Who Knew?

My First Neuter & My Last Bowl of Clam Chowder.

Have you ever seen something, then couldn't erase the image from your mind? This often happens during a tragic, high-stress event, like seeing your dad naked (by accident, of course!) or when you see a woman on the subway wearing stretchy leggings. She has a REALLY BIG BUTT. She's tired, standing in the subway car, so she leans her back against a metal support pole. Her huge buttcheeks part slightly, as she presses against the pole, which forces the metal support into her butt-crack! (This is why I avoid touching ANYTHING on the subway). I'm sure some scientist could describe why our memories lock down certain events, but all I can say is I just witnessed a kitten being neutered and now I can't unsee what I saw!

The event keeps looping over and over in my head. After all the cats I've had neutered over the years, I finally got to see it done. After the shock of watching it wore off a bit, I realized, WHY DO VETS CHARGE SO MUCH FOR THIS? It took all of a MINUTE to do the surgery! SHAME ON VETS FOR CHARGING MORE THAN $50.00 for this procedure!

Connie and I arrived at the Vet's office nice and early. She brought all five kittens, even though only the three boys were going to be neutered. Neither of us were positive we HAD three boys so better to bring them oll, just in case-plus they all needed a booster FVRCP shot, so now was a good time.

It was really lovely to see the kittens again. It'd been only a few days since they went to Aunt Connie's but I was missing them. They all sat serenely in their cat carrier, wondering what was going on, no doubt. I blurted out; “You're gettin' your balls cut off soon!” and the Vet tech scolded me for letting the “cat out of the bag.” She hissed; “Don't say that out loud! You'll upset them!” The kittens gave me a dirty look. I just shrugged and tried to look innocent.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The gang just before surgery time.

Dr. M came out and said hello. Connie and I looked at each other. I knew what she was thinking. She didn't want to go in the back room. Neither did I. My heart started to race and my hands got cold. This wouldn't be so bad. We didn't have to watch. We just had to help a bit, then wait for the Vet to do his part, then we would help the kittens as they woke up.

We were taken into a long room that was a combination of shelved storage-a stockpile of drugs, syringes and other things. I mostly kept my head down, afraid to look around. The room was worn, the building was fairly old and this back room needed an update. There was a small, elevated table with a towel over it at the end of the room, parallel to the shelves. The Vet indicated that we could put the cat carrier on the table. I thought this was the prep area and that we'd be going into a surgical suite with a stainless steel operating table with bottles of magic knockout gas nearby.

Dr. M took one of the kittens out of the carrier-Ruby, the boy cat with the girl name. The Dr. weighed him, then made some notes. He opened a safe and took out a small vial. He drew some of the contents into the syringe. Then he told Connie to hold Ruby down tightly and to “karate chop” the cat's back leg to keep it down and force the vein to appear. Then we both realized he was going to do the neutering RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE ON THE TABLE. Did he wash his hands first? I had just put hand sanitizer on my hands, but what the heck? Connie looked like she was going to panic and I didn't blame her a bit. We both thought we didn't HAVE TO SEE the surgery and here we were about to SEE THE SURGERY! We couldn't RUN AWAY! This was the agreement. We help the Vet, he gives us a big disount.

Connie turned away. Dr. M injected the fluid into Ruby's vein. The kitten quickly went limp, his tongue hung out of his mouth. I petted him and said it was going to be OK. Then before I could turn away, Dr. M made a tiny incision across Ruby's scrotum, then pulled the fur down, exposing his tiny little testicles. At first I was amazed at seeing them, but then, he grabbed one of them and gave it a TUG. It stretched out on a flesh colored tether about FOUR INCHES LONG! He twisted it around. Did he put a knot in it? I felt woozy. Then, just as quickly, he took an object out of a sealed package and sliced the tether at its' base. WOAH! One nut down, one to go.

I held my hand up to help cover Connie's eyes. I didn't realize I was talking until Connie told me later, but apparently I was saying; “WOW! Look at that! Oh my GOD! Connie, it's not that bad, but WOAH! WOW! I will NEVER EAT CLAM CHOWDER AGAIN!”

Dr. M quickly repeated the procedure on the other testicle. In a few seconds he was done. Connie let go of Ruby and I picked him up. I began to gently rock him and pet him. In a few moments he began to wake up. His tongue hung out of his mouth and Connie said he drooled. He felt so limp in my arms. It reminded me of the day Bob died. I didn't want to cry. I just focused on Ruby. He was ok, but WOW...I did not think I could help do this two more times!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Ruby, who may be renamed Inky.

It turns out we didn't have to watch two more times because we have THREE GIRLS and TWO BOYS! The girls got their booster shot and Spot was the only other male. Sadly, Spot was very difficult to knock out. Dr. M had to try a few things-finally we had to bring him into the surgical suite and I had to hold a tiny gas mask over Spot's face until his body went limp in my hands. It was very unnerving. Dr. M. went to work quickly and in a few moments Spot was done, too. I was told it would take a lot longer for him to wake up, so I just held him so he could breathe easily and tried not to freak out over him being so very limp in my arms.

Ruby was still weak, but awake. Then Dr. M said he was interested in ADOPTING a kitten! He had two cats and one died a few months ago. He had plans to adopt another cat, but it didn't work out. He was looking for another black and white cat! BINGO! We had THREE! He asked which one was the most outgoing? Friendly? Sweet? They all were great, but he focused on Ruby, though it was tough to know how friendly he was based on him being wobbly and out-of-it. Then I showed him photos from my blog post about the Flying Zombie Kittens. He LOVED the photos and when he realized Spot was jumping more often than the others, his attention turned to him.

In the end he decided to let both kittens recover in his office, then he'd take them both home and see how they did with his two kids and his other cat! We said we would take back the one he didn't want, then he said he'd probably end up with both since each kid would probably want their own cat.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Spot before his surgery.

We didn't ask him to fill out any application. We didn't do a home visit. We didn't even ask how old his kids were! We just numbly nodded our heads, yes. We were both in a trance. I kept seeing tiny testicles getting chopped off and Connie was focusing on remaining cool even though I found out later that blood freaks her out! I was a bit jealous that my guys didn't get adopted, but I was really GLAD these two had a good chance. My goodness-a VET for an adopter? Does it get any better?

As we walked out of the office, Dr. M. said thanks for helping him neuter HIS cats! Geez, maybe he could have decided to adopt them BEFORE we had to see him do the surgery? Now my brain hurts and I'm really glad Sam didn't see that surgery! He better keep in mind that now I know HOW to do a neuter so he better shape up.

As for Connie, she never wants to do this again! I can't say I blame her one bit, but I know I'll be back. The price is too good and Dr. M is two hours closer than the low cost S/N clinic. I hope I don't have to see him do a spay surgery, but I have this feeling it will be the next thing I see that will be featured in my “greatest hits of stuff that freaks me out that I've seen and can't unsee.”

Attack of the Flying Zombie Kittens

I had a blast kittensitting for my friends at Animals in Distress last week. Their five frisky felines were very friendly and joyful. It was pure delight to be around them-until, of course, they decided it would be fun to climb up my legs! Yes, they all need a CLAW TRIM! Aunt Connie came to get them on Sunday. I was sad to see them go, but it just makes me look forward to getting The Angel Babies and Bob's Pumpkin Patch kittens in the coming weeks.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Uh oh...the zombie kittens are back!

I have a bit of an exciting and surprising update to share. After scratching my head for months, trying to figure out how to approach local Vets to help my rescue, Kitten Associates, a Vet sort of fell (figuratively) into my lap.

It seems that someone who runs a rescue where I used to volunteer is mis-behaving rather badly by having an affair with the husband of one of her current volunteers! The news was quickly spread all over town by the jilted wife/volunteer with such passion that I felt like I needed to duck and hide once I heard the news. Without going into details (there are lots of other issues going on that I can't speak about that make this situation a bit more touchy) or pointing fingers, let's just say that one of the repercussions of these events was that one of the local vets said he didn't want to work with this person's rescue group any longer.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

When I heard this news I thought either the Vet would NEVER want to work with another rescue group again, or that perhaps he just didn't want the emotional issues to deal with, but would need time to want to help out again. Feeling rather desperate to find a low-cost Vet, I thought the worst thing he could do was say NO if I asked for his help.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. How not to weigh the kittens..or maybe just divide by two?

What surprised me was that before I could even try to pitch why he should work with us, he said, YES! He just wants to help cats. He's willing to donate some time to K.A. every month. During that time he won't charge me an office visit and will help reduce costs across the board for vaccinations, spay surgeries and anything else. I wanted to cry, but he didn't even want thanks. I offered to help him by doing design work for him at a reduced rate and he didn't need it. He just wants to help a rescue, so he's going to help us.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Do I feel a bit creepy about asking this Vet to help us? Yes, but the future of K.A. depends on us being able to make the most of the donations we get. Because of this Vet's help, I was able to rescue two more local kittens. I have to remind myself, to paraphrase the words of this Vet, it's all about the animals and their well being. The politics and B.S. we can both do without.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Intercepted!

The interesting/challenging aspect of our arrangement is that if I ask him to spay/neuter a cat, that I HAVE TO ACT AS HIS VET TECHNICIAN. This means, shaving the girl's belly, holding them while they get their anesthesia shot, helping with them after they are out of surgery and whatever else is needed. I was told I don't have to watch the surgery-thank GOODNESS! There are things I can do and things I can learn, but there are some things I just can't do. When I have a loving connection to my foster kittens, the last thing I want to see is them knocked out and being sliced open.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Invisible kitty motorcycle rider takes a wicked turn.

Tomorrow is my first time helping neuter the three boys in this litter of black or black and white kittens! Max, Ruby (mis-named!) and Spot are ready to go. Because these are A.I.D. kittens, and I'm sharing resources with them, their Aunt Connie is going to be a Vet Tech, too. We're both going to learn about what's needed. I have to be ready for next month when the two little girls I rescued will need to be spayed. Scared? Yes, a bit. I'm Hoping I don't mess up or irritate the Vet. He's doing so much for us. I wish there was something I could do to thank him!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Stuck to the cat toy?

I guess my thanks will be to show up on time, do a good job and not cry like a baby when I see the kittens come out of surgery!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Ooo! Smells like roses!

I can't help but feel weird about all of this, but in time it will sort itself out. Just so you know, the group that lost their Vet has at least two others they work with, maybe three, so this doesn't hurt them as much at it might appear on the surface.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Off with her head!

By the way, ALL THE KITTENS FEATURED HERE ARE AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION! They're located in southern Fairfield County, Connecticut. Visit AID's web site for adoption information.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Weeeeeee!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Zombie kitten wants your brainz!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Shy flyer.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Super stretch!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Riding an invisible rocket.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. On no! Zombie kitten on the warpath!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Umm...detachable legs?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Excuse me, but would you please pet me?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Woah!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Zombie kitten tries to use the force to move the cat toy closer.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Zombie kitten don't give a squat! Just walks over victim on to next plate full of brainz.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Zombiezzzzzzzzz!

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Stand By Your Man.

When what ails your cat isn't clearly defined, it's easy to lean on your Vet and assume they know all the answers. They can decide what should be done next-that's their job, right? What I'd like to suggest is you don't let them call the shots-ever-without being your cat's biggest advocate. You know your cat better than anyone else how your cat behaves-how well they eat-if they are using the litter pan and their output is normal or not. Your Vet has MANY other patients to deal with, a life to live, other distractions. It doesn't mean they don't know what they're doing, but it does mean that they don't have the time to spend endless hours on your cat's case, alone. When it comes to your cat's health care, you must be prepared to push back, ask questions and offer reminders and suggestions to your Vet to help him/her solve the case.

The longer I do cat rescue and experience health issues with fosters as well as my own cats, the more I realize that it helps my Vet if I understand the pieces to my cat's health “puzzle” as much as I can. Overlook something and that might be the one thing that ties everything together. I may not understand cat's physiology the way my Vet does, but I can provide anecdotal information and I can be the one to remember my cat's health history when my Vet might miss something while reviewing my cat's file.

Before we visited Dr Weisman this morning, I made a list of every question I had, plus I thought about Nicky's past health issues. Dr. Weisman didn't have a complete picture of Nicky's life and it was up to us to provide that to her because whatever is ailing Nicky is not blatantly obvious.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting for Dr. Weisman to arrive.

It made me think of a few suggestions to share about going to the Vet. Maybe some of them will help you when you have to bring your cat to the Vet.

1. Keep a folder of your cat's health records. Sounds obvious, but if you have to look something up, it's there. If you want to compare blood work from one year to the next or can't remember if your cat was ever tested for Bartonella it's there. Yes, you can call your Vet and they should know, but what if your Vet is closed and you need to go to the Emergency Vet?

2. Do your best to understand and be able to recall every treatment and condition your cat has ever had. If you have to make a cheat sheet of notes, do that. I seem to have a good memory for what each cat has been through, so I just sit quietly and think about it and jot down questions for my Vet based on the cat's past history and include the details of his or her past I think are important to underscore.

3. Don't let your Vet tell you what to do without clearly understanding the pros and cons of what is being done. It's nice when they offer to give your cat a shot of Convenia so you don't have to give it pills, but is Convenia the RIGHT antibiotic for your cat? Should your cat even GET an antibiotic? What about other medications other treatments? Understanding is so important. In the heat of the moment, some times you don't have the luxury of looking up what side effects or dangers are in a certain medication, but if you do have time, then LOOK IT UP. Be smart. Ask a lot of questions. Make sure your Vet remembers those details about your cat that he or she may have missed.

4. Take time to think about what is best. IF YOU CAN. There are many situations where time is a luxury you do not have. There are other situations where if you take a day or week to repeat a test or see how the cat does, it's perfectly acceptable. Sometimes rushing into a treatment or surgery makes it worse or makes the case more complex. Try not to do too much at once or you won't be able to understand what changes were the ones that made the difference.

What happened with Nicky today is a very good illustration of the points, above. Sam and I were expecting that Nicky would be having exploratory surgery today. He has too many test results that show some sort of problem-and we needed to know what was going on.

We had our list and because we had spent time thinking about it, we were able to give Dr. Weisman more information about Nicky that ended up being crucial to his care, today.

Nicky has a growth on his spleen-it is likely it is benign. Older cats can get these growths, but the ultrasound Vet didn't describe the growth well enough so we know if it is a tumor. Cats don't need their spleen as they get older so if it had to be removed, Nicky would be fine.

Although Nicky's blood work does show early signs of renal disease, what Dr. W didn't know was that Nicky is in DIRE need of a DENTAL!!! Some how that information was not passed on from our Vet to Dr. Weisman. Nicky has a cervical line lesion on at least one tooth and some mild tartar that needs to be cleaned. That, alone, could be the cause for Nicky's kidney issues and that his mesenteric lymph nodes are swollen, but that wasn't the possible smoking gun.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I DO NOT CARE TO BE IN THE CAR! WAHHHHH!

Before we knew any better and Nicky was being fed GRAIN (in his dry and canned food), Nicky's urethra would get blocked up. Eventually we spent many thousands of dollars having surgery done on Nicky to remove his penis (which can be referred to as a PU surgery) so he'd have a bigger opening to urinate through and not block up any more. Right after that we learned about diet and got him off grain. The surgery was done years ago, but once we mentioned it to Dr. W. she perked up. That one thing could be what is causing some of Nicky's symptoms and that his immune system is constantly being taxed from having that larger opening.

She also felt that possibly Nicky was having a reaction to being fed a raw diet. Sam and I aren't sold on that, but we're open to the idea that if Nicky's immune system is weaker from his bad teeth and the PU surgery, that perhaps the mild bacteria he might encounter on his food just adds to his problems.

We also showed Dr. W. Nora's blood work. She's Nicky's sister and she has no kidney issues whatsoever. Of course this is not comparing the same cats, exactly, but between Nora and Gracie's recent blood work there are no signs the diet is hurting them-rather helping if anything.

It became clear that doing anything other than a dental on Nicky wasn't necessary today. Nicky doesn't show enough clinical signs to tell us he's in crisis. None of his tests are so bad that we MUST do surgery NOW. We decided that after the dental and dose of antibiotics and some time to recover from both, that we'd re-do the ultrasound and see if anything has improved. It's possible many of these issues will lessen in severity OR get WORSE. If so, we move forward with surgery.

We're giving it a month. Right after Thanksgiving we'll re-test and see how he's doing. If he starts to show clinical signs before then, he has the surgery done sooner. It's really not a case of not going it at all, it's a case of when it's done. Sooner or later we will be facing this procedure, but today is not that day.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. My boys last night.

Nicky is on an IV for the next few hours to protect his kidneys before surgery, then they do the dental..and they remove and biopsy a growth I found on his leg while we were IN THE CAR, on the way to the VET! After that, Nicky goes back on the IV and tomorrow morning, with any luck, we'll bring him home.

I can't say we lucked out, but I think I can say we feel better about this choice. Nicky may still have cancer or renal disease or both or hyperthyroid or IBD...we just don't know yet. Maybe we caught it VERY EARLY or maybe not. We'll find out in time.

And all this happened because we saw Nicky peeing on the floor in the kitchen...

The Next Big Step for Nicky

It's getting late. I should get to bed. In less than 12 hours, we'll be seeing Dr. Weisman, Nicky's surgeon. I feel the same anxiety I felt before we went to see her with Bob. Bob's case was, at first, more clear cut. He HAD to have part of his liver removed or he'd die fairly soon. With Nicky, we don't even know for certain that we SHOULD open him up at all, but I still fear the same miserable results...the Vet saying; “I'm sorry, but...”

Over the weekend, one of my readers reached out to me. She worked for a great Vet in the Northeast for many years, who, according to her, was a fantastic diagnostician. She spoke to him about Nicky's case and right away he said NOT to do ANYTHING other than repeat Nicky's urinalysis in a few months. That what was the benefit of opening him up? I felt confused. I was so ready to move forward and now this...he asked us, through our CiCH friend, that we call him on Tuesday afternoon, when he had normal business hours, so we could talk to him.

Now what? Here we have Dr. Larry and Dr. Deb saying we need to open Nicky up. We have a long track record and trust both Vets, but this other Vet did bring up a good point-if it IS cancer and we cut into it, we can make it a lot worse.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. If you rub Nicky's head, you get full belly access!

I hate feeling conflicted about what to do. Nicky is Sam's cat. Ultimately Sam has to decide, but I'm definitely going to need to hear from Dr. Deb exactly why we need to do this now, instead of give Nicky more time and re-run all the tests again later.

Something else came up, too. Nicky may NEVER have been “snap tested” for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia! Back when Nicky was adopted he came to Sam unvetted. Sam took him to the vet and had him neutered. Did they test him then? It was 10 years ago? I wouldn't have known to test Nicky when he, Nora and Sam came to live at my house! Now I have a terrible fear of what if's going through my head...Meanwhile Nicky seems a bit down, a bit thinner, not eating quite as well as he has in the past. Is he feeling worse? We KNOW he has a bad TOOTH on top of his other issues so maybe that's what's causing his eating problems?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Meet my belleh.

At this point it's so hard to know. I've been down this road before and it sucks. Is this our last night with Nicky as a reasonably healthy cat? Are we losing him and this is the start of that journey?

Sam has been very stoic about how he feels about Nicky. Even though the two of them are always together and I know Sam loves Nicky, dearly, Sam isn't one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. This afternoon Sam looked glum. I asked him what was wrong. He came over to me and put his arms around me and sort of sank against me. All he could manage to say was; “Don't let them take my cat from me.”

My poor Sam. My poor Nicky. I have a hard time imagining one without the other. I hope I don't have to do that any time soon. My poor boys. We'll get through this together-just like we always do. I just hope that maybe this time we luck out-whatever lucking out means. Nicky and Sam need many more years together. We just can't lose another cat. Not right now. Not so soon.

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Not Nicky.

After my father killed himself in 1999 I figured nothing bad would happen for awhile, as if I deserved a “pass” from any more pain. Of course I was wrong. I got divorced four months later and lost my biggest client.

I realize that most things that happen during my life are not about me. My father took his own life. I didn't cause that to happen, but certainly it effected me deeply, and still does. The thing is I can't help but feel a bit, well pissed when one thing after another seems to go down the drain. I asked Sam if we were being foolish to think that things were going to get better “some day.” Maybe we should just realize that life pretty much sucks, is difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking and has moments, just moments of good stuff to keep us from offing ourselves, too.

Last month after Bob died, I thought that maybe we were done with long trips to Vet Oncologists, done with digging the deep financial hole to provide Bob with the care he needed, done with heartbreak over our cats. Bob was an old cat with FIV+, two kinds of cancer and half a liver. Our next youngest cat is eleven, so certainly they would be fine for many years to come. I really wanted to take a deep breath and relax, focus on the working out some behavioral issues with the cats and get the foster cats adopted.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, this morning, getting ready to roll over and show me his belly.

I nagged at Sam to take Nicky to the Vet. I was fed up watching the cat urinate on the floor, right in front of his litter pan, often not caring if we were watching him do it. We knew it might be due to the stress in the house and the cats jockeying for position in the cat hierarchy with Bob being gone, but due diligence dictated that Nicky should be seen by Dr. Larry.

I honestly thought Nicky had a urinary tract infection or might be in the early stages of hypothyroid because he drank a lot of water (and I knew his blood sugar was normal so it wasn't diabetes).

The blood work came back and it indicated that Nicky might be in early stages of renal (kidney) failure. The next morning, Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat just posted an article by Dr. Darren Hawks about Kidney Failure that helped me understand what was possibly going on. It was devastating news, but since we caught it early, Nicky had a chance to live many more good years. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. He always gives us "lovey-dovey" looks.

But Dr. Larry wanted to do a sonogram to look at Nicky's kidneys. Sam agreed and the procedure was done yesterday afternoon. I wasn't worried. I thought we had that pass to not get bad news-Nicky is just eleven, right? He gets a raw diet and fresh spring water not our yucky well water. Sure he had some kidney issue, but maybe he just needed some antibiotics?

I was sitting at my computer, working on a project. I'd had a lousy day. An acquaintance of mine died. He was only 52 years old. He had a massive stroke last week and died on Monday morning. I had some very interesting times with him and I liked him even though he seemed to bring out the worst in my childhood friend, MaryEllen, who was dating him in those days. Now she's planning his funeral. I couldn't help but feel the weight of the ticking clock of my own life. How much time did I have left? I'm only two years younger than he was and a lot of people don't even get to be my age. I can't take it for granted I have tomorrow. It gave me pause.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Rub Mah Belleh.

Sam stood in the doorway to my office. He didn't look so good, but we've both been in fairly bad moods for lots of reasons lately. He started to talk about Nicky. He must have just gotten off the phone with Dr. Larry. They found a growth on one of Nicky's kidneys-which were both showing signs of degeneration. They found lymph nodes that were enlarged, but it wasn't renal disease, it might be CANCER.

FU@KING CANCER.

Mesenteric Lymphoma. The same thing that JUST KILLED BOB.

When I heard “lymphoma” my head buzzed and my stomach flipped. I felt like I couldn't breathe for a second. No. No. NOT NICKY. NO!

They can't be certain until they do EXPLORATORY SURGERY. Maybe it's something else? Maybe it's some sort of reaction to something else? I don't know what else it COULD BE other than some sort of cancer!!!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky's view of the world is often upside down.

For the handful of you who've met Nicky, you know he's our BIG 20 pound boy who would rather lay in your arms, belly up, like a baby or get tummy rubs than do just about anything else at all. Nicky is a big sweetheart who LOVES everyone. He and his sister...and then I thought about Nora...are inseparable. She wouldn't survive without her big brother. Oh my GOD..what is happening to my cats?! We found this out just because Nicky was drinking too much water and peeing outside the litter pan. That was all we had for symptoms.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Skritches from mama.

I really thought we had more time. Now we have to scrounge for money. Nicky must have the surgery, but we are tapped out. We gave all that we had, and more, for Bob, thinking we could recover in time for the next cat health issue, but we were wrong.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. We love you, Nicky!

Later that night, after we picked up Nicky from the Vet and brought him home, I half jokingly said to Sam that I was feeling suicidal and asked him if he was, too, and he said, yes. Then he said, gesturing to the cats, but they would suffer if we died and I answered simply, we'll just take them with us when we go.

I guess we didn't get that pass we were hoping for. We'll do our best for Nicky. I don't know what that means. It's one step at a time. We need to confirm that it's lymphoma. We need to sort out what Nicky's options are and how we can provide for him. These are dark days indeed and this is just the beginning of a very sad journey for one of our beloved cats.

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Makin' Furry Friends Friday

My friend, Katherine has a big heart when it comes to animals. She's a diehard volunteer for my “sister” group, Animals in Distress. She has lots of cats. What I have here pales in comparison, but even with all she's taken on, each cat gets one on one care and lots of love.

It was no different when she rescued a tiny calico kitten. I don't know what field, backyard, attic or urban street she found it on, but she had to rescue her from what would certainly have been an early death.

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©2011 Katherine Reid. Timber & a 4 week old calico kitten.

In addition to cats, Katherine has my dream dog-aBernese Mountain Dog. If I could have a dog, that's what I'd have, but Sam is allergic and we have more than enough on our plate with cats that would likely not take well to a newcomer.

The dog is named, Timber and he's still a baby. Apparently he thinks he's a tiny puppy, too. I guess he hasn't looked in a mirror lately. Timber loves kitties and this little calico was no exception.

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©2011 Katherine Reid. How do you do?

I wonder what the kitten thought, when she looked into those big brown eyes of that VERY BIG DOG? Timber knew to be gentle with her so she wasn't scared. Perhaps Timber's instincts kicked in-not to harm the little kitten, but to protect her?

We can only guess what was going on in their minds. All I can say is I think this little kitten just made a new friend who'll help her feel less alone in the world and I wish them both well.

I just want to know that if Katherine yells at her dog, do people in the room, duck?

Timber!

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Surprising Update on Basil & Nigel

Two months ago, I rescued Basil & Nigel from certain death. Either way you looked at it, these cats were going to die. If it wasn't due to them being on death row at the shelter, it was going to be from being so grossly overweight. We had to do something FAST to save these big boys.

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©2011 Betsy Merchant. Two months ago, Nigel, left with brother Basil, right, sat in a cage at Henry Co., waiting for a miracle.

We began giving them good food, but in carefully controlled portions. Both cats struggled with being very shy. They didn't even want to eat much, at first, but with carful coaxing, they began to come out of their shells. We don't know what their past was like, but it's very possible they were in a confined space and were probably left with a huge bowl of dry food nearby. All they could do is eat. Nigel had sores on his belly from laying in his own urine-a sure sign he may have spent a long period of time with little to no room to move around before he was dumped at the shelter.

Basil & Nigel were transported to the Humane Society of Forsyth County because I had no room to take them to my home in Connecticut. I've worked with Jennifer H. who is in charge of shelter intake. She loved the big boys and offered them space at the shelter. You can read more about their story HERE and HERE

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©2011 Jennifer. H. Basil, slimming down to 20 pounds (with more yet to lose) and lookin' fine!

Basil and Nigel didn't do well at the shelter. Clearly, they were terrified. Jennifer took them to her home, where they still have a tough time overcoming their shyness. They've been though a lot and lived in many places over the past few months. No wonder they're struggling.

The good news is that they're both slimming down! I can't believe Basil, pictured above and below, was the once a meatloaf-sized cat!

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©2011 Jennifer. H. Basil, still shy, though.

These boys still need a forever home. Their Petfinder Ads are HERE and HERE Please let your siamese-loving friends know about this special duo. There's some hope that a very wonderful family may adopt them both, but right now they still need to slim down and gain some confidence. They're in really good hands and Jennifer H. loves them dearly. She's been very compassionate regarding their care-especially getting them out of the shelter when she saw they were regressing. Way to go, Jennifer. Thank you so much for doing right by these boys!

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Where Was I?

Last week sucked the life out of me. It was a cumulative effect of the stress of caring for Bob during the last weeks of his life, then watching Bob lose his battle with cancers, then the three little orange kittens dying and so many other things. Pretty much everything that's not an emergency has been kicked to the wayside. I'm just wiped out and sick with a nasty chest cold. After 10 days I think I'm finally starting to feel somewhat better, but now I have a mountain of things to catch up on. I'm still trying to write “thank you” notes to donors from months ago and catch up on posts for cats in need and somehow try to figure out how I'm going to pay the mortgage next month.

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©2011 Maria S. Mikey!

Yesterday I sat in bed and felt guilty, but I really needed to zone out. Things have been very difficult in the house since before Bob died. Everyone needs a break and there's just no way to get one.

Right after Bob died, many of the cats started peeing all over the house. It's been a nightmare. We know that Nicky, one of the big boys, is peeing and pooping inappropriately. He's peed into a cat food bowl that was sitting on the floor. Great aim, but shocking, since he did it right in front of me. Of course, he needs to go to the Vet. We have to rule out illness, but we also just dropped $800. on Nora's (Nicky's sister) emergency dental. Nicky is due for a wellness exam, blood work and urinalysis. Maybe he's not feeling well, but odds are this is the result of the “pecking order” in the house changing.

I upped the number of SSScats and Feliway diffusers. I ordered Spirit Essences from Jackson Galaxy. Sam and I are working with the cats to keep them calm, but Sam and I have not been getting along at all. We don't fight, but we don't talk, either. I know it stresses the cats out. If for no other reason, we had to fix that, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Free at last, the DOOD relaxes on a cat tree in the living room.

Then there is the DOOD. Finally freed from two-month quarantine and not sick with Feline Leukemia, his debut into the rest of the house was probably going to spark more flare ups between the other cats and cause even more peeing. I knew it would probably be temporary, but that didn't make the fact that Nicky peed onto my family's heirloom oriental rug any easier to take.

Life is about managing change. Things are always in flux, but how do you deal with it when it all feels like too much?

Shutting down doesn't help and I can't just sit in bed with the cats and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory for the rest of my life. I have to pick myself up and get to work and plow through some things. It's been a rough time, but I have to have faith that it will get better.

Sunday afternoon, Sam asked me if I wanted to clean the rug (again) or put clean sheets on the bed next? He was placating me. I don't think he wanted to do either, but he feared my wrath since the house is getting really messy and I was very angry about Nicky spoiling the rug. I don't know why I chose that moment, but I asked Sam to sit down so we could “talk.” I was done with being silently furious-it was time to just let it out and be done with it.

We had a long talk. We both let each other know we were fed up with the relationship, or lack thereof. It wasn't overly emotional. There wasn't any yelling. I think we were both to a point of either; “let's just get this over with” or DO something to fix it. I felt dead inside. I figured Sam probably felt about the same way. No reason to be afraid of being hurt. We've been in each other's life for 18 years. It's not always going to be smooth sailing and maybe we had grown apart so far there was no turning back?

I had no feeling about any outcome. However it worked out was fine, as long as something is worked out. I couldn't live like two strangers in the same house any longer. I really thought this was the end.

But...it wasn't. The turning point was when I told Sam I really wanted him to be my friend and he said he wanted the same from me. I had to tell him things that have really hurt me and about things I really need from him and he shared his feelings about what he needed, as well. We didn't try to be something we're not, but we did agree to just try to be friends. Our lives are intertwined in so many ways. We have to keep trying.

I'm glad Sam and I talked. Things are better and the cats seem more relaxed, as well. I realized you can't just plow forward and hope things will work out. They don't. You have to do the work or you can just suffer in silence.

As for the cats, there have been a few surprising updates. More on that in my next post, but first I gotta get some work done.

Not on My Watch: Bobby's Angels

In honor of my beloved, Bob, who died 12 days ago, I decided to rescue a cat. When I found out about an orange kitty stuck in a tiny cage at Henry County, sick and starving with six tiny kittens stripping her of any energy she has left, I knew I met “the one” that needed my help. In this case, it turned out to be “the seven” who needed me.

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©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. My darling, Bob.

I'm VERY VERY LUCKY I have good friends who support my rescue “habit.” Over the course of this morning and afternoon, I was able to put together a number of plans, which included the dreaded “worse case scenario.” They told us that Mama “was not doing well” and not eating. That could mean a million different things. Is it as simple as she's scared and unhappy? Is she getting an upper respiratory infection? Or is something deeply wrong with her? Something the Vet can't correct? Something VERY costly to cure?

I had to ask everyone on our team if they would be able to handle it if Mama had to be euthanized. I didn't even want to ask. Bobby didn't even bat an eye. He is willing to be our warrior. I knew I could count on him. Maria found a backup foster home in case the babies have to be bottle fed. Then Connie, understanding the risk of pulling a sick cat from a shelter, said that her group, Animals in Distress, would help us with initial vetting!

How could I say no?

So I didn't!

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Then we all started to panic, worrying about the worst case...would Mama be OK?

Bobby got her out of Henry at 4pm. An hour later, I found out the good news-MAMA IS NEGATIVE/NEGATIVE for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia!!!!!

But why wasn't she eating?

I don't have complete details yet, but Mama has a small abscess on the base of her tail. That has been treated. Otherwise they thought she was in VERY GOOD overall condition. I don't even know how old she is or the birthday of her six little kittens. All I know is she is SAFE and will be in a warm, clean room with plenty of good food to eat. Hopefully, once she settles down, she will want to eat. She won't need to use a tiny litter pan as a place to rest. She'll have a nice, soft bed. She'll have the companionship of someone who loves cats deeply and hopefully one day, when they are all old enough, they will come to my home and be fostered here.

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We don't even know if we have six boys or a mix of sexes. We barely even know what they look like. All that matters is that they're a lovely orange, perhaps more rich and deep in tone than Bob, but it works for me. I am so VERY HAPPY to be able to have been part of saving their lives. It softens the pain of losing Bob, just a little bit.

Today is the beginning of their story with us and unlike Bob, they will have a great start with everything they need so they'll never have to get FIV+ and suffer through a sad end the way Bob did.

I think Bob sent this family to me. I just found out they were born the day he died.

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Cara Finds her Way Home.

In October of LAST YEAR a pregnant mixed breed cat gave birth to three tiny kittens inside a stainless steel cage at a Kill Shelter in Georgia. As with all cats, pregnant or not, upon arriving at the shelter a clock began to tick down to a heartbreaking deadline-if someone didn't adopt or rescue this family before they got sick or had been there too long, they ALL would be euthanized.

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©2010 Betsy Merchant. Mama-cat.

Every day I find out about families like this who need help. Most often, the most I can do is put the word out they need rescue and hope that someone can save them. This time, though, I knew I had room to take them on. My foster mamam, Maria, was willing to provide a foster home for them until the kittens were eight weeks old-old enough to be transported to Connecticut and my home.

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©2010 Betsy Merchant. Her little babies.

It was just four cats. My rescue group could afford to provide care for them. It was a happy moment when I got the call from Bobby, my friend and our driver, saying everyone was safe and at the vet getting a checkup before going to Maria's house.

There was nothing unusual about this rescue. The mama tested negative for FIV+ and Feline Leukemia. Now the fun part for Maria, watching the kittens grow and making sure the mama was well fed.

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©2010 Maria S. Baby CaraMelle.

That simple joy lasted for less than a week. The cats barely had time to hear their new names being called before one of them, Polly, began to get an upper respiratory infection. Of course, it quickly passed to her sister, CaraMelle, her brother, Chester and her mama, Mazie.

And so began a tortuous time for all of us. For five months the kittens struggled with their health issues. They would wax and wane between “almost” kicking the virus, then falling ill again. Whatever they caught was a NIGHTMARE-most likely it was a herpes virus gone mad. It cost THOUSANDS of dollars in Vet care and MANY sleepless nights for both Maria and myself.

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©2010 Maria S. When I saw this photo, I was terribly worried that Cara would never live to see her first birthday.

Somehow the kittens and their mama survived. It couldn't have happened without a great number of caring people donating the funds we needed, over and over again so we could provide for this family.

In time, when Chester was healthy, we found him an amazing home with a family in Massachusetts who have two other cats and two Italian Greyhounds. Chster is very well cared for and loved. His sister, Polly was well enough to find her own forever home, too. She was adopted by another amazing family who also adopted our foster boy, MacGruber, so the two would always have a feline friend. Sadly, CaraMelle stayed behind. She was simply too chronically ill to be adopted.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Chester, Polly and Cara (front).

Cara had strictures in her esophagus. She needed endoscopy-THREE TIMES over the course of a few months at over $1000.00 or MORE per visit. Cara continued to vomit and was diagnosed with helicobactor pylori-gone wild. You can read more about her illness HERE and HERE.

But Cara was the luckiest of all. Cara had Guardian Angels on her side. There was Maria and Bobby, myself and then Connie, who is the President of Animals in Distress and a good friend to both myself and my rescue group. Connie supported Cara's needs in every way she could, even though Cara was not her cat.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. My favorite photo of Cara.

In June, Mazie got sick and I asked Connie if she could take Cara and her siblings for a week. Connie, already smitten with little Cara, fell even more in love with her during that visit. It was a bond that would grow deeper as Cara spent more and more time at “Aunt Connie's” house after Chester and Polly got adopted.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Little Owl-Eyes.

Cara's specialist, Dr. K, had a mad crush on Cara, but it wasn't meant to be. I'd hoped it would work out-who better to give Cara a home? Dr. K. told us that Cara would suffer from bouts of the helicobeacter pylori for the rest of her life. She'd need to be on antibiotics from time to time and need a lot of Vet care. I knew that I might need to keep Cara here. Who would adopt a sickly kitten knowing the costs would be huge over her lifetime?

Cara thrived at Connie's. She got along great with all the other cats-and there sure were more than a handful to get along with. Cara finally was feeling better and began to grow. She's almost seven pounds now and loves life. She's no longer the sad shell of a kitten, but a lovely young lady.

Connie and I discussed her adopting Cara, but I didn't want to push the subject. We both knew what was involved and what Connie would have to take on, but Connie never hesitated. She was ready to move forward and make it official.

The day after Bob passed away, I met Connie and Jennifer and Katherine for a breakfast meeting to discuss our upcoming adoption event. It was good to be with friends after such a sad day. I brought the KA Adoption Form with me and slid it across the table towards Connie. She had no idea I had it with me, but grabbed the paperes and started to initial every line, then signed the bottom of each copy. She asked what the adoption fee was and I laughed. Connie covered some of Cara's bills already, there was no way I was going to ask for an adoption fee. We had a little chuckle, then I said; Congratulations on your new kitty!

In a way it was a very anticlimactic conclusion to the most expensive and challenging rescue we've done so far, yet here was the day I had been hoping we'd get to-the day when I could put away my fears about Cara's future and feel confident that whatever comes to pass, Connie will be there for Cara-100%.
I couldn't have hoped for a happier ending to this part of Cara's story.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Mama-Mazie. Safe & sound. Not a care in the world.

The only one who's left of this family is Mazie. I've never gotten even one adoption application for her. She's sleeping in the cat bed next to me as I write. She fits in perfectly with my cats, but I still hope to find her a great home. She deserves to be spoiled and have a family to love, but until we find them, she will be loved just as much by us and never again have to fear giving birth in a stainless steel cage at a Kill shelter and facing premature death.

Mazie is dreaming now. I'm pretty sure they're sweet.

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