When I started writing this Blog in 2006 I thought I'd get a book contract out of it and have a fast-track at fame and fortune. What I never expected was where I'd be just four short years later.
I was a Graphic Designer, copywriter, foster mom (once in awhile). I didn't know much about cats, other than they bugged the crap out of me, I mean, that I loved them. That if I really thought about it, I'd been devoted to caring for cats whenever I had the chance since I got my first cat when I was four years old.
This past year, has probably seen the biggest changes in my cat-centric life, so far. I took on more responsibility with the rescue group I was with, I got better at dealing with long-term sick kittens (well, not better, as much as just dealt with it), I wrote more about cats at kill shelters who were in dire straights and was even able to help rescue a few of them.
©2010 M.S. Yodel, one of the first rescues of 2010.
I'd say, though, that the first half of the year was spent feeling angry and frustrated. The Director of the group I was with was probably the most passive-agressive person I've ever met. She has the ability to sound like she's being nice, but her words always meant "NO." I felt like I was ready to take on more and more, but she was restricting me to doing less and less. She'd make a rule, then change it to suit her needs, then be short with me if I called her on it. There was one excuse after another as to why I couldn't foster in my home-even though I begged. She refused to let me take in cats, even though they were local and I had space and time. She placated me by offering me a non-voting place on the Board of Directors. I thought that was only due to her fear that once I found out the local pet food shop owner was also asked, that I'd be put out if I wasn't asked, too.
The first meeting of the Board was the last straw. There it was clear she wanted me out. She said things like “I don't have anyone who can do adoptions other than myself and one other person (her partner, not me).” Meanwhile I was sitting there, in complete SHOCK. I had done 50 adoptions on my OWN over the past year-which was about 50% of the cats they took in! I felt kicked in the teeth. I started to say something, but got talked over. Then she fawned over another member who as a background in Public Relations. She asked HER about "Branding" the rescue group and coming up with a tagline that worked better. Meanwhile I have over 25 years of experience doing Promotions and Advertising. I'd done most of the graphics for this group for FIVE YEARS! Public Relations understands about Branding, but designers, like myself are the ones who CREATE how a brand works, in the first place. I didn't get it. I was eager, ready to go, wanted to help, had ideas, yet, no...I guess I was filing a seat. I was too stunned to say anything-my blood was BOILING.
Weeks later, I found out some things about how this person operates and how she doesn't appreciate anyone having more power than she does. Who cares? I didn't care about that. I just wanted to rescue MORE cats! I started to hear horrible stories about her behavior in dealing with other people. As much as I loved helping the animals, I finally got up the nerve to write my letter of resignation. There was no way I could work with this woman ever again. I was broken hearted more than I can say. I did not want to go. I felt shoved out the door. I was so devoted to this group that they're in my WILL. They were to get a sizable portion of my Estate when I pass away and they knew that, too. I guess it was time to move on—it had been for a long time.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. The only foster cat I had until after I started my OWN rescue group. This kitten was feral, but I socialized him in two weeks. He's now adopted.
What shocked me most was the reply I got to my letter of resignation-that “we part on good terms” and “I wish you the best.” Not surprised that I quit suddenly right after a Board Meeting. Not sad. Not even a phone call. Just an email-glad to be done with me, I'm sure.
I had THOUSANDS of photos and artwork for five YEARS of fundraisers and adoption events I oversaw. That email was the last I've heard from them. They never once asked for a file or an image of THEIR OWN foster cats since that day in July.
I spent some time soul searching. I was offered the chance to take over a small, local cat shelter, but it was too far from my home for me to be effective there. Instead of me running the place, I made a few good friends. I offered to help them and they offered to take adult cats from me, should I need a placement for them once in awhile. It was a great fit, but still...my heart was sour about volunteering somewhere new. I didn't want to waste more time ramping up to how another group does their "thing," then discover it was run by someone who was either crazy or a tyrant. Many of my readers suggested I just make a go of it on my own. I figured, why not? I know enough to get myself in trouble. Might as well. At least this way I get to be the crazy person, but I'd rather be the fair-headed, friendly, team-player I've always been.
The Birth of Kitten Associates, Inc.
With the economy the worst it's probably EVER been in the history of our Country, I decided to go for it. Sam came up with a great name and we spoke about what we would do, in addition to rescuing cats in need. We knew that with our background in design, advertising, web site design and database building, we could easily build web sites for OTHER rescue groups and municipal shelters who needed our help. If we could help other rescue groups do a better job at saving lives, we'd end up saving THOUSANDS of animals: dogs and cats! It would be a far bigger way to help animals in need and as far as we knew, no one else was doing this!
We'd find corporate sponsors to foot the bill and they'd get some free advertising and we'd get paid to build the web sites that way. We'd open a foster network and rescue cats from wherever they needed help. I also began posting information about cats I could not take into my program, but cats that were either needing funding for life-saving surgery or cats who needed a home.
My dear friend Jennifer, works for a lawyer who could help us with our paperwork. The lawyer knows a very nice CPA who guided us about how to deal with fundraisers and our taxes-at a discount. Things were just falling into place. We filed the papers, became incorporated and are now within minutes of getting our final “nod” from the IRS to get our 501(c)3 and be a true Non-Profit.
I already had a small team of dedicated folks in Georgia who would help me rescue cats, there. I had some donations coming in the door. I just had to start rescuing some cats. I was scared to death!
Just some of the kitties we saved in 2010!
...and a few more familiar faces!
Not bad, considering I am the ONLY foster home in Connecticut and I only have a handful of foster homes in Georgia!
It's been quite a year in some respects. When I call Henry County, they know me. The local Vet we use in Georgia calls me “Miss Robin” and is very kind about providing us discounts. When they needed help after getting two cats dumped at their door, I was able to help them, too. It hasn't been all perfect or blissful. I haven't helped nearly as many cats as I'd like, but it's a noble start.
Now that my dear cat, Bob has cancer, I don't know what 2011 will bring. I don't know if it's a great idea to foster cats when I have an immune compromised cat with cancer in the house. I know I'll find a way to help, but I have to balance what the “price” I'm going to have to pay will be.
For 2011, I want to focus on getting basic fundraising going so we have a base of donations to draw from so we can quit worrying all the time about all the bills I have to pay out-of-pocket. Our web site needs a lot of work to be finished up. I need FOSTER HOMES! VOLUNTEERS! CREATIVE FOLKS who want to help us plan events! Folks with lots of experience doing cat rescue so we can have help if any of our cats fall sick-until we can get those cats to the Vet. There's a lot to be done, but hopefully by the end of the year, we'll be operating more smoothly and have most of the kinks worked out.
So let this be a warning to you bloggers out there. Sure, write about what you love, your passion, but be careful about where it takes you. You could be hoping for a book contract, as I did, and end up with a whole lot more than you ever dreamed. Like the pebble in the proverbial stream, it's okay to bounce along with the flow of things and see where the water takes you.
It will certainly make for an interesting journey.
Happy New Year!
Somewhere in the middle of Bob having surgery, preparing for Christmas and us being hit by a blizzard, Polly and her family and MacGruber arrived! Thanks to Sam for being kind enough to drive four hours each way to rendezvous with Izzy and Mark, so I could stay home with Bob, the weekend before his surgery.
I wasn't looking forward to the kittens arriving. I was too worried about Bob, plus it meant that Petunia, the pee-er, the antagonizer, the irritating-one, was going to be let out of her room. This would mean a pee-a-thon in the house, no doubt and the nice, quiet two week break we had from her neurotic behavior was coming to an end. I was also terrified about what Polly's URI would do to Bob if he caught it, not to mention-would Polly even SURVIVE a thousand mile road trip?
I made a commitment to take them on. So be it. They arrived almost exactly one year to the day that Santa's Team arrived last year. What a nightmare of sick cats. I never want to see that again! Four months they were here...oh boy...
First up was MacGruber. I MUST write about him first. Everyone told me he was a mellow, sweet kitty and I would love him right away. They were so RIGHT! This cat doesn't let anything get under his fur. He knows his name and comes when you call him with his tail held high.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Who is cuter thank YOU?!
Since he's neutered and has his shots, I only confined him to our bedroom for two days, then began the process of letting him meet my other cats. Heck, I fast-tracked it. He did so well and my cats were so blasè about having another cat here, I just let him go for it. He spends a part of his day upstairs, feeling safe, but then will head down to hang out with us for longer and longer periods.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Meeting Blitzen.
We hoped he'd become buddies with Blitzen and that appears to be the case. He and Blitz race around the house. Mac is so small. I keep forgetting he's just a baby at six months old. He's very interested in the other cats, but is figuring out quickly who to stay away from.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Feeling comfortable enough to sit on one of the cat beds in the prime location in the living room!
Initially there WAS a lot of peeing going on, but we refilled some of the feliway diffusers and that seems to have helped. Not sure what is going on, but the cats have calmed down somewhat. I wonder if they all realize Bob is sick and he needs his quiet time. Whatever is going on, I'll take it. Sam and I hate it when the cats go overboard and we feel stuck not knowing what more we can do to help them all be calm and relaxed.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Mac isn't a fan of flash photography, but he's still CUTE even with his eyes closed.
MacGruber has a fan club. His charter member is Sam. Sam loves this cat to the point of being very coy about answering my question: “Do you mind if I put him on Petfinder? I really need to get this boy a home.” The first week Sam asked me to wait until after Christmas. Today he asked me to wait another week. Uh oh...that would put us at NINE cats? Oh no. That said, look at him! He's a doll.
Then there's Polly and her family. They arrived in fairly good shape. It took them all of five minutes before they were eating and running around their new room with great enthusiasm.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara with her usual post-eating-dirty-face.
I thought we might be in good shape, but it didn't take long for Polly to start looking poorly. The area around her eyes started to swell, especially her left. She started sneezing. So did Chester. I contacted Dr. Hermans. I want to try treating the cats with homeopathy. She made some suggestions. I gave Polly a remedy and also made an appointment for her to see the Vet. Chester wasn't in bad shape so I waited on him.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. It's true. Chester Cheesetoes DOES rival MacGruber for being the cutest foster cat, ever!
I started to panic about Polly. She got worse, her breathing, loud. When I went to pack her into her carrier to get her to see Dr. Chiok (Dr. Larry's new associate Vet), I did a double-take. She looked A LOT BETTER. I was so shocked I had to find Cara to make SURE I was looking at the correct kitten. Polly was not cured, but her eye was much better. She was playing, ready to eat, perky. I only gave her a few grains of a remedy, twice. That was it. I gave some to Chester and he perked up, too.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Still sick, but eating well and playful.
Now Cara is sick. No surprise. She'll get a remedy and either just Polly or all of the kittens will see Dr. Hermans next week. Even though I took Polly to see Dr. Chiok, the meds he prescribed are still in the bag. I do not want to put Polly on MORE antibiotics that aren't going to cure this VIRAL infection. I want Polly to beat this if she can. She's also getting L-Lysine which supports her immune system. She's in a warm, sunny room, too, and this can help her feel well, too.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. A-Mazin' Mazie.
Then there's Mazie. What a kookie cat. She's tall, lean, meows up a storm. She LOVES her babies dearly, but LOVES to play. She's really just a big kitten. She has spots like a leopard and stripes like a tiger. Though it doesn't appear in the photos, her eyes are green and huge. She's very friendly. I should have her at Animals in Distress, but I don't want her going anywhere near other cats until I talk to Dr. Larry tomorrow. Also, she's doing well here and I think it benefits the kittens to have her close by. More stress on them is not a good thing for their health, but I realize Mazie needs to find a great home. She certainly is more than ready for one.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly wants the toy, NOW!
As sick as the kittens are, they still manage to play. Chester was very fresh when he first arrived and wouldn't even let me touch him. Now he comes to me and sits on my chest each night. Polly and Cara follow his lead once in awhile.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara (left), Polly (right).
I had the pleasure of having all three of them on my chest the other night. They were all sleeping peacefully and I was enjoying watching them dream. Then, all of a sudden, Cara just puked all over my chest! It went right down my shirt, all over my boobs. NICE! I smelled like warm salmon flavored barf. Another thing I can cross off my bucket list...
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Watching “Baggage” on GSN with me.
I also discovered that the kittens are FREAKS about a game I have for them on my iPad. It's called, Game for Cats, oddly enough. They pounce on the mousey and chase after the laser pointer. As they pounce, they rack up a score. My cat, Spencer got over 30,000 points last time he played. I'm thinking of entering him in a tournament. Imagine how awful of an idea THAT would be!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara (center) and Polly (left) LOVE Game for Cats!
So we're hanging tough. I'm trying to let the kittens get better on their own, but tomorrow is another Vet visit just to play it safe. I'm very interested to see if homeopathy is going to make a difference. I gave some to Nora and Bob and I've sen them both have a reduction in symptoms from their URIs. This is worth investigating further. If I can avoid giving these cats medications that have nasty side effects AND are VERY expensive, I'm all for it, but this is uncharted territory for me, so I'm a bit cautious.
Even though I have some guilt over having these foster cats here, they are a pleasure to be around. I hope I can get Polly and her family well, soon, but as I know from experience, this may be a very long road. So be it. We'll see how things pans out. In the meantime, they'll have plenty of good food and love until they're ready to move on to their new homes...all of them expect maybe MacGruber! He'll get the good food and the love, but moving on? Hmmm...
Author's note: Bob has a few nicknames-one I use most often is: Baba-D. Some others are: Bobbee Tinkleberry, Mr. Bob and Robert J. Dole (only used if I'm yelling at him)
Barely 24 hours ago, I got a call from one of the Vets at VCA Cheshire. He said something I didn't expect to hear: “Bob's ready to go home. He's eating a bit and has perked up. If you can get here before, say 3pm, we won't charge you for an extra day.”
All I could muster in reply was; “You're shitting me.”
I was told that shortly after Sam and I left yesterday, Bob perked up. He ate a little bit, he sat up in his cage. Dr Weisman, who I LOVE, said she felt the pain meds were really taking a toll on Bob, so she eased off on them. Sure enough, the minute it started to wear off, our old Bob started to make a comeback.
Of course I had a Vet appointment for Polly, who is, getting SICK again. I had to postpone it to today. I basically had to postpone everything to get ready for Bob to arrive. Since Bob's belly is in a fragile state of repair, we have to give him either cage rest or put him in a small room with no furniture. Since we don't have a room like that, I set up a BIG dog crate, then went out and bought a dog pen to attach to the crate. It would give Bob some chance to walk around a bit. I didn't want to put it in a dark part of the house or off in a corner, so Bob's in the middle of the living room. I want him to have sunshine and to be part of our daily activity so he can feel like he's part of the gang again.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob's new digs.
Sam and I got things set up and I realized I needed a few things so I left early to hit a pet store that was on the way to the hospital, which is a 45 minute drive from here. Of course, I took the wrong exit and the store is in the middle of Waterbury, where the roads are like a messy plate of spaghetti. I panicked and decided to skip the store and not risk getting lost. I did NOT want to be late. The Vet bill was over $3000.00 and I didn't want it to go any higher if I could help it.
I hit a grocery store and got a new litter pan and the litter my Vet wants to use. I bought a few groceries and ignored the bell ringer from Salvation Army. I wanted to go up to him and tell him how much money I give to animal charities and how I run my own. I ask myself why I feel so guilty about not putting money in his bin when I donate clothing and household goods to them every year. Maybe that's how they score? The guilt factor?
Guilty or not, I was racing to get to Bob on time. It was 2:30pm and there was some sort of nightmare traffic jam, from what, I could not figure out. So I crawled along, finally getting to the hospital in the nick of time. I grabbed my empty cat carrier, walked in the door and almost yelled, “Filler Up!”
Oh yes, but there is a matter of the rest of the payment to deal with first. They were very nice, very professional. They went over Bob's discharge information, which isn't really much, other than to watch Bob and check his incision. He doesn't need extra meds. He can go back on Denamarin and Dasquin and eat what he likes (so THEY say!). He is supposed to wear a “cone of shame”, e-collar but he hasn't picked at his belly at all so no go for now. He's been through enough.
I spoke with Dr. Weisman, who I LOVE (yes, i know I wrote that earlier and it's still true). She told me what to watch out for and to either call her or just email her to let me know how Bob is doing or just to say hello. You're KIDDING ME, right? Woah. I love her. She's not tossing me to the wind now that the surgery is over!
While we were talking, I realized someone was standing next to me. It was a tech holding BOB!!!! I grabbed his carrier and she placed him inside it. He looked perkier, even at a glance. I couldn't wait to get him HOME!
I got the bill settled. It was actually a bit less than the low end of the estimate. The amount still kills me and it will be a year before it's paid off, but I can get it done. It was time to head home with my BOB!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, at home, at last. By the way, we moved his litter pan out of this crate, into the penned in area after this photo was taken so Bob has more space to relax and not smell his own fumes.
I wanted to let Bob out so he could walk around a bit, when we got home. I thought he might like to use his familiar litter pan, then I'd put him into his crate. Instead, Bob almost RAN around the house, then got away from us and RAN up TWO flights of STAIRS! Oh NO! he's gonna blow himself wide open! Thankfully we got him and put him into the crate. Sheesh!
We warmed up some raw food and offered it to him. He licked once or twice, then went to his heated bed and laid down. He was exhausted. I offered him some chicken treats, which he ate, but then turned away from me. He licked his paws and his face, a great sign. He got comfortable and went to sleep.
Sam and I sat in the living room, talking quietly. I sat facing Bob so I could keep an eye on him. He groomed himself some more, but stayed clear of his belly. He put his head down, then twisted it at a cute angle, as he so often does, and went to sleep. I was worried that he didn't eat, but hoped he'd eat a bit later.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob loves his blanket from Aunt Jennifer.
As the evening passed, I got into the penned in area and sat with Bob. I offered him dehydrated chicken and he ate every piece. He wouldn't eat any real food, but it was a start. We said good night and let him rest. I didn't sleep well. I worried about what I might find this morning. I got up at 6:15am and went downstairs to check on Bob.
I walked over to his crate and said, hello. He got right up and came over to me, purring loudly! I hustled into the kitchen and got him some grain-free canned food. I warmed it slightly and put dry chicken treat on top. He lapped at it hungrily! I was SO GLAD to see him eat! He didn't eat as much as I'd like to see, but he probably ate about 1/4 of a can of food, purring the whole time.
Of course, the problem with feeding Bob is ALL the other cats, including MacGruber, circled the pen and reached into it trying to get at Bob's food. I had to put Mac and Blitzen into the bathroom they were so bad! We've found Blitzen in Bob's pen a few times, now, so we can't leave food in there or Blitz will snarf it. Pig!
Of course, Bob doesn't seem to pay any heed to these interruptions. He just licks at his food and purrs, just as Bob did before, like any other day, but this isn't any other day. Bob just survived a very serious surgery and he's HOME. HE'S HOME! HE'S HOME!
WARNING: THERE'S A GRAPHIC PHOTO OF BOB'S STAPLED UP BELLY AT THE END OF THIS POST.
WARNING: THERE'S A GRAPHIC PHOTO OF BOB'S STAPLED UP BELLY AT THE END OF THIS POST.
Bob made it through the first night after the major surgery to remove the right lobe of his liver. It had a 5cm mass on it and it needed to go. Fortunately, Dr. Weisman was able to remove the entire mass, but because the rest of Bob's liver didn't look so great, she had to biopsy a small part of that, as well. She also biopsied some lymph nodes. The pathology will take FIVE DAYS. This means that with the holdiay upon us, I'm guessing I won't know a thing until next week. For now, the goal is to get Bob to perk up, start eating and use his litter pan.
This morning I was told that Bob was not eating. He's on pretty serious pain meds right now and between that and the operation, he must feel like Hell. I offered to come see him and try to get him to eat, since I know all his favorite treats. I figured, if nothing else, I had the dreaded dry food to give him if he wouldn't eat anything good.
I couldn't get up there fast enough, but I admit to being one of the many people who stayed up late the night before to (attempt to) see the Eclipse. It was too cloudy here and though I hoped the stupid clouds would move out of the stupid way, they did not. I watched some of the “show” online, but it felt phony and awful. I went to bed and got a few hours of sleep, but felt hungover when it was time to get up.
Sam wanted to see Bob, too, so we ditched whatever plans we had and grabbed some raw food and treats for Bob. We stopped at the store and I bought a small container of chicken liver. Gross, but yes, Bob LOVES it. I don't give him much of it, but I had to arm myself with everything I could, in case he would eat for me.
We got to VCA Cheshire in the early afternoon. They told us they weren't busy and to come over. Just as we got there a family got ahead of us. They were there to see their dog, so we had to sit and wait for them to stop visiting with the dog so we could see Bob. My blood started to boil. Why they couldn't put Bob in an exam room was beyond me.
The minutes ticked by. After 30 minutes I was about to spit fire. Then, out of nowhere, was Dr. Weisman. She came over and explained what was going on, that it was very busy in the back and that they were going to put us in a room with Bob. At last! As we stood up to walk to the room, I saw through a window in the door to the hall. A tech was holding BOB in her arms!!!!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh, Bob!
I asked for a towel for him so he wouldn't have to sit on the cold steel exam table and she brought out two. Bob seemed like Bob. He didn't look near death's door, but he wasn't very perky, either. We gave him pets and kisses. He started to purr faintly.
Bob has the best purr. I have an audio recording of it that I must figure out how to share one day.
Bob was clearly in pain. He didn't move much and his head was almost always down on his paws. He was wiped out. What did I have done to my boy?
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Get some rest, my sweet boy.
We began putting different food combinations together. We brought out all his treats. He ate nothing. He was fine if I rubbed something against his mouth. He even licked at it a bit, but we thought he throat was hurting from being intubated, along with everything else. He wouldn't eat raw, or dried chicken treats or dried salmon treats. I opened the container of chicken livers. I had no way to chop them up so I washed my hands and just ripped up little bits. I put them right under his nose and he licked a few off my fingers. It wasn't much, but it was something. I tried over and over again, to encourage him to eat something more, but he refused.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. We will be strong for you, Bob and keep those prayers and good wishes comin'!
I didn't want to push him too hard, so I let it be. I washed his face and he purred for me. We pet him and talked to him, told him to get better. I wanted to see his belly, but I didn't want him to exert himself by having to stand up or roll over. I wanted to sit on the floor and hold Bob on my lap until he felt better again.
I ran into the Doctor again. We talked about Bob. She wasn't too worried about him not eating. He's on an IV, so that's good. Her concern is she wants to see Bob perk back up. Have some twinkle in his eyes again, then he can come home-even if he's not eating. That surprised me, but she knows best. Instead of coming home today, our next hope is that he will come home tomorrow NIGHT, at the earliest. She said if we had been through what he had, we would be in tremendous pain and not want to eat, either. On a good note, Bob DID use his litter pan and had a good pee. He wouldn't use their tiny pan, but when they gave him a big one, he went for it and made a big mess, splashing the litter all around! How unlike Bob to make a fussy mess! Maybe he still has some “Bob” left in him?
The tech came to get Bob and I gave him another kiss. She lifted him in her arms and that's when I saw it...his belly. My heart sank. I knew the incision was going to be long, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. My Bob looked like franken-kitty!
I could only think about how badly that incision must HURT and on top of that, what's going on inside his body right now? My poor, sweet boy. I am so sorry I had this done to you, but I know it was your only chance of getting better. To know I made my cat suffer so much...well, it's a very uncomfortable feeling. If I think about it too long, I'll start to beat myself up. I made this choice for him-his one chance. Now he has to heal and show us he can make it and I will do everything I can to help him get there.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Franken-Bob. :-(
All I know is, Bob has survived the surgery, now he has to survive the recovery.
I love you, Bob. I hope you can come home, soon.
Anxiety plays out in my stomach most of the time, but today I could feel it in my chest as my heart beat hard and fast-“thump, thump, thump!” It was time to pack Bob into his cat carrier and drive to Cheshire, the town name I find rather ironic and/or amusing. There we would meet Dr. Weisman at the VCA Cheshire Vet Hospital. As much as I needed to get this meeting to happen, I struggled with wanting to go to bed and stick my head under the covers. I didn't want to know how she felt about Bob's prognosis or whether or not he'd make a good candidate for surgery.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob circa 2008. This is why we love Orange cats!
I was pretty sure, after talking many times to Dr. Larry, that I'd hear: “Well, Bob is a senior with FIV+ and the mass is large and, you know, he probably wouldn't even survive the surgery and maybe it would be best to just send him home to be loved and let him go to The Bridge.”
Dr. Weisman was surprising. She was upbeat and listened, she is quick to understand a situation and she explained things clearly. Bob IS a good candidate for surgery! Yes, he has a liver mass, but his other organs, including his heart and lungs are working normally. His blood test is really quite GOOD, if you don't count the glaringly sky-high ALT value.
She didn't want to do the surgery to prove anything. In fact she said she's not a “hero.” She's not going to go in and try to remove the biggest liver mass ever seen. If it's dangerous, she's not going to do it. She said a few times, she is there to do what is BEST FOR BOB-NOT what is BEST FOR ME, HER, ANYONE. I really admired her for saying that and appreciated it. That's all I want.
She told me she'd open him up, take a look. If he was a mess, full of cancer, she would close him up, send him home to spend his last hours or days or weeks with us. If he wasn't full of cancer, if the mass is on the part of the right lobe (there are THREE lobes on the right of the liver!) she thinks it's on, it would be something she could remove. If it's NOT and too risky to remove she may biopsy it to find out if it's benign.
As it has been since we found out Bob had a liver mass a week ago, there are no firm answers, only the okay to go to the next step. We've reached the place to decide and in the end, there really was no decision to be made. Bob will have a better life without the mass. If it can be removed, we will have that done. If not, we'll at least know what we're dealing with and Bob will have the best, most comfortable end-of-life we can provide for him.
If we did nothing, Bob would slowly decline further and further and die. If we do something, Bob can have quality of life. We did not talk about how much MORE life, but it will be more...
And it's going to cost. It's going to cost a lot of money. Between $3500-4500. Sam and I aren't having Christmas this year due to our lack of finances, but we will find the resources we need to make this happen for Bob. It's not foolishness. It's not "just a cat." It's a living creature who is in pain. If we have the ability to do this for Bob, then we will. Money will never be something that is more important than LIFE. That is just wrong.
At the end of my own life I never want to look back and feel like I didn't do right by my cats because of fear and because of a buck. If I have to go without some things, that's fine. I will still have a roof over my head and food in the panty. It will be okay. It will suck to have to spend this money, but so be it.
Sunday, the foster cats arrive from Georgia. My house is going to be full up with craziness. Monday Bob has surgery and hopefully by Wednesday he will be coming home to recover. It may mean Christmas Eve at the ER Vet. It may mean a sleepless Holiday, but hopefully it may end up meaning, that what I really wanted for Christmas, I have a chance at getting. I just want Bob to be well and to stay with us for as long as he can manage. We're not ready to say goodbye and I think he still has a lot of life left.
Bob Dole proved it to me as we were about to leave the Hospital. We walked past another client who was bringing his Golden Retriever into the waiting room. Bob took one look at the dog and HISSED LOUD!
THAT'S MY BOY!
I know this road. I've walked it more times than I care to recall. It's the moment at which I realize the time I have with one of my cats is coming to an end. The road is full of hopeful moments that will ultimately lead to despair and to the final choice we must make for our cat, one day.
I hate this road more than I can say. It eats at my heart and taxes my reserves. I try to prepare myself, but there is no preparing for death. It comes, as it does for all of us. We either accept it and find peace or fight and have the same end, no matter what.
On Saturday I got Bob's blood test results. His liver function, one test indicated by his ALT, was stratospherically high. A normal value would be 10-100. Bob was at 1240.
Other liver values were also very high, save for his Bilirubin, no it's not a sandwich, it's a blood test. That test result was normal. This is a good thing.
From Cat World, Australia, I found this description of Bilirubin:
Bilirubin: This is a major breakdown product of red blood cells. When red blood cells wear out they are trapped in the spleen and destroyed, releasing bilirubin into the blood. This type of bilirubin is called unconjugated. This bilirubin is transported in the blood to the liver, where it is taken up & conjugated (joined with glycuronic acid). This conjugated form may either be stored in the liver cells or excreted into the bile. Bilirubin levels are increased in cats with liver disease, gallbladder disease or have excessive destruction of red blood cells (known as hemolysis).
What do these numbers mean? See THIS web site for some helpful guidelines.
Then the kicker came today. Bob had an ultrasound done of his heart and abdomen. I thought I was going to be able to sit in during the ultrasound, but Dr. K said it would be quicker if he was on his own. Super Deb assured me she'd be with him and answer any questions. I kept thinking about this and that thing I wanted to make sure he knew, but in the end, nothing I was worried about mattered.
I took Super Deb's dog, Jayne for a walk, instead of twiddling my thumbs in the waiting room. It was freezing cold outside with a bitter wind. I tried to shake off the fear of what I would find out in a few more minutes. I tried to not cry thinking about it. I know as any good cat-parent knows-something is wrong, I just didn't know what it was. I didn't really WANT to know.
When I returned to Dr. Larry's office, grabbed a magazine about celebrities and their fabulous lives and pretended to look at it. I saw Super Deb. She wouldn't make eye contact with me. Then Dr. Larry arrived to start his day. He didn't even look towards the waiting room. Maybe it was not a big deal that he didn't look, but it seemed like no one wanted to even give me a hint as to what was going on.
Sam arrived with Petunia and Nora. He sat next to me, but we didn't speak. It's been a common thread here for a very long time. We only speak when necessary. Something is going on with Sam. I can guess, but he won't talk to me about it. Instead he hides in his office in the basement and plays his guitar. He mumbles this and that. He helps out around the house, in silence. Each day I grow a little more resentful, more angry. I am shut out and alone. I didn't do anything wrong. I can't wait forever for his life to be in a place where he feels like being a partner to me again. I'm still suffering from the car accident, in tremendous pain, but he does nothing. No comforting. No nothing. With all the stress I have about Bob, he only taps my shoulder or brushes my hand. When I need him most, he is the furthest away. I have to ask myself how many more years can this go on? What happened to having joy? Companionship? Even a dear friendship? For so long I have tried to encourage him to trust me, to talk to me, to give him guidance and support, but I am tired of trying.
So, Sam is there, but not there. I am there, but wishing I was somewhere else.
Petunia is getting a dental. One of her molars has a HOLE in it! Was THIS what was causing her to go on a pee-storm throughout the house? Fight with the other cats? Did she also have a urinary tract infection or impacted anal glads? While under anesthesia we'd be finding out. Maybe after all these years, I'd finally have a true end to the inappropriate urination going on in my home.
Nora was there to check her foot. We thought she had ringworm, but turns out she did not. She has some sort of fungal infection on one foot. It hasn't spread. We've treated it and it's getting better. But what about BOB??! Will someone please TELL ME what is GOING ON?
Dr. Larry took a deep breath. That was all he had to do. I knew it was bad news and he was preparing himself to speak.
Bob's heart is normal, which is very good, but...
Fun with ultrasound results.
As you can see, above, the many LONG words that I can't make heads or tails of spell out that Bob has a 5 cm mass present in the right lobe of his liver. It is not possible to tell if it's a cancer or if it's a benign tumor that could be treated or removed surgically.
With FIV+ and being a senior cat, Bob may not be a good candidate for surgery. He may have cancer and if they do the surgery they will open him up, then say they have to put him down. That it would not be fair to wake him up when he will only live a little while longer, anyway. It's a big crap shoot.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob ponders his future (on his new blanket from Jennifer)
Thanks to one of my readers who works with FIV+ and Feline Leukemia positive cats, she told me something shocking:
...for any kitty that has been tested since the beginning of this year with the new IDEXX 3-way test (FIV/FeLV/HW), you cannot trust ANY positive result on the FIV or FeLV component: incredibly high rate of false positives, confirmed by retests with the western blot for FIV or the IFA for FeLV. the true positive rate on retest is the normal, VERY LOW, percentage. (and, of course, the FeLV component only tests for EXPOSURE, and most cats are able to process the virus out of their systems, which is why retesting is imperative. usually, the retest should be done 90-120 days after last exposure, but with the nationwide problems on the new test, we-who-get-the-panicked-calls-to-place-these-cats are advising that cats be retested immediately. (IDEXX does know about the problem, and will admit it to vets; however, tho they've asked for the names and contact info for those who have stats--national rescues, and special-needs sanctuaries--they've never followed up when they were provided with same.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Nicky try to cheer Bob up.
Even though Bob was tested years ago, this is the time to make SURE he is FIV+ because that will effect his ability to get a surgeon to take on his case. Because he was not neutered at an appropriate age, he got FIV. This is my Mother's fault and I will never forgive her for not caring for her cat. His life would have been so much better if he'd been neutered sooner and not left outdoors to get into fights with other territorial males.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen decides to lick Bob's head while Nicky is...Nicky.
I started to cry when I got the news...big, shaky tears. I tried not to cry, but he knew I couldn't hold back. Dr. Larry rubbed my arm and told me about a woman whose dog had the same thing Bob does. That he opened the dog up and saw the mass and called the owner and said he should put the dog down. The mass was too big. The dog would die anyway. She was going through a bad divorce. The dog was all she had. She demanded he cut the mass off-so he took half the liver. The dog lived...another two and a half YEARS. But Bob's not that dog and Bob could have cancer and Bob has FIV+ and he's a senior...blah blah blah...
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen being cute, as usual.
I just wanted to fall over, curl up in a ball and weep. But that won't help Bob get better or live a bit longer, at least.
So I asked a few questions, then left the exam room. The first thing I saw was Moonpie's face! His new owner, as promised, brought Moonie and Patty to meet Dr. Larry now that they are adopted. I couldn't have been happier to see their friendly faces. I took Moonie out of his cat carrier and held him. He sat comfortably in my arms. Both cats meowed furiously at me. I hope they weren't asking me to take them home. I wanted to, but they will be happy in their new home one day. Right now they're doing well, but are still scared. Their new owner says that each day the calm down a bit more and become a bit more cuddly. With three young boys to play with, it's a big change for them. I told her to give it a month and that I'm always there for her whenever she had a question. She told me to come visit them any time. It would be too tempting to sneak them back home with me, but it was really GOOD to see them again.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. My boy, Bob.
We loaded Bob into the car, alongside Nora and drove separately home. I got Bob fed and gave him his liver medicine. He ate well, then went to his heated bed for a nap. It was just like any other day, completely unremarkable, save for the part that I know there may not be many more such unremarkable days ahead.
A month ticked by since we rescued Polly, Cara, Chester and their Mom, Mazie. It's been a constant battle to keep them alive. To date there are been about ten Vet trips, one emergency run late at night. Of the four, Polly has suffered the most and is still struggling to recover fully from the dreaded herpes virus infection she got just days after she was rescued.
Her sister, Cara struggled as well, then started to improve, but now has an added complication of picking up another type of URI that's effecting her breathing. Maria, their foster mama, works so hard to get them to turn the corner; has taken time off from work, gotten her sister to come see the cats during the day so they're fed regularly, but more importantly, that someone is watching out for them.
Chester hasn't been hit too hard, knock wood. His mama, wasn't effected too badly, either, but she has a mature immune system. We expected she would pull through all right.
Each sunrise the kittens see is triumph. It means, they lived through one more day. Each meal is a few more calories to keep them alive and get them to grow stronger. Mazie watches over them, encouraging each one with a lick on the face or a comforting purr.
The difficulties in providing care for these kittens, is partially due to their inability to smell their food. First, it stopped them from nursing and caused Maria to take over syringe feeding them many times a day. Then, it was difficult to get them to lap food off a plate. They just didn't understand how to eat. I suggested Maria elevate their plate and that seemed to help, but before that was done, their bathroom home had to be scrubbed down many times a day.
Litter training was a tough road, too. If they can't smell, they can't know the smell of their mama's elimination. What then would help guide them to the litter pan?
And yes, Maria also has other foster cats to care for, plus her own kitties! How she's doing this without having a nervous breakdown, I don't know. She's a tough cookie, that's for certain.
Then there are the costs. One small vial of antivirals cost $90.00. I've lost count of the Vet visits and we don't get a discount. Fortunately the Vets try to be kind about charging us, but it adds up. We also had thought we were going to get some funds covered from an anonymous donor, but that has fallen through. We're going to have to open up our fundraising and ask for more funding. The costs for their care and future spay/neuter is going to break the bank.
We're still waiting for the day when the kittens look like kittens, instead of sad little urchins. Where their joy is measured in how high they can jump after a toy or how long they can purr.
These little soldiers will march on and we will continue to be there to help them along the way.
Once a year, as the full moon rises and the planets align into a cat-shaped orbit, the scribes of the feline world join together. It's a sacred gathering of secret handshakes and mystical rituals that date back to 1992, when the organization first came into being.
In other words, The 2010 Cat Writers' Association, which was established in 1992, held its' annual Conference in White Plains, New York at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Oh yeah, and there was a full moon.
Prior to the formal Conference starting, many of us got together for the “TNT”-Thursday Night Thing? I have no idea what the last “T” stands for, so you'll have to excuse me for guessing. The goal of TNT is for everyone to help stuff the HUMUNGOUS SWAG BAGS full of cat-centric goodies and to get to know each other. After the bags are stuffed, we get to stuff our faces with pizza. Post stuff-fest, We were asked to form a circle, but no joining hands or animal sacrifice followed. We simply took turns saying a few words about our background, how many cats we had and what sort of books we had published so that everyone could get to know us a bit better. There were quite a few folks in the circle, so we added a second concentric ring to accommodate everyone. Many folks said their bit and moved on to the next, but a few decided to pontificate (that's a big word meaning they were time-hogs/show offs, were inconsiderate since it was pushing 9pm and instead of being naked, perhaps we only needed a tease to know enough. I struggled to fight off the urge to roll my eyes back and scream; NEXT! as loudly as I could.)
The thing that surprised and or scared me was realizing that with the exception of only one person, we had the MOST cats of anyone else-by far.
I hoped we'd get an elevated status within the organization for our cat-population prowess, but maybe these folks knew better than we did- that having so many cats is not necessarily a great idea. (this is written as I fear finding out how many times my cats puked, pooped and peed in the house while I'm away from home.)
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Enter the Swag Bag!
But then there was the swag bags. As I live and breathe, it's like the Christmas I never had, looking into the depths of that black World's Best Cat Litter Bag. Every time I took something out, I'd get a peek at something even better. My imagination ran wild, anticipating how my cats would dive bomb the bag the second I walked it in the door. They'd drag out the catnip laden Hot Cat (awesome!) or wrestle the KONG Kickaroo (love those!) and we got a NEKO Flies wand toy (with the great tagline: “It's swat cats love!”). I can't wait to see how the cats will react once they see it. In addition to the super-schwing-swag-bag, we got eve MORE goodies. I scored some Feliway diffusers (THANK YOU CARRIE!), a cute kitten-sized cat tree (THANK YOU ALLIA ZOBEL! and ARUBACAT) and coupons to buy World's Best Cat Litter at a discount (YEAH, BABY!). ...AND some folks didn't want some of their swag so they gave it to me to give to my foster babies!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Pattycake get first dibs.
Honestly, I could have just gone home with that bag and skipped the Conference, but heck, I had a hotel room booked so might as well stay...oh that and This year I was slated to be a Speaker! The topic was: “Using Analytics to Measure Your Reach.” How boring does this sound? Yeah, pretty boring. In fact, our (Sam was a Co-Presenter with me) presentation was quite perky and charming, but there wasn't much time to get folks excited about it since we were FIRST to go on Friday at 9AM.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. I can't believe Blitzen used this tiny cat scratcher right away!
But now we must change pace. This is the first of two sad parts of my story. We got all set up, the projector ran just fine. Mary, my sister-in-writing, had loaned us her projector as a backup! How great was this? No worries about a failed projector. The Keynote presentations we created were working fine, too.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. MINE! MINE! MINE!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Like Catnip much?
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer, Nora, Petunia and Blitzen are mesmerized by the Neko Flies.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Moonpie grabs it!
But my camera was not doing so well. It showed signs of being under the weather about a week before the Conference. I didn't have time to fool around with it before we left and it was in our room, moments before we were to being that I realized my camera, though it functioned, it only worked when it FELT like doing so. I thought it might be the battery or the fact that my Digital SLR had reached retirement age. Drat! Not having a good camera is like having my arm cut off. Let us take a moment to reflect on the thousands of cute kitten photos that camera has captured for me, as we try not to be pissed off that it's going to cost and arm (and leg) to replace it. But, the show must go on...camera or no.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. No, our Presentation wasn't in an empty room. Folks actually showed up!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. The graphics are ready, the bowels are empty, let the Presentation begin!
The Presentation went well. Sam did the tech stuff, I told the warm fuzzy story. We hit our times well, fielded a few questions and were done! Felt good.
Then I realized I had a “pitch” session with Susan Logan the super-boss of Cat Fancy magazine in 30 minutes. I'd worked so hard on the Presentation, I didn't prepare my pitch, which I hate doing in the first place. If I ever want a shot at writing for a national publication, I better get my act together.
My brain started to fuzz over. I hadn't sleep more than an hour the night before. You know how it goes when you try to sleep in hotel. Some times it just doesn't happen. The thought that I'd become accustom to cats jumping on my face, screaming in the middle of the night and laying all over me as my evening tonic was depressing. Here I was in a king sized bed and no cats and sleep would not come. The real reason I couldn't sleep was this.
So I dragged my sleepy self over to the Editors room. I prayed my mind would begin to fire on at least ONE cylinder. I sat down to speak with Ms. Logan and my mind went blank...
...part two of my adventures at the CWA Conference soon! Will I face plant in from of a respected colleague? Will I WIN an AWARD for..umm...ANYTHING YOU MIGHT BE READING? Will I make a new friend? Get rid of an old one? Will I wear more bling than the ladies from Texas? Will there be an underlying theme of FIRE TRUCKS and loss in this story?
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson
Moonpie (left) and Yodel (right) were born to different mothers, obviously on different dates since Moonie is quite a bit older than Yodel.
That said, I can't get over how much the two look alike!
and they both came from HCCAC in Georgia!
A few days ago there were 16 cats in my home. Adoptions were just non-existant. My first litter of kittens in our Kitten Associates program were STILL not all adopted and they'd been here since early AUGUST. I had to turn down MANY potential adopters for one reason or another. I kept waiting. I tried to have faith it would work out. I decided if I never got an application on Yodel, I wouldn't mind it so much. I've been promising myself one more cat-a long haired tuxedo, one of these days. It wasn't the perfect time, but so what?
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. Candy Corn.
Then reality set in. I would be INSANE to keep ANY more cats at this point. My cats are pooping and peeing all over the house. They're furious. There are too many fosters cats running lose. Pattycake and Moonpie can't find an adopter. They're just too big. I can't confine them to a small bathroom. It was driving them mad. Yodel and Honey B. can't be in their old room because The Halloween Express of four kittens are a bit sniffly. The two groups can't be combined.
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. Candy Corn actin' sassy.
I was just about to pack my bags and run off when a curious thing happened...I got a promising application. I did a Vet check. It was not great. They had taken great care of their dog, but the cat hadn't been vetted since 2008. I was about to write them, off, but I realized I needed to ask why, first. Turns out the adopter had traveled to Europe for business for a long period of time and had asked his father to care for his cat while he was gone. Dad fell in love with the cat and the son felt guilty taking his cat back. This answered the question as to why no Vet reference for the cat.
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. Skittles. Really! I can tell them apart.
We had a good chat. He was VERY interested in feeding his cats a raw diet! He also talked about letting his cats outside, but after a few minutes he realized it was not necessary and he assured me no cat he adopted would be going outside. Yes, he could be giving me lip service, but I felt he was being honest.
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. Three little maniacs all in a row (Skittles is probably crawling up my leg, so he missed being in the shot).
His girlfriend liked Patty and Moonpie and wanted to meet them. They have no animals currently and hope to have a few cats and a dog, eventually. I jumped at the chance to have them meet the crazy cow cats, but he also said he was very interested in the orange tabby cats-Skittles and Candy Corn. I knew Patty and Moonie didn't stand a chance against the 12-week old kittens.
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. Treat.
Yesterday, the couple came over to meet the kitties. They both told me about how they'd had cats for most of their lives. I really had a good feeling about them. They were great with Moonie and Patty but the two cats were "off" and didn't show that well.
Then I opened the door to the foster room and the entire Halloween Express ran towards us. The second the couple entered the room, they were covered with kittens who were purring, pawing for attention, standing on their hind legs and patting one of them on the nose. They wanted to be held, touched, loved. Not one of them was shy. Who wouldn't fall in love with these happy-go-lucky kittens?
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. Trick.
I tried to remind them that any of these kittens would need more attention and care. That Patty and Moonie were ready to go and these kittens still needed more shots (eventually), more de-worming and were still a tiny bit sniffly! They just looked at the kittens and nodded. Whatever I said was going right through them. They were smitten.
I realized it would be wise to give them some time to talk, so I left them with the kittens and went to visit Patty and Moonie. I told them they weren't going to be adopted, but that it was going to be okay. They sat on my bed and looked up at me. It made my heart melt.
As I stood to leave the room, the door opened to the foster room. The couple came out and I asked if they had made a decision. They had. Which two did you want? I figured they would say the orange tabbies, but they surprised me.
They said they would take them ALL.
I blurted out; “You're shittin' me!” before I could stop myself. And they said they couldn't imagine being able to chose two of the four and that they were all too lovely and they had the room for four and wanted to give them all a home.
I just stood there with my mouth open.
©2010 Robin A.F Olson. The happy family before they leave for their new home.
They asked me to hold the cats until Monday, when I'll have finished treating them for ear mites (which they don't have but Dr Larry found ONE dead mite in Skittle's ear so we're being careful). I'll bring them to their new home tomorrow. I barely can tell these kittens apart! They've been here just over ONE WEEK and they're ALL ADOPTED!!
I just can't believe it! The Halloween Express zoomed in the door and right back out! Amazing! And to think...they were a few minutes away from being EUTHANIZED for their sniffles! I shudder to imagine...
I've adopted out a mama (Huggy Mama) and her two offspring together, but that was it. I've never adopted four kittens to one family before, but they've both had over 8 cats so I think it will be all right.
We sat down and did the paperwork. My head was spinning. If these kittens were gone in a day, then it would take a big load off me. I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I would have time to get some work done? Maybe I'd STOP flying off the handle every two seconds? Okay, maybe a pig would fly out of my butt, too...hey, I tried.
But an hour later, the adoptions continued. More kitties found a home...part two coming soon!