One I Hold in High Regard

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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To Those I Cannot Save

Every day whether it be via email, a phone call or on Facebook, I get notified of cats and kittens in dire need of rescue. Some are owner-abandoned, some are found on the street wandering, seriously injured. Others are listed on Craigslist because they have behavioral issues or the family is moving and “can’t take them” or mysterious allergies pop up so the cat has to go. If they don’t get any help they will go to the shelter---and we all know what that implies---they may be euthanized.

This is a letter to all those cats.

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Dear Cat ID# Unknown,

My heart is very heavy. I took it upon myself to open my home to helping cats like you. Cats who are hunkered down at the back of a stainless steel cage, with dilated pupils, cowering in fear. Cats who are too old to care and just sit, staring in their litter pan, hoping the smell of their own excrement will offer them a sliver of comfort in a place that is not their home. They are confused, lost, scared, hopeless. Some have newborn kittens clinging to them for nourishment and who are trying to protect them from the sounds of the shelter, the barking dogs, the smells of cleaning fluids and untouched cat food.

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©2012 Maria S. George's guardian lives in a very bad part of town and had taken him off the streets knowing full well she would get evicted for having a cat. She was also in hiding from an abusive relationship and was risking her own safety if she got evicted. My rescue group, Kitten Associates took him on because his next stop was going to be the kill shelter or being turned back to the streets.

I want to save your life, but I can’t. I’m so very sorry. I see your photo and you look like a perfectly nice kitty. You don’t deserve to sit there, waiting to die. I wish I knew something I could do to help you. There isn’t enough time in the day to send out pleas to everyone I know for every cat I discover who needs help.

I don’t want to be cliché and say, “If I had the space and money, I would save all of you,” because I don’t think that’s even possible to do by just one person. I have to measure what I can do versus what is needed. If I take too many, I am no help to anyone. As it is, my home is ruined from my own cats suffering from stress from a constant flow of incoming and outgoing cats, but it’s just urine-ruined floors. If that’s the price I pay to save lives, then so be it.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. 10 yr old Helmet was brought to the shelter. The owners were warned the cat would be euthanized if they surrendered him. Being over 10 years old he had no chance. I sent out a plea on Facebook and within a day we had three adopters interested. This is a rare WIN. There are so many requests for help on Facebook cats like Helmet get overlooked.

I’m not saying you’re not worth it, because you are. You are SO worth it. You are worth making a fuss over-every single one of you. You’re a sentient being. You forgive and forget. You can move on with little or no remorse. You are so much better than I can ever be, but I don’t have a way to help you so I have to delete this email or ignore this post on Facebook.

Even though I try not to see you, I do. Each time I “pass” on helping another one of you, it puts a little tear in my heart, which is already in tattered shreds.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. Helmet, now named, Grayson, with his new, devoted family. I'm told he is doing really well and is already requesting belly rubs.

I feel so badly I can’t do more, but I aspire to, at least, but it’s getting harder and harder to know about all of you because this year is the worst I can remember in a long time. I know that mamas and their kittens are dying in record numbers this summer and into the autumn and that pains me in a way that nothing can make right again. I can’t stand seeing elderly cats given up by their families who turn a cold shoulder to them at a time when those cats should be cherished even more.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. This lovely pregnant cat was living outside in a very dangerous part of town. The owners of the apartment complex wanted her dumped at the heart stick kill shelter where she would die before her kittens were born.

What ever happened to “when the going gets tough, the tough get going?” No…you are disposable. I will never understand how anyone can think that of you.

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©2012 Jennifer N. Another miracle rescue-Anastasia was offered a loving foster home ONE HOUR after I asked for help. This is another rare WIN for a sweet cat who deserves the best we can give her.

You are not a cat on death row-you are my cat. You would give me the world, your love, your heart. You would give me all that you are, every single one of you, but I can’t give you the same in return no matter how badly I wish I could.

No other rescues stepped forward to help you. They’re in the same bind. No one came to adopt you. You’re going to die today. I can’t do a damn thing about it other than cry and hate that we, as a society, decided euthanasia is the answer to overcrowded shelters.

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©2012 Jennifer N. Anastasia's due to give birth any time now. Thank goodness she's safe.

I recently learned that in Italy it’s against the law to euthanize a cat. The community has decided to take cat care on as a group. Everyone pitches in to help the cats. There are sanctuaries and adoptions and some cats just live outside without a home, but they are cared for and cared about.

Why can’t we do this, too? Because we’re selfish and don’t want cats ruining our plants or peeing on the front door. Or we don’t want to deal with spending a few extra dollars to put out food for the strays or ferals because then it becomes a bigger problem. We’d rather the cats just die, as long as we don’t see it happening, so we can focus on what WE want and what WE NEED, who cares about them?

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Three days ago I learned about this kitty and MANY others at Henry County Care and Control. I wanted to help him but I didn't have time. Why would a cat like that have to be put down? It never makes sense.

We can shout all we want about spaying or neutering cats, but it falls on too many deaf ears. We can say “no kill!” but we don’t know that it often only means “no killing of adoptable animals” and that shelters can make rules that any animal over 7 is too old to be adopted so they can KILL those perfectly healthy, loving animals and still declare they are “no kill!”

We have to realize that millions of cats will die this year because we’re too lazy to get off our asses and really FIX this problem. It’s not an important issue compared to the economy, people losing their homes, losing their jobs, etc. There will always be another reason that is “more important” to focus on even though we COULD focus on this AND work on those other issues, too.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. I found out that they're putting cats down daily. This photo was haunting me, like so many others. I stopped what I was doing and begged a favor. As of this afternoon, THIS CAT IS BEING RESCUED by Kitten Associates and Animals in Distress, but I couldn't help the other 15 or more who don't have a chance.

To my dear cat who will die today, I failed you. We all failed you. We need to stop failing and start putting an end to this madness and start saying NO we don’t accept euthanasia as a solution for overcrowded shelters. We need to start opening our homes and accepting cats in to foster-NO MORE EXCUSES ABOUT IT BEING TOO PAINFUL TO LET THEM GO TO A NEW HOME BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT TO SUFFER THE EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT BEING BROKEN. Just do it.

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©2012 Betsy Merchant. Three days ago I learned about this kitty and MANY others at Henry County Care and Control. I loved this cat's face. What a serene and beautiful cat. This post is dedicated to her and the thousands like her who didn't make it. She was euthanized two days ago because there wasn't enough room in the shelter.

I would much rather cry because my foster cat got adopted then if it died in a shelter because I refused to open my home up to fostering cats.

I’m so very sorry, kitty. Rest in Peace. Fly free.

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If you want to help the cats of Henry County or the cats in your town, please consider opening your home to foster a cat for a rescue group or shelter. It's a magical thing to realize you truly are SAVING a LIFE.

My Last Nerve and DOOD's First Steps.

It's been a long three weeks since the DOOD injured his back. I don't know how it happened, but it must have been pretty bad because he hasn't been able to walk comfortably since. You can read more about the injury HERE.

DOOD's been under strict cage rest since Thursday. He's also been on an opiate-based painkiller called Buprenex. It makes DOOD loopy and very friendly. It keeps him quiet, though I'm not sure he's getting very good rest. DOOD also gets a baby aspirin, which is normally a big no-no, but he's only had it a few times.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. the DOOD's temporary home-featuring a heated bed.

During the past few days DOOD has barely moved. If he does move, he appears very weak and I feared he was getting worse. If cage rest didn't help, the next step would be to see a specialist, do a CT scan and probably have to do surgery to take the pressure off what we fear is a pinched nerve.

Seeing DOOD in pain, growling or crying when he tried to stand cut me to the core. I told myself to remember that this is just for now and that in time DOOD will be back to his old self, running around, licking my face. The truth was that there was a chance that DOOD would never be the same again and perhaps have a life of pain or God forbid become paralyzed if the surgery failed.

I know the danger of having all these thoughts-of thinking too much and creating awful scenarios in my head. I have to face only what is wrong now and do my best to help DOOD until that information changes. To upset myself with “what ifs” is a waste of time.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson often sleeps in the cat carrier next to DOODs crate-which is odd since DOOD often hisses at Jax.

Of course, being rational is never easy when you add stress and fear to the mix so last night I had an impressive melt down.

I function day to day knowing that I'm walking a tightrope. Bills get paid, but there isn't much leftover. If something bad happened to any of the cats or my car, my house, etc., it could just toss me over an edge I can't recover from. My rational mind says things have been tough for a long time, but I'll find a way. My fearful mind pushes me to flip out over not being able to open a bottle or that I can't nicely encourage Spencer to get out of my office so I can shut the door-so the cats won't go in there and pee while I'm sleeping upstairs. I have to yell at him to get him out of the room. This is not me, I love Spencer. I don't want to yell at him, but after years on end of stress, of cats peeing all over, of Jackson and his issues and now he's been attacking my own cats…the vice grip on my poor head gets tighter and tighter. The headaches are worse and worse and I can't find an escape from all of this. There is too much to do, to tend to, other people to help, cats in need.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen visits DOOD every day.

I can usually take it on in fairly good humor or make a joke about it, but last night I could not. I just raged and sobbed while Sam sat there, not sure if he'd lose his hand if he reached out to me. There was a time he would talk to me, help comfort me, but even with our relationship, there is another tightening of the strap around my head. We don't talk much. We don't do much. We both focus on caring for our cats and we both do our little chores and that's about it. I feel pretty empty inside.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At Dr. Larry's this morning as lovely as ever.

After my nice fit, I went to sleep. I dragged myself out of bed this morning and started the usual boring routine of caring for the cats, cleaning up vomit or pee, scooping the pans, feeding the foster kittens. Before too long it was time to pack DOOD up and take him to see Dr. Larry. Today was the day. Would DOOD finally be able to walk again? From what I'd seen the answer would be no, but I hadn't encouraged DOOD to move this week so perhaps I'd be surprised.

DOOD was great at the Vet. His temperature was back to normal for the first time. He lost a few ounces, which in his case is a good thing. Dr. Larry examined him and DOOD didn't fuss. He didn't seem to be in much pain, but I wondered if the last of the Buprenex was still in his system.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is what I miss seeing.

Dr. Larry gingerly placed DOOD on the floor. I walked to the other side of the room and called to him. With tail held high, DOOD took his first few steps. I expected his back legs to wobble as they had this past month, but they did not.

It stuck me as odd that DOOD was walking fairly normally. It was the first time I'd see his stride look rather confident. I was so used to seeing him shuffling, crying, growling and here he was taking careful steps. Dr. Larry shook his head in disbelief. DOOD was clearly getting better!

My Mother had a bizarre saying that popped into my head; “I didn't know whether to shit or go blind.” I couldn't believe DOOD looked so much better. It's as if one cat was lying injured in my home while this doppleganger was healthy in Dr. Larry's office.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Dreams.

Of course my fearful mind didn't want to get too excited. Dr. Larry said DOOD should have one more week of cage rest and two more aspirin but no more buprenex. We would continue to be conservative about DOOD's care and hope that another week would give him the recovery time he needed before he joined the rest of the family.

Some good news at last and some hopeful news, as well. DOOD must have been wiped out from the little bit of walking he did because when we got home I let him out of the cat carrier and he walked quickly into his cage and laid down on his cat bed. A few minutes later he was sleeping soundly. If that cage had been any bigger, I would have joined him.

On to the next thing…Bobby called with news about Bongo and it wasn't good.

Saving Bongo's Leg

You never know what will come to pass when you rescue a kitten with a known physical problem. With King, we wondered if he'd been abused or if he was born deformed. Could he function better with a cart or prosthetic enhancements to his prematurely shortened hind limbs? In the end, King was perfect as he was born, missing the last inch or so of his legs and his paws. He does fine getting along on carpeting in his new home without any help or special surgery.

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©2012 Maria S. Bongo enjoying a soft bed and freedom from the death row at the shelter.

With Bongo, our latest rescue, we have more questions than answers. Things we do know:

Bongo is NEGATIVE for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia.

Bongo is about seven months old.

We x-rayed his right front leg, which he does not use. His paw is warm, there is blood flow and sensation. There were no signs of major breaks but the x-ray could not detect any possible small fractures in the paw. The Vet felt amputation might be the best thing to do. If you watch the video, it's be clear his limb is slowing him down.

Thankfully, Bongo is also VERY FRIENDLY which will make whatever he needs medically, easier on him and foster mom, Maria.


©2012 Maria S. & Robin Olson. Bongo's first steps.

I've never had to give the OKAY to amputate an animal's limb before. I've only ever had one foster cat who had to have his right front leg removed. He was about Bongo's age and did very well after surgery. His leg had no sensation and was probably ruined in an accident, so in his case there was little to question.

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X-ray of Bongo's Leg.

I realize there are some folks who would just take the leg without getting more definitive answers. It's a lot less expensive to take a leg off than it is to repair it. The recovery time is less and there are no chances of having to do a second surgery if the leg is already gone, instead of if the surgery is done badly.

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©2012 Maria S. Someday we hope Bongo will be able to run and play like any other kitten.

 

We need to take another step, out of respect for Bongo. I want him to see Dr. Alan Cross, an orthopedic Vet at Georgia Veterinary Specialists. An evaluation is discounted, but still expensive. I believe it's worth it to make certain there isn't something else we can do to save Bongo's leg.

 

We're doing a small fundraiser to cover the office visit and additional x-rays. Anything we don't use for this visit will be used for Bongo's future care. If you can donate the price of a cup of coffee to Bongo, it could mean a world of difference. Small donations pooled together can make big things happen!

We realize things are tight for everyone so if you can't donate, then would you please SHARE this post with your Bongo-loving friends?

Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.

If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Bongo" mail it to:

Kitten Associates
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354

Thank you and stay tuned for more updates on this sweet little guy.

Jackson's Broken Heart

Perhaps it's fitting that as I write this my chest feels tights and my sinuses are plugged up. My sole goal for today is to write this update then finally go to bed and rest. With all the effort surrounding Jackson and his care, I couldn't let a cold stand in my way, but I realize I've been flirting with getting pneumonia (again) and if I'm sick I can't care for him.

Jackson. How's he doing?

Jackson responded to the lasix and ACE inhibitor treatment over the course of Wednesday evening. First, the crackling lung sounds subsided, then were gone. The fluid build up in his lungs was resolved. This was a great sign.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Waiting.

Jackson's respiration was still too fast, but slower than it was when we first brought him in. This told us the lasix was working to remove the fluid around his heart that was making him feel so uncomfortable in the first place.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. Here's Jackson! At last!

By Thursday morning, Jackson was off oxygen and in a “regular” cage. After retesting his blood pressure and respiration, the Vets, including a cardiologist and critical care specialist, felt that Jackson was getting close to being stable enough to go home. On Jackson's chart was a warning note-that he was fractious and for the staff to handle him with caution. Perhaps it was the treatment or simply feeling better but Jackson stopped being aggressive and the staff found he was a joy to be with.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. With boo-boo bandage still intact, Jackson finally heads home.

They also asked me what Jackson was being fed and I told them not to feed him dry food, at least. They gave him canned Friskies, which they knew I'd not be thrilled about, but Jackson ate it right up, the final clinical sign that told the Vets he was ready to go home.

Yesterday afternoon Sam and I drove to VCA Shoreline Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center. We knew we weren't going to pick up a cat who was cured of his illness, but at least we were going to pick up a living cat. Jackson had begun a transformation, but I didn't know how he would be different; would he have more energy? be cranky? be difficult to pill?

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

The other big question was; NOW WHAT? What would become of Jackson?

The brutal blow about all of this was the news I'd been keeping secret. Jackson was about to be adopted.

A great family met Jackson a few days before and had decided that he was the one for them. I couldn't ask anyone to take on the care of a cat with a terminal disease. It was too much to hope for that they'd still want to bring him home after I told them the sad news.

In a way, the possible adoption saved Jackson's life-that and the sad fact that my dear cat, Stanley died of HCM when it was too late to do anything to help him. Stanley's respiration mimicked Jackson's and for that reason I felt that I wanted to get Jackson checked out one more time before he got adopted. I had a feeling something was off with Jax and at least, even with the costs and fear for his future, it was worth it. Maybe we caught it in time to still give him a good quality of life?

We spoke with Jackson's Vet and she went over the many details about his care going forward. First, Jackson must be medicated with 2 TINY pills, 2 times per day. He's also on a short course of Baytril since he did show signs of having some sort of infection/upper respiratory issues. Jackson will also be on a small dose of aspirin every 3 days. This is to prevent his blood from clotting. Cats with HCM can “throw a clot” which often causes their back legs to become immobilized. It also can cause death.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson.

In addition to medications, Jackson will need MORE tests done. Doing a FreeT4 blood test is important because heart problems can be brought on by hyperthyroidism so that needs to be ruled out. Jax will also need another echocardiogram in 2 to 3 months and followup blood work to check his kidney function. The problem with HCM, in addition to the obvious, is that the extra fluids we need to keep off Jackson's heart put a strain on the kidneys. If Jackson has renal disease, it's game over.

It's too early to say what Jackson's future holds. There's more to be done to find out the root cause of his heart ailments.

We have to wait and see how he'll respond to the drug therapy over time. We couldn't even discuss if he has years or months. We thought Jackson was two, but turns out he's closer to five years old. He's still a young cat, so perhaps he'll be with us for a long time to come.

Last night we got Jackson home and he hit the litter pan and had what must have been a very satisfying pee. He wanted to be fed but only nibbled on his food. He spent an hour on the bed but most of the night inside the cat carrier we used to bring him to the Vet. This morning he didn't want to eat, but I managed to get him pilled.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. At home on the bed with Spencer.

This morning, as I started to put a game plan together of what to try to tempt Jackson with, he started to meow. He came over to me and rubbed up against my legs. I asked him if he was hungry and he meowed in reply. I grabbed some cat food, warmed it up and offered it to him. Sam and I had to stand as sentries to keep the other cats away since they were still waiting for their breakfast to thaw out while Jackson finally ate.

It was a marvelous sight.

Though he didn't eat well, he DID eat, then wanted a bit more a bit later.

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©2012 Robin A.F Olson. This morning.

I find myself watching Jackson's chest rise and fall, trying to be prepared at any moment to run him to the Vet. His breathing is more fluid, smoother, slower and more normal, but it's tough not to feel panic. We have to stay watchful, but we have to give it time so we can all adjust.

Jackson just cried just now. I went upstairs to check on him. He got out of his cat carrier and came over to me. He purred as I petted him. I lowered my head down to his and he rubbed his forehead against mine. Maybe he was telling me “thank you for saving my life” or maybe he was just feeling a bit lonely. Whatever the reason, I was glad to see this sign of him feeling better. He really IS a good boy.

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A sweet note from some of Jackson's fans.

It's time for me to go back to bed and finally get some rest. Jackson needs it, too. It's been a tough few days on all of us, but this reminds me never to take even a single day for granted. You really don't know what tomorrow will bring.

If you'd like to join the MANY WONDERFUL PEOPLE who have donated towards Jackson's growing Vet bill, please visit this link on ChipIn to donate. THANK YOU!

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BIGGEST PAWS EVER-Meet Kenny

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting, Kenny. He's an affable lug of a cat, the kind that makes you take notice-especially when you look down-at his paws.

Kenny is a polydactyl (sometimes called Hemmingway) cat. He has the BIGGEST PAWS I've EVER SEEN! This cat's paws are almost as big as my HAND!

What I can't get over is the sad fact that Kenny was given up by his guardian and left to die at a shelter. He was going to be put down for not other reason that space issues AND that Kenny is not a cute kitten.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. LOOK AT THOSE PAWS!

Kenny is about 9 years old. He probably weighs a bit over 20 pounds. From the first second I saw Kenny and he saw me, he rolled over to show me his impressive belly. I was told he was nasty at the shelter most likely due to the fact he was terrified. This cat was sweet, friendly, willing to be held and simply happy to be out of his cage.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.

Kenny needs a home where he'll get the love he craves and the adoration he deserves.

Kenny is SAFE where he is now, but it's not very roomy and he doesn't get a lot of attention. We need to find this special kitty a home!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hi Kenny!

Kenny is located in CONNECTICUT.

If you think Kenny is the one for you, contact ME and I'll put you in touch with Kenny's caretakers.

Please don't contact me if you live more than one state away from CT. I doubt this caretakers would want to transport him too far away.

Contact me at info@coveredincathair.com if you'd like to know more about Kenny!

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Jackson Galaxy's Pick: Kitten Associates, Shelter of the Month!

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Big News! Jackson Galaxy, of Aninmal Planet's hit show, My Cat From Hell has choosen my rescue group, Kitten Associates, as his Shelter of the Month!

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Our Kitten Associates team: myself, Sam, Mama-Maria, Cyndie, Irene, Bobby, Bobbie, Connie and Donna, ALL THANK YOU VERY MUCH for offering to donate a portion of the proceeds from sales of Spirit Essences for the ENTIRE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER to our rescue organization!

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We use Spirit Essences for ALL our foster kittens and our own cats. When we had a virus run through some of the cats we had to stop using the Spirit Essences and the issues we had been treating returned! Once our cats were feeling well, we began to use the Essences again and the problems are going away. WE LOVE THE 32 oz BOTTLE OF STRESS STOPPER you sent us. I'm only half joking when I say there was a temptation to just bathe myself in the contents to see if it would make me calm down!

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What's even MORE AWESOME is that Mr. Galaxy and his company, Spirit Essences, have teamed up with the wildly creative apparel company, ExBoyfriend to help Kitten Associates even MORE!

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All you have to do is BUY A COOL T-SHIRT! You can choose 1 or ALL 3 below. For EACH PURCHASE of Fidel Catstro, Catnip Freakout and my super-fave- FUZZ Aldrin, ExBoyfriend will donate $5.00! The holidays are coming and your kids are back to school. Of course everyone could use a spankin' cool new t-shirt and your purchase helps US provide care to the kittens in our program!

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We realize times are tough on everyone, but here's a great opportunity to treat yourselves, help your cats and have some fun while helping us provide for our cats and kittens.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Here's Winnie and her 5 kittens. They were born on 8.10.12 and are just some of the kitties in our foster home network.

Please SHARE OUR HAPPY NEWS with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and beyond. We appreciate your support so very much and hope to have more exciting news as the end of the month draws near!

Thank you again Mr. Galaxy, the team at Spirit Essences (esp. Jill, Siena & Toast!) and Matt Snow of Ex-Boyfriend for believing in us and wanting to help.

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From the Ashes. Fire at Animlkind.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. What remains after the fire and flood at Animalkind on May 1, 2012..

[If you missed it you can read Part One HERE and Part Two HERE]

We continued on to the fourth floor. It suffered the least amount of damage. The sheet rock was still intact. There were cats living here, too. Some of them had been kittens who had tested positive for Feline Leukemia. A few of the kittens died and the others couldn’t be near other cats until they had time to re-test negative. The surviving kittens had to sacrifice those first few months when they would have been the most adoptable. It would mean if they weren’t sick, they’d be adults who'd have a much tougher time getting adopted. It wasn’t fair, but it was the best that could be done for them.

There were many cats walking around the large sun-soaked space. It was too warm and the cats were lying stretched out on scant blankets that were scattered around the rooms. A few cats came over to me. Clearly they were sick. I didn’t judge Katrin. I would have done the same thing. She could have put them all down to save her the headache of trying to see them through this, but she didn’t.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet kitty finds comfort in a simple box.

Katrin had a difficult time walking through the building that had come to mean so much to her. This place was her life and her life was in shambles at her feet. I told her to imagine the day when she walked up the stairs and she could smell freshly painted walls; to imagine the cats running freely around the rooms, enjoying their release from captivity. My mother often said; “This too shall pass.” I knew it was true for Animalkind, the problem was—WHEN. When would it pass?

 

The insurance company has been slow to provide the funds to get the re-building started. The agent had a heart attack. There were other delays. Each day revealed another frustration for Katrin and her staff.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely architectural bones, but not so comfortable for the kitties.

We returned to Animalkind’s temporary headquarters at the Warren Inn. The phone rang. Katrin was called over to speak to the person making the call. At last there was some good news–the power in the building was hooked up! All they needed was a final inspection, which could happen very soon. Katrin spoke to the caller at a rapid pace and as soon as she hung up the phone, she lifted the receiver and made more calls. She was on the phone as a volunteer brought in an injured snowshoe kitten AK had agreed to rescue from the notorious Animal Care & Control in NYC (notorious for euthanizing zillions of cats and dogs every day). The kitten was stunning, but supposedly suffered from a broken hip. She sat in the cardboard carrier and meowed. A cat carrier was also brought into the room with two young kittens, also from ACC&C. Just because their building was gone, didn't mean Katrin was going to stop rescuing cats.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Quarantine kitty.

I overheard Katrin speaking with a volunteer to ask them to go buy as many fans as she could. She also wanted screens for those windows-ASAP. She was going to make certain the cats in quarantine were more comfortable now that they had their power restored.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sick ward patient enjoying one of the few comfortable places in the building.

With all the activity of volunteers and calls, I decided I should head back home. A foster mom entered the room with her kitten, Tatanka (which means Buffalo in Indian). Tatanka’s eyes were like orange saucers as he looked around the room. He couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 weeks old. Something happened to him, but so far their Vet couldn’t determine whether it was a neurological problem like Cerebeluar Hypoplasia or an injury. Initially, the kitten couldn’t walk at all, but with his foster mom's care he was starting to use his back legs and could stand up for short bursts.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tatanka with his Stretch & Scratch.

She jangled a toy in front of him and he looked at it oddly. There was something not working right in his mind, you could tell by his expression. I found myself wanting to take him home with me. His cuteness factor was set really high and the fact that he was a bit wobbly and needed extra help made him even more adorable.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet ginger boy.

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I’d brought with me the donation of Stretch and Scratch scratchers, which Katrin LOVED. She and I hung them in most of the cages and right away the kittens started to use them. Some of the adults were too scared to try them out, no doubt stressed from their months of captivity (they DO give each cat a break outside of their cage as often as possible).

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tuxedo kitty in the sick ward.

It was time to head out. I said my farewells and wished good luck to Tatanka. As I walked to my car, I felt heavier. The struggles and the suffering of these good people and sweet cats effected me deeply. It’s one thing to read a story about a disaster, but it’s another thing to stand up and get involved even if you’re not confident you can do anything to make it better.

 

The one thing I am confident about is that even though I have my own struggles, failures and fears that I only truly feel happy when I help someone else.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Oz is a super sweet kitty looking for his forever home.

Katrin called me a few days ago to give me another update, but before she told me the latest news, she had to tell me something else. She said that what I’ve done, getting donations for them, coming up to do a story about Animalkind, meant a lot to her.

This stoic, lioness choked up as she spoke. I suddenly understood why what I did effected her so deeply. I understood what she was going through on so many levels—everyone wants something from her when she’s at the lowest point in her life and here was a stranger showing up to help, without asking for anything in return and not making her life more difficult, but better.

She told me she regretted that I didn’t live closer so we could get to know each other better and I felt the same way, too.

 

 

It reminds me that we need to look out for each other, whether we’re strangers or best friends. That one person with only a few bucks to her name can make a difference in someone else’s life that maybe helps them get through another day. Each and every one of us has that power and frankly, that duty. Without even considering “what about me” I got a great gift. It’s so much more meaningful when it comes without feeling like it’s even needed.

 

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tatanka sits up on his own!

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© 2010 Mark Westscott Studios. Animalkind before the tragic loss of their shelter.

Update: After all these months, MAYBE just MAYBE construction is going to begin in two weeks. They have an expert coming in to review the spaces in their building and help them set it up so that it will be the best environment for the cats AND the safest from a health standpoint so they can keep their cat population from spreading illnesses.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the many kittens at Animalkind.

THEY’RE LOOKING FOR HELP RIGHT NOW FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH THE FOLLOWING SKILLS. (Animalkind is located in HUDSON, NEW YORK-about 2 hours north of New York City)

• an Architect who can help with designing the new spaces

• Solo Construction workers OR someone who owns a construction company to help them rebuild

• Stone Masons who can help with their garden

• Carpenters who can help them build out their new rooms

Of course, like any rescue, they need financial donations or donations of goods. You can visit their Network for Good donation page to donate OR you can contact AnimalKind at 518-822-8643 or email: katrin@animalkind.info to arrange for a donation of goods or services.

Donate

 

Don't forget: If you'd like to gift AnimalKind more scratchers (they LOVE THEM), please go HERE to get their shipping information. You can get a SPECIAL DISCOUNT of 10% off on any size case of Stretch and Scratch scratchers, plus you get reduced shipping. Use CODE: CATS to get the discount!

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tatanka casts his cute-spell on us.

The final update is that Tatanka is ready to be adopted! I’m not clear on the status of his current medical condition, but I believe he'll still need some Vet visits and possibly physical therapy to be well. If you’re interested in adopting Tatanka or finding out more about him contact Animalkind at the same numbers above or fill out an adoption application.

The Heart of a Lioness: The Fire at Animalkind part two

There’s a certain quality only a rare few people have. It’s a magnetic kind of energy that radiates from within, but can be felt by others. At times it smolders, belying the real power it can unleash, while other times there is no ignoring it. When that person enters a room, the airwaves seem to change and become electrified.

One such person is Katrin Hecker, the Director of Animalkind. She’s tall and tan with brilliant blonde hair. She’s from Germany and has an unmistakable accent even after living here for decades. She’s not shy about who she is, where she’s from or what her passions are. Upon first glance she might come off as a bit distant or cool, but talk to her a few times and you’ll sense her great heart.

Katrin operates in a no-nonsense manner especially when there's so much to get done. Since losing Aninalkind's building after their sprinkler system destroyed the interior (You can read more about that HERE), she has more than a lot on her plate.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Katrin Hecker with the latest arrivals.

Katrin is creative, a painter way back when. She lived in New York City with her husband, but after too many years in the hustle and bustle, decided to move north to the small riverside town of Hudson, NY. They bought an old church and set up their first home. Katrin wasn’t sure what she wanted to focus her attention on, maybe design or get deeper into painting.

One day she realized she’d seen quite a few cats walking around town. Her first thought was how sweet it was, seeing them dash down an alley or pass by her front door. She imagined she was living in a town that loved and cared for their cats as a community, otherwise why would there be so many of them roaming around?

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Panogram of one side of the temporary headquarters at the Warren Inn. Click to see a large size of this photo.

 

It didn’t take long for her to realize that those cats were very thin, their coats ragged; some were injured or pregnant. Clearly none of them were being cared for and there was no rescue facility or group in the town to help them.

 

Katrin rescued a black cat off the street and took it to the Vet. Her husband didn’t mind as long as she didn’t get out of hand and take in all the cats she saw. Katrin found a few more cats that needed help. They were all black. Mischievously motivated or just plain brass, Katrin took in a total of eight black cats. She hid them away in one room, where she’d set up as her painting studio, knowing her husband wouldn’t enter the space. She let one or two out at a time and her husband never noticed they had more than just a few cats until one night when it was very cold and the power went out.

The wood stove was the only source of heat. One by one, the cats showed up to warm themselves by the fire. The cats were out of the “bag.” Katrin’s husband was shocked, thinking he’d gone mad seeing eight nearly identical cats appear out of the woodwork, but she made no apologies. There was a serious problem in this town and something had to be done.

By 2000, Animalkind came into existence and ever since it’s had a symbiotic relationship with the community. Katrin told me that she can’t be like other rescues and say no all the time when someone asks for help. She described some of the locals, who are down on their luck, struggling and just want to help a stray or their own cat. She finds a way to say yes, even if it means loading up her home with cats or reaching out to the community to help her help the cats.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Doors to the former surgical suite where they did all their spay/neuters.

Even at the clearly worst point of her life, with heartbreaking family problems, including illness and brain injuries to contend with and the loss of Animalkind’s headquarters, she still has to help the cats. She could have given up and walked away after the building was gutted. She could have walked away after her own home was badly flooded after Hurricane Irene badly damaged all the homes in her neighborhood.

With all that’s on her plate she finds a way to get up every day and figure out how she’s going to put the pieces of Animalkind back together again and how she’s going to get those poor cats out of their cages and into their new space as soon as possible.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Watching my step.

Katrin led me through the front door of what was once a building filled with the sounds of volunteers working away, answering calls, scooping litter pans, feeding the cats; who were living freely in large open group areas. It was eerily silent now. I had to watch my step because the floors were stripped to the bone, covered with debris. The HVAC vents snaked across the floors having fallen from the mounts on the ceiling. The cheerily painted sheet rock was gone. All that remained were exposed studs and wiring, the shell of what must have been a glorious Victorian home. I stood there. The heartache of loss was palpable.

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©2007 Animalkind. Before the damage.

As we picked our way around the first floor, Katrin described each room. We passed the Adoptions area, then climbed to the second floor to see where their grand surgical suite was located. There are French doors separating the spaces, but no longer any walls on either side of the doors. A few stainless steel surgical tables and other equipment were shoved into a corner, dirty, but still usable. However, most of what had once been there was long gone.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After the damage. The only thing that's recognizable is the teal bench.

It was a warm summer day and as we climbed the stairs you could feel the temperature rise slightly, along with the humidity. The third floor held a secret—one that couldn’t be helped. This is where the contagious cats lived...the ones with ringworm. Even though they weren’t supposed to have animals in the building, they had no choice. It was keep them safe or let them go. It’s not as though any rescue would knowingly take cats with ringworm and there was no way Katrin was going to put them down, either.

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©2007 Animalkind. Cats lounging before the disaster.

They did the best they could. The cats had the basics and no more. It was only for now. It would get better soon, but the building had no electricity and without screens on the windows, the windows could only be opened a very tiny bit. Most of the cats were flat from the heat but not in any danger at all.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting.

Katrin told me about their plans for the room as I looked around imagining how it would appear with fresh paint, new cat trees, comfy chairs. It was an enormous space with large windows overlooking the street on one side and an overgrown yard on the other. They received a generous grant to re-do the yard into a perfect cat habitat so cats could go outdoors and still be within a closed space. They were going to put in benches and lots of plants and cute statutes of cats playing. It was going to be so wonderful, if only it could happen soon.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A skinny little lady comes over to greet us.

And truly, that was the problem.

“Soon” seemed to be defined as “not any time soon.” You tell that to a room full of cats who are desperate for things to get back to normal.

 

The final part of my story introduces you to one amazing little kitten and shares some last-minute updates, promising news and more. Stay tuned...

The Best Worst Thing Ever. Fire at Animalkind.

Late in the evening of May 1, 2012, on the third floor apartment where a caretaker lived, a small fire broke out due to the hot embers of a cigarette coming into contact with bedding. The fire was extinguished before the fire department even arrived. The building didn't burn to the ground, but something equally terrible occurred. The building-wide sprinkle system was activated, releasing a torrent of water, not light rain showers, but a flood of water throughout the building.

On the second, first and basement levels lived the cats of Animalkind, a non-profit cat shelter located in Hudson, New York. Most of the cats were allowed to freely roam their adoption areas. Terrified from the onslaught of water, the cats climbed onto the horizontal vents from the brand new $50,000 HVAC system that was installed to control the spread of disease. The cats huddled in the rafters, terrified; but what was worse was the fate awaiting the most fragile of the cats—the mamas and kittens. They were in the basement and all the water from the floors above pooled there, inches deep. The families weren't free to escape, they were in cages, trapped in the water at risk of drowning.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Still lovely, the exterior of Animalkind.

No one perished. No cats died. In that, it was a miracle, but the building was gutted. The once pink and yellow cheerful walls of Animalkind were soaked, ruined, crumbling to the floor. The joy that had filled the building, all the years of hard work and loving care, vanished in a matter of hours. The building that once held 150 cats was destroyed.

As early as 2am Katrin Hecker, the Director and Founder of Animalkind, her volunteers, staff and residents of Hudson, New York, gathered together and quickly began to capture as many cats as they could.

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. Moving the cats into their new location.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of a local merchant, The Warren Inn, a nearby hotel, turned its' office space into a temporary shelter space. It was just a few steps away from Animalkind's headquarters. Cages were assembled and cats were tagged and given a place to recover their shock. Many cats needed to go into temporary foster homes and people throughout the area opened their doors. The townsfolk jumped into action along with everyone from Animalkind. Though heartbreaking, the staff was buoyed by the support.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The irony of the sign on the bottom of the window isn't lost on me.

In the following days, amazing things happened. Cats who'd been at AK for YEARS were getting adopted. Adoptions on the whole went way up. About 60 cats found homes right away. Folks started to show up from out of the blue to help any way they could. As the news spread, I heard about this terrible tragedy. In an odd coincidence, I'd been only a few miles from the fire delivering Leo to Animalkind's neighbor, Aslan's Sanctuary.

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. The basement.

Like so many other people, the devastation bothered me deeply. I couldn't imagine how any rescue could recover from such a loss. I'm just one person. What could I do to help?

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. One of the shelter spaces, empty of cats, filled with water.

I got in touch with Animalkind and Bob Mechling, a Designer and key member of the shelter, got back to me right away. I asked him what they needed and told him I'd do what I could to help him get it. I couldn't believe I was saying those words. I don't have two sticks to rub together, but in my heart I knew that after all these years of blogging and writing pet product reviews that somewhere I MUST know someone who could help me scrounge up a few donations.

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Freekibblekat.com and Halo come to the rescue!

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World's Best Cat Litter-YOU ROCK!

I got to work. Within a few days and after many phone calls I got the logistics worked out. Right away, Kelly Ausland of Freekibble.com and Freekatkibble.com said he would be delighted to help with a donation of 350 bags of kibble from Halo. He wasn't doing this for a write-up on my blog or a pat on the back. He sincerely was concerned and wanted to help.

Next up were my associates at World's Best Cat Litter, who also did not hesitate to help once I alerted them to the problem. I was very impressed by how quickly they jumped into action! Now the cats had a supply of food and litter coming in the door. I reached out to a few other companies, but sadly they were not able to offer any assistance.

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If you'd like to help put a smile on the faces of shelter cats in your town, you can get a SPECIAL DISCOUNT of 10% off on any size case of Stretch and Scratch scratchers, plus you get reduced shipping. Use CODE: CATS to get the discount! If you'd like to gift AnimalKind more scratchers (they LOVE THEM), please go HERE to get their shipping information:

I also reached into my own fairly empty pockets and ordered two cases of Stretch and Scratch cat scratchers. I knew that the cats would be stressed out in cages and having something to scratch could make a world of difference to their well being.

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©2012 Animalkind. Used with permission. The Adoption Room circa 2004..

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Welcome to the Adoption Room 2012.

As Animalkind began the difficult work of assessing the damage and speaking with their insurance company, things got very busy for my little rescue. I didn't hear much from Katrin, but she was never far from my thoughts.

Recently, I made the 100 mile trip north to meet Katrin and Bob and see how things were going. What I saw broke my heart and compelled me to do more.

Animalkind still needs help. In some ways, things are worse now than ever. In part two I'll share what I learned during my visit and introduce you to some VERY special cats.

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