their food, yet again, and you can’t take it one more second, yet again.

There have been a lot of tears lately-a lot of breakdowns-but I must go on.

That’s why when Adria and I spontaneously decided to go to a local craft fair after breakfast that I experienced a moment of joy. It was something I used to do with my mother and hadn’t done since she passed away in 2006. The fair itself was small, but FREE admission (yay!). Adria and I had a lovely time and even chatted with a few of the vendors. It really helped my soul to see pretty things and not think about cats. It took less than an hour to walk the show, but it gave me enough fuel to keep going.

Kitty Mittens
©2015 Adria Henderson. I'm never far from cats.

Kendra, who adopted four cats from us over the years (the most recent one being Tink), has also become a good friend. About an hour after I got home from the craft fair, she came over to help me prepare a mailing for my rescue, Kitten Associates. Kendra is very cheerful and being around her always gives me a lift. Instead of doing our work straight away, we, of course, went to the store to buy cat food and a big dog bed (Kendra is bi-petual). We had a lovely chat in the car as we drove along the tree-lined roads. The autumn colors were at their peak and it was hard not to be mesmerized by them.

Since Sam was covering for me with Gracie while I was out, I had a chance to unwind a little bit. I think I may have even laughed a few times, which is a rarity these days.

Kendra and I decided to get a coffee (and lunch for Kendra) so we went to another local eatery where I ran into none other than Gene, who was there with his wife Marilyn, and his daughter’s mother-in-law. Clearly Gene is quite the social butterfly and I guess for that day I was, too.

By the time we returned home to get our task done, it was mid-afternoon. I peaked in on Gracie and she looked good so I gathered up the materials to do our mailing. I cleared a space for us to sit in the kitchen at the table, which is normally piled with cases of cat food. We went over our to do list, then began working, but shortly after we'd begun I heard Gracie meow.

She was sitting on the floor right next to us. She’d gotten up to see what we were doing. This was not the Gracie I’d known a few days prior. She barely left her special area in the living room and here she was matter-of-factly complaining that her dinner was late.

Before I could get up, Gracie dashed under the table, then jumped onto the bench next to Kendra! Kendra and I locked eyes. We were both thinking the same thing; “Oh my GOD, Gracie just jumped! Gracie wants to sit on Kendra’s lap! Gracie never sits on anyone’s lap!”

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. Kenra and Gracie.

I raced over to the living room and grabbed a clean towel (I go through a lot of them for Gracie so I have a stash). I eased it under Gracie so she’d be more comfortable. Meanwhile Kendra sat there almost too stunned to know what to do. After a beat she did what she does best, she gave Gracie some lovin’.

The steroids must have given Gracie a big boost. Maybe she need the extra dose all along? Maybe she’d be feeling better for some time to come even with the dire news?

Gracie, restless, got up and jumped onto the table! I hadn’t seen her jump on ANYTHING for over a month. This was an amazing sight. I had to call out to Sam to come and see our girl showing us that she still had things she wanted to do and still had the heart to do them.

Kendra and I worked around Gracie as she kept us company. Even in her prime, Gracie never did things like this. You see Gracie was abused by her former guardians (and “guardian” is a polite term for what I'd really like to call them). I got Gracie as a rescue because her life was in danger (the man told his wife he was going to kill Gracie if she didn’t get rid of her. He’d already kicked and otherwise abused her, so Gracie needed to get out, fast.) and this was right after Gracie had given birth to three kittens. Gracie was timid for a good part of her life, but Sam and I worked with her and over the years she’d come to trust and love us, though she never would fully sleep on our laps. That’s why it was an amazing gift to see Gracie feeling good, feeling happy, wanting to be part of our life, wanting to be with us as much as we wanted to be with her.

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©2015 Robin AF Olson. My gift, Gracie.

I wanted more days like this with all my heart, but I knew we were running out of time if we couldn’t come up with a diagnosis.

next up...with no diagnosis in sight, three Vets join forces to reach a conclusion about Gracie's future.

Staying Strong for Gracie: Part 11. The Results.

(Continued from Parts 1, 2 and 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10)

Gracie was flat the next few days. The toll of the sedation and stress from the travel really got to her. We’d been through these lows before after every test and with any luck, Gracie would begin to perk back up. We just had to make certain Gracie’s medication schedule was kept on track and that if she wasn’t eating enough we’d syringe feed her to get the extra calories into her.

Gracie had lost some muscle mass and felt very thin, even though her belly was round from the fluids in her abdomen. I foolishly thought that if we were getting Gracie to eat 5 or so small meals, it would add up to enough calories for a day. I was very wrong. I knew it as I ran my hand along her spine and felt the padding slowly vanish over the course of a week or so. I knew I had to do more so that meant doing math, but first I had to find out how many calories to feed Gracie.

Dr. Carolyn said to aim for 200 a day. Once I sat down and read labels, then had to get on the internet to do research because far too many cat food companies don’t include calorie counts on their labels. I realized that Gracie was grossly underfed even though she WAS eating. She’d only eat about 1.0 oz of food per meal and many of the foods were only 20-25 or so calories per ounce. It meant if she was lucky she was getting a little over 100 calories a day. We HAD to do a better job ASAP.

I returned to my trusty notepad. Sam bought a food processor so we could blend down the foods we knew were better quality and higher in calories. We could also use prescription emergency support foods but I didn’t like some of the ingredients as much. We’d have to experiment because our goal was not just to provide nutrition to Gracie, but to make it as tasty and as positive of an experience as possible. We didn’t want Gracie to feel miserable even though we felt miserable having to take this step.

Furry New Year 2007

©2007 Robin AF Olson. My beautiful girl just after the New Year, 2007.

I always keep 35 mL syringes on hand. I like them for syringe feeding because the tip is rather long and they hold a good amount of food. There’s no hard and fast rule about exactly how many cc’s to feed because some cats can’t handle much and others can handle a bit more. It was trial and error all the way and some times the error really upset me because I didn’t want to make things worse for Gracie.

Friday arrived and Gracie acted a bit perkier. We’d just begun to give her a second dose of prednisilone (steroids) and it clearly was helping. Buoyed by her good spirits I could focus on getting some much needed and overdue work done, even though in the back of my mind I knew that today was the day we’d possibly get some concrete news about Gracie’s future.

Late in the day Dr. Carolyn called. The all-too familiar lump in my gut returned as I tried to calmly answer the phone. I reached for another note pad so I could distract myself by taking notes.

Delivering bad news must be something Vets get a lot of practice doing as Dr. Carolyn described what the report said. She was calm and not alarmist so I remained calm, but as she spoke I felt my body begin to slump against my chair.

She paraphrased the medical jargon by saying that we still had NO DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS. There was NO sign of CANCER, but…

…now Gracie had something called Myelodysplasia.


Myelodysplasia (myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS) is considered a preleukemic syndrome characterized by ineffective hematopoiesis, resulting in a nonregenerative anemia or other cytopenias. MDS has been described in dogs, cats, and people. The disease can be primary or secondary and is commonly seen in cats with feline leukemia. Primary syndromes probably arise from mutations in stem cells. Secondary syndromes are caused by other neoplasia or drug therapy. Some cats and dogs respond to treatment with recombinant human erythropoietin and prednisone. Supportive care with transfusions may be helpful. Survival is variable because MDS can progress to leukemia; many animals are euthanized or die of sepsis, bleeding, or anemia.”

So basically Gracie’s bone marrow wasn’t working right any more and with low white blood cells and platelets it was dangerous for her to be around other cats because she could easily pick up disease from them. Since she didn't have Feline Leukemia (she'd been tested multiple times for it) I asked what this could be coming from and Dr. Carolyn said either a toxic event or most likely a very bad cancer, probably in the liver. I asked her if there was anything more we should do, treatments or medications. She replied that what we should isolate Gracie (that was NOT going to happen-it was too late now and honestly not fair to put her away in a room by herself at this point. We'd keep our hands washed and she already had her own dishes and litter pan) were doing was good for now and that we should re-test Gracie’s blood work in two weeks. If she was perking up, that was great, it could mean this was immune mediated and that perhaps she’d do okay for a time. We didn’t need to return to see Dr. Carolyn, but if Gracie improved enough we could think about doing the liver biopsy again.

Sam and I began to read as much as we could about MDS, but there wasn’t a lot out there. MDS is rare in cats and there aren’t a plethora of treatments for it. One of them, darbepoetin, could help for a time, but it's very confusing on whether or not anything would help her now. I kept thinking about how Gracie got so sick right after her dental procedure and how that my Vet had just moved his office, he didn’t do the procedure and things were chaotic at his practice. Maybe someone made an error and this, indeed was due to a toxic exposure. A rage began to build inside me that had my mind going to very dark places. At my Vet’s office we joked about not giving my cats Metacam, EVER and now I wondered if that was what was killing my cat, or did she get an overdose of medications with all the other chaos going on with the Vet's moving...because WHERE is the CANCER? We’d done THREE biopsies and NONE had shown cancer.

If this was a toxic event I realized I would have to end my 20+ year friendship with my own Vet—someone who I consider family, whose staff I count as friends. I had to tread very carefully if I was going to go down this path. I needed to calm down and get information about the details of the dental cleaning. I put in a call to speak with Dr. Larry. I was terrified of jeopardizing our relationship, but I needed answers. I knew he would be honest with me even if it was something I didn't want to hear. If they made an error then it would be devastating, but more than anything, I only wanted what I’d wanted these past three months, to find out what was slowly killing my sweet cat and I was desperate for answers.

next up...a consensus on Gracie's illness and the remarkable gift she gave us.

Just One Person. How to Save the Lives of Shelter Cats.

Many years ago when I was first fostering, I’d heard about conditions cats and dogs face in the southern United States at overcrowded municipal shelters. At the time I didn’t want to know any details. I kept my eyes to the ground and just fostered a few kittens here or maybe an entire family, but never too many to feel overwhelmed. I was protecting myself from a heartbreaking truth that I was convinced I couldn’t do anything about because I was just one person. Fostering a few kittens meant giving back to my community and helping cats. I didn’t have to find them homes, my “boss” did that. I didn’t have to get too attached because I only had the kittens for a week or two.

In fact, there were times when I could have learned more about terrible conditions right here in my own state when the rescue I volunteered for helped out with a hoarder, but I couldn’t handle it. I told them not to tell me or “I’d lose it.”

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Clyde is an adult with very sad eyes who was pulled from a Georgia kill-shelter because Joan knew he was doomed. He turned out to be FIV positive, but is a sweet cat. He has been neutered and given his vaccines. This VERY lucky adult may even have a home waiting for him thanks to Joan!

Because I write this blog, invariably someone will see my words and it will effect them, which in turn will end up changing my life, too. That’s how I finally gained the courage to open my eyes to the plight of cats and kittens in the south-one person who already knew about the horrors contacted me, asking me to help. She ended up being one of our most important volunteers, our first foster home and the key to beginning to make a difference in the lives of cats from the south.

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Polly is a tuxedo polydactyl who very sweet. She is due to be spayed soon, but otherwise is fully vetted and healthy. Please contact Joan to inquire about adopting this cutie.

 

The horrors these days, with Facebook abuzz with pleas for help, seems almost trivial because it’s not a secret: overcrowded shelters euthanize cats and kittens, even ones just born, to make space. Most don’t get more than a day or two to get out via a rescue or adoption. Since kittens get sick so quickly, with their lack of a mature immune system, often they are the first to die. It makes me cry to even write about it, even after all these years of facing the ugly truth that if people don’t spay or neuter their pets, this will continue on and on.

 

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. These kittens had runny eyes and were pulled in the nick of time right before the shelter killed 21 other cats and kittens. Without a foster home these kittens wouldn't have made it.

Even though my rescue is small, we’ve made a difference in more than 500 cats' lives by directly rescuing them from shelters or by networking online to help others. It’s like emptying the ocean with a spoon, but it’s something-and for those cats it means everything.

 

That’s why when someone else, who is “just one person,” reaches out for help to rescue cats in need, I will try to do something and that’s the case for my friend, Joan Flores.

 

Joan is based in Chattanooga, TN and has been helping dogs and cats for as long as I’ve known her. Even though Joan is admittedly flat out exhausted and trying to step back from doing rescue so she can work on rebuilding her business (which took a big hit earlier this year), she can’t let animals die without trying to do something, anything to help.

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Happy and safe and no more sniffles, thanks to Joan.

 

Joan recently contacted me telling me the bad news-that this “kitten season” is one of the worst anyone can recall. Every week cats and kittens are being put down for no good reason other than there’s no place to put them all.

 

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. This little one, her mother and the rest of her family were put down before 8AM, before Joan had a chance to beg for their lives. She had no open foster home for them. That's all it would have taken to save them. This post is dedicated to these little angels.

I realize that this scary and sad news might make you want to tuck your head under the blanket, but I’m going to ask you to try to be brave with me, with Joan, with our foster mom, Moe, with Bobby, Warren, Mary Jo, Kendra, Jame, Dorian, Katherine, Connie, Connie S., Adrienne, Amy and SO MANY MORE “just one person” who is trying to make a difference by fostering cats and kittens. If you add up all the cats each of us has fostered, you’re starting to look at some very impressive figures. Be just one, of many and join us.

Right now Joan is in DIRE need of foster homes in Chattanooga, TN area AND pretty much anywhere in central Georgia. I need foster homes HERE in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT. It doesn’t take much to foster but it will keep those cats from dying. Will you be sad when they leave? Sure. But I would much rather be sad that they left me and went to their forever home, then left a shelter in a black plastic bag never having known love or joy.

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. The Redemption 5 These kittens were given 24 hours by a shelter (basically because they were messy eaters and they don't want to clean up after them). Thanks to Joan, they are safe but need funds to help with their care. BTW Bath tubs are the BEST place to raise kittens under 8 weeks!

Also, Joan is desperately trying to raise funds to provide surgery for a very pretty Siamese kitty named Amara, who, along with her little scruffy kitten, were destined to be put down. Thanks to Joan, they are safe, but Amara’s eye is in bad shape and she needs surgery.

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Amara and son. They tried optical ointments for Amara, but sadly her eye is too damaged to save. It's painful and she needs to have it surgically removed-after which time Amara and her kitten will be available for adoption. See Joan for details (contact info is below).

 

This is not easy or fun to write about, but I'm so passionate about this topic that I truly hope you’ll take a leap of faith and open your home to Joan, our rescue, or ANY rescue in your hometown. Try fostering. Save a life, or two, or four. You’ll feel blessed to be around tiny creatures who have no sadness in their hearts. You’ll find your smile seeing them thrive-even on your worst day. You will make a pledge to be brave, for them, for the little ones who have no hope to live without you.

 

 

Let’s Save Some Lives!

 

Chattanooga, TN area and Georgia friends: Please contact Joan Flores at mcnewappraisals@gmail.com if you’d like to know more about the kittens posted here for adoption or if you’d like to offer assistance by being a foster home.

Please contact ME if you live in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT at info@kittenassociates.org if you’re interested in fostering for us!

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Don't make them wait for a rescue. Foster today!

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©2015 Joan Flores. Used with Permission. Adopt us, too! Contact Joan for details.

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