Who Knew?

Foster Cat Math Part Two: The Pumpkin Patch Arrives

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©2011 Maria S. Bobette and family etting ready to leave for Connecticut.

I can't believe it's been over a week since the Pumpkin Patch family arrived from Maria's home in Georgia. This time of year, it's always more hectic and I had much to do before this family arrived. Even after picking the family up off the transport, the boys only had an hour break before I packed them up and brought them to my rescue group's Home for the Holidays Adoption Event! (I left mama, Bobette home to rest. She was very cranky with the boys and I thought some alone time would do her good).

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©2011 Maria S. The transport awaits.

The planning and setup for Adoption Events always leaves me knackered. Someday I hope to have volunteers able to help me get these things done. My car isn't very big, but it seems as though there's an endless supply of “stuff” that has to be crammed into it. Things need to be packed, washed, organized, then I have to figure out how many cats there are plus how many crates needed, plus where is this all going to go and how is it going to get to Choice Pet Supply where the event is being held?

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Would you adopt me?

Irene is my right hand woman. She shows up. She helps. She fills up her car with whatever I ask. She jumps in and chats people up and tries to get us a few sales or donations. Sam will load up his car, too and help us get the tough things set up, then he scampers off to work on his own projects. I end up having to design flyers, send out notices to the newspapers-the online ones, the printed ones. Then the flyers have to be hung up around town, if I can get away long enough to do that. There's just an amazing amount of work to be done. Meanwhile, there are cats to care for and all their paperwork to fill out, what vaccination they need, getting them to the vet, vetting potential adopters. No wonder I always seem to be stressed out and feeling like I don't have enough time in the day.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cutie!

We got some applications and I met with folks who had emailed me about stopping by to visit the kittens. It was all going well when all of a sudden, I heard one of the Angel Babies furiously meowing and scratching at the plastic tray bottom of their crate. As I lifted the cover off the back of their cage, my nostrils were violated by a powerfully nauseating smell. Then, I saw it-diarrhea! Ugh.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bananas are good fun.

Irene and I quickly started to clean up the mess. Thankfully the poop wasn't on the bedding in the cage so the cleaning wasn't difficult. The smell, however, was not going away. I had a small litter pan ready to go. It was too soon into the event to offer it to the kittens, or so I thought. If one of the kittens had the runs, I figured I'd better give them the litter pan. Seconds after I placed the pan in the cage, two of the kittens started digging around in the litter. At first I thought they were just bored and playing with it, but after a few minutes it was clear that another kitten had to let it rip-and so he did.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Jakey the sneak-attack biter!

I truly believe that the U.S. Government should use mooshie cat poop smell as chemical warfare. There is no way troops wouldn't be quickly offended by the stank and run for the hills! Did we manage to clear the store? YES! It was great at keeping the crowds down. Just what we needed.

The orange boys did fine. They were bouncing around, having fun. They laid on each other and the three of them started grooming each other. It was so cute that it made everyone forget the lingering stench, as they crowded around the cage, “ooo-ing and ahh-ing.”

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello! This is Teddy or Mikey. I think it's Teddy.

People would ask me questions about the boys, but like the white kitties, I couldn't tell the orange kitties apart (I am starting to a week later, though).

Meanwhile, poor Mazie sat forlornly in her cage. She growled a bit so we covered her up. I bravely stuck my hand into her cage and she started to purr. She forgave me from locking her in a cage by giving me her belly to rub. I felt very guilty about having her at the event, but she's GOT to find a forever home! She's been with us for a YEAR already and she's such an awesome cat!

I was grateful when 4pm came so we could pack up and get home. I wanted to lay down and go to sleep right then and there, but I knew that once we got back I'd have to feed the foster cats, make sure they were all right, then unload the cars and put things away.

I got the cats fed, but after that my body complained to the point where I just had to sit down for awhile. Unloading the cars could wait.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette a few moments after arriving.

I also wanted to spend some time with Bobette and the boys. I didn't have a chance to get to know them that morning, so now was the time.

I let the boys out of their carrier and Bobette looked at them and hissed. She's barely bigger than they are and at certain times I can't tell which one is the kitten and which is the mother. A few of kittens foolishly went over to their mom and she attacked them. I don't think she had her claws out, but the sound she made was one of pure rage. I made sure the boys were fine. They were scared, but ok. I got them all fed. I kept Bobette away from the kittens. I worried that she might attack me, as well, but she seemed relaxed around me or was it because I was feeding her?

What happened on the transport? Bobette was fine with the boys when she left Georgia, but now she was clearly not interested in having them near her at all.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette (far right) screams at her boys to get away.

The boys picked at their food, so did Bobette. They'd been eating dry food, softened with water, and I knew I'd have to break them of the habit; better now than never.

After they ate, the boys ran around. I called Bobette over to me. I was sitting on the bed. She came over and let me pet her. She climbed into my lap and got comfortable. I cautiously petted her. She relaxed until a kitten would come near her. As that happened, she'd alert, then growl. She'd lash out if the kitten dared to ignore her warning. I didn't want to lay there with an angry cat in my lap, but she went right back to relaxing and enjoyed my company. She even rolled over with her belly up in the air. I took a long look at her. She's very much got an Oriental Shorthair body with a classic orange tabby coat. She's long and lean with a wedge shaped head, dainty long legs and a long, delicate tail. I didn't see her limping, that would come later. Right now she was content-if I could just keep the boys away from her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Weeeee!

I'd seen this behavior before, but never so severe. I wondered if I should crate Bobette, but with her painful leg issue, I realized that maybe it was her pain that was making her lash out? I asked Dr. Mixon, one of our Vets, about this and he said it might be typical behavior of the mother pushing the males out of the colony to keep the colony from having inbreeding issues or...well he wasn't sure. Even after almost a week, she's still aggressive towards them.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Da boyz.

The boys are doing well according to Dr. M. Mikey has a broken tail tip. We don't know when or how it happened, but it's already healed. Teddy was all right and Jakey was a nightmare getting his vaccines; what a screamer!

Bobette is another story. I see her jumping with some difficulty. She wants to play, but the boys get in her way and she gets angry. Some times she'll run around the room, clearly having fun, but after a few moments, she starts to limp very badly. Her drive to do more is hampered by what happened to her leg. She was in an accident of some kind and it's badly dislocated her kneecap. Dr. M rated it a 4 out of 4; 4 being the most severe. He feels he can correct the problem with surgery and that the patella (kneecap) shouldn't pop back out. I remembered when we first rescued Bobette that the folks at Henry County said they couldn't get her to eat for four days. Perhaps she'd just been hit by a car? Perhaps that had something to do with her inability to provide for her six kittens? I can't seem to let go that we lost three babies. I want to know why they died so we can prevent that from happening again. I know I'll never know why they're gone, but maybe the trauma their Mother suffered had something to do with it?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Lanky, lean and lovely-Bobette.

The surgery would cost $2500.00. I'm NOT going to ask for donations. What I really need is FOOD, LITTER and some NEW TOYS for this family and for the Angel Babies. I'll be setting up a ChipIn to ask for donations for our Food & Fun Fund soon. I have to wrap my head around what Dr Mixon told me the rescue price would be for the surgery, first.

Anyone want to guess?

He's going to charge us $100.00. That's not a typo. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! When he first told me, I thought I was going to cry. I knew we have no where NEAR $2500.00 in our bank account and I was guessing he'd charge us around $1500.00. When he said, $100.00 I asked him to make sure that's what he wanted and he said to just put the word out about his Practice and help folks get to know him. After the surgery is done early next year, I'll be writing more about Dr. Mixon and his practice. For now, I'm very grateful we have his services to depend on and that when we do have money, it will last us much longer. Dr. Mixon also doesn't charge us an exam fee for rescue cats as long as we don't take advantage of his time. We just keep it to a few hours a month. So far, it's worked great.

Without the burden of a huge Vet bill, I can focus on helping Bobette recover. She'll have to have three weeks of cage rest and three weeks of low activity. Instead of going to AID, which was the original plan, Bobette will have to stay here for awhile, until she's better.

This poor girl; she's barely a year old and what hell she's been through in such a short time. You know me, I'll do whatever I can to help her go from “Meh to MEOW!”

In the meantime, I have about 12 other kitties I need to find forever homes for!

Foster Cat Math: Plus 4, Minus 2, Plus 4 Equals YIKES!

Part One of Two.

It seems as though regardless of when I chose to rescue a cat, when it goes into foster care, what day it's transported or when I pick it up, that everything comes together at the same time, even if the rescues happened weeks apart! It's very tough to figure out when to rescue more cats, with the hope that the foster cats you currently have will be long gone by the time the new fosters arrive.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye Sweet Truffles! You're such a sweetie pie!

After almost three months of foster care here, Amberly's remaining two kittens, Blaze and Truffles were adopted together! They went with a divorced dad and his three kids. What a GREAT family! I really liked them a lot. Dad is into feeding the kitties a raw diet, so I was extra thrilled! The kids were terrific-sweet, nice, cute. I knew they'd all have fun together, but I didn't know if the girls would even be getting adopted until Friday at 5pm when I knew full well that on Saturday at 9am a transport was arriving with Bob's Pumpkin Patch on board! Talk about cutting it CLOSE! If Truffles and Blaze didn't get adopted, I'd be in BIG TROUBLE! I'd have no room for the new arrivals! What would I do?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blazey, you left a big pawprint on my heart, even if you DO have the loudest MEOW ever!

I really lucked out. Blaze and Truffles showed well. Being alone in the room for two weeks helped them blossom. Once the kids started to play with them the kittens forgot to be shy and began ripping around the room, clearly enjoying all the attention. Dad looked on, impressed.

Their new family brought their old dog crate. It was enormous and barely fit up the staircase. I gave each of the girls a kiss, realizing this was “it,” time for another good bye. My heart felt very heavy, but it was mixed with great relief. I only had a few hours to clean up the room. I was already thinking about what I needed to do to get it ready for Bobette and crew. In a way, it made the pain of closing this chapter a lot easier. Another story was about to begin and I needed to get ready. I'd have to cry later.

For the record, Amberly's family was one of my favorites. I loved their story, their crazy coloring, their stunning copper eyes, their big, loving hearts. I'm jealous of their adopters. Each one of these kittens and their mama were superb. Seeing them every day was a great joy and I will always have a place in my heart that belongs to them.

Just before this post went live, I got a note from their adopter. He wrote: “I just wanted to let you know that Blaze and Truffles are doing great...we are all enjoying their company...they are 2 of the sweetest kittens I've ever met. Both are very affectionate but have no problem showing their true colors when they want to play or are letting you know that they are hungry...the poster of Blaze's face must have been taken when she was hungry...she's hilarious. They are acclimating to all areas of the house.”

And all this came to pass because Maria went to a tag sale early one summer morning and found a skinny cat laying in the road in desperate need of help. It's been quite the amazing journey.

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The Angel Babies are here!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Loaded up and headed for Connecticut.

Sure, I adopted out two kittens, but I'd already taken on the four Angel Babies; Vash, Jazz, Justin and Princess. It's been so hectic around here that I didn't even get to let you all know how that's been going.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Jazz (now named, Blizzard).

Sam and I drove to Pennsylvania to meet up with Izzy and her husband, Mark. They rescued six white orphaned kittens when they were just a few days old. I have to hand it to this couple. Somehow they managed to bottle feed six kittens without any of them dying. Amazing! You can read more about their background before the came to my home, HERE.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Princess de Winter relaxes on her new cat tree.

Of the six kittens, two were spoken for, so I agreed to take the remaining four; three are boys and one is a girl. They all have a smudge of gray on their heads. One has a big swash, one has two smaller ones, one has three and the girl has hardly a gray hair. Can I tell them apart after a week? NO!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Justin (now named Snowball) is quite the love bug.

What I can tell about them is the bottle feeding helped them become VERY affectionate and easy to handle. These cats will reach up to me to be held, jump on my back or shoulders, call to me to pick them up. They like to be held like a baby. They love to play. If you ever watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, they're like the BORG. They seem to have one brain and four bodies. The react the same way, at the same time, when I call them to eat or jiggle a toy at them. It's as though their thoughts are controlled by a Mothership somewhere circling overhead.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bizzard is watching for a chance to jump on me.

It's very easy to love these cats. They're simply adorable. I'm shocked to no end that they don't have 20 or 30 adoption applications each, but I barely have any for them and it's been a few weeks since they've been on Petfinder.

I did a test and decided to change their names to something snowy/wintery to see if that would help get the interest up. So far no change, but it's only been a few days. Of course, I couldn't tell the cats apart before and with the name change, so I might as well confuse myself even further. I'm toying with the idea of dying them different colors (hee hee) or perhaps it would be wiser and I'd get fewer nasty comments if I just put a collar on two of them? I need to print out a cheat sheet to hang in their room. I've never had this problem before!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Stretch Princess!

I have a lot of guilt about these kittens. My only place for them is my guest bathroom. The laundry room is attached to the bathroom and I can open the door and give them a very little bit of extra room. The problem is that they can get behind the washer and dryer and next thing I know, they've unhooked the dryer hose from the vent in the wall. This is a problem and very annoying to have to fix.

I did my best to block off their access to that area, but the little turds can get back there no matter what I did. Sam had to re-hook up the dryer. Lucky for me he wasn't too chapped about having to do it and it was a good excuse to attach the new clamp for the dryer hose. It should hold more tightly and be less easy for the cats to disconnect-famous last words.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The DOOD's old cat tree is really coming in handy!

Again, I thought I blocked their access to the dark space behind the washer and dryer. I left the room so they could run around. I was in my bedroom putting laundry away. I heard a funny sound. I heard it again. I heard a small cry. Oh great. I knew what it was.

I went back into the laundry room. I counted heads. One, two, three...three...where is four? I looked between the washer and dryer. There was a big metal divider from a dog crate folded into the space. I pushed it back towards the far wall, thinking the cats could not get behind it. There, hanging by his paws on the divider was Snowball. I looked at him. He looked at me and meowed. I gave him a dirty look, bent down and lifted him up by his shoulders and whispered into his ears; “You dumbass.”

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Um, excuse me?

He didn't seem to mind my name-calling. I put him down and tried yet again to block off the area. If I couldn't manage it, I'd have to keep them in the bathroom, but at six months of age, these are far from tiny kittens and they need room to stretch out. I hated myself for not having a bigger space for them. I really wanted to just let them out, into the rest of the house, but I knew it would start World War III with the rest of my cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blizzard and Princess.

I kept trying and failing, but at least the dryer hose stayed attached. Every time I opened the door to their space, a new pile of stuff they'd gotten into was all over the floor. I store some of the extra towels and bedding I use for foster cats on a high shelf. They would climb onto the shelf and pull everything off it onto the floor. After a while I just gave up. They have a nest on the floor made up of an old comforter and a few throw rugs and it's far from their litter pan. I mention this because one morning I went into their room and somehow they'd taken a towel from the floor and threw it into their litter pan. One of them had explosive diarrhea in the pan, but somehow it was tossed about 3 feet up the wall and all over the wall! Another cat had vomited while up on the countertop. The pile landed on the floor and they all must have run through it, then all over the room!

And no, I did not harm any kitten in any way, though I did re-think what I was doing fostering these nut-jobs!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. They look so innocent...ha ha ha ha ha!

If they weren't so darn CUTE and lovey-dovey, it would have been a lot harder to scrub the walls down at 7:30AM or not be tweaked to realized the bits of paper on the floor were actually cardboard that once belonged to the top of the box the baby scale is stored in. I could see tiny tooth impressions all over the box. One of them must have sat on the box and just gone to town, chomping and chewing the edges of the box. Really, just how bored are these guys?

Tonight I dropped way too much money on an automatic laser pointer thing. You turn it on and it wiggles a laster painter beam all over the place for about 15 minutes, then it shuts off. At least if I couldn't spend hours with the kittens, it would be something I could do for them a few times a day between feeding visits and lovey-dovey visits.

More than anything, I'd like to see these cats get adopted, even if secretly (okay not so secretly now) I would love it if they stayed here (but don't I always say that?). They're so marvelous I know anyone who meets them would love them right away. Wednesday I'm taking them to a photo studio to meet Chris from Greengirlz and to star in a photo shoot! I thought our Holiday Card should have something to do with having a White Christmas, but after what I've seen these cats do, I just wonder how wise it is to take them somewhere with a backdrop they can climb and props they can chew. I'm glad Chris is a Professional Pet Photographer. Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too. They're cats. Professional or not, cats are going to be cats. Good luck with wrangling them, Chris! I'm going to just stand back and watch you work!

I wonder if we should just be happy if we can get a photo of them after they're exhausted from ripping apart the studio? Gee, I sure wish I had a video camera all of a sudden.

Tomorrow...part two...Bobette and Family arrive and with them more questions about Bobette's limping and what we can do to help her. Oh yeah, and I didn't even tell you about MY FIRST SPAY, the companion to MY FIRST NEUTER. That is a fun story. Oh yeah...yikes!

Lessons Learned and a Guilty Confession

The more I work and live with cats, the more I realize how little I know. After years of fostering and having a house full of cats, you'd think I'd be an expert, but today I learned yet another valuable lesson.

At the beginning of my rescue career, I volunteered with a rescue group in southern Connecticut. I did some design work for their events and eventually began to naively foster cats, as well. After all these years, I have no interest in bashing how they do what they do, but I can say that it was very tough to get my foster cats adopted once they came to my home. Now that I have to approve applications for my group, Kitten Associates, I realize how difficult it is to find just the right adopter...but I also don't let my cats languish in foster care for YEARS, which was a common occurrence back in those days.

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©2003 Robin A.F Olson. Gracie with Annabelle, Scooter Pie and Petunia.

My first foster cat was Spencer and he's our CiCH Mascot . When he joined the family, I only had two cats and one had just passed away. On Christmas of 2003 Spencer's adoption was formalized. It was a meaningful adoption because not only did I help rescue this cat, but now he would be mine for the rest of his life.

The next cats I fostered were an abused mama cat and her three newborn kittens. Two of the kittens were confident, playful, easy to love. They got adopted together, but their sister, didn't show well and would run off and hide. I didn't understand at the time that I should have shown her in a small room where she couldn't hide. She was perfectly friendly with me, but in a big room with loud people talking away, no wonder she ran off.

Since applications weren't coming in and I was still quite the sucker for taking in cats, I said I'd just keep her. What the heck. Her Mother wasn't getting any interest because she was an adult already, so I kept her, too. I felt like I didn't have any other options at the time. Their adoption wasn't very meaningful.

Those cats are Gracie and Petunia.

I don't often write about Petunia. She's 8 1/2 years old now and I'm reluctant to admit, is not my favorite cat. She pees around the house some times. She's neurotic. She gets attacked by Spencer, Blitzen and now, even the DOOD. I've taken her to the Vet MANY times; dealt with any health issues as they come up. I spoke with a cat behaviorist. I tried homeopathy. I changed things around in the house so Petunia would have a place where she could feel safe, but I was always bitter about all the fuss I had to make over her when all she did was flip out over the littlest thing, drool on me if I petted her and sneak attack some of the cats while they slept (because they attacked her when she was awake).

Over the years I've come to resent her being here. She just causes trouble. I HATE that I have to admit this and I feel very guilty. I never should have kept her. I didn't have that bond I had with her siblings or her mother. I felt like I got stuck with her and I've been trying to make the best of it ever since.

Even though it was right in front of me, I couldn't see the good things about her; the way she would “talk” to me if I talked to her. she could do some tricks, she loved to play if she could be on her own to do so, she really loved me, but I was indifferent. How cruel I have been.

I considered re-homing her. She wasn't happy here. We weren't happy she was here, but her mother, Gracie, has to be with her. They are far too bonded for me to separate them now. Gracie is skittish and has health issues. Who would want these two cats?

So Sam and I made an concerted effort to be kinder to Petunia and she did respond, but the same group of male cats kept going after her! We would yell, try to break it up, but every night this would go on and the stress on ALL of us was not good.

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©2008 Robin A.F Olson. The girls.

Then I met up with a friend of mine who is also a cat writer. Her name is Wendy Christensen and she's the author of MANY books about cats. She's also an artist and jewelry designer. Her ETSY page is HERE and HERE are illustrations and some of her books.

Wendy told me that she had a similar problem-male cats going after her female. She took her cats to the vet. The vet couldn't find anything wrong. He kept thinking about this seemingly mysterious problem, some might call it Pariah cat, where one cat seemingly for no reason gets picked on by the other cats in the home. After all I've read on the subject, my short comment about that is I'm not sure it's a fair description or even that it exists at all (more on why another time).

He called Wendy and asked her to bring her female cat in to have its' anal glands expressed. He had a theory that if the glands were very full that the cat might give off an offensive odor that made the male cats react to.

Sure enough-the cats glands were full up. He expressed them and the cat stopped getting attacked!

Once I heard that, I knew I had to try it. Now, remember, Petunia is NOT easy to handle. She overreacts to getting her claws trimmed. It would not be easy to get her to the Vet, but it had to be done.

This morning I took 'Tunie to see Dr. Larry. Because I know that a small, dark place helps cats feel safe, I kept Petunia in a covered cat carrier and tried to keep her very quiet until it was exam time.

Dr. Larry and I discussed what was going on. He agreed that anal glands could give off scent that the males went after. He also confirmed something else I'd heard-that cats with urinary tract infections/issues can also emit an odor that other cats can smell. Petunia has had UTI issues, but was currently clear of them. I had to hope, which sounds weird, that her anal glands were full up.

I asked Dr. Larry if we could turn off the overhead lights, then keep Petunia covered during his exam. By the dim light from under the cabinets, Vet tech Amber held Petunia's scruff and Dr. Larry went to work at the other end.

We all kept quiet or just told Petunia it was “okay” and that she was a “good girl.” 'She was fairly relaxed until Dr Larry hit the right anal gland. Petunia started to writhe and screech. I asked Dr. Larry if he could take a break and he replied that once you start, you have to finish. He worked quickly. I couldn't see if he was expressing anything or not. If it did smell badly-which it should, I wouldn't have known. The day before a dog had come into the clinic. He was bitten by a SKUNK and BLASTED by the same! The whole clinic smelled like skunk a day later.

In a few minutes, the procedure was done. Petunia relaxed and Amber and I both petted her and told her she was such a good girl! She reacted so well. Normally she would have been climbing the wals, but this time she was calm. I realized that how I treat her definitely affected how she responded at the Vet. Keeping the lights low; keeping things quiet-that really did wonders.

I couldn't wait to hear the results. Did she or didn't she?

One of Petunia's two anal glands was VERY FULL, but the other was “HUGE.”

Dr. Larry described that normally expressing the anal glands results in a watery brownish discharge. Petunia's was black, thick and tarry-and very difficult to express. It's VERY LIKELY that Petunia has been in quite a bit of pain for a VERY LONG TIME.

On one hand I was thrilled at the news, but on the other hand I felt very guilty and ashamed. My poor cat-all this time I've been thinking she's a royal nuisance and I wished I could just re-home her. I was tired of all the fights and her screaming in the middle of the night. Maybe a lot of what was going on had to do with the fact that she was in PAIN and that she smelled bad to the male cats.

I took the back road home, driving slowly along the river. The sun was brightly shining and I pulled the cover off Petunia's cat carrier and glanced over at her. She didn't make a sound. She rubbed against my finger when I pushed it through an opening on the side of the cat carrier. I told her again what a good girl she was and for the first time in a long time, I believed what I was saying. I felt real affection for her and real hope, too, that maybe, just maybe she was on the road to a better life.

When we got home, instead of running off in a frenzy, she jumped on the sofa and laid down in the sun. I checked on her a few hours later. She was still there. Normally, if she saw me, she'd sit up on alert, ready to run off. This time I could see contentment in her eyes. She was relaxed and happy. I reached out to pet her and she rubbed her head on my hand, again, instead of running off.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Petunia this afternoon.

I sat on the loveseat a few feet away from her. I saw Blitzen come over to her. Normally he'd sniff at her, then do this strange sort of dance where he'd rub his head against the leg of the table, then in a few moments, charge Petunia and corner her somewhere. This time he just sniffed at the air, then seemed to change his mind. He walked away.

I don't know if we've solved the problem. It's way too early to tell and I don't know if the cats are so used to going after Petunia that they'll still do it or if she has other issues we haven't yet discovered.

What I do know is I love my cat and I'm so very sorry. I'm sorry for her pain and her unhappiness. I've always felt she deserved a better home and maybe now she'll have one here.

WE DID IT! Barney & Bella are Safe!

So many people say to me that they wish they could do cat rescue, but just don't have the space or time or funds or the secret power-of-letting-go when the foster cat gets adopted to be able to do it. But you DID just take part in a cat rescue! How does it feel?

Two days ago I posted about Barney & his sister Bella. Barney is a smart cat and somehow figured out he could flush the toilet. In fact, he seems fascinated by the sound, the swirling water, the sheer power of cause and effect. My post could have simply been to point out this cat's quirky talent and leave it at that, but sadly Barney and Bella were facing a trip to the Kill shelter because their mama, who's in the Coast Guard, got transferred to New Orleans and at the last minute, the family member who offered to take the cats, backed out, leaving her in quite the jam.

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Bella and Barney, two VERY LUCKY CATS.

With no resources to help her cats, and a looming deadline to meet, she was faced with the only other option-to relinquish the cats to the local Kill shelter. Thankfully, before she did that she turned to our own Maria's, mama, who lives in Virginia and knows Barney & Bella's owner. Mama-Bobby told her friend that her daughter, Maria did cat rescue and she would ask her for help.

I get calls and emails every day about cats needing help. I wish I could promote each one. Many, you never hear about, but behind-the-scenes I try to help them, as well. When Maria asked if I could post about Barney & Bella I admit that her request gets my attention. She's caring for our Pumpkin Patch family. How can I say no? Toilet-flushing-guru-cat or not, I had to help.

This is what I LOVE about the internet. I did “my part” to help save these cats. I just wrote up a blog post. It took a few hours, getting details right, posting the video, asking all of you to just help me get let everyone in Virginia know, that these cats sure could use some help.

Of all the posts I've written, this one was re-tweeted and shared on Facebook with wild abandon. As I tapped my few connections in Virginia, others tapped their friends and rescue contacts, too. SO MANY PEOPLE shared this information, that what we hoped would happen, DID.

The RIGHT people saw the posts; the people who can do their part of a cat rescue. One woman offered to donate money to cover the costs of Barney & Bella's vetting. She couldn't foster them or adopt, but she did her part. Both kittens are in dire need of being spayed/neutered. They were snap tested for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia. They are negative for both! Maria's mama is going to make sure they get their surgery done on Friday and will keep them at her house to recover for the night. She is doing her part!

Then Kim Harkin posted a plea for help on the Facebook Page for King Street Cats, in Alexandria, VA. They are Alexandria VA's only free-roaming no-kill cat orphanage! 100% volunteer-run and Kim is one of their foster moms. She got the OK to take them into the King's program on Saturday! How did Kim find out about these cats? She said she thought she found the info on the No Kill Ohio Facebook page (I looked but didn't see a post there so we aren't sure who to thank for the post that caught Kim's attention)!

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According to Petfinder, KSC already has 47 cats in their program. Asking them to take on two more is a lot to ask. As a THANK YOU to them, I'm going to share a few photos of their Adoptable cats. Make sure you visit their pages to see more if you live in the Alexandria, VA area and want to add to your kitty-family.

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Meet Harper Lee. What a cutie-patootie!

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This is Midnight. She and her brother, Scamp, a tuxedo, are hoping to find a home together!

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Lenore has been waiting for 8 months to find a home. She's 10 years old, tiny and though initially too stressed to be sweet, her foster home says she's starting to snuggle up. Lenore needs a place where she can blossom. Let's find her that special home.

King Street looks like a great refuge for Barney & Bella until they find their forever home. Since they're be in foster care to start, Barney will have a new toilet to flush!

I wish we could ALL do a BIG GROUP HUG right now! I can't (and won't) take all the credit for this rescue. There are SO MANY POINTS WHERE THIS ALL COULD HAVE FAILED. Their current mom could have just abandoned the cats or given them to the Kill shelter, but she wanted them to have a chance and that good intention was the spark that made everything else start to fall in place. So many of you took some time out of your day to spread the word, some as far away as California offered them a home, another offered to sponsor their Vet care. Maybe many of you thought nothing would come of it, that because you couldn't physically save them, it wasn't enough. But it WAS ENOUGH. This puzzle was pieced together quickly by a bunch of cat-loving strangers. We should ALL jump for joy that together we CAN make amazing things happen. We just have to do our part and be willing to get involved in whatever capacity we can.

Well done, everyone! Well done!

If you want to thank King Street, please LIKE them on Facebook. If you're loaded and want to send them a donation, in honor of Barney & Bella, you can find out how to do that HERE.

TWO DAYS TO SAVE THE TOILET-FLUSHING KITTEN & HIS SISTER!

LOCATION WASHINGTON, D.C./VA Area

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Bella, left and brother Barney, right.

Barney and his sister, Bella, are bright, friendly and sweet cats. They are 10 months old and NOT spayed/neutered yet. The woman they live with is in the Coast Guard and has been transferred to New Orleans. She had a place for the cats to go, locally, but it fell through. We have TWO DAYS to find a rescue to take them or a family to offer to adopt them.

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Barney with a cute smudge of color near his right eye.

 


FLUSH!!!!!

 

Barney is VERY smart. He figured out how to flush the toilet! If you wanted to take a step forward and toilet train him, he's be a great candidate! Sadly, Barney is not smart enough to be able to help get himself out of this terrible predicament---and he faces a sad fate if we can't help him.

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Bella.

I don't have a great deal of information, but what I did get is from a trusted source.

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Barney, looking for a miracle.

 

• The kittens have a $100.00 sponsorship towards their vet care.

• Transport CAN be arranged. There are folks in the area who will drive the cats to you or your NO-KILL Shelter---even out of state!

• SHELTER FOLKS-REALLY... TAKE THESE TWO CATS! THE VIDEO, ALONE, OF BARNEY SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO GET YOU ADOPTERS QUICKLY!!

If you're with a licensed no-kill shelter or are a kind-hearted soul who is looking to adopt, here's the contact information:

Bobby Hansen

504-329-2787

Bobhan91@yahoo.com

PLEASE SHARE, TWEET & CROSS-POST. TIME IS RUNNING OUT! THANK YOU!!!

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No Kitty Left Behind-A Thanksgiving Miracle

In this morning's email was a familiar plea for help from Henry County Care & Control: “Please save even just one.” I knew we were full up, responsible for almost 20 cats, with me being the sole foster home. My heart ached as it always does, looking at the photos of each cat who is desperate to be rescued. I looked at the photos and saw that each of the cats in need were easily adoptable. I tried to think of what I could do to help. I could get the word out and beg for some rescue groups to step up, but it may only help one or two cats when it's all said and done. I'm so frustrated. I hate feeling like there's nothing I can do to help.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Just one of the kitties who needs to be rescued!

I wish they could all get rescued.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, perhaps it's reasonable to wish for a miracle, then not be surprised when one happens. It's a time to reach out to others with open arms, not looking for anything in return. A simple act of generosity, can go a long way to heal hearts and give hope for better days to come.

What I didn't expect was that a miracle would happen today and the size and scope of the miracle, knocked me off my feet.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. ALL THESE KITTIES ARE SAFE!

Samantha “Sam” Shelton opened her arms and the doors to FurKids, Georgia's Largest No-Kill, Cage Free Shelter, in welcome to ALL OF THE CATS FROM HENRY COUNTY. NOT ONE CAT WILL BE LEFT BEHIND. She is, let me say this again, (other than two or so cats that were rescued by another group) CLEANING HENRY COUNTY OUT OF ALL OF THEIR CATS!

THANK YOU, SAM!!!!!!!!

What Sam was able to do is a DREAM of mine. One day I hope I can do the same thing-clean out a shelter and rest for a moment, knowing so many lives don't have to come to a premature and cruel end. I think about Betsy Merchant and Gerri Yoder, and the rest of the staff at HCC&C who work so tirelessly to help save the lives of cats and dogs. They must be jumping for joy right now!

Not only did Sam SAVE the lives of these cats, but she just gave the ones yet to arrive, more time to find a home. If the shelter isn't packed full of cats, then there's hope more will find homes, too. I know that as soon as these cats leave, more will take their places. It's a never ending cycle, but at least, for these cats Thanksgiving came a few days early, but really, just in time.

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If you'd like to tell FurKids “THANK YOU” for what they just did, or get to know more about their programs, “LIKE” them on FaceBook. What would be even BETTER—ADOPT A CAT or DOG from them! You can see a listing of their available cats and dogs HERE.

Oh and please tell them that Robin from Covered in Cat Hair sent you!

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Dark Days-To the Light

Thursday I met the Neurologist. MRI was fine, but he wanted me to take a drug that might make me suicidal!...As if I wasn’t already! I filled the prescription, but figured now wasn’t the time to try taking it.

I borrowed an air mattress from my friend, Erich. The idea was to put the mattress next to the fireplace. Maybe we could keep warm that way? I went to the warming center, as I had done each day prior. I was getting into a routine, making sure we had water for flushing, finding a way to keep sort of clean, getting the cats fed. We had to stop feeding the raw food. The meat was spoiling, even though I filled the fridge with bags of ice. I was able to find a pet food store that was open, so we were okay there. The latest rumors had the power going back on in two more days. We just had to push through.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A cozy, bouncy bed by the fire.

It was a tough day. We HAD to clean ALL the food out of the refrigerator and freezer and take it to a special location to get rid of it. Sam and I hated throwing out good food. We decided to throw out certain things, but others we decided to toss over the deck, into the woods. At least the wild animals would get something to eat.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye food.

I stood on the deck, a deep frown etched across my face, I tossed 10 POUNDS of raw ground meat out into the woods. As Sam and I discarded more food, we both grew more and more upset. Goodbye to the meatloaf leftovers that were going to be used for a second dinner. Goodbye to the big turkey breast we were going to roast and use for a few meals. Goodbye to all that cat food—and all the wonderful frozen goodies we got from Trader Joe’s the day before the storm. We filled up Sam’s car with bags of discarded, spoiling food. What was left; a few bottles of very old champagne I refused to throw away and a container of lemonade. The inside of the fridge looked like someone got murdered inside it. The cat food meat had dripped blood all over the shelves and dripped into the drawers. It was going to be a big chore to get it cleaned ONCE the POWER WAS RESTORED!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Loaded up with spoiled food. Off to the dump.

There was more news about the power restoration. CL&P’s response to the storm damage was slow because they FAILED TO PAY the many utility crews that came up to fix the damage after Hurricane Irene hit! No WONDER repairs were going so slowly! They had to find other utility crews to help out and many were from much further away. Also, the out-of-state crews couldn’t do a THING unless someone from CL&P signed off on what they were going to do, first. They were protecting their ass-big time. I heard of one crew just sitting around for FIVE HOURS while they waited for the CL&P staff to show up—the whole time that crew was getting paid for not working!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Then, more bad news. The news reported that restoration might take until WEDNESDAY, a full TEN DAYS after the storm. At that point I was so worn down I didn’t care. The snow was just about gone. Tree crews were opening up roads. Downtown Newtown had power. Then some districts got power. Everywhere I went people were asking each other if they had power yet. You could tell the “haves” from the “have-nots” by the gleam in their eye and their not-so-train-wrecked-hair. Our road wasn’t even open yet, so I figured it was going to be Wednesday before we were restored.

By Thursday night we were flat out exhausted from constantly having to drive somewhere to get warm, to get water, to get a meal, to charge a phone, to get something to burn in the fireplace. Anne and her family got dinner early, forgetting we were coming over. It was a blessing in disguise because we just wanted to eat and go to bed.

Although we don’t normally go out for dinner, let alone to an expensive restaurant, I told Sam I was desperate to break our miserable routine of eating lousy chinese food and pizza and have something great for dinner. Juice boxes weren’t cutting it any more. We found a place and served delicious seafood. Although we looked like a homeless couple that hit the lottery, as we sipped Pellegrino in the amber-lit room, we were content. I was surprised at how doing something “normal” helped condition my frayed nerves. Sam and I were getting along all right. We went home and inflated the air mattress. The cats loved it. I warned Sam not to leave it unattended. I knew the cats would pee on it. I couldn’t sleep on the mattress. It was really bouncy and I can’t sleep if the room is brightly lit-like by a FIRE. I opted to drag my butt to bed. Sam got the mattress by the fire. I was numb to the routine of sleeping alone in my hat, gloves and layers, so it was fine with me.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Scallops, risotto and broccoli rabe.

Friday morning. Day seven. We got the cats fed. Sam and I were quiet around each other. I was trying to be calm, not freak out over the way the house was getting dirty and that the rugs needed vacuuming. I looked over at the air mattress and noticed a huge dark spot on the down comforter. Pee. I told Sam to put that mattress away and now it’s been soiled. I tried to hold my tongue, because I usually never say; “I told you so!” But I was worn down so I blurted it out, then added now we'd have to buy a NEW air mattress for Erich! Great! I was so angry. I was not paying for this error! I’d priced air mattresses before we found one to borrow and they were well into the hundreds of dollars! Just what we needed—more headaches.

We drove to the Library since they were open again and had wifi, too. I went online and curtly told Sam I found a replacement mattress and all he had to do was order it. Thankfully it was the exact same one that was ruined and it cost under $100. One problem solved, but the problem of our inability to get along, remained.

I really wanted to write my blog, but I just couldn’t concentrate. It was too awkward to write on my iPad, so I took out pen and paper and scribbled some thoughts down as best I could. I was so wiped out. I really needed to do laundry and get clean again. The local laundromat was going to open soon, so that was great news. My dear friend, Connie called me and she had power restored. She lives a mile from my house, but every time she has power, we lose it and vice versa, so we must be on a different grid. She said we could shower at her house and watch TV. I was happy to imagine I could be clean soon. For someone who watches as much TV as I do, that was something I wasn’t missing.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I love you guys from Ameren, Missouri!

It was another sunny day. I was so grateful for that. The sun felt good on my face. Sam and I packed up to go to Connie’s house. We decided to check to see if our road was open yet. To our surprise we saw three utility trucks from Ameren, a power company based in MISSOURI! I should have asked them when they were going to be done, but I was so shocked and happy to see them that I just smiled and waved as we passed by. I figured we wouldn’t get power for another day, which was well ahead of the Wednesday deadline, yet I’d been so disappointed with everything else that I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

We got to Connie’s and visited with her kitties, a few of them were cats I rescued from the south. It was good to see them again, but weird to be there without Connie around.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

We took showers and were getting the wifi working when my phone rang. It was my neighbor, Dawn. She said she wasn’t home, but that a neighbor called her and said the POWER HAD BEEN RESTORED!

What? You’re kidding?!!

Sam and I stopped what we were doing and got packed up and out of Connie’s house in a flash. I was bouncing in my seat in the car. Sam couldn’t drive fast enough. It was still light out so it was tough to see if any electric lights were on. We’d been crushed days before because we drove home and saw lights on in the homes just a few doors down from ours, but our lights were still out.

As Sam pulled down the driveway, I saw lights on in the house!

As I opened the front door, I felt WARM kiss of heat on my cheeks. The heat was ON! The cats were milling around excitedly. They knew something was going on, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Crews picking up tree debris down the road from our house.

We turned off unneeded lights, turned up the heat, then got straight to work cleaning. We each chose chores to do. Sam started on cleaning the fridge. I said I’d join him after I did a few other things. I scrubbed the toilets, started doing a ton of laundry, vacuumed, took down all the candles and cleaned up the fallen bits of wax. I closed the doors to the fireplace, making certain to close the flue. We got the dishwasher started. I put away all the paper plates and cups and warmed up some food for the cats. I was so very happy to be cleaning! Yes me, happy, CLEANING!

It took a few HOURS to scrub down the fridge. Sam and I worked together. While we were cleaning, Sam said he could fix a few things. He asked if I wanted him to take the ice maker out of the inside of the freezer. I never had it hooked up to the water line because I didn’t want to hear the device running all night. It just took up space. I had no idea you could remove it! Sam removed a few screws and the unit popped right out. Without it we added a lot of freezer space. Once we cleaned the inside, we pulled the fridge away from the wall. I vacuumed it out, then mopped the floor. We wiped down the outside of the fridge and restacked cans of cat food on the top of it.

Sam stood with the door open to the refrigerator compartment. Even though the thing was old, it looked like it has a new lease on life. Sam was clearly admiring his work. He remarked he didn’t want to put anything back inside it again. I agreed that I never wanted to overload it again as we had before. I wanted to use what we bought and not buy so much we don’t know or use what we have. We went back to Trader Joe’s and did a modest amount of shopping. We got some milk and butter and juice and eggs. Even with all that the fridge still looked empty. That’s fine by me. We don’t need so much.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Pretty!

The cable was out for another two days. It came back on just in time for the good Sunday night shows on HBO and Showtime. Our wireless wifi was working, but I had no interest in turning on my computer—gone was my addiction to checking Facebook every 10 seconds. I dragged my feet. I didn't want to be hooked on technology's teat any more.

I was shell shocked and still very tired. I had liked the quiet evenings, just reading by the fire. I liked something about not having all these electronic devices to cling to. If we’d had heat and running water it would have been a vacation of sorts, well, I guess as about close to a vacation as I’m going to get any time soon.

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The power’s been on for ten days now. I’m not wearing a hat inside my house, just a sweater over my clothes. The cats just ate some newly prepared raw food for dinner. I had a cup of very fine tea this morning. Sam and I are not getting along very well and my engagement ring is back in its’ box, this time stored in Sam’s underwear drawer. I don’t even know if he realizes it’s there. I didn’t know what to do with it, but I thought we better table the idea of ever getting married. It seems the power went out of our relationship and I don’t know when it will be restored.

It’s difficult to write about my relationship going sour. I try not to color it by my own perspective. I know I’m not easy to live with and have a bad temper. I think I should be a crazy cat lady and not live with other humans. Maybe I’m a feral human? Maybe I was driven to it by the stress I’ve been under for the past few years? I can’t say for sure, but when the power went out, it felt like a final straw. I can’t live the way I lived before. I don’t know what’s next. I was glad to have a break from having to worry about paying the mortgage even though it meant I was freezing cold and dirty and subsisting on fruit cups.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer caught a mild cold, but is doing well today.

I'll never forget that awful week without power thanks to Winter Storm Alfred and CL&Ps flaccid response to repairing the power outage and foolish power grid that has our power lines be ABOVE ground (ridiculous!-the lines in my neighborhood are buried).

I hope, in time, I’ll figure out ways to be better prepared for the next storm; including the one that twists inside my heart. It makes me sad that Sam and I sweat the small stuff and it gets to us as it does. I wish we knew how to laugh in the face of adversity or at least hold each other through the worst of it—but even the mighty oak falls if the winds are just right.

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Dark Days-Days Two to Four

The next morning I woke up, covered in cats. I didn’t sleep well. It was difficult to move under the covers with all the extra clothes I was wearing. I kept getting caught up in the sheets. The cats pinned my legs down. Some time during the night I had yanked off my hat, desperate to be more comfortable. My head got so cold I had the bedding up over my head. I had weird dreams when I did sleep. Though I would have been woken up by the power coming back on, I still hoped that maybe I slept through it and it was already working. No. It was too quiet.

I couldn’t see my breath, but it was very cold in the bedroom. I looked at the thermometer on Sam’s battery powered clock. It read 48°F. I realized I needed to pee. I didn’t want to get out from under the covers. “This is why they had bed pans back in the day,” I thought to myself.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitz and the DOOD investigating a bucket of snow I was trying to melt in the sun so I could use the water for flushing, later.

I normally don’t write (too much) about sitting on a toilet, but I have to include the detail that sitting down on the toilet was like sitting on an iceberg. I shivered as I peed and I thought about trying not to do anything else into the toilet. Then I started to wonder how I was going to get along. I’m not a camper. My idea of “roughing it” is staying in a hotel with no room service. After I peed, I wanted to wash my hands, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have baby wipes, but I did have bleach wipes so I reluctantly used one of those. I could feel all the moisture in my skin start to evaporate from the chemicals, but my hands were clean.

But what about the rest of my body, how was I going to clean that?

I got some paper towels and thankfully we had bottled water. I washed myself with the cold water in the cold house…oh it was terrible. I certainly was inspired to get dressed, and quickly. I left my hair in an ever increasingly awful looking braid. At least it got my hair out of the way. I kept my cat hat on while I changed into fresh clothes. I was glad I’d done laundry recently, but knew I’d have to wear a few things for a few days in a row to make the most of what I had. No. Undies are always clean! That is not a compromise I’m going to make.

Getting something to eat was also going to be a problem. I couldn’t heat anything and I did not want to even OPEN the refrigerator, as keeping the contents cold was vital. I feed my cats a raw meat diet and there was hundreds of dollars of meat in the fridge that was starting to spoil. If I was going to open that door, I had to plan what I was going to grab beforehand to minimize the air loss. I got some juice, some butter to add to some bread and the raw food. I would have to serve it cold, but it was still good. The poor foster kittens would have to eat cold canned food. I usually warm it in the microwave. Yes, they’re spoiled I suppose, but eating COLD food in a COLD room just seemed like another slight in an otherwise lousy existence.

I had some juice and bread and butter. Even though I probably could have sorted out something better to eat I was in this sort of trance, maybe I was shell-shocked from what was going on? I found that I was just subsisting, alive but not living. It bothered me that the power going out would effect me so badly.

I kept thinking about what I was going to do. Everything seemed to take a lot longer to do-even simple things like keeping things clean. I couldn’t use any dishes because they couldn’t be cleaned and the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes. We’d have to feed the cats on paper plates and it would be a good idea if we had a supply of paper plates, plastic utensils and more paper towels and paper cups so we wouldn’t have to wash anything. I started devising a plan of action. It made me feel a bit better.

Sam and I weren’t talking. No surprise. He did, however run his car up and down the driveway a few times, which packed the snow down enough so I could probably get out. The roads were getting plowed, but there were reports that many roads were blocked by downed trees. The outage report on CL&Ps web site was still showing Newtown was 99% out. Why wasn’t anything improving? Surely if we didn’t have power, someone did, but our neighbors in Monroe, Bethel and Brookfield were just as bad off.

I put together a list. I tried to think of things that didn’t need to be warmed that we could eat. I could have just gotten things for myself, but I didn’t want to make the situation worse. I’d make sure I had enough for Sam.

Sam left home to take shelter at a client’s office where he was going to work for the day. They had light and heat and all that good stuff. It was about 20 miles away. I got to suck it up at home.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Proceed with caution!

I left shortly after he did and was just able to get out of the driveway. My first stop was to try to get gas. There was nothing in town that was open. I knew there was a little known gas station in a nearby town, so I decided to try that first, but getting there was going to be difficult. I couldn’t even get down my street. It was blocked by fallen trees and downed wires. Thankfully we have a second road that gets us out of our neighborhood. I shudder to think what would have become of us if we hadn’t been able to get out at all.

A large sycamore was leaning over the road that was the alternate way to get out of the neighborhood; looking like it was going to crash onto the next car that drove under it. It was just a matter of time before we were trapped in the neighborhood.

The state road near my home was open, but as I drove along it looked like a war zone. The carcasses of dead trees, recently cut up and partly shoved off the road and onto the shoulder, were everywhere. Some trees leaned on the power poles or onto the wires. There were no signs warning drivers. Clearly there wasn’t time to mark every dangerous area. I had to go very slowly and be ready to stop the car at any second to drive around debris or turn around and try taking another road to get to my destination. I tried to remember if it was safe to drive over a downed power line if there was power in the line. Rubber tires? Was that safe? Better not take a chance.

I felt such dread. All those lovely trees broken and bent, the shock of white jagged splintered limbs everywhere I looked. I told myself that if the Lone Oak was gone that it would be too much to bear. In Newtown, we lay claim to the second largest oak tree in the state. It’s about 19 feet in diameter and has marvelous twisted, gnarled branches; a perfect “Halloween” shaped tree. It’s on Lone Oak Road, so aptly named. I drove past the street and looked for the tree. To my relief, it was still there, but a much smaller tree next to it had fallen over. I felt bad about the small tree, but also gained flicker of hope, seeing that grand tree still standing.

I had to drive under power lines and fallen trees, but I got to the gas station. There were a line of cars waiting but I didn’t have to wait too long, maybe 15 minutes or so. They were out of the grade of gas I wanted, but they had gas so I filled up. As I left I saw a line stretching out down the road. I must have just gotten there in time. I felt a bit like a warrior. I was able to provide something for myself.

I was fairly sure the grocery store nearby was open, too. Turns out it was. I assumed the shelves would be bare, but I wasn’t going to buy anything to cook, anyway. I was just hoping for some baby wipes and things like applesauce and paper towels. I knew they had 7-day burning shrine candles and I wanted to load up on those, too.

What really shocked me was how EMPTY the store was-not of products but of people! Where were the people? There were plenty of items and I had no problem filling up my cart with what I needed. I didn’t take every last one of something, but I did take enough so we had at least enough for the next few days. I was sure the power would be back on soon, right?

It was so nice, so normal to walk around the store. The lights were bright. The happy-buy-something-music was playing on the loudspeakers. I was WARM. It was like nothing bad had happened. We were all going to be fine as long as I didn’t leave the store. Maybe I could sleep in the produce section if I brought my own sleeping bag?

I was STARVING. Where could I get some nice WARM food?

I decided to go on a little expedition; suss out what was open and what was closed. I drove no further than a mile and the power was out and the traffic backed up because the traffic lights were out. The place I wanted to have breakfast at was closed. I know this sounds like I’m a big baby and I guess I am, but I really like to have an egg for breakfast every morning. It’s just a thing I do for myself. I change it up every day-add different ingredients; make it fun. I needed my egg sandwich. Boohoo! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d lost and when I could get it back again.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. If I saw the person driving this van I might have smacked him/her. Yeah, this is our power company-not at work.

I drove further and found a shopping center that was open. They had a..dare I say..McDonald’s. It’s a place I usually avoid like the plague. I would almost rather not eat than eat there, but these were tough times. Nothing else was open in the area. Fortunately, I had cash because that’s all they were taking. The place was packed. I couldn’t get breakfast. It was too late. I didn’t know when I was going to eat again so I got two hamburgers and wolfed them down sitting in my car. The restaurant was warm, but it was crowded and seemed dirty. Eating in my car wasn’t much better, but at least I was away from all those people. It was a dreadful experience. I really wanted a hot cup of tea, but had no idea where to even get one. No. Don’t suggest McDonald’s. That is not tea, even if they have it.

I had heard our town was opening a “warming center” where we could get wifi and to, no surprise, get warm, so I decided to head over there after I went home and unloaded the groceries. By the time I got home I had a terrible stomach ache from the crummy hamburgers. The last thing I needed was to have the runs when I can’t flush the toilet. Nice, right? What could I do? I did what I had to do, then walked to the kitchen, lifted the 40 pound water jug and poured some water into a bucket. I poured the water into the toilet and tried to flush. It didn’t do a great job, but it made using it again tolerable. All the lifting made me cramp up again. I’d have to go easy on the water or I’d be out soon…but it was too late for that and within a few minutes I used up all the flushing water.

The town also opened up a place to get more water (thank GOD), since most of us are on well water and with no power, the pumps don’t work) so I drove over to the fire department. I brought them a box of donuts as a thank you that were not very well received. I don’t know why the fireman was short with me. He took the box and walked off saying a curt; “thanks.” I was just trying to be friendly.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

A few minutes later I saw him eating a donut as I began filling up my used water cooler bottles. The guy finished eating and came back over to help me lift the filled containers into my car. He was probably having a bad day, too. He said something about being up for 2 days straight due to all the calls they were getting. I felt bad for him.

I was very proud of myself for rigging up a way to keep the water from spilling all over the inside of my car after I filled up the containers. I used a cut up gallon ziplock bag and some big rubber bands. It worked out all right. See? I can take care of things. I’m driving to get water to flush the toilet! The amount of water I have teeter-tottering on the floor behind the front seats will let me flush TWO TIMES. That’s it. What a pain in the neck. How am I going to have time to get anything “normal” done?

I got to the warming center. The second I walked in the door of our new Town Hall I finally felt like all the taxes I pay went to something worthwhile. The building was large, well lit, clean. They let us use a chamber room for doing computing stuff. It was warm, so warm my face turned bright red. I guess I looked like a drunk, but I was warm and the wifi worked well. My stomach was still acting up, but this time I got to use the bathroom at the Town Hall. It was SO NICE, so CLEAN. Just to flush the toilet and WASH MY HANDS in water…WARM WATER was pure delight. In that moment I was revived, but the feeling wasn’t long lasting, especially after I took at look at my reflection in the mirror. I looked ghastly. My skin is already pale, but I was blue. My hair was a mess from wearing my cat-head-shaped hat. I had rings under my eyes. My layered frenzy of clothes made me look like I was homeless.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Council Chambers/Warming Room.

Because I’m a graphic designer, I have a big workstation instead of a laptop. ALL my projects, my blog posts, my photos are on that computer. There was NO WAY I could access any of the data, unless I lugged a 50 pound machine to the Town Hall. I don’t HAVE a laptop, but I do have an iPad. It wasn’t easy, but I got some of my email to work and went online to find out what was going on. Our First Selectman, Pat Llyodra came into the room to see how everyone was doing. Hoa Nguyen, a reporter from the Newtown Patch, brought us some pizza! She did it “just because.” Another lady came in with homemade cookies. It wasn’t a big deal to them, but it was a big deal to us.

Thankfully, the sun was out and because my house is “passive solar,” it faces due south in the winter. The large windows at the front of the house allow the sun to warm the place up. At least I didn’t feel guilty leaving the cats alone during part of the day. They’d be somewhat comfortable, but those same windows would let all the heat out when the sun went down. Now that I had baked myself to a crisp at the “broiling” center, I decided to go home and try to get something, anything done.

I cleaned a chunk of my office, which is in terrible disarray. It’s a small room that competes as where I run both my design business and my non-profit cat rescue from. There’s not enough space for file folders, computer do-dads, samples and books, so things get piled up. I only see the top of my desk bi-annually. I managed to find my Cheshire Cat tote bag which I thought I lost two years ago. I found more places the cats peed and got it cleaned up. I threw out a lot of stuff and organized other things. Maybe if I could keep this up I could get a lot of cleaning done? Then I realized I could only do so much without having water or light.

The sun was going down. Sam called and said he was coming home, but that the roads were a mess and it took him nearly two hours to drive a normally 20 minute route. Part of me wished he would not come home, but I was lonely and scared. I kept wondering when the power was going to come back on. I kept checking my iPhone to see if CL&P was restoring power to Newtown. It was not. Other towns were being helped, but we were not on the list yet. Time seemed to pass twice as slowly. When was this going to be over?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Spencer by the fire.

We got the cats fed. I found an old down comforter and made a bed up for the foster cats to snuggle into. I built a fire in our crummy fireplace. It doesn’t heat the house unless you sit IN the fire, but it gave off a little warmth and helped light up the room. I noticed a few of the cats sitting near the fire, something they’ve never been interested in doing. I put down a blanket for them so they could sit close. Of course they fought over who got to sit where, but in time they worked it out. I brought many candleholders out and lit candles. There was just barely enough light to read by. I sat and shivered under a blanket on the sofa and tried to read. There was nothing much else to do.

Most of the stores and restaurants in town were closed. Getting dinner was not a simple task. Sam offered to get Chinese food again and this time I said OK. The misery of the situation forced us to get along. We were polite and courteous, but Sam’s side of the bed remained empty each night. I knew we’d both have been a lot warmer if we could have shared our body heat at night. At least I had the cats with me.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Glad I had candles, at least.

By Tuesday I was a miserable wreck. I was crying from not knowing when this nightmare was going to be over. I was tired of being cold, of not being able to wash my hair or myself, of lugging gallons of water to flush, and never feeling clean enough. I was tired of not getting along with Sam. He came over to me and gave me a hug. I told him I couldn’t take it any more and began to sob.

I decided to book a few nights at a hotel. I figured even if I could just get one or two nights sleep in a warm bed and have a shower and good meal, I could stick it out until the power was restored. Sam thought it was a good idea.

I used my iPhone to look up hotels, while wearing my highest magnification glasses so I could see the screen clearly. To my dismay, I discovered most of the local hotels were not open. There was a Hilton Garden Inn in Danbury that said they didn’t have power on their web site, but I was able to find they did have a location about 25 miles away that might have a vacancy. I called the Hilton Reservations number and they said they could book me at the Danbury location for two nights starting the next night. I asked them if they were certain the place was open and they said it would be open the next day. I was THRILLED!!! I could get through anything now!

Sam left for his client’s office and I was left to figure out what to do. I decided I was going to wash my hair. It was filthy. I couldn’t wait until the next night to shower. The town had a place open where I could get a shower, but they only had TWO shower stalls for the entire town to use, you only got 5 minutes (not really a big deal), but GOD KNOWS WHO took a shower before you did! I’m sorry, but I guess I’d rather have a cold makeshift shower at home.

Again, every little thing required planning. I knew we were getting a delivery of water in another day so I felt okay about using some of our resources. I got out a watering can. Looking at it made me sad. We used to use it to rinse Bob off when we gave him a bath to soothe his ringworm and here I was going to use it on myself.

I took the tops off a few bottles of water and set them aside. I filled up the watering can, then put a sauce pan in the sink to catch the water I used to get my hair wet. I figured I could use the water again since I only wet my hair with it. I built a fire in the fireplace so I could be warm after washing my hair. I removed most of the layers I was wearing until I had a men’s cotton undershirt left. It was so cold. I had to move quickly.

I wrapped a towel around my shoulders and bent over the sink. I poured some water onto my head, being careful that the water would fall into the saucepan. It was bloody cold! It felt like metal ice picks shoved into my brain! It was too late now. I had to finish what I started. I lathered up as best I could, then rinsed off my hair. I could feel my hair knotting up into a rat’s nest. I sprayed conditioner onto my hair and tried to smooth it out. I was shivering and shaking. At that point I was glad to be cleaner, but felt annoyed that my hair was a tangled wreck.

I ran over to sit by the fire, which was a small relief. I thought about how the next morning I’d be washing my hair in a nice HOT shower at the hotel. I could get through this. I just had to hang on. Some of the cats sat near me. They kept giving me this weird look. Clearly then were confused and cold and wanted this to be over, too. I tried to soothe them as best I could.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A huge tent goes up. A line of porto-potties forms. It's the staging area for ALL the out-of-state utility workers!

The next day and a half was more of the same. More being cold, more not eating much, more being frustrated and now I was feeling more dirty. I just couldn’t get clean. I was feeling more and more desperate. I wanted my life back. I wanted a hot cup of tea, but most places were still closed and though Newtown had been declared as a staging area for the arriving out-of-state power company repair guys, we weren’t getting our lights on any faster. There were rumors the power would be on by midnight Saturday. Saturday? That would mean a WEEK without power! Oh GOD!

I started using the bathroom at the Town Hall for “certain” things. Try re-regulating your body’s digestive system timing. Yeah..not easy. At least I could avoid having to carry heavy containers of water up and down the stairs for constant flushing.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

The major news networks showed up at the warming center. Brian Williams of NBC did a report. We were featured on CNN, Fox and all the big local networks. Apparently, our little town was “ground zero” for the worst damage in the state and that was one of the reasons restoring the power was taking so long. I never, in a million years, thought I’d be living in a place that might qualify for having FEMA show up. I’m usually the person that sends in a donation to the Red Cross to help others and now I was the one getting MRE (meals ready-to-eat) and trying to figure out how to put my life back in order. It was very humbling.

Wednesday afternoon I packed my bags. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. That morning I called the local number and the lines were busy. Sam called, too. Sam problem. We figured everyone was trying to get a hotel and we patted ourselves on the back for calling when we did. I called the main reservation line at Hilton. They said the hotel was on a generator and not to worry about it!

Thursday morning I was scheduled to talk to my neurologist about the results of an MRI of my brain. I was in a car accident almost a year ago and have suffered chronic headaches ever since. It was not an appointment I was going to miss and their offices had just opened back up. I figured I would go to the Doctor directly from the hotel and Sam would take his car, separately, and drive straight home to get the cats fed.

We drove to the Hilton. It was dark on the highway. I was in the lead. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. It was going to cost about $400.00 for two nights, but I didn’t care at that point. As I got closer to the hotel, I saw the nearby strip mall had lights. Good sign. I thought I could see the hotel from the road, but maybe it was further down the road than I remembered?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I catch a glimpse of a convoy of utility trucks. Wish they were headed to my house.

I took the exit off the highway and headed for the Hilton, passing the strip mall. In the darkness, I could make out a sign; “Hilton Garden Inn” and an arrow to the right. I could barely make out that there WAS a hotel there! Not a light was on. There were no cars in the parking lot. My heart sank, then a rage like I have never known, started to boil my blood. I was so angry I wanted to SCREAM, but there was NO ONE TO SCREAM AT!

They booked me into a hotel that was CLOSED.

I knew I’d be hard pressed to find ANY open hotel room within a reasonable distance from my home. I couldn’t go too far. I had to be able to care for the cats. This was NOT RIGHT, NOT FAIR, A CRUEL JOKE! I was so upset I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Sam pulled up his car alongside mine and rolled down his window. I started ranting and raving. Sam knew better than to say much to me. I got back into my car and called Hilton’s Reservation line. Some person from India told me she was sorry, but “what was she supposed to do about it?” I told her to FIND ME A ROOM. She said none were available unless I wanted to drive another hour to Newburgh, NY or go to LONG ISLAND, which is easily 2 hours or more away. I told her they must hold rooms for special guests and that she owed it to me to GIVE ME A ROOM for causing me so much inconvenience. She said she couldn’t make one magically appear and that she was sorry and that she didn’t have anything and there were no rooms at their partner locations. I don’t normally ever talk rudely to anyone, but this time I let her have it.

She didn’t back down. She just asked me if I wanted to cancel my reservation. ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME??? What do you think? They had a hold on my credit card. They were willing to take my money for a phony reservation. So I had to WAIT for her to cancel my reservation while I waited for my head to explode. Then she had the nerve to ask me; “Is there anything else I can do for you this evening?” I told her you’ve f-d me over enough for one day and hung up.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Artists recreation of crappy Hilton Garden Inn hotel in the dark.

I just lost it-whatever IT is. I told Sam to fix it. I had done all the work to make it right for us and now he had to get involved. He was angry with me. I started pacing. I wanted to drive my car into the hotel and set it on fire. Sam was having no luck getting anywhere. The cell service was lousy. I called my ex-sister-in-law, Anne, who I consider my sister. I left her a whiney voicemail saying I would take her up on her offer from earlier that day. I knew she was staying at her parent’s home about an hour from where we were and they had power. They offered that we could come over to take a shower, but I declined, knowing we had a hotel that night. Now we had no hotel so it was back to plan B. I could not go back to my house and FREEZE again! I was so tired and tired of being dirty and tired of being fed up and hungry. I was DONE with it all!

We had no other choice but to go home, grab clean towels and drive over to Mike and Pat’s home. Anne said she’d put the kettle on. Something my Mother always did. Hearing her say that was a small comfort-enough to keep me from doing something stupid. I envisioned that cup of hot tea. I started to cry again. I needed my Mother and my Father, but they’ve been gone for many years now. I wanted to lean on Sam, but he was mad at me. I deserved it, but in some ways I didn’t. My spirit was broken.

We got to the condo around 8pm. Pat and Mike are so sweet. They’ve been married for over 50 years. I think of them as my family, but I don’t often see them. Being in their home was like an oasis in the storm. Things were normal again. We were just visiting family except that we were going to shower in their bathroom instead of celebrate a birthday. I brought their cat Lily, a catnip toy present since I always seem to have new cats toys on hand. Lily looks almost exactly like Spencer, our mascot at Covered in Cat Hair. In fact, I adopted Lily, but she didn’t get on well with my cats so I re-homed her and now she’s a pampered princess.

Sam sat with Mike and Pat. They had a lively conversation. I went upstairs and got ready to take a shower. Anne insisted I didn’t use my towels, but take some clean ones from her Mom. “Why dirty up your towels when you have no way to clean them?” It was a simple kindness, but I got choked up. Anne got me settled, then left me to join her parents.

I couldn’t get into that shower fast enough. It had been FIVE DAYS since I had a real shower.

I didn’t hog all the hot water. I didn’t even make the water that hot. I just stood under the water, letting it rinse me off. It felt so good. My body began to relax. Tension began to drift away as I got lathered up, then rinsed off. I washed my hair. I finally felt CLEAN. I felt like a person again. I put on clean clothes. I thought about a commercial I’d seen where a laundry detergent company sent mobile laundry trucks to places hit by Hurricanes so people could wash their clothes. I started to realize that although we had it bad, it could have been so much worse. We had a house, though living in it was like camping, we had a structure that was still standing.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Dinner anyone?

The night before I said to Sam that I was thinking about all the people who live every day without any electricity. They don’t have TV’s or iPhones. They don’t have running water, but they probably experience the same sort of joy and sorrow we do. I suppose if you took away something that was normal to them, they would suffer, too, but why are we suffering so much? We’re just living like many other people…but we are not prepared, and speaking for myself, I have no skills in living like this. Again, more humbling moments for me.

As I sat down at the table, freshly washed, with Mike, Pat and Anne, Sam got up to take a shower. Everyone remarked at how happy I looked. Anne served me a cup of tea. I wrapped my fingers around the cup and absorbed the soothing warmth into my fingers. I had a sip of tea. I’m a tea snob, but at that moment, I could have been drinking just hot water and I would have been happy. I was really hungry, but I didn’t want to impose. It was getting late and I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I figured that we could find a diner since this town hadn’t been affected by the storm as badly.

We had a really nice visit and they invited us to come back the next night for a shower if the power was still out. We offered to bring dinner, so it was a date. Now that Sam had showered we said our goodbyes. I felt like I could go another few days without the power being restored now that I was clean.

We found a diner that was still open and had a good meal. I had an omelette. It was really good. I’d barely had anything other than pistachios and fruit cups to eat that day. We got home around midnight. I retired to my freezing cold bed. Sam stayed on the sofa. Another day was done perhaps one day closer to the power being restored.

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Dark Days-Day One

NOTE FROM ROBIN: As many of your know, our power was knocked out by Storm Alfred two weeks ago. This is an accounting based partially on a 10 page handwritten journal entry I wrote on Halloween-2011 and the rest is from memory. I realize that I've been unable to write about what happened until now, partially because I've been in shock and needed time to readjust. The seven days we spent without power were some of the worst days of my life.

I'm also going to share some painful personal experiences. Make of it what you will. No, I don't need help. I'm OK. Writing helps me sort things out. I think that some times that out of pain can come greater understanding of one's self and can perhaps, help others. Also, we ALL have troubles and these are just mine. There are many worse off or better off...this is what I'm experiencing and part of my journey. I'm glad to finally be back.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The nightmare begins as a magical dusting on the trees.

Writing with paper and pen…it’s too slow. I can’t get my thoughts to slow down enough. Editing this is going to take forever!

It’s Halloween, usually my favorite day of the year. It’s also Blitzen’s second birthday, too, yet celebrating is the last thing on my mind.

The past few days have been extremely difficult. On Saturday, October 29th Connecticut was hit—and I mean BEATEN TO DEATH—by Winter Storm Alfred; a freakishly early snowstorm. I’ve never seen it snow so hard and I lived in Minnesota for more than twelve years. There were such big clumps of snow that little Doodlebug thought the sky was raining cat toys. When I opened the door to the deck, he bolted outside and immediately began leaping and hopping after each falling mass. He seemed unaware that his toes must have been getting cold from melting the snow under his paws. Nothing bothered him. He just wanted to play.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The DOOD makes a mad dash to play with the huge clumps of falling snow before he was brought back inside.

It was very surreal to see the leaves on the trees, many still green. Within a few hours there was easily six inches of snow on the ground. The trees were beginning to look like skeletons. The snow was so wet and sticky, it encased each branch, leaving it in a thick coating of white.

The weight of the snow grew heavier with each passing hour. By evening, tree limbs and tress began to topple over. Newtown, where I live, is heavily forested and has the most land area of any town in the state at 76 square miles. There were reports that many areas of town had lost power. I knew it wouldn’t be long before our time came, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Panorama of my driveway at 7am the morning after the storm hit.

The lights began to flicker on and off for about an hour. It was around 8pm. We went about our usual tasks-feeding the cats, loading the dishwasher. I had just put away some freshly laundered clothes and had moved into the foster room to play with the kittens before their bedtime. Their room was chilly so I turned on a space heater. Within a moment of turning it on, I heard a loud “click”, the power went off, then on, then off, for good.

I sat there in the dark, swearing to myself. The kittens were climbing all over me, excited by the sudden blare of alarms going off. I grabbed a flashlight and made “the rounds,” turning off the screeching battery backups and heavy duty surge protectors we have on all the bigger devices in the house. I had to force quit applications on my computer to get it to shut down. Even with a battery backup and 15 minutes of battery power, it seemed to take forever to get everything shut down. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I started to wonder how long this power was going to be out. We called to report the outage, not realizing that most of the town and surrounding towns were out, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. View up the driveway-what driveway?

Then, silence. It was so quiet. That’s what always surprises me when the power goes out, that we live with so much noise. The hum of the refrigerator, the whirring of the furnace, the drone of the computer hard drives; strip that away and you suddenly realize you can hear your breath or tiny sounds coming from other parts of the house, usually made by the cats creeping around, or just nothing at all, maybe it’s the air pressure on your ear drums?

When the power goes out we LOSE EVERTYING. No lights. No heat. No water-so no water for flushing the toilet. Losing the power could become a nightmare if went on for more than a few hours. Usually the power’s restored within 12 hours or so, but it was getting cold inside the house and tensions between the inhabitants in the house were just as frosty.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Looking back on the house. The oaks are close to hitting it and the driveway is impassible.

Something was up with Sam. He was stressed out about work and I was stressed out about the power going out. We didn’t say much to each other that night. With the power out, there was little to do so we went to bed and hoped that in the morning the lights would be back on and we could go back to ignoring each other.

I got up at 7am and looked out from under the covers. My heart sank when I realized the power was still out. The sun was rising and I could see between the slats in the window blinds that the sky was blue, clearly the storm was well over. I guess I’m a bit of a worrywort, especially when it comes to my house. I want to make sure it’s safe and we’re safe inside it. Even though I wanted to go back to sleep, I needed to know if our driveway had been plowed and if we could get out of the house at all.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Panorama looking down the driveway from the street. You can barely see a corner of my house just left of the middle of the image.

I threw some clothes on over my pjs, put on my 30 year old snow boots, my gloves and hat and grabbed my camera. I thought about the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s opens the front door of her home, revealing to us the new world of Oz after her house had made a perilous journey through a tornado, leaving Kansas far behind. There’s that moment of awe as we, the viewer, take in this Technicolor world and Dorothy remarks to her dog, Toto that “We’re not in Kansas any more.”

This new world that greeted me wasn’t colorful at all. It was different shades of white; white everywhere I looked. It was confusing. Things were not where I thought they should be. My driveway stretches 250 feet up a steep incline that’s surrounded by trees. I had no idea where my driveway was.

The trees—the poor trees! They were bent over by the weight of the 15 inches of snow we got. It was such a wet snow that it covered every angle, every side of every object, obscuring what was underneath. This fairyland of white was really a deadly and dangerous place. I heard a loud “CRACK!”, followed by the crash of a large limb off a nearby oak tree. Mighty oaks, so strong and resilient could not stand tall under this burden.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. East down my road. It is so silent. It's like all the people are gone.

As my eyes adjusted and I could make better sense of what I was seeing, I realized that there were a number of large branches next to the house. A few feet over and we would have had them going through the roof. The driveway was impassible with trees bowed down to the ground, acting like gates. I knew I had to get the snow off those trees quickly, so they had a chance of recovering and not crashing across the driveway.

Without the power on, it would be very difficult to get into the garage, so I went back inside and grabbed the only thing I had that had a long pole-I grabbed a telescoping feather duster. It had an aluminum pole, but it was at least 8 feet long, so that’s what I used. I swung the pole against the branches. Each time I struck a limb, snow would wash over me, but I didn’t care. My fingers were so cold they were getting numb, but I had to keep going. I also had to pay attention to where I was standing. At any moment the tree I was working on could fall or the tree next to it could do the same. I was scared but determined. Eventually, I got enough snow off one tree that it began to lift away from the ground. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. With the sun rising and the temperatures supposed to be near the 50’s, the rest of the snow would melt fairly soon. Maybe I wasn’t too late and the trees would survive.

The yard was littered with branches-worse than after Hurricane Irene, which we just finished cleaning up after. There was a branch across the driveway, but I couldn’t move it very far. It was enormous and the weight of it dug into the snow. I’d try again later. I shuffled onward to the street to see if it had been plowed. There was little sign of anything, save for some lone tire tracks. Even the plows hadn’t come through.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Our neighbor's car with broken limbs in the background.

I took photos, marveling at the beautiful scene. I delighted in the white-cloaked trees bathed in an amber glow from the sunrise, the blue in the sky deepening and becoming more vivid, but then something would look out of place. I realized a tree had fallen or more large limbs were scattered in every yard. I walked about a block in the silence, not even a bird was singing. My neighbor’s homes were okay. A few folks had parked outside, but no cars were damaged. Maybe the power would be on later today. Maybe it wasn’t so bad?

I went back inside to thaw out, but it wasn’t much warmer indoors. I had forgotten the heat was still off. I looked out onto the side yard and some of the bigger oaks had large limbs dangling from them. We weren’t in danger, but I figured it would be a long time before we could to get them cleaned up. Most likely every tree guy in town was going to be booked up for a long time to come.

I started to freak out. How were we going to get out of the house? What if we needed help? What if one of the cats got sick? It was damn cold. We needed to figure out how to warm the house up. We needed to make some plans if we were going to get through this…not having any idea of how long the power was going to be out. My phone had a little bit of battery life left. I looked up the CL&P web site. They provide our power. 99% of Newtown was out. Most of any nearby town was hit just as badly. Even if we could get out there was no place to go that was open and I had no idea if the roads were even passable.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. This scene was so magical. The reality of what may have happened throughout the rest of Newtown hadn't sunk in yet.

Sam, meanwhile, was asleep. I am far from perfect, but it mad me really mad that he was sleeping when we needed to be planning. Yes, I could have gone back to bed and waited until Sam got up and then we could both start planning and work on getting the driveway cleared, but I couldn’t hold back. It was already 9am. As I walked into the bedroom to tell Sam what I had seen, he got up and went to the bathroom. I heard a “flush” and it really set me off. When the power goes out, we CAN’T flush the toilets. We have to figure out who gets which bathroom, then use that toilet until it must be flushed with water we have reserved in one of two 5 gallon jugs. When that runs out, which would be fairly soon, we’re in trouble. He just wasted a lot of water and I was furious that he was so blasé about the whole thing. He forgot, he said. What is the big deal?

The tension between us only got worse. I shoveled the deck while he worked on getting more snow off the trees in the driveway. We were both in a bad mood. I realized Sam couldn’t get his coffee and that would just make things worse. At every turn, Sam did something else to piss me off. I asked myself if I had PMS. Nope. Not time. Great. It’s not bad enough the power is out for who knows how long, but we’re not getting along. I felt like a wild animal caught in a leg trap. I started to wonder if I was going to have to gnaw my leg off to get away-and with my car, there was NO way I was going to get out of the driveway any time soon. I was stuck-so was he until the trees could stand, unblocking the driveway.

In the electrified silence, we avoided each other for the rest of the day. I kept hoping the power would kick back on, but then I saw a post on Facebook that the governor said the power might be out for MORE THAN A WEEK! That’s when I really started to panic. My cell phone battery was running out. I had ¼ tank of gas. I could charge my phone if I ran my car engine, at least.

I just wanted a hot cup of tea and for this to be all over, but no. It had to get worse, first.

I don’t even remember what started it, but Sam and I had another 4 minute fight. He cut to the chase saying he was done with me and going to move out. That he was tired of my anger, meanwhile he was yelling, so go figure. He was so aggressive it scared me. I shot back at him saying I was just trying to protect the house and make things safe here, prepare for what to do until the power went back on, but he didn’t even believe me. He just thought I was a cruel bitch, though he didn’t call me that. Then he asked me if I wanted to live, inferring that I better shut up. In my life, I have never been so scared of anyone. He’s never threatened my life before and claims it wasn’t a threat. Not a threat? Really? Then what would you call that?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The branches of this oak tree touch the ground. It's as if the trees gave up trying to stand.

I told him to leave, to get out. Go to New York City. Stay with your Mother, but he wouldn’t go. I told him he could not sleep in the bedroom with me. There was no way I would feel safe near him again. He wouldn’t be moved. He didn’t care. He didn’t want to sleep with me either. It was awful, but I was so fed up I didn’t care any more. I think perhaps a lifetime of hurt and anguish just got to me in that moment. So we were fighting. So we hated each other. So what?

We turned our backs on each other and went to our separate corners, but with the power out what we really needed to do was to team up. Everything was going to be a lot harder now.

A few hours later, he knocked on my office door. He was going out to see if any restaurants were open and did I want anything. I couldn’t believe he went from threats and yelling to offering to get me food. I could have been nice and accepted his gesture, but I was so pissed I said no. I would rather go without than feel like I owed him any kindness. After he stomped off I went to the garage, now that it was open. If I couldn’t get out of the driveway because I don’t have a 4wd car, then I could charge my phone-my only lifeline to the world.

The sun had just set and it was getting quite dark. The only light came from a few orange indicators on the dashboard. After a few minutes I checked my phone battery. It would be a long while before it was charged. My hand brushed the knob to the car stereo and had inadvertently turned it on. I hadn’t heard much music for a long time, even before the power went out. It was like being reunited with a friend to hear a familiar song. Andy Partridge, formerly of XTC was taking my thoughts and fears away.

My break was short lived. There was no erasing this suffering. I looked into the side view mirror and saw a rolling white plume of warm exhaust mixing with the frosty air. The heater had kicked in and I was feeling warm, but could not really relax. I sat there with tears running down my cheeks, wondering how I got to this place, trapped in a relationship that had long ago soured. Was the rest of my life going to be just as miserable and full of anger and hate? I shocked myself thinking how easy it would be to hit Sam. The same guy I loved for so long. The same guy I used to write letters to when we weren’t together, telling him I missed him and loved him and couldn't wait to see him again. And now…he's the same guy who makes my blood boil, who bores me, who has checked out of our life together probably a very long time ago. I knew that all I had to do was pull the garage door down and it would be all over. I’d just go to sleep. All my foolish choices and angry words would swirl away-just like the innocent white exhaust.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Looking out my living room window-realizing we were very lucky that although many branches and trees were damaged and dangerously close, none of them hit the house. These trees are bent over in half.

I sat there in the dark, thinking, maybe things are never going to get better? I took a wrong turn somewhere and can’t seem to right myself. Am I really so awful to live with or does he just focus on the bad? He wouldn’t even believe me when I told him the truth. He assumes I’m a liar, with no cause or no good reason. I don’t deserve being accused of that. There is nothing to be gained from lying.

It took 45 minutes to charge my phone. Somehow I just sat there feeling miserable, but didn’t do anything drastic. It wasn’t because of the cats or that I didn’t leave a note, but I hoped I would feel differently one day and that I tried to be strong and just feel what I feel, bad as it may be, then try to move on from there.

I think I’ve had my heart broken for one reason or another, so many times, that I’m numb. If Sam wants to leave, it will be very painful, but so be it. I’ve felt pain more than joy in my life. What is so different? I used to fear the day one of us would die, leaving the other alone. I couldn’t imagine my life without Sam and yet it was going to happen and it might be that we’d only be alone because we live separate lives.

I went back inside the house. It was the end of the first full day without power. It so cold-only 49 degrees. The cats were following me around, probably scared and worried about what had happened. I huddled by a candle and read a book huddled under the covers. I couldn't sleep. That night Sam didn’t come to bed. I was happy and sad at the same time. I’ve never worn so many clothes to bed, including my fingerless gloves and a hat. The cats were curled into tight circles on the comforter, as close to me as they could manage. It was 26 degrees outside. I could hear the coyotes yipping and shrieking. They were close by and I could tell there were many of them. They’d probably surrounded a poor deer who was about to become a meal. I felt so badly. I wanted to help the innocent creature but there was nothing I could do.

In that moment, I felt a lot like that deer.

...end of day One.

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Limping Along.

On October 29th a freak snowstorm hit Connecticut. It let a brutal mess of downed trees and limbs, robbing most of the state of power. We had no light, heat or water for a week and our cable/internet was out for 9 days. I'm still trying to recover from the damage, the lost time and the pressing needs of running a cat rescue pretty much on my own. I'm gearing up to posting more stories. Just bear with me a bit longer.

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©2011 Maria S. Remember this photo? Amberly's babies-when they were baby-sized!

I've got some updates to share on our former foster babies, the arrival of our snowshoe sisters, the Pumpkin Patch boys, as well as some sweet photos of Amberly's family. There's also going to be a story about a little kitten, struggling to survive on his own and the horrific secret he had inside him. It's a story of how one kind soul reached out and stood by this cat no matter what it took. We'll also be having more give-aways on some truly fun products (hint: one is full of catnip!) so I hope you'll make sure to check back here soon or visit us on Facebook for more updates.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bluebelle, Jack LiLac & Periwinkle (left to right) looking all grown up! Jack is as big as his mama, Amberly-at just over six pounds.

Until then, I hope you enjoy this sneak peek of brand new photos of some of Amberly's family-who are still hoping to find their forever homes! We're having an Adoption Event on Saturday, so stop by and visit if you're in the area! Details are on our web site.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blaze, as usual, being nutty!

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