Who Knew?

FCJ: The News We've Been Waiting for About CARA

I feel hungover from interrupted sleep, and little of it. I can't imagine how Cara feels in comparison. From the look of her, I'd say she feels a lot worse than I do. The last 24 hours have been difficult.

Yesterday we started fundraising for Cara's Vet Care so we could get funds for her to have an Endoscopy. It's a much needed diagnostic test that we hoped would lead us closer to finding out what's wrong with Cara.

We were very lucky that a compassionate, anonymous person (really a Guardian Angel) came forward and offered to LOAN us enough money to get the test done. It WOULDN'T solve our fundraising problem because we have to pay it back, but at least we could move fast and get the test done. I was able to book her an appointment within an hour of getting help from Cara's Guardian Angel.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, ready to just play and love life just hours before her procedure.

It was a good thing we didn't wait another SECOND longer. We have answers. No more tests needed. It's not good news.

Cara's esophagus is in TERRIBLE shape. It's filled with bloody ulcers. The lining of the esophagus is thickened from being so irritated.

Cara has TWO strictures-which is a closing of the esophagus due to, in Cara's case, either a genetic component or the fact that she had Doxycycline at such an early age (which I didn't know was something that can cause a problem and I need to look into this further). One of the strictures was SO SMALL they could not get the scope into her stomach-how was she getting any food at all?

Cara must be in HORRIFIC PAIN. Think of the worst sore throat you ever had, times 10. Every time you eat it hurts. No wonder Cara was vomiting! The food could barely pass into her stomach, yet she was losing vital nutrients and was SO VERY HUNGRY at the same time!

The options:

Balloon dilation. Just what it sounds like. Under anesthesia, they insert a small balloon into the esophagus and inflate it very carefully. It forces the esophagus open. Then they inject a small amount of steroid into the thickened tissue to get the swelling down.

If they do this, the esophagus can tear, the chest fills with air and you have a VERY SERIOUS LIFE THREATENING situation on your hands, but you HAVE to do something because soon, Cara will not be able to pass ANY FOOD into her stomach.

If the dilation works, then they would want to insert a feeding tube into Cara. It would bypass her esophagus and go right into her stomach. I've heard about feeding tubes and how they can cause more problems than they solve. They can become infected, come out-which results in emergency gastric surgery. Considering Cara's in a room with her family and is a playful kitten, I couldn't imagine doing this to her. I also didn't feel I had the “chops” to provide that level of care without making a deadly mistake. I wanted to talk to Dr. Larry and find out if he could board Cara and provide her care for the two weeks we'd need if we put her on a feeding tube. I needed more time to think, but didn't have the luxury of having any.

I tried to stay calm while the Internist, Dr. K. gave me the news, but inside my heart was breaking. Would Cara ever have a normal life? Would she ever have a home of her own?

The Vet told me that Cara could have a good future, but that there was also a very good chance that the strictures would recur-soon. That the procedure would probably need to be re-done up to 3 times, before the stricture would stop closing up. Cara would have to be on a high calorie, liquid diet during this time.

Cara could also end up having to be on a liquid diet for the rest of her life and face having a stricture issue recur even if we fix her up now. That yes, it will cost money to provide the care, but no where NEAR the cost of the surgery to fix a PRAA, which would have been at least another $5000.00 on top of the money we needed for the balloon dilation, so that was good.

The Vet wanted to know if as a rescue group, if she should proceed with the treatment. She'd do the best she could for us regarding costs, but I could read between the lines of what she was really asking.

My reply was simple: We do NOT EUTHANIZE ANIMALS BECAUSE OF MONEY. She sounded relieved. I gave her the okay to do the dilation, but to hold off on the feeding tube. My hope is to see how we do for a few days. IF we can get Cara comfortable and eating well, she may heal on her own if she survives the dilation.

There are so many IFs. It's very tough to know what's best, but I knew that I'd be risking all sorts of extra trouble inserting a feeding tube. One step at a time...

The Vet called me a short while later. The dilation went VERY well. In fact she said that it just “popped” open and did so well enough that they could re-insert the scope and see into Cara's stomach. She said; “it looked beautiful.” That was a BIG RELIEF.

They kept Cara for about five hours after the procedure. Sam and I picked her up late last night, along with a huge BAG of medications and a two page list of directions for her care.

Sam drove and I ended up holding Cara, swathed in a big towel. She stretched out her front legs across my shoulder and put her head down and closed her eyes. Her front legs were both shaved in a band around half way up her leg. It made her paws look like she was wearing white mittens. Cara felt like a dead weight, which was very unnerving. She just laid on me, barely moving, the entire drive home. This wasn't the bouncy full-of-life kitten I'd seen just a few hours earlier. I felt panicked about my ability to provide the right care for this little sweetheart and her ability to survive the treatment.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, this morning, after endoscopy. Not eating much and obviously feeling dreadful.

We finally have answers to what's been ailing Cara. It's not a PRAA-Persistent Right Aortic Arch. We don't have to travel out-of-state to find a surgeon to save her life. We can do everything we need to do right here, but the problem is-will Cara respond well to treatment or have a life filled with suffering?

We still need to continue to raise funds for Cara's care. Yesterday's procedure came in under the estimate, but Cara will likely need a few more balloon dilations. We're going to cross our fingers and leave our goal as is, for now. In a week if Cara is doing well, we'll lower the goal. We never want to ask for more than we need. Every dollar is sacred.

Thank you to the MANY people who responded right away to help Cara. It makes all the difference to be able to provide care for this much-deserving little darling. If you can't donate any funds, PLEASE DO CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST WTIH YOUR FRIENDS!

If Cara could talk, I bet she'd say; “Thank you for thinking my life is precious and worth fighting for.”

I couldn't agree more.

WELLNESS CAT FOOD VOLUNTARY RECALL

In a statement dated February 28, 2011, Tim Callahan, the CEO of WellPet, makers of Wellness cat food (which I have heartily recommended to many people over the years) has announced a VOLUNTARY RECALL of certain lots of Wellness Canned Cat food and certain lots of the Chicken & Herring flavor.

The cause of the recall is inadequate Thiamine in their product, which can cause, a reversible deficiency that can be treated if caught promptly.

I just called Dr. Larry. He told me that I'd have had to feed this food to my cats for 6 months or so for there to be a problem. The problem is that CARA and her FAMILY have been getting this food for MONTHS-since they were old enough to be weaned! None of them are showing signs of Thiamine Deficiency, but at such a young age, could this have effected them more acutely?

I am very concerned about their health and with them being chronically sick for months...is this something that added to their problems? Is thiamine the only deficiency or is this the tip of the iceberg?

I certainly hope that the good folks at Wellness are being honest. They're recalling ALL their canned food with the certain “best by date,” instead of trying to figure out which flavors of which best by dates are effected.

The lots involved in this voluntary recall are:

Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13

Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with best by date of 10NOV13 and 17NOV13.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The dreaded cans that are part of the recall.

I found that I had a few cans that were effected by the recall. I decided to go back through my bags of recycling and check those cans. The further back I went, the MORE cans I found that were part of the recall. I can only imagine how many, in reality, I fed. I've been buying Wellness by the CASE-and most of those cans are long gone. In the end, I found 18, 12 oz. cans.

I called WellPet at 1-877-227-9587 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement. They answer the phone right away and are very accommodating. Gee, are we surprised? Okay, I'm being mean. They were very nice and will take care of this right away.

That said. I'm sitting here with a big stomach ache, wondering if these kittens have been compromised in some way and no coupon or refund is going to fix that.

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Foster Cat Journal: Weighing In...

I just got back from the Vet. Five days ago Cara weighed 2.lbs 14 oz.-down from 3.00 pounds the week before.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara (with Polly behind her) and I try to juggle getting a photo with snuggling.

TODAY CARA WEIGHS 3 POUNDS, 7 OUNCES. THIS IS A GAIN OF 9 OUNCES IN FIVE DAYS!!!

THIS IS A LOT OF WEIGHT TO GAIN IN SUCH A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME, but Cara was operating on a big deficit. As you recall, her sister is almost five pounds, so Cara has a lot of catching up to do.

Super-Deb was “speechless” when she saw the weight gain as Cara sat quietly on the baby scale. None of us can put a finger on what was the cause of her being able to keep food down.

We're left with one or a combination of different reasons why Cara is keeping her food down:

1. She was de-wormed with MANY different de-wormers. The last two were Panacur and Albon. Maybe one of them did the trick?

2. She was given 13 days of a 2 week regime of hardcore antibiotics, but the day we stopped, she started to eat again. Either she was sickened by the drugs or the drugs helped. That said, she has been vomiting for much longer than 2 weeks and she's been on different antibiotics for the better part of the last two months.

3. Putting her on a simple diet of chicken baby food, slightly watered down to start, then slowly adding a simple grain-free canned to her food. The ratio of baby food to canned is changing until she is on 100% canned food. So far, so good.

4. She's been given some pro-biotics but not enough to make me think that had a lot to do with this weight gain.

5. She was separated from her family so she would not have to compete for food. This allowed her to eat at her own pace, though, initially she still gobbled her food as fast as she could.

6. No one knows this, but I gave Cara one treatment of a homeopathic remedy the day she stopped vomiting. I think it did something amazing for Cara.

So we will never really know for sure, why Cara was so sick, for so long. She is still NOT OUT OF THE WOODS. If she can't keep 100% solid food down, then we have to look into getting an endoscopy and we have to go back to our fears that Cara DOES have PRAA.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly and Chester don't care what Cara weighs as long as they get some good food, too.

Right now I'm simply going to just smile and take comfort in Cara's remarkable improvement and hope the trend continues.

On the Wings of...WTF!

So I didn't buy into (much) of the commercialism of Valentine's Day. I got Sam three cards that were silly. One was “from” the cats. He got me three cards, too, and that was it.

I saw something on the local news the week before about a place in Massachusetts where you could enjoy a nice day trip. I checked the map. It was only a two hour drive. Not bad.

They had a special dinner there over this past weekend, but Cara was sick so we had to miss it. I thought if we went on the actual day, Monday, we'd be around fewer people and have a quieter day. I didn't tell Sam about my plans. Oh God, it was another surprise! Haven't I learned from the past? Where is that Time Machine where the me of the future could have stopped the me of the present?! I figured it wasn't a big deal to take PART of a day off, then race back home in time to feed the cats.

To fully appreciate how desperate we are to get away from home. Last year, Sam and I went on ONE (business) trip to Ohio. We drove. It was 10+hours EACH way. If you subtracted the driving time and the business time, we had a vacation of about 12 hours.

The only other time either of us went anywhere was my trip for 36 hrs to visit my friends in PA and attend the Renaissance Festival.

THAT WAS IT. I did NOT go on a VACATION. I have not gone on a vacation for at least three years and even then it was a botched trip to the west, which ended in me spending $3,000.00 to get my car fixed and being broken down in Des Moines, IA for a week. Before that my last real vacation was...I can't remember. Probably a weekend away to Maine or Rhode Island.

Since finances are “that bad,” an overnight trip is not possible-also because of all the cats. We just can't go away.

I told Sam I had a plan for a partial day off. He liked the idea even if he didn't know where we were going. What trust! After I almost killed him so many years ago, he trusted me to plan something nice to do.

The problem was getting OUT of the house.

We were running late. I wanted to be on the road by 9am and it was already 10am. I wasn't angry. I decided to be mellow and just enjoy whatever happened. We put on our winter coats and hats. We loaded up our maps, a camera, Sam's beloved COFFEE. I was a few steps ahead of Sam, my hand about to touch the doorknob, which was connected to the front door, which was connected to FREEDOM, when I heard “OUCH!!!!!! SONOFABITCH!!!”

I dropped everything, turned around and saw Sam holding his foot. He had stepped on something and it had impaled him. He was not happy, to say the least, as he hopped on one foot over to the stairs to sit down. He was yelling about how whatever it was, went through TWO pairs of socks (I don't have the heat on very high, so Sam always bundles up).

I figured it was a tiny splinter, not a big deal. Sam took off one sock, then the other. I could see something in his foot. He tried to pick it out and cried in pain. I offered to get a tweezers and he nodded yes. I lumbered up the stairs around him, still wearing my winter coat, which made getting around very awkward.

I brought him the tweezers and also ended up kicking him in the back, since I was on the stair above him and to get around and down to hand him the tweezers, my foot hit his shoulder. He ignored the kick, took the tweezers and gave a pull. He cried out again and yelled at me to get the hemostat. The tweezers weren't strong enough!

Firstly, I know those are my best tweezers and they can pluck a rouge chin hair in style. Second, what is a hemostat? So I asked. Sam tersely replied; “you know, a “roach clip!”

I realized what he was talking about, as I ran back up the stairs. He had quite a few of those things in the bathroom. Then, as if i had woken a sleeping bear from hibernation, it dawned on me. After living together for so many years, how did I NOT realize what this was? Then I started to worry! Is my boyfriend a Pothead?

So I lumbered back down stairs and kicked Sam, again, in the back. (it was an accident, I swear!!).

I looked over his shoulder. He had a good grip on the splinter. I asked him if he wanted me to pull it out for him and he said, no. He took a deep breath and dramatically pulled hard. I thought he was overdoing it. Then I saw what came out of his foot. My stomach lurched and I nearly fainted!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The Splinter.

It was a HUGE sliver of wood. Later, Sam was able to determine that it was a piece of the oak FLOOR. Somehow his sock caught the piece, lifted it straight up, then when he put his foot down, WHAM!, right into his foot it went.

I made another trip up and down the stairs to get peroxide and some gauze and yes, another back kick! It was where he was sitting on the steps! Ugh.

I asked him if he could just come upstairs and sit on the bed and I'd bandage him up.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sam holding the “hemostat”...ha ha ha...I mean splinter.

I am my Mother's daughter. After I got the bandage on, I had to take a photo. That piece of wood was enormous and it went well into Sam. Once the worst was over, I said to him; “Hey, we almost made it out the door. Do you want to just go to the movies today?”

He said he wanted to go on the trip. Even though he didn't know where we were going. I told him I was glad it happened to him because I would have been in a really bad mood and ruined the day if it happened to me. Sam had to agree, being a victim to my stormy mood swings. We both laughed and I told him we'd take it easy and could turn back early if needed.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I have a new buddy on my sleeve.

We went to the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. Which appeared to be an old Nursery that must have been converted into a place where butterflies fly around and creep you out because they fly in your face and there are signs everywhere saying not to touch them. Does that include not swatting them if they come after you?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A butterfly, right?

It was about 100 degrees in the place, too. Finally, Sam was warm. I knew he would enjoy thawing out, the poor guy. The place is small and not very fancy, but with so many butterflies, you really don't pay attention to that. There were a handful of people walking around, all with a camera in hand and not enough kids to ruin the mood by screaming or otherwise being kidlike.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh look! Another one!

As we walked the grounds, careful not to squash anything, we enjoyed the dazzling colors of the butterflies. A few landed on us from time to time. The misery of the earlier part of the day wore away. We finally had some peace. No cats. No worries. No splinters. It was really quite pleasant.

Sam needed to rest his foot, so he sat on a bench while I took a few photos now that my camera had stopped fogging up from them temperature change. I noticed a butterfly on the floor, near Sam's bench. It was very still. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it's wings were tattered. Then, I realized it was dead. I really didn't want to see a dead butterfly, but I know they don't live that long. I wished the butterfly well and said “rest in peace” to it. Being mindful that we're not supposed to touch the butterflies, I left it where it lay.

A moment later I was standing near a flowery shrub, about to take a photo. A large blue butterfly, seemed to drop into the bush right in front of me. I could swear I heard a thud. I took a photo of it, but as I put my camera down, I realized what I had just witnessed. This butterfly, too, had just died.

This is when I knew it was TIME TO GO. ENOUGH FUN FOR ONE DAY. I was sweaty and my stomach was grumbling. I knew I was going to swat at a butterfly if one more buzzed too close to my face. Sam's foot hurt.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Somehow there is just ONE butterfly in this panoramic photo, but there were clouds of them flying around in other areas.

We left without further incident, other than me catching a couple with a new baby start to have a fight over the husband not listening to the wife about how to use the camera (yes, the Valetine's Day glow was everywhere). We found a cute mom & pop place to have lunch. It was nothing fancy, but the food was very good. We were the only ones dining, so it was like our own private dining room. The sun was out and the temps went over 50°F for the first time in many weeks.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Another lovely butterfly.

Sadly, as soon as we got there, it seemed it was time to head back. We'd only really had a few hours away from home. With the traffic waiting for us, we needed to get going.

It wasn't a romantic day, but aside from the blood spilled and the dead butterflies, I guess it was a nice day. It gave us a tiny glimmer of life outside our little home, but made us long for more, a longer trip, a longer break. Something that does not include pain, misery or death!

When one of my friends heard about what happened, she asked me; “Can't you guys ever catch a break?”

The answer is simple: NO!

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Amidst the Sadness, a Moment of Pure Bliss

I don't know if the cats realize that Bob is sick with lymphoma. Nor do I know if Bob has become more needy towards us and some of the other cats because he's not feeling well.

Last night Bob climbed into a cat bed next to Nora. She turned on her side and casually rested her back leg over Bob's belly. They napped together for awhile, but every time I get up, Bob follows me to see if he can get another snack (the answer is usually, yes).

But something unusual happened next. Bob went back to the cat bed, which was now empty. A few moments later, Blitzen climbed into the cat bed next to him. Blitzen has NEVER done this before with ANY of the cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob and Blitzen share a snuggle.

Blitzen began to groom Bob's back. Bob settled down, not protesting a bit. I thought about Blitzen getting ringworm, but it's too late to worry about that. Blitzen seemed to want to comfort Bob. He snuggled in close, eventually “spooning” with old Bob. As I watched them cuddle, everything suddenly felt right with the world. Bob didn't have cancer any more and I finally had cats that liked each other enough to sleep cuddled together. Even though the moment didn't last for hours, that it happened at all and I got to see it...well, that's enough for me.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The old man and the new kid in town.

It was also the first time I've seen Bob really close his eyes and sleep in months.

Sweet dreams, boys. Sweet dreams.

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Not on My Watch: Okay, Not on Our Foster Mom's Watch!

With all the craziness going on with Bob, a family full of sick (YES, STILL SICK) kittens and a lovely 4-week-long sinus infection giving me an unGodly headache, the LAST thing I need is to do, well, pretty much anything. I really want to go to bed for the day and just SLEEP.

But, we have some work to do, first.

I got an email from our uber-foster-mom in Georgia a few nights ago about a beautiful cat at Henry County. She's been there for a few weeks. Happily not all their cages are filled to capacity right now, so the cat has had some luck on her side. We know that sooner or later, her luck will run out. Although we don't often have the ability to rescue an adult, we love to make exceptions.

This cat is certainly an exception. Just one look at her and you'll be in love! How could we NOT help her?

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©2010 Henry County Care & Control.

This girl, has the BEST front paw coloring I've ever seen!

Her name is Amelia. Our dear, Bobby, busted her out of the kill shelter an hour ago and got her over to the Vet for a check up. As of this moment she is FREE from a cage and will be starting her new life in foster care, then she'll come to Connecticut where our dear friends at Animals in Distress are going to take her into their shelter and get her a new home (if I don't find her one first!).

Please welcome: Amelia. Kitten Associates FIRST rescue of 2011!

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But wait...there's more coming! We helped save a few MORE kitties! Details about them coming your way soon!

2010: It's Been a Heck of a Year.

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.

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©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.

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©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!

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Just some of the kitties we saved in 2010!

In the four short months Kitten Associates has been running we've already rescued and homed most of the 26 cats and kittens we rescued (we still have a few here not ready to be adopted). We helped home an additional 8 cats by partnering with other groups in the South. We helped pay for vetting and care of, not only our own rescued cats, but Hope, the kitten who was abused by a fish hook and whose rescue group could not afford to pay her Vet bill! We gave her Vet $850 that we raised which paid her bill, in full and was able to pay for other cats who needed Emergency Vet Care, too! By using social media we got the word out on the cats we couldn't take into our Program, but who we felt we needed to help. At LEAST, an additional 24 cats get rescued by other groups or get adopted just because we ASKED for help (we're not sure of an accurate number because once we get the word out, sometimes it gets picked up by thousands of people, so this number could be VERY LOW!) and had YOU to help us in our Mission!

That's a total of 59 CATS who's lives were saved in a few, short months!

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...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!

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Foster Cat Journal: Oh Yeah, The Kittens are Here!

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©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.

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©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...

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©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!

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©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...

Baba-D is IN DA HOUSE!

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)

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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.

Oops.

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.

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©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!

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©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.

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©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!

An Update on My Dear Bob

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!!!!

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©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?

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©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.

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©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.

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©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.

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