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.
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.