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.
The one and only Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, has a new WEEKLY web video series, called Cat Mojo that delivers cat-centric tips, stories and more. The series launches TODAY, Dec., 9, 2013 and is sure to become an instant hit. Jackson's teamed up with the Animalist network to bring you his new show which hints at sharing stories about more than just cats! Make sure you check out the trailer to give you a taste of what's to come.
Jackson is finally going to tell us what Cat Mojo really means. Watch his new series to find out!
You can check out the trailer here and make sure you subscribe so you don't miss an episode!
Can't wait? The first episode just aired! You can check out right here!
On December 14, 2012 my neighbor was murdered in her bed. Her son took off, armed to the hilt and for reasons we may never know, headed for our local elementary school and murdered some of the staff and 20 children.
From the moment I heard the news, I knew I had to do something to help my community. I didn't have much to offer, other than a house full of foster kittens, but what I take for granted, I knew other people might find unique. What I also knew is the healing power that resulted in spending time with kittens. Pet a kitten. Watch them play. You can't be sad when you're in a room full of kittens. The day after the tragedy, my program Kitties for Kids was born. A year later I can say that it was possibly the best thing I've ever done in my entire life.
I had no idea we'd get accolades from the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association or that I'd meet someone I look up to-U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who also awarded our program with a Special Certificate of Recognition. I just wanted to help my broken-hearted community and had no idea or expectation that anything would happen to me as a result of giving back.
Our program was extended into the spring of this year, then it faded away when our dear kitten Fred, grew ill and later died from the dry form of FIP. I didn't give Kitties for Kids much thought. I was too busy grieving. We didn't get requests for visits and I thought it was time to close the program.
This summer, I was surprised when Susan Logan, the Editor of Cat Fancy contacted me and asked me if I'd be interested in having them do a story about our program for their December 2013 issue. I didn't hesitate to offer to write the article myself, but in all fairness she said it would be better reporting if she sent someone to me to do the story. I agreed, though as a cat writer, I admit to being a bit frustrated to being so close to writing for a national publication I'd admired since I was a kid.
I met with Kellie Gormly, a cheerful, chatty, cat-lover early in April. We talked at great length about not only doing rescue work, but how the residents of Newtown were coping. I took her on a tour, showing her the Newtown Healing Arts Center where the arts were used to help the children express their feelings and where many donations of artwork were displayed from around the world. I showed her other areas that were about being positive and hopeful, instead of focusing on a tour of where grisly events unfolded. We paid respect to the little fire station near where Sandy Hook Elementary once stood. On its roof are 26 bronze stars, one for each of the victims in the school. It was a cold, bright day, not unlike the day of the shooting. I didn't want to be anywhere near this place and was glad to leave it behind.
Kellie got to work on the article while the design staff at Cat Fancy reviewed the photos I sent them and made their selections for what would make the issue. At the time I had no idea which photos were going to be used where, nor how long the piece was going to be. I hoped for at least a 2-page spread, but had no idea what they'd end up doing.
The article about Kitties for Kids starts on page 16!
My dear friend Ingrid King sent me an email with the subject saying something to the effect of: "OMG DID YOU SEE THIS??!” Ingrid had attached a scan of the article. Unbeknownst to me, Cat Fancy came out early to subscribers and Ingrid hadn't known Kitten Associates was going to be featured. I imagined her turning page after page, then seeing someone she recognized…there's ROBIN and Spencer!
To quote my mother, I think I “plotzed” when I saw the scan. There, on the very first page of the article was a photo of me with Spencer. It took up more than half the space. When I envisioned the photo being used, I assumed it might be a thumbnail-size near the end of the article. Oh no…it was me in all my glory. Holy moley. I wondered if this is what it's like to be a celebrity? I admit to feeling a mix of delight and horror. Yes, I need to be out there in the public so my rescue can get more help, but wowie it is a strange feeling to see yourself in a magazine you often read.
Here's a sneak peek of the December 2013 Issue of Cat Fancy. To get your own copy, visit Cat Fancy online.
The next day I had to bring some kittens to Dr. Larry's and the second I walked in the door, I ran over and grabbed their copy of Cat Fancy. I asked if I could do "show and tell" during my appointment and they looked at me like I was crazy (which they are also used to by now). I went into the exam room and looked at the article. It blew me away. Kellie did a great job and I loved the layout. It is 4 pages long and full of photos from our program. They even honored Fred's passing, which meant the world to me.
My parents died many years ago and this is one thing I wish they had lived to see. All the hard work, the tears, resulted in something wonderful for Kitten Associates. When Dr. Larry looked at the spread, his face lit up. He smiled. He was really impressed and proud of me. In that moment I realized how meaningful it is to get a reminder that you're doing the right thing. It gives me fuel to keep going when times get tough.
Kitties for Kids hasn't come to an end. After careful consideration, we have decided to do a special 2-week run of our program. It will start on December 14th, the first anniversary of the tragedy and will run until December 28th. Though we hope no one will feel the need for kitty play-therapy because their hearts are healing, we'll be ready in case we're needed. If you live in Newtown, CT and would like to book a play therapy session, just email us at info@kittenassociates. org and we'll fill you in on how to sign up.
In any big city as you walk down the street, you might come across a street performer playing music with an open guitar case next to him displaying a small collection of spare change scattered inside it. You might walk hurriedly past the person, feeling uncomfortable to connect with a stranger, or, if the music is just right, you may become his audience, if only for a few moments. Before you part, you fish out a few coins or notes to offer him for his time, leaving it behind in the case.
James Bowen’s International Bestseller; “A Street Cat Named Bob & How He Saved My Life” chronicles his life and the divine meeting of the self-described recovering heroin addict and “busker” (in the USA we would call him a street performer) and a very special orange tabby cat he later named, Bob.
You can’t read a book about someone else’s life without comparing it to your own. In reading Bowen’s words, I was caught up in challenges of his life lived on the streets, to transitional housing in London, which allowed him to continue treatment for his addiction. Where one night his fate would be forever changed by meeting an injured Tom cat who was sitting outside the door of an apartment in his building. In the same way the busy London crowds might ignore a busker, Bowen could have chosen to walk past the cat and not get involved.
In fact, during Bowen’s first weeks with Bob, he often gave the cat chances to leave since Bowen could barely afford to feed himself, let alone provide vet care for an injured cat. Where this story takes a surprising turn is that regardless of how much Bowen protests or questions what he's doing with this cat, the cat, however has clearly made up his mind about what he wants. This cat is like no other. Instead of being fearful, he saunters along with Bowen down crowded streets, even following Bowen onto a bus. He keeps Bowen company as Bowen plays guitar in a public garden, hoping to earn enough money to get to the next day. With his new furry partner at his side, crowds begin to form around the curious duo and the contents of the guitar case show surprising results .
Photo courtesy of James Bowen & Street Cat Bob's Facebook Page
A Street Cat Named Bob is a quick read, especially if you speed-read the scary parts where a few worriesome things happens to Bob and Bowen (I won’t spoil it here) and you can’t stand waiting to get to the part where you hope they’re okay again. I found myself rooting for the two of them to see what was becoming clear-that they belonged together.
While the prose is a bit awkward and those of us in the USA might need to translate some of the terms (like moggie=cat), it’s an honest telling of the story. Bowen, himself, is not from a polished private school background built around decades of studying literature. I wouldn't believe the story if it was better written and it would have lost some of its charm. His voice rings clear, even though he did have some help from writer Garry Jenkins to structure the tale just right.
I had the opportunity to ask James a few questions about how he’s doing now and how he feels about his book becoming an International Bestseller and this is what he had to say:____
Photo courtesy of James Bowen & Street Cat Bob's Facebook Page
Nothing…I tried in vain to get answers to a handful of questions. I spoke with Mr. Bowen's Publicist via email a number of times. After two months I've given up that any of my questions will ever be answered. Though I'm definitely not thrilled to share this news with you, it does not diminish what I think about Mr. Bowen's book.
Considering we're about to hit a holiday here in the USA where we should remember to be thankful, A Street Cat Named Bob is the sort of story that reminds us to be grateful for what we have when so many aren't as fortunate. As for Mr. Bowen, his life is changing in ways he never could have imagined and with Bob by his side the future is looking bright.
A Streetcat Named Bob is available for purchase HERE.
UPDATE: LEAVE A COMMENT TO WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY OF A Street
Cat Named Bob! Winner chosen at random 11/27/13 at 6PM EST. USA Residents only.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
For many people their day-to-day life may not hold many challenges. There’s a routine of waking up, feeding kids, pets, yourself, of washing a few dishes (or ignoring the mess), of getting dressed, working, playing, resting. Perhaps the challenges are in the in-between moments, how we get to work, if we can fit into our clothes, if we’ve run out of cereal and have to start the day with an empty belly; but more often than not, we can manage those little bumps in the road. But there are also some of us who have suffered a great loss; a loved one dies, a flood sweeps our home off its foundation and crushes it into bits, our town is ravaged by a hurricane and the power goes out for weeks. For those people, even the simple tasks require herculean efforts to accomplish. For those people it is our duty to stop worrying about our own challenges and help them.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Kitty in quarantine.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Infirmary with large airy cages. Inset: Doorway to surgery suite. The doorway was reduced in size and moved to the right where you now see a yellow door.
On May 1st 2012 in Hudson, New York, a small fire broke out in the top floor of a 3-story Victorian building. It was put out fairly quickly, but not fast enough before it set off the building-wide sprinkler system. The water, which should have saved the building from the flames, destroyed it from top to bottom, leaving many inches of water covering the floors. The building was mostly empty of people, but it was filled with terrified and wet cats. The building was the home to Animalkind, a cat-centric shelter.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sick kitty in the Infirmary.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the lovely new cat lounges.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Artwork plays a strong role in creating an inviting space for humans and cats alike.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dreary ruined space turned into a catio/cat lounge.
Some people might curl up on their bed and just not get up for a few months after such a tragic loss. Running a cat rescue is difficult enough, but to lose a life’s work overnight is unthinkable.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Senior kitty enjoying sunshine and some love.
Animalkind could have shut their doors and moved all their cats to other rescues, but they didn’t. They’re the only cat rescue in the area and Katrin Hecker, the Founder and Director of Animalkind couldn’t close the doors, knowing what a negative impact it would have on the community. The community of Hudson, knew what they’d lost, too and many pitched in right away to help Animalkind rebuild.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the cats available for adoption completely oblivious to the crowds surrounding his space because folks were not allowed in the lounges during the open house (good call if you ask me).
I covered the story of those early days in a few blog posts (listed at the end of this post), as well as doing my bit to help the rebuilding process by procuring large donations of food and litter and encouraging monetary donations from all of you. Even though my own cat rescue group was suffering at the time, I knew I needed to help them. It was too big of a loss to turn away.
©2012 AnimalKind (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The adoption room after the sprinkler system ruined the floors and sheet rock. This was taken just before the cats were removed from the room.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Part of the Surgery Suite showing the HVAC system back in place, cleaned up and ready to go.
I was delighted to make the two hour drive north to attend Animalkind’s Open House. The last time I’d seen the facility, everything was removed, down to the studs. The spaces were dark and scary and empty of life. In my mind’s eye I could imagine what it might look like with new sheet rock in place and new furnishings and painted walls, but what I imagined was nothing in comparison to what greeted me as I arrived at 721 Warren Street.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Panorama showing the main floor cat adoption suites.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Happy cats.
I loved what Katrin, her Board, her volunteers and donors were able to create. Here was a place that also included art, along with rescuing cats. Animalkind appears to be like a hybrid between an art gallery and cat shelter. There are paintings embellishing large areas on each floor. The walls are painted a patchwork of cheerful colors. There are photos of cats, sculptures of cats, everything cats, everywhere you look. This was a place where you couldn’t be sad, even in the Senior Cat room, where many cats were blissfully resting on soft beds kissed by the sun.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Senior Room.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the youngest cats looking for a forever home.
We visited the Infirmary where volunteers made certain that each and every cat had cuddle time to help encourage them to overcome what ailed them. They understood that pills or procedures only go so far and that love helps the cats make it back to health.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely senior calico.
We didn’t get to see the Quarantine room, but with a house full of cats, I wasn’t too eager to risk bringing something home. The new surgical suite was also closed off but I got to see a bit of it through the window in the doorway. The room had new equipment and cabinets and with their Vet they would be able to do spays/neuters which would not only save the shelter money, but they also extend services to the public. They provide low cost Spay/Neuter services for socialized cats as well as FREE Spay/Neuter for feral cats! What a dream come true for the people who live in the area. I’m sure that now that they’re back on their feet, Animalkind can seriously impact cat overpopulation with their programs.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The Senior room gets strong sunlight, perfect for those achey joints. Here two kitties enjoy an afternoon respite.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Art and AnimalKind go hand in hand. This lovely kitty adorns the front desk.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A sweet senior kitty playing with a visitors loose shoelace.
The Open House was crowded, full of cheerful people buzzing about what they were seeing. From across the room, I saw Katrin. I didn’t even think she’d remember me, but she shouted my name and came over to me. We embraced—a big bear hug. I almost burst into tears when I told her how happy I was for her. There were too many people around for us to have a conversation so I excused myself so she could greet other visitors, but my heart was light as a feather as I looked on with admiration for what she was able to accomplish.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Outside on the street level looking down into what was once a flooded mess and is now a multi-suite cat adoption facility.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. This is what all the hard work is for-to know each cat is safe, relaxed and content in their temporary home until their forever homes are found.
Animalkind is a 501c3 non-profit so your donation is tax deductible.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
If you'd like to read more about the fire at AnimalKind and their rebuilding you can visit these links:
A cat carrier sits on the pavement of a cul-de-sac in the blazing hot Georgia sun. Inside it’s cheerful pink polka-dot patterned shell, holds a terrible secret. Struggling inside the case were three tiny kittens and their mama, who were suffering not only from the heat, but from being in such cramped quarters. With no cool air to circulate between them, their bodies raised the temperature inside the carrier to a dangerous level. The mother, a short-haired black cat, furiously ripped at the mesh ends of the carrier, breaking off her claws with each panicked attempt. She was desperate to create an opening in the material so she could save her family and escape to the cool shade. Time was running out.
©2013 Maria S. First glimpse of the family and the brand new carrier they were abandoned in.
The mama was in a terrible state. She didn’t know why she was in this carrier, in the middle of the street. She could hear dogs barking, which concerned her even more. She was hungry. Her kittens were taking all the nourishment they could from her, but she had nothing for herself.
Exhausted, she laid down, panting. Her kittens squirmed over her to get at a nipple. They were oblivious to the danger they were in, but it wouldn’t take long for all of them to perish if they didn’t get out soon.
A day passed inside the carrier. The mama hadn’t been able to rip a hole into the mesh. She began to howl, not caring what predator heard her. After her voice was sore from crying, in a nearby house, the door opened and a woman emerged. She walked over to the cat carrier and peered inside. The mama cat heard her sigh. She asked the mama if she was okay. She asked her what in the world she was doing in the middle of the road and didn't she realize how dangerous it was. The mama wished she could answer, but all she could do was pant.
©2013 Maria S. Oblivious to the dangers nearby, the kittens explore their new world.
The woman lifted the carrier and brought it over to the side of her house near some shrubs. She unzipped the mesh door and let the cats go free. She couldn't take the family inside. As the kittens scattered out into the lawn, she walked into her home and after a few minutes came back outside with some food and water, which the mama ate greedily. The kittens were unfazed by their brush with death and not fearful of the woman. They got to work playing in the grass, oblivious to the fact that there was a dog in the back yard who had just mauled another dog to death the day before. Their freedom may have just put them into a more dangerous situation than they were in before and something had to be done.
©2013 Maria S. Mama is standing by the boy, so close to a very dangerous dog. It wouldn't have taken much for any or all of the kittens to wander too far in the wrong direction.
This family was lucky because the woman who found the cats, knew our Maria, intrepid foster mama for our rescue. Maria came over to her friend’s house, even though she was reluctant to get involved in yet another rescue right now. Maria has been taking a break from fostering (though she still does have 2 foster cats who are looking for a home) so she could focus on caring for some of her own, ailing cats. She knew she’d have to start making calls and sending emails asking for help to rescue groups that are already overloaded with animals. This year seems worse than ever for dumped/abandoned animals and it’s tough to be in rescue and have to ask the same people, the same question, and face the same answer—“no,” over and over again.
But she had to try-for the cats.
Maria let me know what was going on and I told her right away that Kitten Associates would, at least pay for the initial vet care of the cats, but I also had to be honest and say that taking on an all black adult cat would be really tough for us. I have a growing number of adult cats that no one wants: Barney, Bunny Boo-Boo, Mabel and Minnie. I have nowhere to put another adult. I thought I could take the kittens, but even that might be a stretch if the ones we have now don’t get adopted soon. It’s always a juggle between space and resources. At least we had some funds to get the family vetted if Maria could foster them for a time.
©2013 Maria S.
What I’ve come to learn about rescue is that trying to see too far down the road is a waste of time. First things first. You have to look at the moment and get the basics taken care of. We had a space for the family to live. We had funds to provide for their first Vet visit. We had at least four to six weeks before we’d need to put them up for adoption, so maybe we would have time to work out everything else. I had to be realistic and remember how it went with Minnie and how one day she had her family and the next was the last time she saw her kittens and had to be separated from them. Anything can happen and it’s usually not what you imagine. As my friend Katherine often says; “We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
For the next few days, I struggled with what to do with this family, while they began to recuperate in Maria's home. Maria found a placement for them, but she felt more comfortable working with me because of our long history together. She asked me if I would take the family on and I told her I needed more time to think about it.
©2013 Maria S. Mama-cat was so tired that after Maria got her fed, she passed out cold. She must have been exhausted after her ordeal.
He looked like he belonged with the family Maria had so I contacted Betsy to find out where she got him. It wasn’t near the same area, so they couldn’t be related. I emailed Maria and asked her if we were idiots to take this kitten on, knowing that we risked the health of the ENTIRE FAMILY if this kitten sickened them or vice versa.
©2013 Maria S. Safe and resting comfortably at Aunt Maria's house.
I asked my friends on Facebook about how safe or stupid it was to put a sole kitten in with a new family. I asked a few Vets. I kept getting the same answer-you weigh the options. Without the nurturing and friendship of his new mama and siblings, he would not thrive. The mama might not accept him because Betsy had put him with another family she had and they beat him to a pulp.
©2013 Betsy Merchant. Our first glimpse of Biscotti. His paws and nose are burned from being trapped in a hot metal dumpster.
Maria and I felt like we had to risk it, so Maria made arrangements to take the family and the new kitten to the Vet. Her first stop was to pick up the lone kitten and go to her sister’s house to drop off the car she borrowed. She let the kitten meet her sister’s dogs and the kitten enjoyed being around them. When Maria sent me the photos I thought; This is one tough cookie. He can survive being in a dumpster. He survived being beat up by other cats. He likes dogs. What would I name a tough cookie? Biscotti. Of course.
©2013 Betsy Merchant. The little fella is only 3-4 weeks old. What a rough start to his life, but he's a fighter.
The Vet determined that the kittens are about 4 weeks of age, even Biscotti. The mama is about a year old. She was negative for FIV and Feline Leukemia, so that meant odds are the kittens were okay. They were too young to be tested, so we have to hope for the best and will test them when they get older.
The mama and kittens were very friendly, so they’d been around people, which was both good and bad for obvious reasons. Someone loved them for a few weeks, but then decided it was better to cowardly dumped them in the middle of a road, on a hot late summer day, than it was to ask for help. I had to stop imagining what I'd like to do to that person and focus on worrying about how Biscotti was going to get along with the others.
©2013 Maria S. Fearless Biscotti with Dale.
Will Biscotti like his new family? Will they like him? Will it be safe for them to be left alone or is Biscotti’s life still in danger if his step mom wants to harm him? Will I ever decide if I can take on five more foster cats in my home?
Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Discarded Cats Diary!
What is it about a cat that would make you drive over 200 miles just so you could be in her company for a few minutes? Yesterday afternoon, I couldn't begin to answer that question. I'd been going through a wave of very deep depression and felt pretty much hopeless. Mentally, I felt impaired from feeling like a failure. While I was surfing around online, I read that the feline-phenom, Lil Bub and her “Dude” Mike Bridavsky were going to be attending a book signing for Bub's first book; Lil Bub's Lil Book. The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet. It meant a long drive to New Jersey later that day. I was tired of feeling lousy, so I decided I had to make the trip. Maybe getting away from home would help soothe my tangled nerves?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
As many of your know, Bub was rescued after she was born outside, the runt of the litter, to a feral mama. Bub had many severe physical deformities including dwarfism (she only weighs four pounds), a shortened lower jaw that leaves her tongue hanging out and her teeth never erupted (which ends up being a blessing since those teeth surely would have caused her a lot of mouth pain). Bub wasn't expected to live beyond a few months, but when her daddy, Mike Bridavsky met her, it was "lub" at first sight and perhaps, in that moment that bond gave Bub the will to survive.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Grateful that my tongue doesn't stick out all the time like Bub's does because this is something that maybe should not be seen on the internet. Oops.
Bridavsky was at a low point in his life when he met Bub. Inasmuch as he saved her life, she's now saving his. She's become an internet sensation and media darling, with millions of fans. She stars in an internet talk show called Lil Bub's Big Show. The episodes are set to air every Tuesday on Vice Media and the first episode has already aired. It features Whoopi Goldberg, but the star of the show is the script Bridavsky wrote. It's clear he has a talent for giving Bub a voice that is both endearing and completely charming without being overly saccharine. Bub's interview with Ms. Goldberg will leave you glowing with joy.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bub and “Dude,” Mike Bridavsky.
Bub's been very busy. She has her own movie titled “Lil Bub & Friendz”. It's available to view in four parts on Vice. Part one (all I've seen so far) is a documentary on Bub's life, but also includes an interesting discussion on just why cats are such a huge part of the internet. Some clips include interviews with the likes of Ben Huh, creator of I canhascheezburger, NYAN Cat, Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat and more. It's very well done and I admit, the scenes with Bub really tugged at my heartstrings. What IS IT ABOUT THIS CAT that's so appealing beyond the realm of normal?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stubby legs with extra white toes, Bub may be the most curiously constructed cat ever.
My intentions were to buy Bub's book, get it signed, say hello, go home. On a lark, I worked up the nerve to ask for Press access to Bub, hoping that coveredincathair.com would be enough credentials to get me in the door. The owner of Book-Ends, where the signing was held, took my business card and disappeared into a back room. Thirty seconds later he came out and held up his hand, spreading his fingers apart. “Five minutes. You have five minutes.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Buy a Bunch of Bub's Books.
I was ushered into a small office behind the front desk with no time to clear my mind, prepare some questions, focus my camera. It wouldn't have mattered how prepared I was because as I turned the corner, my mind went blank. Before me was Bub sitting on a knitted mat on a folding table, with her “Dude,” Mike by her side. It caught me off guard and I felt a lump of emotion rise in my throat. Was I going to burst into tears? Why did I feel like I was meeting a major rock star or the President? It was a CAT! How many cats have I met in my days? Probably thousands by now. Yet meeting Bub was transformative.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Thank you for giving my blog your paw of approval, Bub.
I said hello to Mike, not wanting to be completely rude, but later I realized I forgot to say my name! I told him I wrote a blog about cats. I gave him my card and he put it right next to Bub, thinking I could take a photo of her with my card. Oh dear…then I realized that of course everyone would want to hitch their trailer to this rising star. Mike was dutifully doing what was expected, except that I didn't have any interest in plugging my own work when I was trying to be respectful of his situation. This was his cat, her success. I was just documenting my visit so I moved the card out of the way.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. BUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I thought about this a lot last night while I was struggling to fall asleep. Bub is providing her Dude with a living. I'm sure advertisers are knocking at the door. Fans are lining up around the block. Everyone wants something from both of them, but it's Bridavsky's job to find a balance between leveraging the spotlight on Bub without it causing her harm. I got the sense that if he could be doing anything it would be to get away from all these crowds and be back home with Bub. I didn't get the sense that Bridavsky's ego was involved, nor did I get the sense he's out to make a buck off his curious cat. There's still an honesty there. He has to make a living, everyone does, and he's surrounded himself with a team of friends, not internet marketing geniuses, to create the Bub dynasty. There aren't handlers and crowds of publicists. It's still Mike and Bub sitting very quietly in an office, having a chat with a strange lady with crazy hair who seems to have forgotten how to use her camera and speak the English language.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My anointment into the Bub clan.
I was cautious about approaching Bub and immediately whispered when I addressed her Dude, Mike. He told me it was okay to speak at a normal volume, but that she didn't like the noise level in crowds. I still kept my tone soft and I got down so I could be at eye level with Bub. I asked if I could touch her and Mike said it was okay. I offered my hand to sniff, which she did, but she didn't react like other cats. I couldn't tell if she was giving me the okay or not so I gave her a gentle pet, then as I do with my own cats, I tipped my head to her so she could sniff me better. As she sniffed me I could hear her raspy breathing. It felt like I was being blessed by a scared creature. I struggled with wanting to pet her, but not bother her, out of respect for her well being. She must be handled so much that I just couldn't treat her like that. I knew there were a lot of people waiting to see her at the signing and I felt my cat-rescuer code calling me to to protect her more than I wanted something for myself.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lub Bub!
I took as many photos as I could, then forgot my camera in the office. I left Mike and Bub feeling completely transformed, but frustrated that I didn't get to ask half the questions I'd wanted to and wishing it could have lasted a few minutes longer. I was energized, vibrating. Why was I so happy?
I sat down with my friend, Irene to look at Bub's book. It's a colorful, whimsical, wondrous piece of art containing hundreds of color photos of Bub with a tapestry of words that weaves a magical tale of Bub's past. In it she declares that she's actually not from planet Earth, but from another planet far away. Bub crash landed here when she was looking for fishes, but now that she's met “Dude” she's here to stay. Bub is featured in imaginative sets, much like her TV Show and Film, but because this book is something you can hold in your hands and hold dear to your heart, it makes it more precious. Captured on film are the many faces of Bub. In some of the photos she's featured in hokey sets with mutant-sized props. I loved it. It left me wanting more. I couldn't stop thinking about this tiny creature on the glossy pages, with her owly eyes and tongue hanging out. She doesn't do amazing tricks. In fact, walking around is difficult for her, but lately she has gotten a bit stronger. It almost doesn't matter what sets she's in, because Bub is cuter than cute and becomes more irresistible with each turn of the page. She shares her book with some friends like Colonel Meow, but what stands out are the words. There's a tenderness and affection in the story that Bridavsky penned. I'm sure not only would adults love this book, but every kid, too. Bub's magical powers effect us all and I could read this book over and over and always reach the end with a smile on my face and a warm puddle in my heart.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Bub's arrival!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mike is constantly checking on Bub to make sure she's comfortable-a true doting dad.
It would be easy to take a lot of cute photos of Bub and leave it at that, but this book has soul and is filled with love, which is expressed throughout as well as in some of the images of fan art the book also includes.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I'm sure there are a lot of ladies looking at this cute gu,y who loves his cat, who are writing marriage proposals as we speak.
Bub and her Dude are a talented team, but they don't flaunt it. There's a great sense of generosity that goes hand in hand with their fame. They use their super-powers for good by reminding their fans to adopt from shelters, and more importantly, to not overlook special needs cats. And as someone who runs a cat rescue, part of whose mission is to encourage spay/neuter legislation, Bub is there, encouraging everyone to make sure their own cats are taken care of, too.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I lub Bub.
A few months ago I got an email from a cat-loving friend of Covered in Cat Hair who lives in Rhode Island. She told me that she wanted to help out Kitten Associates, but didn't have a lot of resources to make a donations. Instead, she told me about a program called BarkAid and suggested I contact the Founder, Patrick Lomantini, and ask him if Kitten Associates could be part of his fundraising efforts.
BARK. AID? Isn't that for dogs?
After visiting BarkAid's web site, I came to understand the following:
Patrick owns Lomantini the Salon in Wichita, Kansas. He loves animals even though he couldn't have one as a child AND he's somewhat allergic to cats. He wanted to make a difference helping animals in need, but didn't want to focus just on his local rescue. Sure, he could do a cut-a-thon, something he'd done in the past, but it would only help one rescue. It wasn't enough.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Three years ago, Patrick had the crazy idea to get in his car and travel to one state per DAY, team up with a local salon, cut hair for 12 hours and charge just $20/haircut. At the end of the day he'd donate the money to a local rescue group. Yes, it's nuts, but Patrick is a physical specimen of manly hunkatude who can handle the challenge he set for himself. His 6-pack abs have abs and his biceps would make Popeye blush. Patrick has close-cropped hair and wears tight black t-shirts and jeans, with a big hunky watch. His blue eyes could charm anyone he meets. There's a bubbling energy about him that's contagious, which won him over with folks as he blazed a trail across the country.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Patrick decided he had 50 days to accomplish his mission and somehow he pulled it off. What is more impressive is that he decided to do it again the next year and again this year, with a small team of volunteers at his side.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Zach, Patrick (Center) and Alexis.
As fate would have it, just a I was contacting Patrick to ask him if Kitten Associates might take part he happened to be looking for a rescue group to work with in Connecticut. Apparently he hadn't had the easiest time here and was hoping for a better match this time around. I told him we're a TINY rescue and that there are bigger ones in town that could do a lot more, but Patrick had faith in us and said that the smaller rescues always worked a lot harder to publicize the events and support his team.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I figured I'd give it a try IF I could secure a salon for his team to set up shop. My first and only choice was Salon Michele, where I get my fancy-pants hairdos from time to time. I ran the idea past Maggie, who has been doing my hair for a few years now. She is a cat lover, so it wasn't tough for her to say YES. Of course we had to ask the owner, Michele and I realized it would be basically asking her to shut her salon down for the day and let me use it to raise money. Thankfully the date they chose for us was a Tuesday, so it was a slower day for business which might make it easier to give us the green light.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I gathered all my info and presented it to her. She didn't take long to think about it and said YES! From that moment on was a whirlwind for me. I had to do a lot of planning, getting permits to put out directional signs, finding out how to get a 25-ft long banner hung over the main street in town, making list after list of what needed to be done, who needed to be told. I struggled with how to get the word out and my dear friend Mary Shafer of Word Forge Books helped me get the Press Release sorted out.
For two months I was obsessed, but my biggest challenge was HOW to explain this event and NOT have people think that it was either Haircuts for DOGS or a fundraiser for DOGS?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
I got everything sorted out and spent a lot of late nights working on this. I began to realize right away that we'd have to spend a good deal of money on advertising-YES, not just doing free ads online. Our town paper, The Newtown Bee, was the key way to get the word out to everyone in town. After all, we are the hometown cat rescue and we knew they'd help us. As luck would have it, an ad space opened up that was PRIME location and it hit the streets a few days before our event. I worried about spending $450.00 for this huge ad. It would be on the front page of The Bee Extra, The Bee's free paper, as well as inside their main paper.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Alexis with the Mascot-dog plush (a gift from Kitten Associates)
I had to take a risk. If we couldn't reach people, what was the point?
I was very glad my graphic design background came in handy. I put together designs not just for flyers, but for table top signs, HUGE window signs that would re-skin Salon Michele, directional signs and a twenty five foot long banner-the biggest piece I've ever designed.
It also dawned on me that this is something I was meant to do. When I was a kid, I put on plays for my parents, then when I was at school, I was in Student Government where I came up with events like "Bring your Camera to School Day." In High School and College I took it up a notch and planned big events. My pride and joy was a 1940's Prom with a big band for over 600 guests. Why couldn't I do a fundraiser for my own rescue group?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Because I had to take care of RESCUES, too!
In the two weeks before our event, I helped rescue about twenty cats and kittens. All of them went to other rescues, but I did a lot of emailing, phone calls, driving around with a car full of kittens. It seemed that Minnie, too, got the message because she relapsed and got sick again and ended up having to have emergency spay surgery a few DAYS before the event!(she's recovered now and doing well)
I was having all sorts of stress dreams. The worst was the morning of the event, I dreamt I was waking up with most of my hair laying on the pillow and no way to hide that I was bald.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Beth, one of our awesome adopters with Patrick.
When the banner was hung and the ads were printed, I knew I'd spent about $1000. and that was about half of all the money we had. I started to fear we might lose money, but my friends kept reminding me that getting our name out is valuable, too (tell that to the Vet when he wants to be paid!).
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
A few days later the banner was hung and more calls came in. We were up to 14 appointments, which was still far too few. We needed 50 to break even.
The Friday before the event, the big ad in the paper came out. Nothing happened for three days, then on Monday, the day before, we were up to 50 and rising. Between the banner, the ad and word of mouth, things were heating up. By Tuesday I knew we had over 60 with whispers that it might even go higher than that.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Busy Bees cutting hair and raising money for our kitties!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. These cupcakes from the DOrazio Sisters Bakery tasted SO GOOD that I am craving one or ten right now!
So I got to work. Patrick and his team were already there even though the first appointment wasn't for 30 minutes. They'd arrived at 1am and were already back up and ready to go at 7:30am. These guys were amazing and they hadn't even started!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
While I set up, everyone got to know each other. Zach, one of the stylists graciously helped me put out the directional signs at the perimeter of the parking lot. We got chatting and he told me this was the first time he'd been east of Montana and that his home state was Idaho! I couldn't begin to imagine how amazing and exhilarating it was for him to see so much, in so little time. What a wild ride. I was tempted to offer to join them.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Alexis, one of the other stylists, offered to do something with my hair. It was really kind of her to help me look less like a mop and more professional, plus it was just plain fun to get fussed over after all the weeks of preparations were finally over and I could (sort of) relax.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
Then, as they say, the rest is a bit of a blur. People were coming in, a few almost begging for appointments, we were filling up to the point of having to turn people away! From 50, to 60, to 70 haircuts. The day raced by. I answered a lot of questions about cats and around noon, Sam brought three of our kittens to remind everyone why we were there. They did great and had a lot of fun. Everyone wanted to take them home, but Irene, my faithful friend and volunteer, kept a watchful eye over them so none of the kitten “accidentally” left the salon.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's not a party unless you have tattoos!
I was really hungry. Our friends, the DOrazio Sisters from Brooklyn who opened a bakery here in Newtown, kindly and generously donated 4 dozen cupcakes. We had them set up on a lovely cupcake tower stand and it was tough not to eat them ALL. I managed to sneak one..okay two, but no more than three, when no one was looking. I still have a jones for another one!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
It was clear we were going to do okay. Somehow amidst the chaos, a lot of people were getting really nice haircuts. One lady donated her hair to Locks of Love, which really touched my heart. Another lady talked about being at the Sandy Hook Elementary on "that day" and I think it helped her with the healing process to have Patrick fuss over her and listen to her heartbreaking story.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
We had lots of kids come visit, too, who told me stories about their cats or other pets. Even though I've lived in Newtown for over 20 years, it honestly was the first time I felt like I was part of this community. Not having children, I never had need to go to any of the town events or schools. I've yearned to feel closer to the people in this town and surprisingly, that finally started to happen because of K.A. Kitten Associates is on the radar of more people in town. It was definitely a dream starting to come true.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A donation for Locks of Love! What a wonderful woman!
By 8pm we all pitched in, packed up, cleaned up and were ready to call it a day. Patrick and team were professional, friendly, outgoing, charming, everything good. Thankfully Michele's salon wasn't trashed. It was respected by all and I think that we all parted with genuine smiles and goodwill for each other. Patrick said he was ready to do this again next year, as he hugged me goodbye. I just shook my head, wondering how he does this, because I wanted to go to bed and not get up for a few days I was so tired.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
In lieu of a proper photo album, enjoy some images from our big day!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Michele, owner of Salon Michele giving a great haircut and big smile to a customer.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Patrick hones his craft.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Alexis and Ruby (who was SO adorable!)
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Ruby steals the show.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The team with Minnie's kittens: Gracey, Mellie and Joey.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Zach and Gracey.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How to know it's time for the kittens to go home.
I had just barely gotten Minnie and her five kittens settled in the now famous blue-bathtub you may have seen featured on my rescue, Kitten Associate's, 24/7 web cam called Squee-TV when I got an email from a friend of mine who does rescue in the southern USA. She sent me a photo of an orange mama-cat, not unlike my own Minnie, whose time was almost up-the delicate way to say she was going to be euthanized if we didn't get her out.
She also had kittens, older than my little guys, but no less deserving of being freed from their cage and given a chance to live a full life. The kittens had been separated from her because they were old enough to be weaned, but what we didn't know is that someone was putting them back with mama each night, which at first glance might seem touching, when in fact it was dangerous for the mama.
I was asked if I could help get the mama-cat out of the shelter. I couldn't take her on, but I could help her if we could find a good rescue to take part. I'd offer up what I could, including asking our dear-Bobby to help by picking up the family if, indeed, we had time to make this happen at all. When time is up…time is up.
Thankfully, a rescue in the northeast offered to take the cats. They have been fully checked out and we know we can get the cats to them. The problem is money-we need to have the cats fully vetted to sweeten the pot for the rescue to take on the family. That's not a bad thing and some times we do this to help each other out.
Without thinking I said “Hell, yes! Get her out of there! I'll have Bobby come over right away, hang on.” Had I just signed myself up for a multi-thousand dollar Vet bill? What was wrong with the mama?
In no time at all Bobby picked up the mama and her six kittens. Mama was taken to the Vet. She had a very bad case of mastitis, an infection of the mammary glands. In her case it caused an ulceration of one of the glands, which is extremely painful. This often happens when kittens are too old to be nursing from their mama and their teeth puncture her skin and push nasty bacteria into the glands or the kittens claws can cause scratches or bacteria can go into the gland during rough nursing. It can be deadly and must be treated right away. Those nights of allowing the kittens on mama probably caused the issue when separating them might have kept her healthy.
Thankfully, we weren't too late. Mama is in a foster home with her kittens, though separated from them so she can heal. She's doing well and the kittens are free to explore the world beyond the size of a cage. They have a hopeful future, we just need to lend them a helping hand so they can be on their way.
Cats like Minnie and now, Ginger need our support. One day they will be spayed and chubby and in their forever homes. We're all part of the team that gets them there so they can find their happy ending.
Thank you for being part of our team and helping to save lives!
JULY 5, 2013 UPDATE: We made our fundraising goal AND in even BETTER NEWS, Ginger mama, her six kittens and SEVEN MORE ORPHAN KITTENS are on their way to the northeast to find safe haven in a rescue there! Our Bobby and Izzy and Mark are part of the team driving them over 1000 miles in the next few days so if you see a car full of kitties, give them a wave and let them know how AWESOME THEY ARE..and to Joan Flores who started this mission and was able to put a group together of strangers, all dedicated to saving lives. With the help of all of your donations and sharing this message, we DID IT!
Summer's here; time to kick back, take a break and savor reading a good book. I'm always a fan of quirky summer romance where a crazy-haired, hard-working woman runs into (and sometimes over) the “wrong” guy (who, of course, is the “right guy” by book's end), but this summer I decided to try something different by reading Gwen Cooper's “Love Saves the Day.”
Love Saves…is Ms. Cooper's third novel following “Diary of a South Beach Party Girl” and her New York Times Bestselling book, “Homer’s Odyssey,” the once-in-a-lifetime story of an extraordinary cat and his human companion.
Love Saves the Day, is a different kind of love story, segregated into chapters, each told in the voice of one of three characters: Sarah, her daughter Laura and Prudence, a cat. Initially, I was reluctant to read a book that included something written in a cat's voice. I've long-ago tired of reading cutesy misspelled words supposedly penned by a cat and I feared this would only end up in a lot of eye-rolling on my part.
From the first page, I was delightfully surprised by the perky and precocious tone of the feline lead. There were no cutesy misspellings. In fact this cat-character was charming, clever and insightful—who, from having had a few conversations with Ms. Cooper reminds me, is not much different than our esteemed author, herself. The world through Prudence's eyes was one I've not imagined before. Ms. Cooper definitely has unique insight into what her cat is thinking and how the world looks from five inches off the ground.
I devoured the story, quickly getting hooked on Prudence's journey because, in part, it reminded me so much of my own. Prudence is a bridge between her cat-guardian Sarah and Sarah's daughter, Laura. The challenging relationship of mother and daughter, the awkward discussions, the misunderstandings, the assumptions that can keep two people who love each other apart. This story is poignant and tender and some times funny, too. Ms. Cooper has a keen sense of what makes relationships tick and why they can so easily take a turn for the worse, even with the best of intentions.
This is a grand tale that had me giggling and in tears, too. It's the kind of book you can read again and discover something new and once you reach the last page, it leaves you wanting more. I hope we'll get to read about Prudence again one day, but for now it's good to know a cat can be entertaining and without being saccharine. Save the sweetness for the iced tea you'll enjoy as you read this fine work.
Thanks to Gwen Cooper being such a generous person, I'm able to offer one reader in the USA or Canada or UK or Australia (I hate leaving out folks outside of the USA so I will pay for the $$$ shipping this one time) an autographed copy of Love Saves the Day. To enter the contest, simply leave a comment below. Say something nice! Or "I want to win" or whatever you like. ONE ENTRY PER PERSON.
LEARN MORE & HOW TO PURCHASE COPIES OF LOVE SAVES THE DAY
If you'd like to learn more about Love Saves the Day or to order your own copy, just visit Gwen Cooper's website.
After you've read Love Saves the Day you can join the Facebook Fan Page and talk about it, as well as find out about Ms. Cooper's numerous book signings across the USA.
You DO NOT HAVE TO COMPLETELY FILL OUT THE NOMINATION FORM TO VOTE! Thank you for your support!
After careful consideration, from time to time I write product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.