Life is precious and should be revered in all its forms, whether it be a plant, or bug, a whale or amoeba. It’s also natural and expected that all forms of life draw to an end at some point, whether it be after only a few moments or many years. Death must occur to make way for new life to emerge in an endless cycle.
When a life comes to an end we may not even notice. We might step on a bug on a walk to the bus, while the end of another life form might break our hearts, making living our own life difficult, if not impossible.
When faced with losing our own precious life, we fight, we take medication, we have a surgery, we ask for prayers. We may also do the same thing in honor of a life we want to protect that’s in the balance. It might be our child or our friend or in this case that of a tiny newborn kitten who was found inside a dumpster with his sibling.
Someone who did not consider life to be precious had a pregnant cat. The cat gave birth far too soon. Perhaps she was highly stressed or sick. She may have even died due to complications from the delivery. Her kittens were smaller than normal by more than an ounce, when a birth weight of a newborn kitten should be at least 3 1/2 ounces. Being down 1/3 of normal weight meant those kittens had a high probability that they would be robbed of having a normal life span.
I want to know what sort of monster would do such a thing. Why was throwing away a precious life was the answer to their problem. What other things was this person capable of? What excuses did this person give himself or herself so that person could feel like their choice was acceptable and they would remain blameless for their heartless actions?
But what the person didn’t expect was that a man named Sal went to the gas station some time later. While he was getting gas he heard crying. He thought the high-pitched sound was made by birds at first. He went to investigate, and to his surprise, he unearthed the box of kittens, who were so small their umbilical cords were still attached.
He has a dog and cat at home. Life is precious to him. He brought the kittens home and called a Vet who gave him some idea of what to do and what to feed the kittens, not understanding that these kittens were newborns, called neonates, and that they needed more care than a kind-hearted soul could give them.
I got a call about Sal needing help so I called him, concerned about what I’d heard. I had no idea how serious the situation was either, but I asked, truly urged Sal to let my rescue, Kitten Associates, have the kittens. I’d called Jeannie, one of our foster moms who has a lot of experience with kittens, far more than I do, and she was on standby to take them.
Sal wanted to try to provide care. His girlfriend was home all day and would stay up and watch over the kittens. Less than a day later, I got a call that the kittens weren’t doing so well. I rushed to reach Jeannie and she changed plans to take the kittens as soon as possible. I worried we were too late.
The prognosis for the other kitten wasn’t so good either. This little black kitten was very thin and not very lively. Jeannie took a photo of him for me. She put a Chapstick next to the kitten to show me just how tiny he was. It was a shocking sight.
Jeannie stayed up all night with him, trying to get him to take nourishment, trying to get him to warm up, but he wasn’t responding very well and seemed depressed. We all knew about Failure to Thrive or Fading Kitten Syndrome-when due to illness, gestational issues (born too soon or developmental issues) or some times it’s not even known why, some kittens just don’t make it. They are too weak, too fragile and once that process starts they usually die very quickly.
©2014 Jeannie G. The lone survivor moments after entering our rescue.
I wanted to hurt someone, specifically I wanted to hurt whoever robbed these innocents of their life. They didn’t ask to be born, but they were here, so let us respect that. Ask for help from a local rescue. Reach out to SOMEONE. There are many resources where you can get help. Why would anyone THROW THESE KITTENS AWAY? I don’t understand. I don’t understand how cruel this person could be and I worried about the mom cat. What became of her? But I could do nothing other than sob for what will never be–two kittens having a chance to grow and thrive and live a wonderful life. Now it would not happen and as bad as this was, I worried about what this heartache would do to Jeannie, too.
Early that afternoon I texted Jeannie. I hadn’t heard from her that the kitten had died so I wanted to check in. I asked if he was gone and she answered, “no.” I asked; “is that good?” and she replied, “no.” I knew it meant the end was near. I hung my head and cried some more. That was all I heard for a few more hours, until my phone rang. It was Jeannie.
©2014 Jeannie G. First look at Midnight after surviving the second night.
“Wait…so the kitten is not DEAD?”
“Right. He’s alive, but I have to tell you I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
©2014 Jeannie G. Little Man.
I didn’t want to shoot off fireworks and proclaim all was well with the world, but I had a glimmer of hope that somehow he would make it. Jeannie told me that she had stayed up all night and tried to get the little kitten to eat every hour or so. By morning he was doing so poorly and she was so tired, she finally gave up. She let herself sleep for a few hours, leaving the kitten in a warmed up blanket in a box next to her bed. She knew when she woke up that he would be gone, but when she woke up and touched him he cried. He was hungry. She fed him, but he was still very weak and probably fading away.
With nothing to lose, Jeannie brought the kitten to Jonathan and his wife Christal. Over that night we heard no updates. In fact I was wondering if it was some crazy tall tale and that this guy didn’t even exist. I couldn’t get his contact info, but I knew Jeannie was exhausted so I didn’t bother her to get it. I called Sal and asked for the info but he never called me back. Almost a day later I got the number from Jeannie, but she said the number was disconnected. I called it and sure enough, the phone was off! What happened to the kitten? I had to know.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Unable to right himself, Midnight wobbles. I assure you we quickly helped him adjust his position (see below), but I include it so you can see how TINY his legs and paws are.
Jeannie said she was going to go back to the home. I asked to go with her but she said it wasn’t necessary and that these folks were very private. I was jumping out of my skin, but there was nothing I could do. I had to keep waiting and wondering what I’d find out.
Not long after I got another message and a new phone number. The couple had recently moved here and had coincidently just gotten a new phone number. Not only that, but Jeannie had just been to the home and believe it or not, the kitten was STILL ALIVE. She said in 15 years of being a nurse, of working with little kittens, she was impressed with what this guy did to keep the kitten going. She said the kitten looked a little better, still very week, still far too tiny; that he was put with a mama-cat who accepted him and 4 new sisters who crowded around him to keep him warm. I was thrilled and anxious to offer support. I couldn’t let this good deed go unrewarded.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson.
I was finally able to get in touch with Christal while Jonathan tended to the kitten. I offered them food, goat’s milk, whatever they needed. I offered to help them with placing and vetting the kittens and getting mom spayed one day. I couldn’t do enough to help them, but they were probably shocked that a stranger would want to do so much, so it took a few emails and calls and finally we set it up so that the next day I could bring them supplies as a gesture of thanks and of support.
Thanks to some donations we already received, I was able to buy a few cases of cat food, some hybrid grain-free dry/raw food and some goat’s milk with probiotics in it. I bought the kitten and his family a very soft, flat bed, no sides for him to get hung up on. I had some toys that were donated to us so I grabbed a bunch for the adult cats and the kittens for when they got bigger. I knew the couple had children so I packed up a donation of plush cats so the kids weren’t left out.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. My trunk loaded with goodies.
My rescue has been very lucky to be on the receiving end of many acts of generosity, but it was nice to be able to pay it forward. It had only been 2 days since the kittens were found and here I was in a part of a nearby town I’d never been to, hoping what I’d heard was really true and that this kitten was still with us.
I expected that when I met Jonathan he’d be tired, but this poor guy was loopy from being exhausted. He came out and met me after Christal had welcomed me into their home. He’s a young man, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, barefoot, with his hair askew. He apologized for just waking up even though it was mid-afternoon. I told him not to be sorry and that I truly appreciated what he was doing. I couldn’t wait to find out how the kitten was doing when he quickly left the room and returned, holding the little guy out to me in his hands.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Literally and figuratively-Midnight is in good hands now.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Fussy feeding time while Cupcake looks on.
Jonathan spoke at a rapid fire pace. I asked him how he got this far and he told me so much that it made my head spin. He said he’d lived on a farm and had raised hundreds of kittens over the years. He knew about fading kitten syndrome but he was not about to let that beat him. He told me how he slowly but carefully got the kitten’s core temp to rise, how he made up some homemade Karyo syrup to get his blood sugar up. He gave the kitten, who he calls Midnight, an extremely minute dose of amoxycylin and something that helped perk up his electrolytes. I was aghast. Whatever he was doing resulted in this little guy latching on to his new mom for a moment. It caused this little guy to allow being syringe fed a tiny amount of milk. This kitten was reacting to the world around him even though he was far too weak to do much more than wiggle against sensations like being held or being syringe fed that he didn't understand yet.
Jonathan felt the kitten had been depressed from being alone, but now had become more energized now that he was with his new family. The fight was back in his heart. This little kitten wanted to live again and Jonathan was going to do whatever it took to keep him going.
I wished I could take Jonathan home with me so we could write everything down-so this information would not be lost, but I also had to wonder if there was just something about him and his wife, too, that was something more than just knowledge—maybe it was their faith? I told them that I’d posted the photo of the kitten on Facebook and asked for good wishes and prayers and that almost 30,000 people had been rooting for this little guy to live, but the news didn’t effect them. They were so focused on this one fragile life that that was all that mattered. I also knew they were both exhausted.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. So very tiny!
I thanked them again. I didn’t stay long. Jonathan needed rest and the kitten needed more meals. I promised to help them cover the costs of the vetting, spay/neutering of their current litter of cats AND the second litter (yes there’s a second pregnant cat in the home-they assumed the cat was a boy because it was an orange tabby and it’s less common for the orangies to be female). I will help them find good homes. I offered to take some of the kittens into our program but right now they want to see the kittens placed themselves. I honestly am so indebted to them I would move mountains for what they’ve done. I know it may not last. I know this kitten is far from being out of the woods, but I am trying to have faith that he will be okay.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Ready for more nourishment.
©2014 Christal P. Midnight surrounded by his new siblings.
Day six. Guess who is still with us? Midnight eats more from his new mama now and is a little bit bigger. Christal estimates he’s the size of a 2-day old kitten. She feels he can go the distance and frankly nothing would make me happier if that truly came to be.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I was honored to have a moment to be able to meet Midnight's sisters who are all adorable torties. They are almost the same age as Midnight, but so much bigger.
Midnight, his new mom, his 4 new sisters, a dad and another mom and her as-yet-to-be-born kittens will all need to be spayed or neutered, vetted and have proper food and care. I would like to be able to provide that care for these families, which I estimate to cost over $1000.00 as long as no one gets sick or needs critical care. I’m passing around the hat in the hopes that in honor of this precious life we all are blessed to have, that you will consider sharing your love with this family.
©2014 Christal P. I love this photo. Midnight stretching out on his mom while her sister (who is also going to give birth soon) reaches out to comfort the little guy .
March 26, 2014 UPDATE
March 27, 2014 UPDATE
Fundraising services either ask for a donation towards their service to direct your funds to PayPal or they take a percentage of your funds before it goes to PayPal. PayPal also takes a cut.
To maximize every contribution, we’re asking you simply go to our web site and press the Donate button which will take you directly to PayPal. Once we reach our target, I will update this post and end the fundraiser.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. One of Midnight's sisters.
HAPPY ONE WEEK BIRTHDAY little one! Midnight has lived a week, is growing and eating much better. He also doesn't sit still for photos.
©2014 Christal P. I will never stop being amazed to know that Midnight lived another day. Look at how much bigger he is today!
Chelsea Ellis, of Angels of Assisi in Roanoke, VA didn't waste a minute after Big Daddy arrived at their shelter barely a week ago. This morning Big D. made his first television appearance on the Fox 21 27 Morning News segment called Furry Friends.
What amazes me is Big Daddy has only been off the streets for about a month all told. First Warren trapped him by Home Depot, thinking he was an injured feral, but he quickly discovered his first thoughts were wrong. Big Daddy's story took another turn that once again left us in awe shortly after I covered his tale and Chelsea Ellis read about him.
With all the love and fuss over Big Daddy, I feel very hopeful his forever family will find him soon. Whoever they are are very lucky folks. I can't imagine anyone meeting him and not falling in love.
I hope the next chapter in his story is about just that—finding home.
Read the entire The Accidental Feral Series
Part One Warren traps an injured feral, who ends up surprising everyone
Part Two Big Daddy's Trip to the Angels
IBKC is beautifully laid out. As a Graphic Designer, I especially appreciate the lovely typography and design of the book. It’s an easy read for an adult, as would be expected, but I still found myself getting carried away as each story reminded me of many of the cats I've fostered over the years. It's impossible to read this book without having a smile on your face.
There are also special sections highlighting different aspects of kitten care, without going into too much detail for a child to absorb. The photos are real show-stoppers, making it difficult to choose a favorite—probably like picking a favorite kitten from a litter, you just can’t do it.
I shared an advance copy of the book with Hanna, an 8-yr old whose family had just adopted their first cats from my rescue, Kitten Associates. Although she was a bit too young to understand the information completely, she was delighted and giggled at some of the photos. Her father helped her go through the book and was thrilled to have something on hand that he could refer to to help Hanna understand the basics of kitten care. He mentioned he planned on reading the book to Hanna as part of their bedtime ritual and that she would be taking it to “sharing day” at school.
Based on Hanna’s reaction to IBKC it was clear that shelters and rescues could also benefit from selling copies of this book to new adopters with young kids.
CiCH: What was your inspiration to begin fostering kittens and did you foster for more than one place before you found a good fit?
LC: We moved into a new neighborhood and met our neighbors, Kim and Sarah, who were fostering our now permanent resident cat, Charlene Butterbean. Prior to that, I didn’t even know that foster programs for animals existed. We got see a few litters come and go at their house, and eventually we decided to try our hand at it too.
CICH: What do you tell people who ask you: "how you can let those foster kittens go? Doesn't it break your heart? Do you want to keep them all?"
LC: It is hard to say goodbye, but that’s just part of the process. It has gotten a little bit easier over the years, but still, it’s never easy and sometimes there are tears.
We’ve been lucky to find some really amazing families to adopt our kittens, and knowing the kittens are going to be loved and well cared for by these fine folks, makes it all bearable.
There are been a few extra-special ones that we could have easily kept, but we just can’t do that. We need to keep our cat population at a reasonable number if we want to continue to foster.
CICH: I see it says your book is for middle grade readers. Would you also suggest it for younger kids or adults? If so, why? Why did you choose this level of reader? Was that on purpose?
LC: I think it’s appropriate for kitten lovers of all ages! I’ve shared it with adults and young children too, and they all seem to enjoy it. It’s packed with lots of photos of adorable kittens, which works for any age group!
I had many conversations with my editor about what this book could be. We knew it would be for kids – Roaring Brook Press publishes children’s books – but it took some time before the full idea took shape. Once it did, we decided on what the age of the audience should be and tailored the content for that.
CICH: Do you mostly take on whatever fosters your shelter gives you or do you find kittens who need help?
LC: Once our kittens leave our nest, I’ll let the shelter know that we’re ready to receive more, and they let us know who is available. Sometimes we get kittens that need a little more help than others – they have medical issues, or need help transitioning from bottle to solid food. Sometimes they need help with socialization.. Sometimes they just need a little bit of time to get bigger.
We’re happy to take on whatever or whomever they send our way. Each batch is different when they arrive, but all leave happy, healthy, social and trusting.
CICH: Do you often face having to medicate sick or injured cats? Were any of them remarkable in how much care they needed? Perhaps more so than you could include in a book for kids? Can you give an example of one or two of those kitties?
LC: With each litter, there’s usually a medical issue or two to deal with. We’ve seen a lot of diarrhea, vomiting, fleas, ear mites and upper-respiratory infections. We’ve had to give many rounds of antibiotics and lots of sub q fluids over the years.
The transition from wherever they were before, to the shelter, and then to our home can be stressful on their little bodies. We are fortunate to have great vet staff at our shelter to guide us through any issues we have.
The biggest challenge we have ever faced was with the last litter we fostered. One of the kittens, Filbert, came to us with the Panleukopenia virus, which sadly took his life. It’s a highly contagious, so after his passing, we were quite worried it would take his sisters down too. They survived, thank goodness, but later we discovered that his sister Wylla had a condition called Megaesophagus. With this condition, she didn’t have the muscle tone in her esophagus to push food into her stomach, and she regurgitated nearly everything she ate. It took many trips to the vet to diagnose her condition, and a lot of work to learn to manage it.
Eventually, we decided we would keep her. After all we went through with Wylla, we just couldn’t say goodbye.
CICH: How did you get your book idea sold? Did the publishers come to you or did you have an agent?
LC: My editor had been following the blog, and when I mentioned on Twitter that I had dreams of publishing a book, she contacted me.
CICH: What is the one thing you hope results from kids reading your book?
LC: I hope it makes them happy. This parade of kittens that has passed through our home has brought a tremendous amount of joy into our lives. I want others to experience that same joy.
I also hope they’ll take a way some good practical information and become responsible and respectful pet owners.
ONE entry will be CHOSEN AT RANDOM to WIN. You may only leave ONE comment for ONE CHANCE to win per person. This Giveaway ends Wednesday, MARCH 26, 2014 at 11:11 PM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice. WINNER will be notified via email. If you do not respond within 48hrs another winner will be chosen.
The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee is available for purchase for $12.99 (list price) for a softcover version or less for Kindle and other e-readers at Amazon and other outlets.
©2014 Warren Royal. Big Daddy doing what he does best.
Within a few days an email arrived from a woman named Chelsea. I could tell from her words she was very upbeat and interested in Big Daddy, not just pie in the sky dreams of wishing she could adopt him. She'd known other cats like Big D and knew she could take him into her shelter. She and her peers love difficult to place cats and they work very hard to find them great homes. They aren't spooked by FIV. They know Big Daddy can be with other cats and people. They can find him a home.
Chelsea's the Foster Coordinator for Angels of Assisi and it's in Roanoke, Virginia, about a 6 hour drive from northern Georgia, where Warren and his wife, Terri are currently fostering Big Daddy. Since I've had a few unfortunate experiences transporting cats to rescue groups I'm not familiar with, I began to ask around to find out more about A of A and make CERTAIN they were legitimate. Why? Here is just one reason.
©2014 Lori D'Angelo. I just realized the origins of Lori's last name most likely described a person who was "angelic." Come on...tell me you don't believe in fate now!
One of our readers named Lori, offered to go to A of A and, just like a spy, took lots of photos covertly so she could report back to us. Okay, she didn't have to do that as I'm sure no one would have minded. She let us know that the place looked good to her and she'd been there years back and found it to be a good place back then, as well. Another friend of Covered in Cat Hair named Tori, told me they had a good reputation and she gave me more info about what good community outreach they have and how she felt it would be a good place for Big Daddy, too.
Angels has the best animal photos I've seen in a long time. Their Blog and Facebook pages are well done and active. I asked Warren to do some checking, too and by total coincidence he discovered a new client of his has a BIG location in Roanoke AND they'd love to meet Warren if he was in the area…then he finds out his client adopted a cat from Angels!
The decision was made. Big Daddy will be leaving Warren and family this weekend. Warren is personally driving him to Angels to make absolutely certain it's a good placement for him.
©2014 Warren Royal. Best friends forever.
Big D has blossomed since he was first trapped. Almost daily Warren has sent me a photo of Big Daddy looking more and more relaxed and content. I almost begged Warren to keep this big boy, but after many long conversations with his wife, he couldn't sort out how to make it happen with the cats he already has. I know Warren's saved so many cats over the years…
I'll cross my fingers that in the coming days we'll get the best news-that Big Daddy has found his forever home, but for now I'll be happy that Big Daddy is with the Angels.
Northern Georgia’s had a rough winter. With snow, ice and freezing cold temperatures that vastly skew from what’s considered normal, the feral cat population has had an even tougher time surviving.
These cats are not accustomed to the colder temps and may not be as successful as their northern counterparts in finding adequate shelter. Their coats may not be as thick and their struggle to have a full belly leaves them even more vulnerable.
For a lucky few cats there’s Warren and his wife, Terri, who I’ve written about in the past. They get out there and trap, neuter, and some times return the feral cats they trap. They help the pregnant cats and the kittens find homes. They are very passionate about their rescues and have even hoped to open their own sanctuary one day.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy the day after being trapped.
It’s not unusual for Warren to stay up late at night, watching a trap, hoping the cat will enter it so he can get it properly taken care of. Most of the time the process is straightforward. The cats are vetted, spayed or neutered, given some time to recover, then he brings them back to their colony where he and his wife will make sure they get fed.
That’s why when Warren noticed a big tabby, limping, clearly injured, who also looked a heck of a lot like one of the kittens Warren rescued (read about Dexter’s amazing and scary journey HERE), he knew he had to trap him and get him to a vet. The problem was, what could he do for this kitty, AFTER getting vetted? Surely it would be difficult to treat a fractious cat, which could mean Warren could get hurt or the cat might not recover from his injury if he couldn’t get him medicated or change bandages.
First things first…get the cat trapped.
Warren got his supplies ready and opened up the trap. He saw the cat who he called, Big Daddy, not far away, watching him. As soon as Warren opened a can of food, in a flash, there was Big Daddy by his side, pushing Warren away so he could get at the tempting morsels. Shocked, Warren carefully, lured the cat into the trap, fearful he could be harmed at any moment if the cat was separated from his food for too long. Clearly the cat was starving and didn’t care if he was in a cage or not.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Getting fueled up (again!).
Warren quietly closed the trap door and rushed Big Daddy to the Vet. Big Daddy wasn’t thrilled to be in the car but there was something odd about him. For a feral cat, he wasn’t crouched into a tight ball. He wasn’t hissing. He wasn’t struggling to break free from the trap. He was just eating.
The plan was to leave Big Daddy with the Vet for a few days while Warren was here in New York City at a trade show. I was with Warren when the call came in on the cat. He had an abscess from a bite wound, but they felt it would heal. Against Warren’s orders they gave him Convenia, assuming that since the cat was feral it was the best they could do, [even though Convenia is NOT for bite wounds but because it’s injectable and there are no pills, people tend to use it so they don’t have to pill their cat. The problem is-once injected it stays in the body for MONTHS. If there’s an allergic reaction you can’t get it out of the body. It’s really only good for certain bacterial issues regarding the SKIN. Using it after a dental or for some other reason is not safe and contra-indicated.]
They went ahead an ear-tipped him even though Warren said not to because he wasn’t sure the cat might not be feral. When we found that out we were both very angry. If Big Daddy ended up being a cat we could socialize, then ear-tipping him could further reduce his chances for adoption.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. What a face!
They neutered him and vaccinated him. They snap tested him and discovered he was positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV. We weren’t surprised, but it meant that letting him back outside was not an option, but now what would we do with him? Warren feared he might have to euthanize the cat if he couldn’t go back to the colony or if he was too fractious to find a forever home.
Warren came home and discovered his hunch was right. Big Daddy wasn’t feral, but how friendly was he? Did he have behavior problems? If so, how severe were they? When Warren approached Big D’s crate, Big Daddy stepped forward and seemed interested in sniffing Warren’s hand. Worried he would get bitten, Warren cautiously offered the back of his hand. Big Daddy head-butted it.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Waiting for the next part of his journey to begin.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.
Over the past few weeks, Warren and Terri have been working with Big Daddy, assessing his behavior to see if he’d qualify to be adopted. Big D nipped at Warren a few times, but Terri said he never nipped her. Why? Turns out Warren needed to learn that Big Daddy didn’t care for being petted like he was a dog—oops! (Warren admitted to not realizing that right away since he’d known dogs most of his life). Once Warren made a slight change in how he petted Big D the nipping stopped.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Loves that brush.
Big Daddy’s met a few other cats. He’s interested, but neutral. A further test revealed another surprise-Big Daddy LOVES to be brushed!
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.
Big D’s leg is healing nicely and he’s relatively content in his big crate in the garage, but yearns to be out of it and in Warren’s house. Sadly, Warren’s other cats won’t welcome a newcomer and ultimately Big Daddy needs a home of his own.
This very sweet, affectionate, gentle giant weighs 15 pounds and is about 4 years old. He's physically he’s a large kitty. Aside from having FIV, his health is good. He does not have issues with his gums, teeth or digestion, which can happen to FIV cats. With a GOOD DIET and I mean NO DRY FOOD, low carb, grain-free canned food or better yet, dehydrated raw or really any raw diet, he will do well.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission.
There are Vets who vilify cats with FIV and say they can’t be with non-FIV cats, but in my own experience with my cat, Bob, he was with not only my 7 cats, but countless kittens and none of them ever got sick. Bob would have had to BITE them so seriously his teeth would have had to sink into flesh to transmit the disease. Yet, there is a vet who just said she felt it was passed through a litter pan, which defies logic.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Meeting Murphy.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. What a cutie pie!
Warren definitely has Big Daddy’s back. Because he cares for him so much Warren will cover transportation costs to an approved home or non-profit, no-kill rescue group or shelter. He will also TAKE BIG DADDY BACK, should the adoption or rescue placement not work out. Ideally this home will be in northern Georgia, but if it’s anywhere along the east coast of the USA, we can get Big Daddy to your door. If you live outside the east coast, let’s talk.
©2014 Warren Royal. Used with permission. Big Daddy with our Rescuer-Daddy, Warren.
If you’d like to adopt Big Daddy, go to our rescue group, Kitten Associates, and fill out a Pre Adoption Application and I will forward them to Warren.
If you have any questions or are with a rescue and can help Big Daddy find his home, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are times I don’t realize something profound just occurred. Looking back on the situation I see what I missed was truly amazing. A milestone was reached, a torch passed, leaving me feeling sad that I didn’t honor that moment the way it deserved, so perhaps these words will serve as a testament.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey (left) with brother, Joey (right) watching the squirrels.
Lil' Gracey and Confetti Joe have been with us since they were 4 days old. Their brothers, Yukon Stan, Jellybean Mel and Precious Pete have long since found their forever homes and as of last week, the final papers were signed as their mom, Minnie, found her place, too (with a couple I truly LOVE..and where Minnie is blossoming by leaps and bounds every day).
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey (inset) just 11 days old and again recently.
The remaining two kittens had been living in my home up until 3 weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to meet with Jame, who offered to foster kittens for our group. Jame and her family don’t currently have any pets which greatly simplifies whether or not I can have them foster. They impressed me by bending over backwards to clean and prepare their entire basement for us to use for our kittens. It’s a large, bright, sunny space with windows along one side of the room. Jame’s daughters, Grace and Frances were sweet-natured and had a very calm energy. When they came over to meet our cats and fosters, they were affectionate and gentle, clearly enamored with all the cats they met. I had no concerns that any cat we placed with them wouldn’t be completely happy in their care.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sleepy time boy.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey chill in' with the DOOD.
As much as I loved every second with the kittens, they were big enough to be part of the general population, instead of housed in a separate room. With full run of our home it opened up new adventures for them, but our cats were not too thrilled. We had some issues, like inappropriate urinating and a brief spat or two. I knew Joey and Gracey would be better off with Jame’s family, not to mention reducing the stress on my own cats, but I was very sad to see them go.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Time to wrestle in 3…2…
Because we had an unpleasant situation with Minnie’s last foster home, I was more careful about who fosters for us going forward. I wrote up an agreement for fostering and had Jame sign it. The time with the kittens would be limited and monitored. I'd let it go too long with Minnie, only to find out she was getting injured by the other cats in the home and exposed to food that ended up giving her a bad allergic reaction. I was determined to check in on the cats more often to make sure they would continue to be well cared for, but Mother Nature had a different plan.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. In their new foster home, Gracey makes sure the other cat she sees really IS her brother.
The one-week agreement was extended another week and another. The weather was so poor and we got so much snow that I could not get out of my driveway. When I could escape, it was to get cat food or do a vet run. I just didn’t have time to visit the kittens, though I did communicate with Jame often.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey's always had the goofiest tail. He walks around with it over his back like a carrying handle of some sort.
Jame did a great job reporting every little thing, sending photos, updating me on progress. Her daughters were having a great time getting to know the kittens and they were thrilled with each success (“Joey sat on my lap! I made Gracey jump after the toy!”). I realized with a sinking feeling that what happens to all fosters was happening to them. They were getting attached. Too much time had passed. Now I was worried that I would hurt them because I’d found an adopter named Dana and it was very likely that Joey and Gracey would be leaving them soon.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey with heart on his rump.
When I told Jame the news, she emailed me asking me if we could talk. I had a feeling she was going to tell me she wanted to adopt the kittens. I had mixed feelings about it because if they did, I might lose a great foster home. I knew they’d be a great home for the kittens, so I was curious to know what she wanted to talk about. Since she needed more cat food I asked her to meet me at the pet food store so I could get her more, then we ended up walking over to the little café inside our local grocery store to talk.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With foster mom, Grace.
As Jame spoke, tears welled up in her eyes. It was hard not to cry along with her. She told me that she and her family had fallen in love with the kittens and were miserable at the idea of them leaving and wanted to adopt them, but…there was a problem. She didn’t feel they could afford to provide for them if something happened to them and she knew that wasn’t right. Jame continued to tell me that things would be changing later in the year when she expected to be able to find work, but for now they lived on her husband’s salary. The problem was how could I have her wait months to make Joey and Gracey's adoption formal when the situation was in such flux? Jame was being very responsible by not letting her emotions cause her to make a choice that could end badly. I knew how she felt. I probably shouldn’t have half the cats I have, but we find a way (but I don't have two children to provide for, either). I didn’t want her to be miserable about letting the kittens go. She was doing the right thing. I had to find a way to make this better.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. With foster mom, Frances.
I gave her as many options as I could, but in the end, this is not the time for them to adopt. In a flash of clarity, I blurted out that she hadn't even had the joy of fostering little kittens yet and to focus on knowing that by letting Joey and Gracey go, she was making space to take more kittens on. I talked to her about the pain of letting go and...
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Checking out the view from their new foster room.
I hoped she realized that the sharpness of letting go would soften into sweet memories. She barely knew me and I was asking her to trust me; that all she had to do was let us bring her more cats to foster and the love and happiness that gave them so much joy, would return. She had to have faith, too.
Of course, getting her children to understand and prepare for this was going to be the tricky part and I offered to do whatever I could to help them transition.
©2014 Frances R. Frances is quite the artist and drew his adorable scene featuring her foster kittens.
When the day came for Dana and her young sons to meet Joey & Gracey, I took one look at the girls and at Jame and knew they had all been crying. They were being brave, but their struggle to remain cheerful was percolating just beneath the surface. They were doing what needed to be done. They watched the young boys learn how to play with the kittens, how to pick them up. They gave them pointers on what the kittens liked and which toys were their favorites. We talked with Dana about how beautiful and sweet the kittens were. At one point I asked her if these were her cats. I wasn’t feeling “it” from her—that glimmer I often see of love’s seed taking root in an adopter's heart. I told her about our other kittens, just in case she would prefer them. They had better energy to match that of her little boys. I could see Jame and her daughters holding their breath, hoping the woman would not want Joey and Gracey.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. A hug from Frances.
Her boys looked at photos of the other kittens we have, but they only had eyes for Joey and Gracey. Dana added that Joey and Gracey were even more beautiful than she imagined from their photos and said she would love to give them a good home. I knew Jame and the girls were disappointed but the choice was made. This would be a good home. The kittens would have the boys to play with and a mom and dad to snuggle with inside a lovely home that overlooks a lake.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Lil' Gracey at 11 days old and again recently.
I gave the kittens a kiss goodbye. I thought about how they used to fit in my hand. They didn't even look like cats, more like hamsters. I'd worried, fussed, and after they were weaned, took great joy in watching them grow and thrive. The familiar pang of heartbreak and reluctance to let go returned. My eyes burned as I held back my tears. Joey and Gracey were two of our brightest stars. They’d grown into magnificent cats. It was a privilege to be part of their journey. Their little family, who so easily could have drowned in a window well during the torrential rains last June, have only happy days ahead thanks to our generous donors and skilled Vets. Now they had their forever homes. My job was done.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey with her mom, Minnie, who is very happy in her new home.
As Dana and her sons placed Joey and Gracey into their car and drove away, I stood in the kitchen with Jame and her daughters. I started to cry, but managed to not burst into tears. They offered me a tissue. Their eyes got watery and their faces pinked up. I gave them each a hug. I was SO PROUD of them-especially Frances and Grace. These girls did something tough for an adult to do and they handled themselves VERY WELL. In that moment something happened between the four of us. I’d passed the baton of fostering over to them. They had survived the first heartbreak and were ready to do it again. They were part of a sisterhood of cat rescuers now and between the tears my heart swelled with joy.
If you'd like to see lots more photos of Gracey, Joey and their family from the first days in foster care, you can read these posts:
The Squee Diaries
P.S. If you've gotten this far, Jame and her family are getting 3 kittens on Saturday that were part of a bigger rescue in Georgia. Their story begins next...
There are few things in the world that make me feel happy the way cats do, but one of them is so be around art. As a Graphic Designer I get caught up in beautiful typography, bright colors and clever ideas visualized, so when I had the opportunity to attend the 111th American International Toy Fair 2014 in New York City, I was beyond delighted.
Okay, I LOVE toys, too.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Like a moth to a flame, one of the first things I see, before I even enter the show floor is a very GOOD (Bub) sign.
Imagine you’re 7 years old and you get to go to the biggest toy store in the world that carries every kind of toy imaginable, from a mind-blowing array of plush toys (way beyond a bear, we're talking plush MRSA virus and plush Pancreas), kid-sized fantasy outfits, handmade musical instruments to out-of-this-world models of monsters causing mayhem, bobbleheads and more. Now imagine being middle-aged and feeling the same way. That’s what Toy Fair does to you from the moment you set foot in the Javits Center.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sugar LuLu. Even dogs are welcome here.
So what about cats? This IS a cat blog after all.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh yeah, baby.
That’s where I had a few surprises-seeing some very cute cat-centric items for humans that will be hitting the consumer market in the next few months.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I loved this banner art from Innovative Kids.
The first thing that got me excited was Chet the Cat & Friends.™ Think, funky 1960’s illustration style combined with a juicy color palette that makes up the world of Chet the cat. Chet has a line of child-sized appliances and other cooking related items emblazoned with delicious artwork that any child would be attracted to. Their line of 3+ up toys inspire creativity and imagination while helping tune fine motor skills. In my book, I’d buy it just because I love the artwork and hey, don’t judge me if I have a tea party with my Chet teapot while I’m at it.
©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Lusting after these gorgeous goodies.
Educational Insights also created a game I’d love to see go into every school. It’s called Kitten Caboodle™ and in their own words:
“The Big Idea: Find your purr…fect match in this game of furry, feline fun! Draw from the stack or “go fish” from another player’s hand to collect cards that match the all of the pet necessities and accessories of the cat you want to adopt. Collect everything that cat needs and adopt it! Adopt the most cats and you win this preschool matching game.”
It’s also clear that celebu-cats are having their day in the sun with the appearance of a line of Grumpy Cat merchandising by the famous manufacturer of plush, Gund. Grumpy Cat, herself, was even at the show, but sadly, due to traffic heading into NYC we missed her by a few minutes.
©2014 Robin A.F Olson. I missed seeing Grumpy Cat again. I hated it.
©2014 Robin A.F Olson. I'm waiting for info from Gund on when the GC merch will be in stores or through the Gund website. Stay tuned.
Gund also has a line based on Venus, the famous Chimera cat.
Here's Venus and her Gund® imitation. Image: Gund.com To learn more about Venus, pop over to her Facebook page.
I saved the best for last. Our dear, Lil’ Bub also has a brand new plush version of herself so everyone can have a Bub of their own. I spoke with Emily from Cuddle Barn who manufactured the Lil’ Bub plush. Cuddle Barn's focus is generally in creating scarily-accurate animated plush, but this first series of Lil’ Bub plush won’t be animated just yet (though stay tuned their may be one in the future).
Holding the Lil’ Bub in my arms, though bigger than the real Bub, captured her Bub-liness perfectly, featuring her bright green owl-like eyes, her white paws and that show stopping bubble gum pink tongue hanging out.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Now that's a BIG Bub.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. I LUB my Bub plush! (They made me stick out my tongue. Honest.)
…like Mid-Hudson Animal Aid, who had a terrible fire last September and got a HUGE donation from Mike to help them recover from their loss. Mike has the sort of compassionate heart I wish all people who find themselves at the helm of a lucrative business would have as well. It’s clearly not about greed, it’s about being grateful and about being an inspiration to others, not about making a buck when he’s just meeting a demand from his doting public.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with BIG Bub.
Cuddle Barn created a one-of-a-kind BIG Bub I immediately lusted after, but they said it was not for sale. I’m guessing we’ll see it with the real Bub some time soon.
Lil’ Bub’s lil’ plush will be available in smaller outlets and Urban Outfitters starting in April. If you want to pre-order one for $24.00, the only way to get it is through Lil’ Bub’s store and be warned..the pre-sales are almost filled!
Lil' Bub and Plush Bub thanks to LilBub.com
Good Job, Bub.
Good Job, Dude.
Good Job, Toy Fair.
It’s been a long dry spell between adoptions. I got to the point last year where I considered opening up our policies just so I could approve an application. It goes against my grain to even consider for a moment that I wouldn’t get every foster cat the best home possible, that I’d just give up and let them go “wherever.”
To understand me, you have to know The Pretzel Story.
When I was 10, my Mother took me and my brother on an outing. The goal was to pack a picnic lunch, then go somewhere scenic. We lived in a small town in Minnesota, so it had to be somewhere local, but new to us. She chose the Elk River Nuclear Power Plant, right next to the Elk River so we could have a view of the river and see the big fancy power plant. Just thinking about it now gives me the chills. It also may explain the funny mole on my thigh.
©1972 J. Feminella. Me, my brother and Mother the same year we did the trip to Elk River. Sadly, I have no access to the 140 photo albums my Mother left after she died. This is one of the few photos I have of my childhood from about that time.
Honestly, you’d think my own mother knew what she was getting herself into by saying that to me. Did she forget that I lived to please her? That I was an obedient child? As the oldest kid I was the responsible one while my brother got away with murder.
I nodded, then replied, okay, in my sullen-relegated-to-the-back-seat voice and off we went.
About 20 minutes later, my mother asked me for a pretzel. I said no. She laughed then said; “Robin, really, it’s okay, give me a pretzel.”
I thought it was a test. Based on her orders, my somewhat scientific mind urged me to deny her request.
“Robin. Ignore what I said before. Open the bag of pretzels.”
I parroted back to her her own words about not doing it, no matter what she said or did, which of course infuriated her.
Meanwhile, my jerky brother jumped in to further ruffle my feathers: “Yeah, MOTHER SAID! Give us the pretzels!”
My brother and I were always at odds with each other so I battled back with: “NO! You told me NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR SAY. No pretzels! So NO!”
“Robin. I’m going to stop the car if you don’t give me the pretzels.”
Dizzy with power, I called her on it. She was bluffing. “YOU told me not to. No.”
She was fuming mad, but in the end, no pretzels.
I also NEVER heard the end of it. NEVER. Even years later. Okay, after my mother died, yes, I heard the end of it, but you know what I mean.
This is why I don’t do more adoptions. Pretzels.
Right around Christmas I started to get application after application. Some folks wanted kittens as gifts, which is a big no-no for me, but what I did is come up with something to appease their needs. I offered a plush cat toy and a gift certificate. This won over a few people, but some adopted elsewhere or dropped off the map. I kept at it until I met Steven, who lives here in Sandy Hook.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Pizzelle, Nanny & Mocha want to know WHO will be adopted next.
Steven is an engineer for IBM. This guy is smart, focused, serious. He also loves cats. His daughter Hanna has been begging for a cat for two years. Hanna is 7. Steven provided me with a very detailed application. He said his wife travelled a lot so that we’d have to work partly around her schedule. Steven would oversee the adoption and she would visit the kittens and approve his selection if they passed muster and were approved. Steven included an article celebrating him as the Employee of the Month. I read it.
Then it didn’t matter what else happened because I was going to give him whatever cat or cats he wanted.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Biscotti is amazed at Pizzelle's high-flying chops.
His application was excellent. The home visit was great, but they lacked in having anything for the cats. Since it was a surprise (this one time I agreed it was okay to give a cat as a gift) for Hanna, everything had to be bought and hidden away. I gave Steven loads of links, told him what to buy and he responded by getting everything you can imagine-and the BEST of the BEST for his new cats.
Steven came to visit the kittens. I had a feeling he would like Nanaimo and Linzer, the tuxedo twins. They showed well and he played with them to no end. He was charmed by Pizzelle who had MANY pending applications already. I was reluctant to let him go, but then again, due to the circumstances I agreed he could be adopted, but…who would go with him? Steven was open to having two cats. That left either Biscotti or splitting up the twins, which I was loathe to do.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Linzer, Biscotti and Nanny (right). But really who can tell the twins apart. Good thing Biscotti has white on his face.
What I hadn’t noticed was that Steven was drawn to Mocha. After visiting with the kitties for about 30 minutes I asked him if he felt any bond to the cats. He caught me off guard by choosing the cat I thought would be the last one adopted. He chose Mocha and Pizzelle to go together!
I was shocked, but it was a fine match. Mother and son, together always. How lovely…but…mom had to approve, too.
That’s when I got my hackles up and I wanted to get my bag of pretzels back.
Mom wanted black cats to match her outfits so she wouldn’t have cat hair showing on her clothes or the furniture. Mom is a busy executive and does not want to have anything to do with feeding the cats or cleaning the litter pan. Mom is scared of being scratched.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha, a truly adorable, sweet, playful kitty…and her fur matches the furniture?
Normally every red flag I’ve got in my gut would be waving furiously, but Steven was so grand and his daughter so sweet, that I simply had to do this adoption. My hope was that with time and education, mom would come around. She couldn’t believe me that our cats really don’t shed. One of the benefits of the raw diet is that cats don’t get hairballs or shed much at all. The coat length-long or short haired-doesn’t matter. I literally tried to pull some fur off one of the cats and it just doesn’t come out.
The big day arrived. I was honored to be able to bring Pizzelle and Mocha to their new home and witness this little girl’s dream come true. The night before, Steven sent me a photo of Hanna next to the gigantic cat tree they got for her new cats. I was bummed they told her she was getting cats, but found out they only told her she was getting Mocha. She was really happy about that, so much so that she said she HAD to keep Mocha's name and would not change it. The surprise was that Pizzelle would be joining her, so we worked out a plan to bring him out after Mocha had already come into the house.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. 'Zellie poses for the camera.
We got Mocha settled. Hanna was delighted. She was more subdued than I expected but was following Mocha around the room as she sniffed and inspected everything in her new home. At my suggestion, Mocha and Pizzelle would be in a big finished basement for the first week as to not overwhelm them with having free reign of the house.
Mocha did GREAT. She was happy, interested in everyone, tail up, but I was worried. Just after we loaded Mocha into her carrier, before we left our house for Steven's, she started growling. It reminded me of how she behaved shortly after she arrived off the transport. For the first week she was furious with the kittens-hissing, growling, lashing out at them. I was faced with the realization that it could happen again with Pizzelle in their new home. The short drive was enough to make her forget her own offspring and she’d be fighting and angry in front of her new family. I had to diffuse the situation. The mom might not understand and want us to take Mocha back, but first we had to surprise Hanna with her second cat. I hoped Mocha wouldn't charge Pizzelle the second she saw him.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mocha was just as playful as the kittens. She's just a big kitten, herself.
Is this adoption going to stick or is it all going to fall apart if Mocha can't calm down fast? Stay tuned for the conclusion in Chapter 4 airing in a few hours.
I'm so thrilled to start the year off with good news AND to be included with such a fine group of writers. It's truly an honor and I'm so grateful. The only problems is…now I have to live up to this acknowledgment! Oops. I better get to writing.
Speaking of stories..stay tuned. We have some more good news. One of our kittens has been adopted and is already in her new home, but which one is it? Find out, along with some awesome photos of the kitten with her siblings enjoying their last afternoon together.
And if you're in the mood to read right away, make sure you visit the other Cat Blogs listed in Ingrid King's post:
The “Anniversary” approaches. We here in Sandy Hook, Connecticut don’t need more of a description than that. We know the anniversary referred to is of the horrific shooting that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December 14, 2012. It was a tragedy that wiped away the lives of 20 children and 8 adults.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the thousands of messages sent to help Newtown heal.
I realize some folks would have difficulty that I include the 2 people who caused this horror in my tally—the 1 who actually pulled the trigger and the other who arrogantly had an arsenal of guns in her suburban home combined with a son who she KNEW had mental illness and severe social issues. They died, too. The horror that occurred is unforgivable, but I gently suggest that after a year has passed, perhaps it’s time to include those people in our heartbreak and include them in our mourning as we struggle to move forward.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
What we have learned in twelve months is that people love our town. People who didn’t even know where Connecticut was, let alone Sandy Hook, sent us truckloads of letters and cards expressing their sentiments. These people are from all over the world, who just wanted to let us know how much they cared. They reached out to us and held us. They gave us gifts. They donated many millions of dollars to funds that go to the families of the fallen, that will help our town government run and more (GE “donated” 5 employees to our town to help our First Selectman with anything she needed).
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Love, the theme of so many messages of support.
As the sheath of heartbreak begins to fall away, what lies beneath that is what has been their all along-love; love that we may have previously held close, that we protected, fearful to express it. It was a love we may not have felt we had enough to share, but with the tragedy behind us, this love has grown bigger and grander and more open and fearless. It is more welcoming and accepting than any love we have ever known. It is because we don’t try to forget what happened, we use it as a reminder to cherish our fragile lives and the lives of everyone around us. It reminds us to not be afraid to reach out a hand and offer it to a stranger, not asking for anything in return, but having confidence that helping others helps us, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Our town is already bracing for an onslaught of media coverage. Pat Llodra, our First Selectman, asks them to stay away and let us grieve in peace. The local Catholic church has signs in their yard warning: “No Media Beyond this Point! Police Take Notice.” In some ways I agree with that request, but for one reason I disagree. I would like the media to come here and focus not on the pain, but on the ways we have been helping each other and to use the media to remind others to mark this sad day by doing at least one good thing for a stranger. The families of the fallen ask for 26 acts of kindness, 1 for each person who was killed, and they ask that everyone do these things for people in their own community. We don’t need more things here, we need more love and that love should be expressed by helping others, simple as that.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A Christmas card I came across. What a lovely message.
Last year my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, helped others the day after the shooting and it continued on for 5 months. We opened our home to anyone who needed us by creating what became an award-winning program called Kitties for Kids. Kids, parents, now-grown former students of Sandy Hook Elementary came to us. They played with our foster kittens. They petted our cat Nora’s big belly. The saddest of the children eventually smiled, even if it was a shy, tentative smile. It was the beginning of them finding their way back to the world from the darkness of a broken heart and we were honored to be part of that journey.
In a few days we will be re-opening our home. Kitties for Kids will begin again and for the next 2 weeks anyone who needs us will find open arms and new furry friends. Inasmuch as we know our community needs us, we need them, too. Hearing children giggle was an unexpected gift that gave us the fuel to continue to help others.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Our town hall turned into the display area for all the cards and banners. There were too many to read each one. I've heard they photographed every single piece, but my mind boggles at the thought.
Although blazing gun control legislations weren’t passed in the last year and we learned we may never know why Lanza chose Sandy Hook Elementary to express his rage, the love that has blossomed out of the heartbreak is magical and we hope it will radiate throughout the world.
©2013 Maggie Russo. The lovely lady who keeps my hair looking great shared this photo with me. A stranger bought everyone at Salon Michele their morning coffee.
And may I humbly suggest that we don't stop there. Let’s continue to look for ways to help each other EVERY DAY and change the course of history, from one fueled by greed and selfishness to one of compassion and love.