One I Hold in High Regard

That Which Doesn't Kill Us-Part Three

The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.

I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”

It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?

I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.

Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.

All that remained was to wait a few more days for Spencer's biopsy results to come in. I knew it was probably cancer. I just didn't know what kind it was or if we could treat it or if it would mean disfiguring Spencer to save his life.

I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.

Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.

Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.

For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.

I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.

Lauren called from Dr. Larry's office. She asked me how Spencer was doing, then told me the biopsy results were in a FEW DAYS EARLY. I had NO TIME to ready myself for the news, but she sounded very cheerful so she was either a sociopath or had good news. Spencer's growth is BENIGN. It has “no content,” to which I interjected, “You mean like my life?” Lauren laughed. “It means it's NOT CANCER.”

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.

I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!

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Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.

I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.

That Which Doesn't Kill Us…Part 1

The past 24 hours have squeezed the life out of me. I could barely make it to my bed last night I was so tired.

The morning started off too early. I wanted to go back to bed as soon as I left it, but I pushed myself to get into the shower. Get dressed. Get going. I had to get ready to leave for Dr. Larry's with Spencer in tow. It was finally time for Spencer to get his MUCH NEEDED dental cleaning done, as well as the removal of an ugly black growth from the edge of his right ear. Spencer also had a small growth INSIDE his left ear that had to go, too. It was these two unwelcome guests that I was most worried about. Was it CANCER?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.

Was this the beginning of the end for my sweet boy?

I got dressed and put on a new pair of jeans. I managed to get them half price on Cyber Monday. It was the first new pair of clothes I'd had since I could remember. They fit great but were a bit too long. As I walked I kept catching the ends under my feet, causing me to hike up my jeans as high as they could go, but then they'd slip back down. I'd get them hemmed later, but it made me crankier.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growth highlighted. Was VERY difficult to notice this until it was bigger due to Spencer's coloring.

Spencer was a dream to get into his cat carrier, but once we got into the car, his pupils dilated and he started to, well, not meow, per se, but sort of squeak. Spencer doesn't meow. He never has. I call what he does "air meow" because he WILL look at me, then open his mouth; it's just that nothing comes out but some air from his lungs.

I took the back roads instead of the highway, determined to keep Spencer as comfortable as possible. Just before we reached the Clinic, a cop car whizzed past us, lights and sirens blaring. I knew from the days when I volunteered with EMS that it had to be bad news, the more noise and fuss the car was making, the worse the situation. I wondered where he was going as a sense of dread filled my heart. I hoped this wasn't a bad sign of things to come.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Spencer's favorite spot, right next to me when I'm working at my desk.

It was quiet at the Clinic so I asked if I could set Spencer up in his cage and to spend a few minutes saying goodbye. I've been a client of Dr Larry's for over 15 years so I get to go in the back where client's aren't usually allowed.

There were two big dogs barking loudly. The Tech got them to quiet down, but it ticked up my anxiety wanting to protect Spencer from these beasts. Spencer didn't want to come out of his carrier. I couldn't blame him. I ended up having to tip the carrier up on its edge hoping gravity would do the trick and it did.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dirty, yucky, teeth and gums.

I spent a few minutes talking to Spencer, petting him, kissing him, somehow trying to capture this moment because of the fear under all the other fears—that I would never see Spencer again. I realize it may sound dramatic, but over the past few weeks so many cats have died that I just felt this sense of impending doom. I kept thinking about Bobette and how we all thought she was going to be fine and she didn't survive her surgery. I pushed back my fears as best I could, but I wasn't raised to have faith, my parents feeling we should decide our own path to religion (if we had one at all). It left me struggling with my feelings.

I didn't go straight home. I decided to go grocery shopping, get just a few things. I was tired of being hungry and broke, but I certainly had enough to buy some bread and eggs, maybe some soup. The store was not crowded, being that it was not even 9AM. I enjoyed the meditative quality of walking up and down the aisles, looking at all the food, wondering what was on sale and what would make for an inexpensive meal while my tummy rumbled reminding me I'd skipped breakfast.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not comin' out!

As usual, I bought more than I anticipated, but took advantage of the sales and saved $40.00, for which I felt quite proud. I distracted myself long enough to forget my worries about Spencer. He was in good hands. I had to wait and see how things would unfold, but I couldn't fool myself completely. I was really cranky from being tired and from struggling to not to be worried. By the time I got home I was in a bad mood.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Too fluffy for feet? Spencer in his cage.

I got the car unloaded and Sam helped me put the groceries away. He didn't say anything to me until we were done.

“I need to talk to you about Jackson.”

I felt a ice pick in my gut and my legs go wobbly.

“He didn't eat this morning and is hiding in your office. I can't get him to eat. Something's wrong.”

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This makes me sick-I think of all the “urgent” cats who need to get out of shelters and I look at this photo and see my sweet kitty-how much I love him-how easy it could be for him to be one of those cats.

I began rattling off questions as we walked into my office. Sure enough there was Jackson with his front legs tucked under him. It's called “meatloafing” and it's an indicator that Jackson was in pain. I squatted down and petted Jax. He didn't respond. Normally Jackson would press his head back into my hand and start purring right away. He just sat there in stone silence.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The day before he was a bit “off.”

I hustled back into the kitchen, my jeans getting caught up under my feet. I wanted to rip them off and throw them out. My mind racing, I thought of things I had on hand to tempt Jackson to eat. Nothing worked. I even brought out the big guns-DRY FOOD. He wouldn't even sniff it.

I called Dr. Larry and they said to bring him in-of course, but HOW could I do that? With Jackson's bad heart, the stress of the trip could kill him.

Once at the Vet we wouldn't be able to do anything to him other than an exam because the stress, again, could push him into heart failure. Jackson was only to have home visits from Dr. Larry, not trips to see him!

We started to get ready, then I stopped Sam. We both sat down in the living room, looking at Jackson, who'd relocated along with us. I didn't want to rush a decision. He'd only missed ONE meal and we were running him to the Vet. How nutty did that sound? Maybe we should wait a day and see how he does? Maybe he's in trouble and we need to bring him in right away?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We chose to risk the trip to the Vet. It was up to Jackson if it could make it.

We went back and forth weighing the pros and cons.

My gut told me to GO. Jackson was NOT behaving normally at all. We had to try for his sake.

We offered him the cat carrier and he got up and went right inside it-no fuss-no stress. It was a good start, but would we MAKE it to the Vet?

I asked Sam to drive slowly, to take the back road I'd just been on an hour before with Spencer. We stopped part way into the trip because Jackson started to cry. I was sitting next to his carrier with the door open, my arm snaked around the door so I could offer him what comfort I could. He was sitting awkwardly, crying as I scratched his neck. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake and if this trip was sending Jackson's heart into dangerous rhythm.

Stay tuned for part two…the shocking news about what ails Jackson and an update on Spencer's surgery results.

From Meh to Meow: Tater Tot

The day has come at last. We begin with the end of the story. Adoption. The time to say farewell to our foster cat, Tater Tot. Along this journey, there were many fear-filled weeks when I wondered if this tale had any chance of ending with happy tears.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The goofy big lug we'll never forget.

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Tater's rescue began when our uber-foster-mom-Maria spotted kittens in her neighbor's yard. It was a hot summer day in Georgia, too hot for tiny kittens to be in the sun. Seeing such tiny kittens gave Maria pause. She knew her neighbor wasn't paying much, if any, attention to the many offspring of his unsprayed female cats. Each year he promised to do something about it, giving Maria lip-service, saying some of the cats were placed with friends and the others "he would get around to fixing" one of these days. Maria offered to help, but she had to tread lightly. In the meantime, the cats continued to give birth to more litters.

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©2012 Maria S. Too weak to stand, our first glimpse of Tater Tot.

She asked me if we could take the kittens into our Program and I agreed, in some way grateful they weren't coming from the local kill shelter we usually get our cats. At least these kittens wouldn't have upper respiratory infections, which is so common in shelter cats.

In total we planned to help ten cats from this one home. On one of the rescue days, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. The remaining cats, two mamas and six kittens became Kitten Associates' wards.

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©2012 Maria S. Not happy about getting a bath, but Tater was full of fleas.

What I didn't plan on was how SICK these kittens would be. As Maria fired off photos to me 1000 miles away, she was assessing how serious the situation was. A buff tabby kitten was laying on the pavement, barely able to stand. He was riddled with fleas. His left eye was swollen. He was grossly underweight.

This is how he was being "cared" for by the neighbor—with indifference.

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©2012 Maria S. Our sick sweetheart.

Maria spent weeks sleeping on a tiny cot in the room with Tater and his sister, Latte. I was going crazy from the stress, jumping if the chime on my iPhone indicated I'd gotten a text message or if Maria called me. From afar I did as much as I could. I did research, spent money on weird homeopathic treatments, did fundraisers for more and more Vet visits because this kitten was VERY VERY SICK.

In the end, it boiled down to our worst fear-that Tater had FIP, a deadly virus.

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©2012 Maria S. Another trip to the Vet.

We tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. I had the difficult task of asking Maria if she could be with Tater if I had to make the choice to have him euthanized. The Vet was fairly sure it WAS FIP and over the first week of July we watched Tater fade…

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©2012 Maria S. Getting used to car rides.

…until Maria saw that he had tapeworm and that changed everything.

Tater ended up having coccidia, tapeworm and a serve URI, at least.

The parasites bloated his abdomen, just as we would expect to see from the "wet" form of FIP. Once we began treatment, Tater began to improve.

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©2012 Maria S. This time we fear we'll be getting very bad news.

Over the weeks Tater's condition waxed and wanted. He finally began to have more good days than bad, but his left eye continued to run and his breathing was very loud. Tater also retained his big belly which made him look pregnant and was an odd mix with his long, skinny tail.

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©2012 Maria S. With new medications on board, Tater finally sleeps comfortably in Maria's lap.

As Tater grew stronger, his personality began to shine. He'd been handled so much by Maria that nothing phased him. He just wanted to be loved and enjoy life.

He was finally well enough to be transported to my home, along with his cohorts and sibling a few months later.

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©2012 Maria S. Feeling better, growing bigger!

I remember seeing Tater for the first time in person. I gasped when I saw him. His eyes were the color of ripe pumpkins and so large and round. With his angular face it gave him a comical look. Tater also made funny noises almost constantly. He was confident, friendly and wanted OUT of the big dog crate we used for the transport. I knew I was going to enjoy my time with this stunning, yet silly cat and couldn't wait to get him home.

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©2012 Maria S. With buddy, Sammy, one of Maria's cats.

Tater's been here for four months. I haven't gotten a single adoption application for him. No one wanted him. I couldn't imagine why. Over the months I've come to know Tater as a real charmer, laid back, anything goes. He got on well with all the other cats. Nothing phased him. Life was good. The sad thing was that Tater never stopped sneezing and his eye wouldn't heal properly, either.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillin' in Connecticut.

We invested in a PCR DNA test of Tater's mucus and determined it was mycoplasma, which is a bacterial parasitic microorganism. We started treatment and he got better right away. After 30 days we stopped for two days and he began to get sick again, so we went for another 30 days (which will be done just before Christmas).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growing big and strong.

Initially it was Willow who was supposed to be adopted three days ago. A family came to meet her and it went well, but it was Tater they had eyes for-Tater was "the one" for them. Though I tried to convince them to adopt Tater and Willow, they wanted to start slow and just adopt the one cat.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Realizing it's tougher to get off the ground the bigger you are.

This one cat who was near death in the road last June is going to live in a 5000 sq ft plus sized home with his own "in-law suite" to start, then full access to the house. Tater will have big windows to watch birdies. He'll have two little girls to be friends with. Tater's Mom and Dad are doctors and I may have been pushy, but I made his Mom promise me that she'd stay on top of Tater's health issues and that his runny eyes and sneezing would be taken care of right away. She easily agreed and had no problem continuing Tater's medication and making sure he was fed a good grain-free canned diet for the rest of his life.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tater's family.

Although I wish Tater would have a kitty-friend, he may yet, one day. Until then he'll have plenty of human friends who will love him and protect him, just as Maria and I did. They will continue our good work and will keep him safe. They will care for him, not with indifference, but with loving kindness and respect.

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Tater Tot was our first poster boy in a series we did based on before and after rescue images showing what we do best. You can visit Kitten Associates to learn more about our programs.

A few of the backstories about Tater are
HEREand HERE. If you do a search for "Tater" here on Covered in Cat Hair, you can read even more about him.

The Mysterious Case of What Ails Bandit

I was finally well enough to sit at my desk and try to string together a few cohesive thoughts. Three days of a cliché cold: sore throat, stuffy head, lungs loaded and tight were in the rear view mirror now. The only thing remaining was the kind of headache that makes you wish you didn't have a head. I couldn't spend another day in bed watching episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs on my small iPad screen. I would muddle along.

I tried to catch up on e-mails and sort out what I needed to get done. I didn't want to do too much right away because relapse is not an option, especially this time of year. As I sat at my desk, the late morning sun was bright and warmed my feet. Cats came and went, searching for the prime spot to nap away the afternoon. I heard Bandit and Honeydew running around the house, chasing each other, wrestling, but eventually they, too, couldn't resist my warm office full of soft cat beds.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit keeps me company while I'm in bed with a cold.

I happened to glance down to my left. Bandit was belly up, apparently asleep. She was trembling. Amused, I thought she was dreaming, but her movements weren't the quirky-jerky shifts I've seen other cats do. I shot a video of her, at first trying not to wake her, then worried something was wrong. I woke her up and she was still shaking. I wondered if she was cold so I cradled her in my arms as her body continued to quake.

I petted her and talked to her. For a second or two she'd stop, then start up again. She seemed sleepy so I sat back in my chair and held her, falling ever deeper in love with this tiny little kitten. She's half the size of her brother and light as a feather. She would wake slightly, but the shaking didn't stop. I called the Vet and they said to watch her, keep her warm, let them know if it keeps going on.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. If you're not in love with Bandit there's something wrong with you.

I called out to Sam and the two of us began to set up a heated bed for her. I worried she was feverish so I took her temperature. It was 100.6°F which is normal.

Bandit seemed to be perfectly all right, except for the fact that her entire body was shaking.

After fifteen minutes passed, with Bandit still shaking, I called my Vet again. They could see her at 5pm. It was barely 12:30pm. Something in my gut said not to wait. I asked if I could bring her and leave her in case they could see her sooner and they agreed, offering I could see Dr. Mary right away if I didn't want to wait to see Dr. Larry.

 

As I raced to the Vet, I started to run through what could be troubling Bandit. Was she fighting off an infection? Was a toxin coursing through her? Did she get hurt? I said a silent prayer for Bandit to please be all right. Not Bandit. Not this sweet angel of a kitten. I also hoped this wouldn't cost too much. Our finances aren't the best and I knew too well how one Vet visit could easily break the bank.

Thankfully it was quiet at my Vet's office. They immediately took Bandit in the back room to check her temperature. It had gone up to 101.4°F which is still normal, but on the rise. I felt panicked and weak. I realized I hadn't eaten anything and my stomach growled loudly. I didn't care about eating, but the stress and low blood sugar was making me feel faint.


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit appeared to be dreaming, but then I realized she was awake and shaking badly. I rushed her to the Vet shortly after this was shot.

Dr. Mary and Super Deb began a careful examination. Dr. Mary talked about everything she was doing and what she was or wasn't finding. “Her heart and lungs sound normal. I'm palpating her abdomen and she's not complaining so there's no pain there. I don't feel anything abnormal.” Dr. Mary continued on as Super Deb comforted Bandit and kept her from wiggling off the table. She put Bandit on the floor and we watched her walk. I called to her and she ran over to me with her tail up high.

We were all confused by how well she seemed until she was at rest, then the tremors would start again. First, her feet would shake, then her abdomen. Her head would shake because the rest of her body was shaking. She looked up at us with the most innocent expression-one of complete helplessness. It was heartbreaking.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

They ran a complete blood panel and re-did her snap test. I sat in the waiting room with my heart pounding. Every time a door opened I jumped-wondering what the news would reveal. Those fifteen minutes passed, taking a few years off my life as I worried. When Dr. Mary came to discuss the results I almost jumped out of my skin.

The results had minor “blips” of outside the normal range, but Dr. Mary said it was nothing to worry about and something she'd expect to see on a growing kitten's blood work. Bandit's snap test was negative (again) for Feline Leukemia and FIV.

 

 

So what was going on?

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Super Deb comforts Bandit.

Dr. Mary began researching toxins. The only thing I could think of were a few plants-none were an issue and an open (empty) bottle of Dayquil that I remembered I'd left on the counter. Dr. Mary was very worried about that and said that the blood work wouldn't show if Bandit had been poisoned, depending on what she ingested and when. My heart sank. Surely this kitten wasn't going to DIE?!

We discussed everything from epilepsy to birth defects to the dry form of FIP. Red-faced, I told her that earlier that morning Bandit almost jumped into an open toilet and I'd had no other choice but to pin her against the vanity with my leg to keep her from falling in. I felt terrible. Did I cause her internal damage? What the HELL was going on?

I had to leave Bandit with Dr. Mary. They gave her pain meds and sub q fluids. Dr. Mary felt if she could calm Bandit down and soothe her pain she would stop shaking, then hopefully it would not resume once the pain meds wore off. If not, Bandit would have to see a neurologist and get a CT scan. I knew if that happened we were done for-the costs-$1200 to $1400 just for the scan. Bandit had to get better.

It was a long afternoon. I kept running things over in my head. What did I do? What did she get into? Facebook friends gave suggestions or left supportive comments, praying for Bandit to be ok.

I had the difficult task of calling Donna, Bandit's rescuer and first foster mama to tell her the news. I knew she'd be just as upset as I was and I struggled, trying to be calm and not burst into tears. She took the news well, but I knew it was killing her, too.

 

Dr. Mary called shortly before 6pm. She said that Bandit responded well and she'd seen Bandit shake only once as she was re-taking her temperature. It was time to bring Bandit home and see how she did.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit says goodbye the to the staff at Dr. Larry's.

I felt so happy and light, not bothered by anything as I drove along the crowded highway, a journey I've probably taken a thousand times over the years. This was a good trip. I couldn't wait to see Bandit. I got to the Clinic, smiling and anxious. One of the staff told me that Dr. Mary wanted to talk to me. I said I'd just spoken to her on the phone and she said she knew that, but that the doctor still wanted to talk about something. My heart sank.

I went in the back room where only staff were usually allowed. The walls are lined with varying sizes of stainless steel cages. It's brightly lit and spotlessly clean. I zeroed in on Bandit. She was far off to the left, curled up on a heated pad in the back of her 2' x 2' cage.

Dr. Mary's face said it all-Bandit had started shaking again and was no better. I could still take her home, but if she didn't get better by morning, she'd have to see a neurologist. Something was terribly wrong with Bandit. We just didn't know what it was.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After a long, difficult day, finally some rest.

Whatever joy I may have felt evaporated into the frosty night air. The drive home in the darkness did nothing to soothe either myself or Bandit, who cried, desperate to get out of her carrier. We set up a dog crate for her, hoping she would rest and do nothing else. I offered her a litter pan and she peed away all the sub q fluids. I gave her something to eat and she didn't hesitate to enjoy her dinner. I shut the door to the crate and she sat there, mild tremors coursing through her body. I resigned myself to it being a long night and began my hyper-vigilant watch of her every move.

Over the next hour or two it was clear that Bandit was not happy being confined. Each time I opened the crate door she'd slip past me and dash around the living room. I decided to bring her to my bedroom and close the door so I could watch her and she'd have space to move around and not feel stressed. I offered her toys and she wanted to play. She jumped on the bed. She chased her brother, then her brother chased her. She wouldn't sit still long enough for me to see if she was shaking. She seemed like her old self, yet I couldn't believe she was suddenly just fine.


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

 

Somewhere near midnight Bandit jumped on the bed and laid down, finally tired. As she began to doze off, I shot another video. It's not very exciting, but to me it was worthy of an Oscar. Bandit wasn't shaking-not even a toe.

 

I didn't want to believe it, but she seemed fine. This morning she was playful, hungry and just as loving as ever. As I sat at my desk, trying to put this story together, she climbed into my arms, fussing about until she found a comfortable position. I cradled her just as I had a day before, but this time the only vibration I felt was from her deep, blissful purr.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This morning with Bandit in my arms.

Giving Tuesday

With all the shopping madness ramping up and the rush to get ready for the Holidays, it's lovely that organizations who really need the help, have their chance today with Giving Tuesday.

My Non-profit rescue group, Kitten Associates, has been blessed with an early number of donations of food, treats and toys that came in after we broke the news about our Amazon Wishlist two weeks ago.

There's still LOADS of things we really need and the list grows weekly. We blow through food at an amazing pace and toys have to be discarded to prevent spreading diseases between the groups of foster kitties.

 

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Simply click here or on the graphic, above, to be whisked away to our Amazon Wishlist.

What I love about our Wishlist is it allows YOU to choose what we get and there are items at just about every price point. We'd love your help and you'll see, below, how our kittens feel about your donations, too!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Woah! This is WAY bigger than what we even asked for! Yipee!

 

There are few feelings that are as precious as giving help to someone who needs it. Thank you for helping us be part of Giving Tuesday. I hope you'll enjoy the special video I created to honor today.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not even the DOOD is sure how to put it together, though.

This is a riot!


©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

 

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The energy in the room increased tenfold after the cat tree was in place. The kittens LOVE IT! Thank you Tereza & Larry for donating it to us!

 

Forever in My Heart

It’s been less than a day since our former foster girl Bobette, who was named Kissy after she was adopted in May, passed away. Just typing those letters, “p-a-s-s-e-d” makes me cry. I’m still in shock and still hoping someone will call me and tell me it was just a bad dream, that the Vets figured out a way to save our sweet pumpkin girl and she’s going to be okay—but no one calls.

The events leading up to Kissy’s death, I’ll leave to her “mama,” JaneA Kelley of Paws & Effect to write about. This is her story to tell, with her cat. My post is about my reflections about a foster cat who just barely a year ago arrived in my home, with her three young sons. They’d reached the part of their rescue-story where all the shots are done, they are spayed or neutered, and all that’s left is for them to just have fun and wait for their adopters to find them. It’s usually the part of the story where we all can relax, knowing the worst is over and the best is yet to come.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. A stray cat dumped at a Kill Shelter with her six newborn kittens waits for rescue.

Kissy didn’t have an easy life. I wrote a great deal about her and her boys, Jakey, Mikey & Teddy…and their three siblings, who passed away a few days after we rescued them from a Kill Shelter in Georgia. If you do a search on Covered in Cat Hair using the phrase: “Bobette” you can read all the stories, but here are a few: Life in the Pumpkin Patch
Bobette's Secret Pain
Harvest Time for Bob's Pumpkin Patch
and the Cat Writers' Association Certificate of Excellence winning: It Had to be You about Kissy's adoption.

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Kissy was rescued in honor of my cat, Bob Dole, after he passed away in September of 2011. He was a beautiful, brilliant orange Maine Coon tabby mix with piercing green eyes. When I saw Kissy’s photo and her brilliant orange coat and piercing green eyes, I knew I had to rescue her and her family...which also explains why she was originally named, Bobette.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Not eating for four days, Bobette was in dire straights.

Thanks to Maria, I had a foster home for the family until they were ready to come to Connecticut. Thanks to Bobby Stanford, I had someone to go bust this kitty and her babies out of the shelter before they got sick or were euthanized. The pieces fell in place. It was meant to be.

Kissy was far too thin and far too young to bear the burden of having six kittens. She began to recover and eat again, but after the loss of three of her kittens perhaps part of her shut down. She was a good mother for a time, but as the remaining boys grew, her love for them waned. She taught me that not all mothers and kittens suffer being separated. In fact, Kissy did better without her boys, though I know they missed her a lot.

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©2011 Bobby Stanford. Moments after rescue.

Kissy was just 9 months old when she had her kittens. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to be away from them, as she was barely a kitten herself.

Yesterday when JaneA called me and told me that Kissy had passed away, I broke down and sobbed, completely heartbroken. In that moment I realized something that I’d known for a long time, but perhaps was too close to it to see the truth—Kissy had taught me something else, my foster cat hadn’t just died, MY CAT just died.

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©2011 Maria S. Safe in Maria's home Kissy can finally relax.

The pain I was feeling was why many people can’t foster cats. They fall in love with them along the way and they can’t bear to be parted from them when the time comes. I realized that all these years of fostering cats that I truly do love each and everyone just the same and just as much as I love the cats who live with me for their entire lives, not just for a few months.

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©2011 Maria S. Kissy and her boys.

Each foster cat charms me, delights me, challenges me to learn more, to make fewer mistakes, to remember to cherish each day. I fall in love with each foster cat, not just a little, but fully, completely. I can’t build a wall to protect myself from how I feel about them. Instead of running away from that fear, I push into it. It does me no good to hide from feelings. In facing them head on, perhaps I gain some gentleness about saying goodbye when they get adopted.

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©2011 Maria S. Her spay surgery over, Kissy relaxes in a comfy bed at Maria's.

When I go for a drive, I often pass homes where my foster cats now live. They are still my cats, they just live with other families. I still feel the tether that connects us. I sense they’re out there and they’re okay and because of that, I’m okay, too.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally in my home, Kissy and I get to know each other.

Maybe I’ve been kidding myself for a long time that I love my foster cats, but never enough so I can’t let them go. It’s not true. I love them no less than my own, I’ve just been practicing letting go and rationally telling myself that I must do this so I can help more. It always hurts, but the pain is bittersweet because I know they'll be happy where they're going.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Family portrait with proud mama.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Kissy and son, Churchy (formerly Mikey).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lap time with Sam as Kissy recovers from her corrective surgery. In the end, the surgery didn't help Kissy live more comfortably. Her leg was too deformed to be corrected.

Kissy only lived for two years. She knew a lot of pain in that time, but in the last year she knew a lot of love; love from Maria, me, Sam and finally her true mama-JaneA. She knew it from her fans and friends online who were rooting for her surgery to go well and for her to take her first steps without pain. That didn’t get to happen. We’re all shocked and terribly sad that Kissy’s story didn’t get to have the happy ending we all wanted for her. Frankly, I can't stop crying about it.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Such a good girl.

Kissy’s short life will not be in vain. I don’t know what I’m going to do right now, but I’ll be doing something to honor her. Kissy taught me a lot and made me realize I was foolish to think that love could be restricted or spooned out in measured amounts. It’s all or nothing and I loved that cat completely. I will never forget her and I thank her for what she taught me. Maybe we’ll meet again one day? I can only hope so.

For now I share my grief with those of us who fought hard to give her a great life and who will keep fighting for other cats so that they may have the same chance Kissy did. She will never be forgotten and always be in my heart.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fly free, my sweet. No more pain.

What Would You Do for Bongo?

Bongo is seven months old. In that time he’s made friends, learned to play and met some very nice people, all while his right front leg didn’t function properly. We rescued him before he was going to be euthanized at a shelter not knowing much about him other than something was wrong with his leg. They noted his paw was crushed, but that turned out not the case.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo.

We did tests and x-rays. Bongo met with noted Orthopedic Vet, Dr. Alan Cross of Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Cross felt that Bongo, while happy and otherwise healthy, could not feel anything in his right front paw and that he had severe nerve damage that was either not repairable or would be very costly to repair with very little hope for success. He suggested the best course would be to remove the leg since it was only getting in the way and slowing Bongo down.

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©2012 Maria S. Favoring his leg.

We work with a great Vet who helps rescue groups. Her nickname is Doc Thomas and she really knows her stuff. During our rescue of Bongo, Doc had taken a few weeks off-a rare vacation for her and certainly well deserved.

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©2012 Maria S. Getting some lovin' from foster sister, Bunny Boo Boo (who needs a home, too!)

We knew she could do the surgery for far less than the $2000. Dr. Cross quoted us, but we had to wait a few weeks to talk to Doc T about whether she could do it. Dr. Cross felt it was not a rush to do the surgery because Bongo wasn’t in any pain.

In the meantime, Maria, Bongo’s foster mom noticed Bongo using his leg as a crutch. He couldn’t bear weight on it, but he did push litter around and use it to help him balance. He did this by swinging his leg from his shoulder.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo with his new BFF-George who we rescued from an apartment complex in GA.

When I heard about this I thought the same thing Maria did; “Maybe we should talk to Dr. Cross again? Maybe Bongo is getting feeling back?” The last thing any of us want to do is amputate this cat’s leg unnecessarily.

Maria contacted Dr. Cross. He felt that it would be very unusual for nerves to begin to work again and that Bongo didn’t have to have the surgery–ever, as long as he wasn’t dragging the limb. Dragging the limb meant he’d get infections in it eventually and that’s dangerous especially because he can’t feel if something is wrong.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo with catnip banana.

Maria took Bongo to meet Doc Thomas today who has done plenty of amputations for other rescue groups. She looked at Bongo’s x-rays and examined him and came to the same opinion—Bongo does not need to lose his leg at this time. If it’s not bothering him, then leave it.

We worried that as Bongo ages he would have arthritis in his shoulder or as he grows larger and gains weight, that the constant pull of his “dead” leg would give him back pain.

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©2012 Maria S. His leg problem doesn't stop him from climbing.

Both Vets agreed that he should be just fine. If he drags the leg it has to go, but as long as he’s holding it up, running around and having fun, then for now it can stay. It’s really up to us if we feel he would be better without it in the way.

So again, Maria and I are wondering what to do. Neither of us want to take Bongo’s leg, but how will that effect his future? Would he be better off if we amputated his leg now so he could adjust and so we can oversee his care before he gets adopted or is he more adoptable with a leg that doesn’t function? What if he got his leg stuck somewhere because he couldn’t feel it and was home alone and did worse damage to himself?

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©2012 Maria S. Brothers from other mothers.

Fortunately, Bongo is adorable and affectionate. Leg or no leg we’ll find him a wonderful home one day. It would be easy to leave the leg alone because we don’t want him to lose it, but what is best for Bongo? He has to be considered first and last…not us…not our ideas of what might not be as appealing to adopters or what might make us feel sad for Bongo’s sake.

Choosing what’s best for Bongo is very difficult. Perhaps we have our answer now and just have to accept it? Perhaps we need to do something more difficult and have the amputation done?

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©2012 Maria S. Da boyz.

I don’t know, but I’m grateful we have the luxury of seeing how it goes and waiting on making any firm decisions.

I’ve never had to have a cat’s leg amputated and am unsure what is the best course of action. If Bongo was your cat what would you do?

The Winds of Change-Part 2 of 4

It’s (s)Not All Right

Poor Tater and Willow. They’ve been chronically sick. Willow shoots snots across the room and Tater’s eye is always running and he sounds stuffed up. I decided it was worth the risk of not getting any information (some times these tests don't tell you much) to get an expensive DNA test on Tater’s eye goop called a PCR for URI. With any luck we’d find out what was causing Tater his misery.

It took a week, then the news: Mycoplasma.

My reaction, duh, of course. Tater’s constant runny eye is definitely indicative of mycoplasma (but it's also a symptom of other issues which is why we do the PCR test).

The Problem

Latte and Fred and Coco started to get sick. They’d all been in the same room for a month. I had the kittens examined. Only Coco was running a mild fever in addition to a runny eye and sneezing. It was bizarre the ALL the cats had an issue in their right eye, except for Tater. We decided that the best course of treatment would be to hit the kittens hard with antibiotics for 30 days because mycoplasma is bacterial, not viral.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Re-check for fleas. None were found. Whew!

I’d heard from a lecture by Dr. Hurley at UC Davis, that they will go to a 60 day protocol to really infiltrate the fine bones of the nose. My Vet hadn't heard of this so I thought we'd start at 30 and see how it goes.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow waits while the other cats get examined.

Medicating cats is never fun, BUT with Doxycycline as the medicine of choice, I had a scary task ahead of me. I learned the HARD WAY that…

…given incorrectly, Doxy can SCALD the esophagus of a cat causing a STRICTURE to form. The cat can’t pass food into the stomach and my oh my what a party you don’t have. It cost many thousands of dollars to repair this damage to our tiny kitten, CaraMelle last year after we'd given her Doxy when she was just 3 weeks old and VERY sick with a URI. She was many months old before we understood what was going on with her and were on the path to resolve it.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Coco.

Having to pill 6 cats X 2/day for a month means 360 chances for me to screw up and cause multiple strictures in the kittens.

I’m determined, as always, to do right by these cats. While some scratched their head at me for not opting to use a liquid version of the antibiotic, I opted for ¼ of a tablet per cat. Each pill is coated in Flavor Doh. I like it much better than Pill Pockets® and the cats do, too. THEN I sprinkle dehydrated chicken over the pea-sized coated pill and feed as a treat, making SURE the cats are HUNGRY and more apt to eat what I put in front of them.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow weighs in at just five pounds.

The new problem I made for myself is they will eat anything and charge me at the door when they're really hungry. Entering the room is a comedic farce. I try to balance a plate with six tiny pill-peas on it, the cats push past me and run down the hall, unleashing their snottiness and frustration about being hungry all over the vicinity. In a panic, I put the plate down. With the cats corralled (and my blood pressure soaring), I turn to retrieve the plate only to find Latte had eaten all but the last remaining pill.

The Vet said she would have “GI upset” and not to pill her again that day (DUH!).

Meanwhile I had to go back and prep more pills, make sure they eat just one, then syringe them with 3mLs of water, then feed them. All this to make sure that pill doesn’t sit in their throat. All this while they are racing around the room in a panic because they’re so hungry.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Staying on track with a chart.

Today marks one full week of medicating the cats. It’s amazing that I can even do this when previously this would have freaked me out to the point where I’d just be upset all the time. Now I grab the cats unceremoniously and do what I need to do. I give them love afterwards so they don’t hate me forever and I move on. I think I’m finally getting the hang of (some of) this rescue stuff.

Part three is up next…what about Jackson? What about the DOOD? What about that bigass Hurricane Sandy headed my way?

The Unbearable Cuteness of (little) Beings

I can't take it.

Two of Winnie's kittens are here. The others are with their foster mom in a neighboring town, waiting to be spayed/neutered in two weeks. Because Charly and Buttons had their procedures last week, they're ready to find their forever homes.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttons (left) and Charly (right).

The problem is they're so cute I can't stand the idea of them leaving.

To make matters worse they're great kittens. I don't know what foster mom Donna does, but whatever it is, these kittens are warm, loving, gentle and sweet.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

The first night they were here their little bodies shook with fear. They were scared in their new environment without their mama, Winnie, to look after them. I stayed with them for a long while, petting them, giving them treats, comforting them. They responded by purring and leaning into my hands.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

I always feel guilty about separating the kittens from their mama, but it must be done. Winnie was spayed. She has a home with Donna. She's had at least three litters of kittens-three litters too many. She's done her time. It's time for her to recover and enjoy life without the burden of pregnancy in a home that will treat her with compassion and respect (and lots of love, too).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Charly thinking so hard his tongue came out.

Charly and Buttons have only been here for a few days, but if I could I'd spend day and night with them. I'm a sucker for long haired cats and it's rare that I ever get any to foster. In a way that's probably a good thing or I fear I'd have a zillion more “foster fail” cats and many fewer adoptions.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

I keep torturing myself. Who would be good enough to adopt these kittens?

Within an hour of posting the kittens on Petfinder, I had 4 offers to adopt them. As with all our foster kittens, I'll be careful to review each application and hopefully will find someone amazing. All I know is, whoever adopts these cats is going to be VERY LUCKY.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

My fear is that they won't get enough attention, that they will lose their sweetness if handled roughly. Am I saying our adopters do that? Certainly not, but once out of Donna's loving care, then mine, what will become of them?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

I always have to push aside my fears when doing adoptions. There has to be a point where I let go. It's unbearable to look into their eyes and feel myself getting lost in their adorable faces. I struggle to turn away. I make myself think about my cats-the cats I made a commitment to who depend on me and need my love. I want to make excuses as to why these kittens can't be adopted just yet so I can have more time with them, but that's foolish, too. That's not how you run a cat rescue.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

I savor their sweetness, their silly antics, their awkward movements not yet refined into that of a graceful adult. Their adult coats haven't come in yet and they have spiky hairs along their backs that indicate just how long their coats will be one day.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Beautiful Buttons.

One day that I will not witness…

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. What IS this?

In some ways it feels like I have a secret lover. I look at Charly and Buttons and I forget my troubles for awhile. It's an escape from tension in the house, the cats misbehaving, the bills growing. All I have to do is have fun and love them, guide them with a gentle hand and make sure their tummies are full. They don't have behavioral issues or diseases to treat (knock wood). They don't irritate me as my own cats sometimes do. It's the first blush of love and I'm certainly hooked. I feel reluctant to leave them to tend to the other cats. It's like going back to my husband after a whirlwind affair.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cat toy photobomb.

Reality kicks in and I move on to other things. I know they're upstairs playing or napping or looking out the window as the dried autumn leaves flicker past the window on a gust of wind.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Little hunter.

I find myself longing for our next meeting and trying to think of an excuse to go check on them. I know our time is running out. Soon they'll be adopted and all I'll have are these photos and my memories.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Is my butt too heavy for this cat cube?

Once in awhile the door to my heart opens. Each time the hinges grow more stiff and it's harder to open the door. I know the pain of letting them in, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I get to be around little beings at the best time of their life. I get to enjoy all the good stuff for awhile and it will revive me until the next time it happens.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello!

These are the ones who remind me that my capacity for love is infinite. It doesn't run out when I feel heartbreak. It always comes back full, complete and profound.

Dear Nico.

Yesterday I shared with you the pain that’s in my heart about all the cats struggling to find help to get out of kill shelters or off the streets into a safe, loving home. I always feel torn about sharing things that are deeply painful. It’s never my goal to make any reader cry, nor even stir up “the pot,” for that matter. But…I also have to write about painful topics to purge my anguish and despair or I just can’t go on.

What surprises me is the reaction I got. I feared reprise or anger, but I got support, love, a few “hurrahs!” Of everything I’ve written, this one post grew legs I didn’t anticipate. I didn’t even consider that my voice reflected the feelings of so many other people who selflessly offer everything they have and do whatever they can to help cats in need.

I’d like to say “Thank you” to everyone who has been in my shoes, is in my shoes and who is contemplating taking on the role of cat rescuer, cat foster home, cat advocate. I say thank you because you don’t get thanked often enough. I’d also like to say this world is off-kilter if people who do what we do can’t make a decent living along the way, too.

Rescue always seems to mean sacrifice for the benefit of others. That’s not a bad thing, but it would be nice if the path was better paved and less difficult to tread.

With great appreciation this post is dedicated to the rescuers out there who kick ass and do amazing things. You are all my heroines and heroes.

Today’s letter is about Nico and all the cats like him who found rescue and safe harbor.

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Dear Nico,

My life is filled with “shoulds.” I “should” work on finding a new client or I “should work on updating Kitten Associate’s web site, then do some laundry.” I will get to all these things, I hope, sooner or later, but I’m easily distracted.

I saw your photo in an email. A nice lady was asking for help. She said you were going to be euthanized because her shelter, try as they might, just didn’t have the room to hold you any longer. Other cats were arriving and they deserved a chance, too. You had your time. Now your time is up.

I look at your photo. I don’t know anything about you other than you’re a male. I don’t know if you’re sick, how old you are, if you’ll like being around people.

I look in my bank account. We just got a nice donation. I add up in my head how much I think it will cost to take care of you. I’m guessing it will be about $300.00. I have that much money, but I have 14 other cats who are ahead of you, whose needs must come first.

I add up in my head how much more I will need for the others. Most of them have what they need other than food. I try to figure out if I can afford to help you.

I look at your photo again. You have a quality about you that is appealing. Something in my heart tells me other people would agree and if I like you surely they would like you, too. I bet I can get you adopted.

Two days passed.

I can’t stop thinking about you. There are others who need help, but you really stand out to me. I really don’t have room to take you, but I’m going to give you a chance. I hope I’m not wrong. I hope to God you don’t test positive for Feline Leukemia. If you have FIV+ that’s not great, either.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. A very hungry young kitty who is eating because of donations received to my non-profit rescue, Kitten Associates.

I hope you don’t end up being unfriendly or that you hate other cats. You have to get along with everyone until we find you a forever home where you won’t have many cats to live with.

I sent out a few emails on your behalf. I made bargains with other rescuers. I texted folks who could help me, help you because I live 1000 miles from your cage at the shelter. I stayed up too late again, but I didn’t have time to spare. The puzzle pieces came together creating a map of your rescue, how and when it would take place. Is it too late? Did I wait too long?

The next morning I find out. No. It’s not too late. They told me the cat is waiting for you. He has no belongings to pack up. You can just put him in a cat carrier and have your volunteer sign a few papers. He takes the cat away from that place.

Silently, invisibly a little tic mark appears in the “WIN” column in my heart. There is no fanfare, but I feel a tug; a feeling that’s mixed with joy and despair. I got you out, but left so many others behind.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Nico finally gets some rest and love in his new foster home.

Then I wait again for the call that tells me your test results. You tested negative. You have ear mites. You have fleas. It’s all treatable. It’s not expensive. So far, so good.

You need a name. I ask my friend Ingrid. She chooses Nico. Nico it is. Hello, Nico. That’s all I have to do for now. A nice man drives you to your new foster home where you can rest and get something good to eat. I don’t even get the chance to welcome you to my rescue or finally see you in the light of day, instead of in a photo online.

My job is done. Your life is saved. I will make sure you get a home where they won’t ever give up on you or put you back into a cage in a kill shelter. I won a small victory and I will continue to fight for you by saying no to some adopter-candidates and only yes to the one-the one who will love you forever this time.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Flame point sister have a rescue pending but their sisters don't. You can see them below.

I look at my email and there is an urgent plea about four kittens; two are flame point Siamese and two are lovely orange tabby girls. They’re at a kill shelter in the south. I should get to work. I should do the laundry and not write more emails or make more calls. It’s getting late. I need some sleep.

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©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. 5 month old sweet sisters need a rescue from Newton Animal Control in Covington, Georgia.

The laundry can wait.

The work can wait.

They cannot wait.

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