Who Knew?

9|11: A Look Back...Part 1 of 2

The alarm went off. It was 5AM. My stomach did a flipflop, a jolt of adrenaline made me feel sick. I knew it was from anxiety. I didn't want to get up. I wanted to sleep. I was exhausted and it was only Tuesday, three more days until I was off on Friday and then I'd have to do it all over again on Monday.

But I had to get to work. I was living alone, was divorced and had a huge nut to crack every month-utilities, mortgage, credit card bills. I loved my house and my life in the woods, but my home was meant for a family, not a single woman. I had to do whatever it took to make a living, even if I was getting sick from the stress.

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©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Squeegee.

I ran to the bathroom and got sick, as I did pretty much every day I had to work. I tried to calm down, but I knew my little hamster-on-the-wheel schedule. Go to the bathroom, get dressed, put on makeup. I showered the night before so I wouldn't have to do it in the morning. I put down some dry food and fresh water for my cats, Stanley and Squeegee. I went to the bathroom two more times, then I frantically checked my backpack to make sure I had everything I needed: cell phone, check, charger, check, money, powerbook, adapter, job files, keys...yep...Train pass! Yes. I had it in a holder that I wore around my neck. It shared a space with the electronic key card that would get me into the building where I worked. Then I had an odd thought “bring your camera.” I didn't know why I thought that and with my anxiety building, I had to get going or I'd miss the Express train, I dis missed the thought and left my camera at home.

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©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Lovely Stanley.

It was a gorgeous day; cool, crisp with a vivid blue sky. The sun was coming up as I got into my car. If I wanted to get parked and into the station, I'd have to get moving. My stomach protested but I didn't have anything left in me. I purposely didn't eat until I got to work. I didn't want to vomit on the train-again.

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©2003 Robin A.F. Olson. My "lello car"...I had it for 14 years and sold it with 189,000 miles on it.

I hopped into my yellow Mustang GT. How I loved that car. It was a few moments of freedom as I sped my way through the rural towns on the way to Bridgeport, CT.

As the winding, tree lined roads gave way to highways, my gut tensed up even more. I REALLY did not want to GO. My heart was racing. I just had to press on. They were expecting me.

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©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Bridgeport station-another early morning arrival.

I got parked, then walked a few blocks to the station. It's raised above the ground, a few stories high, so it can meet the level of the tracks. It's an ugly, flat gray concrete building. Sounds echo. Even with only a few people there it's noisy. The announcer hasn't made any track changes yet, so I know to wait on track 3, but first...gotta go to the bathroom one more time; going on the train is about as unpleasant a task as I can imagine.

I drag myself over to wait on the platform after I wash up. My heart is thudding. I'm a few minutes early. I can make the Express-which is good because it's at least 20 minutes faster than the Local. The problem-is it tends to be quite full by the time it reaches Bridgeport. I have a plan of where to stand on the platform to get a good seat towards the back of the train, once it arrives. I have a plan for which seat to choose-not near the bathroom, it usually smells terrible, not in the middle of a 3-seat row, not near anyone, if possible, on the end of the row, so I can get up if I need to.

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©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. Ugh. The train arrives. Last chance to turn around and go back home.

Once the train arrives and I get a seat, I start to relax a little bit. I want to cry, but I made it. I won't be late getting to work. I stow my bag. I don't want to be like the others, fussing with their laptops or reading the Wall St. Journal. Most of the people on the train are men, many in suits. Most of them irritate me because they can't sit still, look out the window, sit quietly. A few have to talk on their cell phones. Who do you need to talk to at barely 7AM? They're self important, self centered jerks. I wish they would shut up. Me, I'm going to try to rest. I know I won't sleep, even though my stop is the last one. There's one more stop before the train goes Express and that one will fill up the train to beyond capacity. I've had to stand all the way a few times. It sucks. The train service should be so much better. They raise the fares all the time, but the cars are gross, the seats tacky and there just isn't enough room. I put my hand on my badge holder, ready to flash my monthly pass at the Conductor when he walks past. I loath the “click, click, click” sound of his hole punch. It reminds me of where I'm going and that I'm stuck on this train for the next hour and twenty minutes-IF we're on time. The pass cost me more than $400 a month, I find it ironic that I have to work where I don't want to be, to pay for a train pass that takes me where I don't want to go.

I shut my eyes as I try to prop myself into a position where I can rest. I think about my boyfriend, Rich. I can only see him every other weekend or so. He lives in Boston. My heart starts to slow down to a normal pace. My stomach is empty and complaining, but at least I didn't get sick. The train is loud as it clacks along the tracks. At times it sways violently. I try not to notice, but it feels like we're going too fast and about to lose control. I feel that way about my life.

I have 90 more minutes to rest and try to prepare myself for the day. I work at a Marketing/Promotions firm as a freelance Art Director. It's a few blocks walk from the Terminal. I have some cereal packaging layouts to work on today. Hopefully, I won't have to work late. My commute is 2 hours and 40 minutes, each way.

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©2001 Robin A.F. Olson. View out the window.

At least it's not raining, a really nice day. As I close my eyes, I think about my Brother, his birthday is in a few days, September 13th. I think about how most people think that number is unlucky, but my family always felt that the 13th was a lucky number because my brother and father were both born on the 13th of the month. I can't remember what we're doing to celebrate Dan's birthday, I'll have to call my Mother later and ask her.

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©2005 Robin A.F. Olson. Empire State Building-2 blocks from where I worked.

It's only September 11, 2001. I have time. Once I arrive at Grand Central Terminal, I can get my brother a Birthday card. There are nice greeting card shops in New York City. It's a lovely day. I really shouldn't be so miserable.

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BlogPaws 2011: The Final Hours & Hurricane Irene.

It's a good thing I was at a conference full of pet lovers because sure enough Dorian Wagner, of Your Daily Cute, who had been playing with one of the kittens, jumped up when I said I needed a Vet and said she knew where to find one. She made a quick call and the Vet popped her head up from across the room, waving over the top of a low room divider. We hustled BlueBelle over to her. She was very calm and relaxed, which was the polar opposite to how I was feeling. She was perfectly willing to asses BlueBelle's incision.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Kate Benjamin and BlueBelle.

She gently turned BlueBelle over and looked at her little belly. There was a bright red, open area. We told her about the crappy spay surgery. She said she thought that the glue (the GLUE?) had failed and popped the incision open, but that there should have been stitches inside the kitten that would hold her abdomen closed. She was concerned about infection and the wound opening further. I asked what I could do and she said to find some Crazy Glue!

The clock is ticking. We have to leave for dinner soon. Bobby and Maria are really tired and hungry. I just won a big award, but now I must find Crazy Glue in a hotel that has a tiny gift shop and NO OTHER SHOPS anywhere close by.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Ingrid with Truffles.

The front desk offered me a dried up tube that we couldn't even get the top off of, so I tried the gift shop. They DID have some glue! Okay! Great! I ran over to the Vet and the small gathering of ladies around the kitten. Now the Vet says she really needs some sterile saline solution, some betadine and a syringe with no needle. Yeah. I can get that...WHERE CAN I GET THAT? My mind is spinning! I have to HURRY. Someone figures out there is a drug store a few miles away. It's rush hour in the D.C. area. We have no idea where we are going, but I grab Sam and he says he will drive me over to get the things we need. Meanwhile there are about 20 people wondering what is going on and some of them have grumbling bellies. Thankfully, Ingrid King, said she would call the restaurant and change the reservation! WHEW...okay...time to RUN!

But wait...can I get the first aid kit from the front desk? Sure! I was running back and forth between the front desk, the vet, the gift shop, Bobby & Maria and Ingrid. My head was getting ready to spin off my neck. There was nothing much in the kit. The woman at the front desk said that the night before had been a busy night for injuries in the hotel and that the kit was mostly empty!! Still, I brought it over for the Vet to take a look though..but it was sorely lacking so I returned it.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Snack time in the hotel room!

We got an address for a local pharmacy and just hoped for the best. Sam started driving and the GPS wanted us to go in a different direction than the point by point directions we had from GoogleMaps. Crap! What to do? We just followed the GPS hoping it wouldn't route us into a lake.

The traffic was TERRIBLE. No one was moving. Tick, tick, tick...HURRY! I wanted to JUMP OUT OF MY SKIN! It seemed like the drivers in front of us had cotton shoved in their brain hole because they were driving really slowly and they wouldn't try to cross traffic to turn into the parking lot!

Once we got into the lot, it was packed full of cars. Sam told me to go into the store and he would circle around.

It took me a few minutes to find most everything, but I had to wait for someone to help me with the syringe, so I stood there on line, tapping my leg, wishing they would HURRY already!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Time to head to Connecticut.

I got what I needed...$34 for this? Geez! Not complaining, but really? I jumped into the car and Sam sped off. Traffic back to the hotel wasn't as bad. My cell phone rang “where are you? we have another kitten that needs help!”

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Tree removal trucks getting into position before Hurricane Irene hits.

SHIT!

We got back to the hotel and the Vet said she wanted the First Aid Kit after all...so I ran back to get it...and she needed a place to work on the kittens. Truffles incision looked infected and needed to be cleaned out, too. We agreed to go to my hotel room so she could work on the bathroom counter.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Moments after arriving in their new home.

We loaded up all the cats, which saddened all the cat lady bloggers. They were not deterred. Many of them came upstairs with us! Before anything was done we had to promise not to say who the Vet was because like everyone at the conference, she was licensed in another state-even though she was just going to clean out a wound and put a drop of glue on the skin. I left her to do her thing while a few of the ladies watched the procedure. I needed to SIT DOWN and try to spend some time with Bobby and Maria, who were clearly energized by all that was going on, but I knew they needed to eat and have a chance to relax.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blaze, Peri and Jack, ready to play.

The kittens did great. Their bellies patched up and looking better, the Vet excused herself and I thanked her profusely as she left our room! Where could I get a housecall in a hotel for kittens that needed help-RIGHT HERE! How lucky we were! We had antibiotics with us that the kittens were already getting so we kept them on their meds. We let them out of the cat carrier to run around in the hotel room while we all went out for dinner-at last! Everything was going to be ok now, right?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. BlueBelle is doing fine now.

And it was...we had dinner with lots of PETTIE-WINNING cat lady bloggers, along with Maria, Bobby & Sam. We had a great time, great food, but sadly some of us had Hurricane Irene on our minds. Sam and I reluctantly decided we needed to leave early in the morning. Time was running out. We'd had our one day at BlogPaws and asking for another would potentially put us in peril...and the kittens, too, so we decided to call it a night.

Instead of going to bed, everyone came back up to our room to play with the kittens some more! Kate was on her belly, shooting videos of the kittens playing. Amberly took a huge stinky poop (we had a litter pan on hand) and we couldn't open the windows! No one cared. They were all cooing and laughing. I'd forgotten that I'm used to being around kittens most of the time and for them, it was more of a rare treat. It was really lovely to sit on the floor and watch the kittens and watch the joy and the delight on everyone's faces.

We bid everyone good night. We had to pack. Bobby & Maria still had 10 more miles to drive before they could get some sleep. For awhile I forgot about all my problems and what was waiting for me back home. It was nice, but far too short of a break. We got packed and set the alarm. Bobby & Maria would return in the morning with the kittens and we'd load up the car and head for home.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Amberly, always lovely and ready to chat wtih me.

Sam and I were very tired. The morning came too early, but we got ourselves out of bed. I went down to the car to start loading it up. I set up the dog crates where the cats would be traveling. I realized we didn't have enough room in the car for everything we had, so I made some changes so we could make it all fit.

Bobby & Maria were right on time. We let the kittens out so they could run around while we had breakfast. It was just the four of us eating, while BlogPaws continued on. The sky was slate gray and the winds were starting to pick up. I knew we had to leave soon. Irene was nearby.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the many reasons the power was out. This is across Route 34, a main road in our town.

I was very sad to leave. I gave Bobby & Maria a big hug goodbye. We'd only just met a less than 12 hours before. We loaded the kittens into the car and began our trip home, deciding to take a longer route, away from the coast. It added an hour to the drive, but in the end, it was the right thing to do. We missed some flooding and a few tornadoes. The entire drive home we hit bands of violent rain, but they only lasted a minute or two. I looked the weather radar and we were literally skirting the edge of the storm the entire drive home.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A common sight around Newtown, CT.

Seven hours later, we pulled into the driveway. I unlocked the door. I just wanted to see if Bob was still with us. I hadn't had an update on him and I was worried. Sure enough, Bob was sitting on his favorite red chair, looking a little more frail, but still with us. Once I knew he was ok, we worked on getting the kittens settled and getting ourselves unpacked.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The Housatonic River flooded quickly. If you look carefully, in the center of the image, you can see a home. It's built on stilts because the river often floods, but not as bad as this time around.

Irene swept into town and took with it, many of our lovely trees. 80 percent of the town went dark. Almost a week later, the power is still out in 26 percent of the homes. We were VERY LUCKY our power didn't go out. Many of the roads were impassable, not marked that trees were down, so getting around has been tough. My car is STILL in the SHOP because they lost power and phones. We drove past there and you can see my car on a lift in one of the bays. We haven't gone out much and we offered shelter to all our power-less friends, but they are doing fine without and hopefully things will be getting back to normal again soon.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The Pootatuck River was raging in downtown Sandy Hook, CT.

Now that I can look back, I know going to BlogPaws was the right thing for me to do. I'm glad I didn't miss out on the entire conference and I left yearning for more...for more connection to these good folks...for just a break from the troubles in my life. It was exhausting, but worth it. I'm glad I took the risk.

BlogPaws 2011: The Next Few Hours

Maria was certain something was terribly wrong with Amberly. The cat is very small to begin with and was still healing from spay surgery that was done 10 days prior. What was making the cat's belly distend? Then Maria mentioned very smelly poop, which can be a sign of Giardia. I told her I thought maybe it was worms or just the effects from a long ride in the car. She felt it was something worse than that-perhaps life threatening! I promised I'd find a Vet. She said they would be arriving in about an hour. I had to act quickly.

Thankfully, Caroline Golon, one of the Founders of BlogPaws, was able to find a Vet. She didn't tell me she was going to find me a really cute Vet to boot..and one who does Acupuncture and Wellness! I wish I had had time to have a conversation with Dr. Patrick Mahaney, instead of pleading for his advice!

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Margaret Gates, Dr. Patrick Mahaney, & Me just after the phone call..and the relief that all was well for Amberly.

Margaret Gates, from Feline Nutrition, was with me. We were both giving Dr Patrick big-eyed “Puss-in-boots” look, asking if he wouldn't mind talking to us about this cat problem we had. Of course Dr. Patrick did not see Amberly, nor could he advise us since he's from California and not licensed in Virginia, but it didn't hurt to ask for his opinion, which he was gracious enough to give us. I put Dr. Patrick on the phone with Maria while my heart raced. It was 4:45pm-in fifteen minutes, the Pettie Award winners were going to be announced via the web. Almost all of the nominees were at BlogPaws and we all sincerely wanted to watch the broadcast, but I had to make sure Amberly was all right over anything else.

Thankfully, Dr. Patrick agreed that Amberly needed to be de-wormed and I promised to get a stool sample over to my vet when we got to Connecticut. As a personal THANK YOU to Dr. Patrick, I'd love it if you ALL go visit his web site: http://www.patrickmahaney.com/blog/ and LIKE him (what's not to like?!) on FACEBOOK!

With that issue put to rest, Margaret and I started to look for the room where we could watch the Pettie Awards. I have to note that for some reason, Dogtime Media pulled out of attending BlogPaws 2011 about 2 weeks before the Conference. Many of us were very upset about this because there would be no formal ceremony, handing out of trophies and no chance to give that acceptance speech we'd all been planning. The Petties were going to be broadcast as a pre-tapped video.

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Instead, we were sent off to a private room with a nice big screen projection setup. Everyone else was off to a screening of a new Disney movie called Spookie Buddies. About 20 of us were sitting around waiting for something to happen. I didn't see any computer hooked up to the screen so I ran off looking for help. Michael, our very nice A/V guy, got there with minutes to spare! My heart started racing. We were all getting nervous with anticipation.

Then I started getting texts from Maria. They were going to arrive in about 15 minutes! What was I to do? Make them sit out in the hot car? I had to go meet them, but I just HAD to see who was going to WIN!! Covered in Cat Hair was up for TWO awards!

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Then the video began, featuring Leslie Smith, Editor at Dogtime.com. We all started buzzing...first up, our friends Kate Benjamin of ModernCat and JaneA Kelly of Paws & Effect! When Kate won, we all erupted in screams and clapping! I wish both ladies could have won, though.

The awards were being announced at lightning speed. Next up was one of my categories: Best Social Integration! Stephanie Harwin of Catsparella won! I was very happy for her, but then I worried..it was my best shot to win. There was no way I was going to win for Best Cat Blog. The competition was way too stiff.

My heart felt like it was going to bust out of my chest. Maria was texting me. They were about to arrive! My category finally came up. I thought to myself-it's about time I was a WINNER. After the pure HELL of the past few weeks, I was due..due for something good to happen and I'd worked very hard for 5 years writing Covered in Cat Hair. Surely, I had a shot, but it also meant that my good friend, Ingrid wouldn't win and I wanted her to win, too.

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The intro screen came up...

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They announced the four finalists....

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And when they said MY NAME and COVERED IN CAT HAIR, I jumped out of my seat and threw my hands over my head and yelled; OH MY GOD!!!!!

Ingrid was right there, giving me a big hug. She was so gracious and I knew from our talks that we both would be happy if either of us won. I wanted to cry. I was so happy, but I had to leave the room! Bobby and Maria had arrived and were waiting in the Lobby. They'd just driven 10 hours. I was not going to make them wait.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Just after the WIN!

I floated out of the room and there were lots of folks from the show milling about. I wanted to scream “I WON I WON!!!” but I had to drop the urge and get back to business. I could celebrate later.

And then, across the lobby, I saw Bobby and Maria walking towards me. It was so odd. I knew what they looked like and we'd talked many time over the past year, but here they were in the flesh, like nothing particularly strange was going on. I'd been looking forward to this moment for a long time, but I could see how tired and hot they were so I got them to sit down and got them a drink. As I was walking back, I saw everyone leaving the room where I just watched part of the Petties. Ingrid, it seems, won for Best Pet Blog-the TOP honor of ALL the awards! I WAS SO HAPPY FOR HER and now things just felt complete! EVERY award-other than than the Best DOG Blog, was WON BY A CAT WRITER!!!!!

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Bobby & I cuddle with Peri & Amberly.

And then, like moths to a furry-flame, the cat writing ladies managed to find that Amberly and her kittens were in the lobby and within seconds they were all cooing and smiling over their new friends. Maria and Bobby were good sports. I think the energy in the room revived them and all the fussing about the kittens was a treat to see. What was even better was that most of us had just won a Pettie Award and it felt so empowering for us to be together! It was a moment I really cherished.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Ingrid King (left), Foster Mama-Maria (seated), Tamar Arslanian of I Have Cat (rear), Margaret Gates of Feline Nutrition and Kate Benjamin of ModernCat (right)

I think I had about fifteen minutes of feeling good, happy, visiting with everyone...then, as things often do...the shit hit the fan. One of the ladies came up to me holding BlueBelle. She said something was wrong. I looked at the incision on Blue's belly. She'd been spayed 10 days earlier. I have to say the "person" who did the spay did a terrible job. I've never had to put kittens on antibiotics after being spayed because they got an infection. Their incisions were horrible. Here was Blue, very calm and serene and the glue had popped and her incision was opening up and was bleeding.

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©2011 Robin A.F Olson. Sam & Bobby with Periwinkle & Amberly.

We were all supposed to go out to dinner to celebrate, but I had to find a Vet and this time we were going to need to do more than just have a consultation about what to do. We had no idea where Dr. Patrick was and I had no idea what to do next. BlueBelle was in trouble and we had to do something for her right away.

Find out what happens next...in tomorrow's post!

If you'd like to see the Pettie Awards presentation, just go HERE to see the show and a complete list of all the WINNERS!

Hurricane Irene: Good Riddance

Okay, so the trip to BlogPaws 2011 in Virginia is over and done. Amberly and her kittens are here, safe and sound. I'm in a fog of exhaustion, but I can easily say it was worth it. I don't like to leave my blog unattended for so long, but I'm also finding I need a bit more time to sort things out. What happened in Virginia was truly a mixed bag of crazy. It left me feeling strangely refreshed-which indicates just how badly I needed a break. I needed to get away from home-from Bob, from the stress and just not think about it for a little while (okay, I worried about Bob the whole time, but it's different being away). For something as stressful as 13 hours in the car, no rest, and running around like a nut, would be considered a good time illustrates just how crappy things were before we left and how desperate I was for a break.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Amberly.

Hurricane Irene hit Connecticut yesterday, leaving most of the STATE without power. Where I live, 82% of homes have no power. Somehow we were spared and didn't really have any trouble. The lawn is a mess, many local roads are closed with fallen trees. Most of the shops are closed, but we still watched True Blood last night since the cable didn't go out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Jack LiLac.

The news reports a few homes were washed away or collapsed. There are many flooded basements and there was rumor a dam north of here might fail.

I can hear the sound of leaf blowers and chain saws. The sky is bright blue and there's a gentle breeze. It's hard to believe we survived a Hurricane. It's hard to believe we survived the trip to BlogPaws. It's hard to believe things were basically okay when we got home, though sadly, Bob is worse for wear and he's getting close to his last day. I'm grateful we didn't have an emergency with him last night. We would have been unable to do anything for him.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Periwinkle (left) and BlueBelle.

Let me go clean up my yard and try to find my brain. I have so much to tell you and celebrate with you! Please stand by for more soon. Until then, enjoy a few sneak peeks of Amberly & her family!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Truffles.

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The Decision is In...

Sam and I sat down and talked about what to do. We don't have many answers to help us figure it out, but at this point we have to make a decision about going on this business trip.

Our Pet Sitter said she feels well enough to look after the cats. Jennifer, is still sick, too and has a lot on her plate. I hope she can still come over and stay here Friday night. It would really give me great comfort, but I also know that some times other things come up...hopefully that will be worked out.

My car. Yes, my “fancy” 11 year old BMW with 145,000 miles on it had a HUGE mouse nest in the enigine and the computer threw a code regarding the throttle, but that's all we know. The winter was very tough on us last year and I didn't drive much. My dear friend, Rich, who owned the car before I did, told me how to prevent the mice from setting up shop in the future-use Bounce dryer sheets under the hood if you don't expect to drive the car often! Thing is, is it too late? If the intake sucked up mouse nest (or worse), then what does that do to the engine and did my car just DIE, choking to death on nest material? I dunno. They're swamped at the car repair shop and I trust those guys-they are really great, but they are busy. I told them to just keep my car and we would deal with it over the rest of the week, to garage it this weekend and I'd hope to get it on Monday, JUST IN TIME FOR HURRICANE IRENE to hit.

Speaking of which, looks like Irene will effect our trip, but you know what? At this point, all I can say is Fu@k it. We're going to cut our trip down to the shortest trip possible-leave later on Thursday and come home sooner on Saturday. We were going to be gone all day Thursday and come back Sunday night. Hopefully, cutting back will be good for Bob and maybe the traffic won't be a complete nighmare.

We also realized it would be a big problem for Amberly and her kittens if we don't pick them up this weekend in VA. So if Maria's foster cat, Sammy isn't too sick, then she and Bobby can drive the cats to VA from GA and we'll be all set. If it doesn't work out, we'll figure something out another time.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The Dood with his fancy new cat carrier, courtesy of our dear, Elke!

Since I don't know if we'll have extra cats on board, I'm going to leave “The Dood” in the big foster room and move him back into the sad little blue bathroom when we get back. I can do a quick cleanup and get Amberly's family settled at that time. Poor Dood. He is not happy being confined, but every time he gets out, he jumps on one of the cats. I can't wait for him to get NEUTERED (9/12) and retested for Feline Leukemia, so I can let him out and let him burn off all this stress from being confined!

I just took Dood to the vet to get his FVRCP (Distemper Combo) shot. He was a VERY GOOD BOY! Who was this kitten? He didn't attack anyone. He was all sweetness and purring. The little porker gained TWO POUNDS in the past MONTH. Oops. He's at 6 pounds 3 oz now!

Thanks to (almost) everyone for their supportive suggestions. Many of you said to stay home, but some said I should just go. One was rude and some of you stood up for me about that-which I appreciate a lot! I guess it's like this. No matter what I do, I will have regrets. I'll wish I did something differently, but I feel my regrets about not going would be too great. If it was a cosmic force telling me NOT to go, then I will find out why and hopefully learn from it.

I'm going to hope it was a cosmic force telling me that things are tough and sad, but that some times you have to stay strong, stick with it and do what you need to do to get the job done and be better able to provide for your family.

Plus, I found out there's a jacuzzi at the hotel and I may just take up residence in it and skip the Conference entirely.

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Come Hurricane, Earthquake, Dead Car & Dying Cat...

I'm screwed.

I could end the post right there, but I have to write this down. I don't expect anyone to believe me, but believe me, this is the truth.

Have you ever felt like you were getting a “cosmic” signal NOT to do something? Not to go somewhere?

Here it is---Tuesday. Sam and I are supposed to leave here on THURSDAY to travel to Vienna, VA to attend BlogPaws 2011. Sam and I are Speakers this year and it's vital for us to do networking while we're there, as well. We need to find sponsors for our Kitten Associates web site program, so we can get the funding to build free web sites for animal rescue groups in need. So it's important to be at this event.

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©2011 Maria. S. Amberly's kittens take a nappy.

Maria, my fantastic Foster mom and Bobby, my fantastic helper-driver-cat-taker-to-the Vet are driving Amberly and her five kittens (remember them? You can see pix of them HERE) 10 hours north to Vienna, Virginia so I can bring them home with me on Saturday.

BUT...

1. Hurricane Irene. That beeyatch is going to slither up the coast of the USA and beeyatch-slap millions of people. Maria and Bobby are driving up from Georgia on Friday morning-just about the time the storm will hit. Then they have to drive back home on Saturday. The storm will be in the Carolinas by then, so how do they get home? Sam and I have to drive the I-95 corridor to get to VA. It will be severely impacted by the storm. It looks like we may even get HIT in Connecticut, while it's still a Cat 1 or 2 storm. That means, flooded roads, miserable driving, nightmarish traffic. We have to leave EARLY saturday and miss half of BlogPaws so we can get home in time to watch our house blow away. And my darling Nephew Ryan just started college in South Carolina..right on the coast and all I want to do is go get him and bring him home and all he wants to do is attend his first college weekend party.

2. Our Pet sitter and our backup pet sitter got sick. Hopefully they will be able to get here and help out in a few days. We won't know until we are supposed to LEAVE if everyone is ok to help provide care for Bob while we are gone.

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˙2011 Robin A.F. Olson. As always, Bob is surrounded when he gets fed-just in case he doesn't eat it all the clean up crew lurks nearby.

3. Bob. Bob needs a lot of care. He needs to be syringe fed at least 4 times a day and given insulin shots twice a day. All our other cats need feeding and care. We can just scoot off and leave them with a big bowl of food. I can't play “what happens if Bob dies while we're gone,” but how can I not do that?

4.EARTHQUAKE? Holy crap. There was an earthquake about 80 miles south of Vienna, VA a few hours ago. Hopefully, no one was hurt and no infrastructure was damaged. Do we have to worry about an earthquake happening in a few more days? A worse one? I don't think so, but...with my luck, I wouldn't be surprised.

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˙2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bye bye car. I hope you didn't just die.

5. My car just died. I was driving home. Got on the on ramp on I-84 and all the engine warning lights came on and the car made a funny sound and I could not accelerate any more. I pulled over as far as I could. I smelled something burning, then saw some smoke slip out from under the hood. I started shaking...grabbed the phone and got out of the car. I called 9-1-1 because I was concerned something might ignite and I was scared to death. I was in the blazing sun and 100's of cars were flying past me. I called AAA-thank God for them. They promised less than an hour. I tried to reach Sam. I called once...voice mail..I called again..voice mail..I started to cry.

Sam couldn't get to me. There was construction problems. The cops never showed up. I just sat there thinking that my car repair is probably going to cost me every dime I have left...hopefully not more...hopefully it CAN be repaired.

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©2011 Maria S. Truffles has to wear the “cone of shame” for a few days until her infection clears up. I've NEVER had cats get spayed, come back with infections, ever!

6. Amberly's kittens have INFECTIONS from their spay surgery!!!! Are YOU KIDDING ME?!!! REALLY?? They have to be on clavamox for a few days. Not a big deal, unless their fevers don't go down and they get SICKER!!!!!

...and that isn't everything...just add being sick with a stomach virus, being sleep deprived and still suffering from a headache that started last year after I was in a car accident...and on and on...

I'm honestly terrified of what is going to happen next. Should I NOT go on this trip? I was all ready to write about how I was going to go full speed ahead and bravely drive right into the oncoming Hurricane Irene just to get to BlogPaws. Right after I thought that, my car DIED.

Is this a sign, or what?

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Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: And Everything Else

I'm still struggling with putting words together when it has to do with Bob. Writing about it makes me think about him, his care, about his challenges, which ultimately lead me to worrying (even more) about how much time is left. I'm trying not to worry, not to fret, but I am an anxious person by nature, so how easy is this to accomplish? It's a struggle to stay with it-stay with the fear of seeing your cat growing more frail while you try to be present in each moment.

It's Monday. Bob should have been dead for three days already, but I cancelled the appointment to have him put down. Each day that ticks by, is a bonus day for him (and me). Each day I worry that I will wait too long or that Bob will go into distress when I can't get Dr Larry here, but it's a chance I have to take. Some amazing things have happened for Bob. I have to ride this out, regardless of how difficult.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Just Bob.

I mentioned in my last post that I gave Bob insulin and I want to talk about how I arrived at that decision.

I've come to the point where I don't just blindly follow what my Vet tells me. I have to really consider what is said, but then do my own research. Vets are like anyone else, they can't know everything and I doubt they know my cat better than I do. Think about it. Your Vet has to treat how many animals over a given day? How many upset pet-parents call him or her? There is a tremendous amount of information they have to keep track of, but they can't give your cat or dog 100% of their attention. It's just too much to take on. They also don't LIVE with your pet. They don't see the fine details that you may have forgotten to mention. When your cat is terminally ill, as Bob is, I think it's okay to take a step back and really consider what is before you and not make a decision solely based on what someone tells you to do.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob still LOVES his cat grass.

So even though the tests say things look terrible for Bob, Bob, himself is still plugging along. He has recently become diabetic from the steroids I had to give him to control his cancer and if that was not treated, Bob would suffer terribly from bladder infections, muscle wasting and organ failure. Something had to be done about his blood sugar. Because of this problem and because chemo is no longer an option, I decided to ask Jennifer, our Board Member of Kitten Associates and my good friend, to help me with Bob. Jennifer is a Case Manager for Diabetic Cats in Need and she really knows her way around diabetic cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes. Bob is eating DRY FOOD! It's grain-free and very high quality. Bob gets what he wants these days and this is one of the few things he eats on his own.

We did a Blood Glucose Curve over the course of an afternoon. Every hour Jennifer took a tiny speck of blood from Bob's ear and tested it on a meter. The first reading was almost 500 when under 100 is normal. The next few readings dipped down into the 400's, but on his own, Bob couldn't get his sugar to come down enough. We gave him 1 unit of Lantus, which is slow acting and gentle. We re-checked Bob's blood and the number came down a bit, then into the mid-300's an hour later. This meant that Bob was getting some help from the insulin and if he continued to go down, he might feel a lot better.

The next day I started to see a change. Bob was a bit brighter. He was more willing to eat. Not a lot, but he ate. I still syringe feed him at least twice a day to supplement what he can eat on his own.

When you're assessing your cat for “Quality of Life,” you take everything into consideration. This is my informal checklist:

Using the litter pan? YES! Bob even had a big ol' normal looking poop which I haven't seen him do in months.

Preening? Or grooming? Yes, Bob still washes his face and we give him a bath to help sooth his awful ringworm.

Eating!! The big one: Bob IS eating some. He is pickier than ever, but at this point, he gets what he wants as long as it's not grained food. I ain't gonna feed that. NO WAY. Bob's offered food MANY times a day. The cancer gets most of his nutrients so sadly Bob is very very thin. Bob's also drinking a lot of water because of the diabetes, but I've seen him not drinking as much over the past few days.

Interacting with family? YES! Bob gave me the “Puss in Boots” look that tells me he's hungry. He slept on the sofa next to Nicky. He's not hiding. He doesn't move around a lot, but he DOES get up on his own and he still purrs, just not as often.

Is the cat comfortable? Or does he/she sit “meatloafed” with paws tucked under the belly, NOT looking relaxed at all? Bob has been looking more relaxed lately. I've seen him flatten out and even have dreams while he sleeps. Does the cat cry in pain?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A shadow of his former 16 pounds, it's still BOB at just over 9.

People have come up with all sorts of formulas about how many good days the cat has versus how many bad and how to know it's time. I think it's a start, but really, as most of us know, we'll know when it's time. Be observant. Try to watch out for the urge to just get it over with because YOU are suffering watching this natural process occur. This is very very difficult, but we owe it to our animals to give them every option and every day we can.

As for Bob. He's still Bob. He is the coolest cat I've ever known. Though it hurts my heart to pet him, because he's so thin, his soul is unchanged. He's cool even in his last days.

I love Bob.

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Elke! Butt-Kicker and Cat Lover Extraordinaire!

Elke is awesome. She really kicks butt.

Last year she jumped at the chance to ADOPT, not foster, an adult cat who was dumped at the door to a Vet in the blistering heat of southern Atlanta. The cat, stuck in a cat carrier, suffered there until the local Vet's office opened a day later. He didn't care for the cat, he turned it over to Animal Control, who brought it to a KILL SHELTER. This kitty had NO CHANCE of surviving. She wasn't a kitten, she wasn't fancy-pants, she was just a tabby with an pleading look in her eyes.

The cat's name was Koko and the notes attached to her cat carrier sent shock waves throughout the cat rescue community. Of all the stories I've written, Koko's got the most passionate and heated reactions-my own, included.

Koko's backstory is HERE.

In nine days, it will be the one year anniversary of KoKo, who is now named, Sophie's freedom and the start of her life 2.0. Elke, opened her home, took a big risk and fell in love with this chubby tabby who only sort-of-kind-of gets along with Elke's other cats. It doesn't matter. There's plenty of room for everyone. The cats co-exist peacefully and Sophie will never have to worry about being dumped again.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. WOO! LOVE IT!

Since I arranged for Sophie's release from the Kill shelter, her vetting and transport, Elke and I have become friends. Elke is a diehard supporter of Kitten Associates and for all cats in need. This woman LOVES animals and it's clear her heart is huge.

The latest proof arrived in the mail today! A surprise! A stunning, fantastic, zebra-striped cat carrier! I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!

I'm a Graphic Designer and I LOVE black and white with a hit of hot pink or red and this cat carrier has all the right touches of red! It is a knockout!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Don't even bother trying!

The second I put it on the floor Blitzen, Mazie and Nicky rushed over to check it out. Blitzen, somehow managed to cram himself into the opening, while Mazie smacked at his face out of jealousy!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.Well I'll be! Look at Blitzen!

This cat carrier isn't really made for a big cat, it's really for the foster kittens. I know “the DOOD” being black & white, will coordinate perfectly with his carrier or, vice versa!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Uh oh. Mazie is not havin' it!

I didn't realize how tired I was of the boring, flesh-tone colored hard plastic boxes I lug back and forth to the Vet. Now I can't wait to bring Doodles for his FVRCP vaccine! We'll be the hit of the waiting room, for sure! If it wasn't so hot, I'd just pack him in it and take him for drives with me.

For now I'll have to contain myself...hee hee...

THANK YOU, ELKE!

and thank you for loving Sophie so much, too!

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The DOOD Scores a Big Surprise!

DoodleBug is passing the days, waiting to be out of quarantine. He still has seven more weeks to go, living in my blue bathroom until his FeLV test can be re-done and prove for once and for all he does NOT have Feline Leukemia.

Until that time, I've been trying to keep Doodles entertained, but I can't spend enough hours each day to play with him and the bathroom is dark, with only one small north facing window. I fear for Doodles mental health, but I must follow protocol. I can't risk some sort of freak test results where I got a true positive first and an unheard of false negative with the second test!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mazie & Blitzen inspect the contents of the box.

I'm very lucky that there are many good people out there who care about what I'm doing. One such person is Amy Sikes. I've written about Amy before because she offered to take someone's cat (after reading about him on Covered in Cat Hair) when they had to move out of their home due to tough economic times. Amy ended up fostering the cat (named Cheese) much longer than she bargained for so I ended up helping Amy find a home for Cheese.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Directions with NO words to read! The small parts come in a velveteen bag!

Amy has also been donating proceeds of her Avon sales to my rescue group, Kitten Associates. This month, she's helping our friends at Diabetic Cats in Need! It's clear, Amy is devoted to helping cats everywhere!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen inspects every inch.

When Amy heard about Doodles confinement and my wish for him to have a cat tree, just the right size for the bathroom, she contacted me right away and said she would take care of it!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Trying to get the hang of this new-fangled doohickey.

Sure enough, a few days later, a big box appeared at my front door. In it was a very nice cat tree from Armakat! The bonus for me was that this time I didn't have to build it when I had PMS! (Yes, I wrote about building a cat tree when my hormones were out of whack-see HEREand HERE if you want to laugh your butt off.)

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Locked on target!

This was the easiest cat tree I've ever had to build. Every part was marked. The directions were clear. I built it in a few minutes, though Blitzen could not keep off the thing as it was being constructed. He thoroughly examined and tested every piece. I guess Doodles should have been happy his maybe-some-day-big-brother vetted the cat tree for him.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Showin' off now!

When I was done building, I had to drag the thing into the bathroom. Doodles was shut up in a cat carrier so he wouldn't get under foot, but he was going nuts wondering what the heck I was doing to his room!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The Dood & His Cat Tree.

I got the cat tree in place and let Doodles out. He RAN over to it and began furiously raking his claws up and down the sisal covered supports. He began to PURR very LOUD. I swear he was smiling.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Test driving going well so far...

He went over to just about every sisal covered post and scratched it, hugged it, climbed up, then fell down, then scratched some more.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The claw master!

After a few minutes he jumped into the cat condo and ripped at that for a time. He was very amped up, that's for sure!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Action shot! Look at that white tip on his tail!

Even though Doodles is small, he managed to climb all the way to the top of the cat tree, which is about six and a half feet tall. He looked down at me, smiling, still purring. He batted at the toys I attached to the platforms. He scratched the posts again.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

He just couldn't get enough.

Seeing “The Dood” so happy made me feel a lot less stressed out about having to keep him in such a small space. Though the cat tree takes up a bit of room, Doodles gains vertical space, interesting spaces and plenty of area to rake those claws and help him manage his stress.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillaxin'

It meant a lot to me that someone cared about Doodles as much as I do and wanted to make his life better during this tough time.

What was even sweeter was that another good friend, Ingrid King, of The Conscious Cat, contacted me. Her cats Ruby and Allegra also wanted to get Doodles a cat tree, but when they found out he was getting one, they decided they'd like to buy some toys for The Angel Babies and Amberly's family, when they get here in a few weeks.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Flying meatball?

I had to throw out all the toys and bedding to prevent any upper respiratory or ringworm from spreading, so I really need more for the kittens and it's just great to know that when they get here, I'll be able to provide those things for them thanks to Ingrid's generous cats!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. THANK YOU FOR MY CAT TREE!

If The Dood could talk, I know he'd say; “Thank you, Amy! I love my new cat tree!” But I fear he'd also say; “Robin, why are you locking me in the bathroom? You suck!”

I'm glad cats can't talk.

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If you'd like to do some shopping for yourself or your family, visit Amy's Avon Page and the proceeds will go to Diabetic Cats in Need! We thank Amy for her continued support of cats everywhere-especially The DOOD!

DoodleBug's FeLV Test Results are In!

Three days ago, DoodleBug tested POSITIVE for Feline Leukemia. I decided to have him re-tested right away, instead of waiting for two months. I wanted a confirmation that the first test was accurate.

Super Deb just called me with the results.

NEGATIVE!

NEGATIVE!

NEGATIVE!

Okay, DoodleBug had only one test, but I just wanted to be emphatic about the results! I am SO thrilled!!!!!!!!!! This means that it may have been a false positive. To be sure, Doods will have to be STUCK in the bathroom for TWO MONTHS until we re-test him one more time, BUT it is very likely he is just FINE, thank you. And does NOT HAVE FELINE LEUKEMIA!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The Dood.

I'm SO GLAD I insisted on running a second test to confirm the first one instead of waiting for a grueling two months to get the news!

Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!

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