When I think about Laney and look into her owly-shaped pale-lime colored eyes, I feel relief. She weighs a bit over 10 pounds now. Her fur is sleek and silky, her expression sparkles with vitality. The fleas and parasites that plagued her body over a year and a half ago, are long gone. Her womb is no longer filled with a rag tag mix of kittens. Her fourth known litter was her last because we had her spayed. Instead of trying to scrape together a meal, living outdoors with filthy pest-covered kibble to sustain her, her meals are nutritious and brought to her twice a day. Recovered from many miserable years of ill-treatment, Laney now plays with a vigor that surprises me. She’s reverted to kittenhood in these moments, racing along after the red dot of a laser pointer or furiously chasing after a feather toy. She has blossomed into a magnificent, loving creature. In a perfect world she’d have her forever home by now, too.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Laney, our divine lady.
More than 6-months ago, I had a home for Laney. It was the only application I’ve ever gotten for her and it was a good one. The adopting couple had a perfect home and were going to give her everything she needed except one thing-she’d be alone. For some cats it’s fine to be the one and only, but Laney had at least 16 offspring that we know of, who survived long enough for us to rescue. She’s never alone. She's so bonded with her kittens (who are now young adults), I couldn’t imagine her not being around another animal while her new family worked away from home for 8 to 10 hours a day.
Photographer unknown. The first photo we have of Laney, showing her with baby-Winnie nursing on her (center of litter on the right), alongside another cat with kittens. We'll never know just how many kittens were a result of Laney not being spayed but our lowest guess is at least 20.
In the end, I had to pass on the application and the adopters got themselves a Bengal. I hope they know what they’re getting themselves in for because it won’t be as mellow and sweet as Laney and hopefully it won’t destroy their house while they’re gone all day.
The foster room’s occupants haven’t changed in almost a year. It’s a record for me-one I’m not proud of. I’ve written about my troubles last year with my health and how I was so desperate for a break, that in a way I took one by not jumping on every adoption application I got. If the room stayed full, I couldn’t take more and if I couldn’t take on any more, I wouldn’t have to go through all the de-worming, the spay/neutering, the fussing with upper respiratory infections. These cats didn’t need much other than food, a clean pan and some affection. I couldn’t handle doing any more. I needed rest, too.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Winnie and Laney co-parent their offspring and begin our hopes that they will never have to be separated.
As the months passed, only Lex & Lucy got adopted while the others got bigger and bigger. Lolli and Jelly Belly are SO BIG they look like panthers and Louie and Larry aren’t much smaller. The foster room is just a bedroom. With seven adult cats it’s not very spacious for them. I knew I had to do better for them and as a result, I became anxious about getting them on their way.
Then November arrived and along with it an application for Piglet and Winnie. I was glad to see that someone could take them together because I’d been pushing for that or for Piglet to go with her grandmother, Laney. Either way I’d be happy because Piglet had such a bad adoption last April. It truly traumatized her. After she was returned, barely a week passed since her adoption and return, I decided I couldn’t let her be adopted again without her mom or grandma. As a result, I denied a lot of applications that were just for her.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Winnie and Laney about a month after their kittens were born.
The woman who sent in her application is named Christine and she lives alone. Her last cat died about 6 months ago and she was looking for two to fill her home and heart. I told her the story about Laney and how Laney had litter after litter of kittens because her family never bothered to spay her. How she and her older daughter, Winnie, both got pregnant at the same time and gave birth within a week of each other. How Winnie lost two of her kittens and Piglet was the sole survivor, but because Winnie was so brokenhearted by the death of the others that she did not care for Piglet at all in those first vital days.
Laney stepped in and kept Piglet fed. Even while Laney was giving birth, she had her front legs wrapped around Piglet keeping her safe.
©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Used with permission. Love is...
Moved by their story, Christine asked to meet the girls. In early December, she drove over two hours from her home south of Boston to see them. I thought that was a good sign. The meeting couldn’t have gone better. The second she saw Laney, and vice versa, it was a love match. Eventually Winnie and finally the ever-shy-Piglet came over to say hello. Christine was clearly smitten with all three, but she could only take two. I couldn't imagine who she'd choose.
©2014 Kitten Associates. Winnie and Piglet.
She called a few days later and explained that some things had happened in her life and now was not a good time to take on the cats. She was very sorry and was scared I’d be upset with her, but I wasn’t. I told her the truth; I’d rather she tell me this now than feel pressured to do something she really didn’t want to do. I told her the door was always open if she wanted to discuss it some other time and that there were no hard feelings. We ended the call on a good note. I was really sad that this story wasn’t going to end the way I wanted, really dreamed it could end, but I knew they would find their home some day.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet gets comforted by grandma-Laney and Louie while she recovers from having bartonella.
Then the holidays arrived and I scheduled Dr. Larry and Super-Deb do a house call. All the cats needed an exam and booster vaccination and they were too big for me to bring to him. I was shocked to find out that Winnie and Piglet had terrible teeth and needed a dental cleaning right away. Laney needed one, too, but it wasn’t an emergency as it was for the others.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Larry and Super-Deb make a house call while Louie looks on hoping he's not next.
Reluctantly I made the appointments for the girls to have their teeth cleaned. Winnie lost 2 teeth and Piglet lost 1. We ran Bartonella tests on them because some times bad gums can be a sign of the parasite. Ten days later we got our answer. Low and behold, Winnie was a +4 positive so she had to be treated with antibiotics. Piglet had bartonella a year ago and her re-test showed it was still gone after treatment.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Laney and Winnie nervously wait for Dr. Larry.
I decided to email Christine, because she’d felt so guilty about changing her mind regarding the adoption. I figured I’d gently close the door on her adopting since the girls were going to have issues. I told her that maybe it was for the best that she didn’t adopt because I just had to spend over $1000.00 on the dentals and that the girls might need extra vet care for the rest of their lives.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. It's only now that I look at older photos of Winnie compared the this recent one that I see just how much she's blossomed in a year. Her ratty, short coat is long and luxurious and her coloring has intensified into a glorious orange (she was originally much lighter in tone).
Then even better news: Dr. Larry realized that since Winnie had bartonella that it was also likely she did not have stomatitis after all. He felt the same way about Piglet, too. This was terrific news for everyone and only made Christine even more anxious to do the adoption.
I had to finish giving Winnie her course of antibiotics to kill the bartonella before she could travel to Christine’s home in Massachusetts. So we waited 3 weeks, while I silently prayed Christine wouldn’t change her mind or that something wouldn’t happen to the girls that would be a deal-breaker.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Piglet's not sure she wants to leave her brother Louie.
Last weekend, we were supposed to do the adoption, but yet again had to delay because the northeast got hit by big snow storm. Thankfully, Christine was willing to wait, but how much longer?
We decided that we’d try again in another week if the weather held out. I emailed Christine the adoption contract so she could review it ahead of time. Again, I found myself worrying that she’d see something in our contract that would put a stop to it, but once again she was perfectly fine with our requirements and was looking forward to getting the girls.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Piglet says goodbye to big brother Jelly Belly while Laney and Louie look on.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Winnie in all her glory.
I’ll also miss watching all seven cats interact. Each night Laney would sit on her spot on the corner of the bed nearest the door. She’d purr loudly and all the others would come to her side. Jelly would dip his head towards his mother’s. She’d lick his forehead or if he tried to nurse on her she’d give him a quick smack. Eventually they’d all sit cuddled up in an endless furry mass, purring and grooming each other until they fell asleep. I feel badly for Jelly. He loves his mama so much, but there’s a point at which their separation has to happen. Jelly, Louie, Larry, Lolli, will lose their mom and their sisters, but hopefully their time will come when they can find their home, too. I dream of keeping Louie and Larry together and Jelly and Lolli together. Maybe it’s a lot to hope for, but in a perfect world anything can happen.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. I'm going to miss you, sweet Laney.
©2016 Robin AF Olson. Winnie and Laney meet their mom, Christine.
(continued from part 1)
After a month of tests, I continued on, but this time weighing about 20 pounds less. The pain wasn’t as severe and I was a pro at checking my blood glucose every day. I never saw it go beyond a normal reading, but I was also terrified to go out to eat (so I didn’t). I cooked more than I cared to, but if I controlled what went into the food, I was “safe.”
I was lost trying to sort out what to eat, what not to eat. I hadn’t had sugar or much white flour. No more pasta, no more nuttin’. I had terrible cravings, but I knew that if worked very hard, it would go away and I’d make new routines eventually…yeah, right. We’re talking about me, a self-confessed “foodie” who felt like her whole life was over.
At least I got to rescue a kitten we named, Tink. She came flea-infested from Animal Care & Control in NYC. It was our first rescue-pull from them and it was a proud moment for me because if you’re going to rescue a cat from a tough place, NYACC is it. They do a great job partnering with an organization called HOPE, to get the animals OUT of their facilities, but you can imagine they are overloaded day and night.
Tink went to foster care and her foster mom fell in love so Tink’s adoption was sealed.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Think, a mini-Freya, bright light in an otherwise dreary world.
Meanwhile, I wasn’t too sick to notice that my cat, Gracie wasn’t eating well. No matter what we did or tried to feed her she was clearly off her food. I took her to the vet and they said she needed a dental cleaning right away. Other than the fact I hadn’t been working and was low on funds, there was nothing to be particularly concerned about as it was a routine procedure.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Minus most of her teeth after a dental, now Gracie was facing something much more dire.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. At one of a million vet visits, each one giving us hope that we'd find the answer of what was ailing our girl.
And so began a torturous two months of trying to save Gracie’s life. It was so hard on me that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had such bad anxiety because we couldn’t find what was going on, but could only guess it was neoplasia (cancer), somewhere. If we didn't know what was slowly killing my sweet cat, we couldn't TREAT it. The clock was ticking. I’m not a loser when it comes to my cats. I will fight and fight for them but nothing I did helped Gracie get any better.
2015 used with permission. Woody on his mom's lap. He's where he was supposed to be all along.
There was a moment of joy. Woody, the last of Mia’s kittens, finally got adopted after a 18 months. Woody’s siblings, Greta and Lil’ Snickers had been in their forever home for 6 months, but their mom, Nicole and been aching over the fact that Woody was left behind. She and her family agreed that Woody needed to join them. I couldn’t believe it when she called, but indeed that’s what she really wanted all along.
It was a shaky two weeks because Woody had to leave his mother, Mia. I hated separating them, but truth be told, Mia is not friendly enough to be adopted and this was Woody’s best chance.
2015 used with permission. Wood (on recliner) reunited with Lil Snickers (front) and sister, Greta (sofa).
Woody is doing great and his siblings remembered him after a few days. Mia is showing signs of coming around, too, so maybe one day she’ll find her family, too.
Lex & Lucy got adopted even though I was pretty much checked out of running Kitten Associates. I was glad for them because the couple was great and I’ve heard the kitties are doing well, but it also meant the remaining foster cats were well beyond being cute kittens. They were all over 8 pounds and too big for their prime adoptable time.
Used with permission. Lex & Lucy together always, in their forever home.
I began taking an online class with the Humane Society of the United States. It was 10-weeks long plus 5 hours of course week, at least, every week. At the end of it I’d be certified as a Cat Behavior Counselor. The question was, could I do it when my heart was breaking and my mind was numb from stress?
Our sole remaining feral cat, Bronte showed up looking frail and sickly. We put out a trap so we could get her to the vet, but instead of trapping Bronte, we got this big tom cat who had been hanging around our house for months. I was able to learn he was being fed down the street, but the person at that home said he wasn’t her cat. Since we had the cat and to get back at him for ripping my screen window open a few days before, I took him to be neutered (okay I wasn’t getting revenge, but…).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry sat outside my office window (before he ripped it open) and cried. Meanwhile DOOD and Blitzen egg him on.
I named the cat, Barry.
I figured I’d let him go back outside after he recovered from surgery. What I didn’t expect was that Barry was friendly, so then I was faced with what to do with him.
©2008 Robin AF Olson. Bronte, the last time we were able to trap her and get her vetted.
Sadly, we never saw Bronte again. She’d been with us for seven years. We had heated cabins for her in our screen porch and heated water dishes. We fed her every single day and now she was gone. We couldn’t even say goodbye. I still find myself looking for her when I go outside.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Cricket with frankenbutt.
One night I looked over at our cat Cricket. I saw blood all over his rear end. It was bad enough we were doing vet runs and fussing over Gracie, but now Cricket was in big trouble. It was clear he blew out one of his anal glands and needed surgery to repair the wound. We had him stitched up the next morning. He needed 17 stitches and was just in time for Halloween.
©2006 Robin AF Olson. The most beautiful, sweet-natured cat I've ever known. I miss you, Gracie, so much.
I suppose the best news of the year was that after repeating my blood work it was determined I didn’t have diabetes after all. I didn’t even know I could hope for that outcome. I'd lost about 45 pounds and still need to lose more, but the change in my body was starting to be pretty clear since none of my clothes fit me any more.
I knew I still had to be very careful because I can become diabetic due to my family history, so I can’t go back to eating things I used to like, but at least I can have a cookie or some such thing once in awhile.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my future?
On the flip side, the bad news is there is trouble with my heart, a lack of blood flow that is either a small or moderate in area in the lower part of the muscle. My cardiologist wanted me to take a fist full of medications, but after careful consideration I decided not to take his advice. As of this writing, I’m still on this journey trying to find out what this pain is from. It’s mostly gone these days, but not entirely. I’m getting out for walks more, but not enough. I’m still eating well, too, but I don’t know what is really going on. Hopefully some day I will. I’m getting a second opinion.
Poor Petunia was getting picked on too often, even after the surgery. I decided to create a penned off space for her near the living room. She has her own litter pan, water, cat tree, scratcher, heated bed, cozy hut to hide in. Pretty much the second she realized the other cats couldn’t bother her, she calmed down and never missed the litter pan once. Though it’s not a perfect solution, it stopped the insanity. I don’t feel stressed out because seeing the cats go after Petunia upset me a lot. Now I can relate to Petunia differently, too. She’s not soiling anything and I’m not unfairly vilifying her. I learned I can start over and re-introduce her to the other cats. It’s going to take a long time, but in the meantime she’s calm and content and that’s what matters.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Petunia watches DOOD from a safe distance. After I took this photo, I covered the pen with towels to give her more separation from the other cats.
As for the other cats, I had to suck it up and take my beloved boy Spencer in for a dental. I had put it off after the disaster following Gracie's final cleaning. Spencer HATES to go to the vet and is very tough to handle. They got the job done, but I have to say I was very upset until he came back home. Even then I noticed he's showing his age. He's 14 going on 15 and I just can't "go there" when I think about how we lost Gracie and she was younger. Spencer has the early signs of kidney issues so he'll be going back to the vet for blood work again soon.
I got the flu for Thanksgiving. Not a surprise, really. After all the stress with caring for Gracie, no wonder I got sick. I lucked out and was just well enough a week later to meet Mike Bridavsky and see Lil Bub again. I’d designed Bub’s BUBblehead box and was really proud to be part of her world, even in some small way.
I got home and went back to bed. Sam joined me. He had just been hit by the flu, too.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The bright spot to an otherwise sad year-seeing Mike & Bub again.
Somehow I managed to graduate my class! I got a 98! I’m a Certified Cat Behavior Counselor. Now I can help people keep their cats instead of giving them up when times get tough.
The results of not working much and a lot of sick cats hit my bank account really hard. Christmas ended up being mostly just another day. I was grateful that at least I could keep things going with Kitten Associates. I had some folks interested in wanting one or two of the cats. I’m hoping it will pan out in the new year.
Laney and family had been here so long they needed their vaccinations boostered. I had Dr. Larry and Super-Deb do a house call. I figured it would be a routine visit. No big deal.
I was wrong.
Laney needed a dental. Winnie and Piglet had severe stomatitis and needed not only dental cleanings ASAP, but they both were going to lose teeth. Just how many teeth would be taken was to be determined. There went $2200.00 in vet care I hadn’t figured on.
Barry sounds “bad.” He’s getting x-rays of his lungs done in a few days.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry, no longer the "feral" cat, is making his home in my bathroom until we complete his vet care (and he quits biting me!).
The “good” news I found out today is that Winnie has raging bartonella. It’s good because it means she probably does NOT have an immune disorder that will effect the rest of her life. We’re going to re-test Piglet because she was a +1, when Winnie was a +4 (+4 is the highest level of infection). Since the protocol is to not treat for a +1 and it’s been 9 months since we tested Piglet, it’s possible Piglet had it, but we caught it early and that now she, too may be a +4 (which would explain her bad mouth).
If it means neither cat will have to lose all their teeth one day, I’m all for it.
It was a really tough year. I miss having kittens so much, but I needed a break without being able to really take one. I helped about 45 cats, mostly behind-the-scenes. I was going to end the year by rescuing this super cute ginger boy in South Carolina but happily for him he got adopted before they found out we’d take him.
I faced my mortality in a way I never did before. I made many difficult choices and ended up deciding to give myself the respect I never could before. I'm trying to treasure this body I have, faults, extra padding and all. It's been the toughest thing I've ever done and I have a long way to go, but for the first time I think that maybe, just maybe I'll get there and end up being the girl who really liked herself instead of loathing the face in the mirror.
My dreams for 2016 are a mixed bag. Firstly, I want to get as healthy as I can and get to the bottom of the chest pain. Second, I hope 2016 will be a re-birth of sorts. This humble blog has been far overdue for a re-design and Kitten Associates' web site needs a facelift, too. I'd also like to take my writing to the next level-which means a book project. Will you read a book if I write it? I've got to do this. If I can't make this one dream come true I never will.
...The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Necklace from my friend, Adria.
The theme for 2015 was “the Year of the Vet Visit.” Laney’s older kittens, the “J-kitties” arrived from Georgia in mid-December 2014 and were acting a bit off so I took them to the vet a few times. Eventually we decided to test them for Bartonella. Sure enough they tested strong positive. Freya came up strong positive for Bartonella, too, so they were on antibiotics for 3 WEEKS.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The J-kitties all got adopted in less than a month after arriving from Georgia.
Lil Snickers, Ivy, Greta, Junipurr, Jasmine and Jasper got adopted so that was the good news, but it didn’t last long. Something was wrong with Freya’s eye so I rushed her to the ER where she was diagnosed with Horner’s Syndrome. The cause? No one really knew.
The month for Groundhogs and love…for me, love of taking cats to the vet. Not! Freya continued to struggle. It was bad enough to know that Freya could barely see with her third eyelids exposed as a result of the Horner’s Syndrome, but I began to think she was walking with her head tilted to one side. Back to the vet we went and sure enough Freya had a terrible infection inside her ear that had to be frequently monitored. Was it due to all the antibiotics she’d been on? It was only her right ear causing trouble. Dr. Mary was concerned about how much fluid was building up and that we HAD to put Freya on another type of very strong antibiotics to push this infection back. The problem is, Baytril can cause some very scary side effects. I did not want to give Freya the medication, especially for six WEEKS, but it was the only hope we had, other than doing a CT scan, then risky surgery to drain her ear canal.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. When Freya got Horner's Syndrome I thought I could handle any of her health challenges, but never seeing her turquoise blue eyes again felt like too much to bear.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My poor baby. Head-tilt, vision problems, lovely.
At least Wallace, the tiny kitten who was rescued by the Danbury Fire Department from inside a wall, was now a big grown boy. He got adopted with the remaining “J-kitty”, Jules. They looked like brother and sister and ended up getting along very well. Jules is madly in love with one of her new family’s other pets—a dog named Coco. They spend too much time together, if you ask Wallace.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Jules (left) and Wallace (right) in their forever home.
Laney, Winnie and their offspring arrived from Georgia. ALL of them broke with a nasty upper respiratory tract infection the day after they arrived. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was terribly worried about Piglet because she was doing the worst of all the cats. Most of her family members got better over the next few weeks, but she didn’t.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet takes comfort with her grandma-Laney and Louie.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Fluff sick again.
Of course you can’t have sick foster cats, then expect your own cats will miraculously not get sick at some point, too. Fluff Daddy was hit the worst and required a few vet visits and many trips to the bathroom where I ran a steamy shower for him. With his smooshy-face, Fluff was having a tough time breathing. He’d had pneumonia a few months earlier so I couldn’t risk waiting it out that he’d get better on his own.
Freya’s ear did not improve enough so we had to continue giving her Baytril.
Meanwhile my 11 year old cat, Petunia, who I have struggled to love all these years, was just not peeing in the litter pan any more. It was a horrible mess. Petunia gets bullied and try as we might, Sam and I have spent a lot of money and effort adding cat trees, barriers, adding litter pans, adding litter additives to attract Petunia to the pan, but nothing worked.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. What can happen to your cat inside her bladder when she experiences long-term stress.
Poor Piglet. She was just not getting better. We ran a DNA test called a PCR on her mucus and found out she had a triple-threat viral infection of calici, herpes and mycoplasma! No wonder she was so sick.
Petunia’s surgery was a success. I could tell she was feeling a lot better. The cats who picked on her backed off a little bit, but ultimately we had to do more to help her so we went back to the drawing board to figure out what we could do.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet's struggles continue.
Now Piglet had an ear infection so we began treating her for that. It was odd because it seemed like she had weird-gummy-dirt-stuff (not ear mites) in one ear and that one ear was susceptible to getting infected. She did NOT like being medicated and for a little cat, she sure is strong.
May arrives along with a sad realization. Where are my kittens? I usually have rescued a pregnant cat or a mom-cat and kittens by now. I had no space for kittens. Even if I did open up my nearby foster home, I couldn’t oversee their care remotely. I had a full house and most of my cats were either sick or just getting over it. My home was no place for any kitten. It was simply too dangerous. It was the first time since we opened Kitten Associates in 2010 that we didn’t have any foster kittens.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Finally, Freya is doing well.
Although we had no foster kittens, I was helping behind the scenes. By pure accident I discovered that a gentleman who called me about getting a c-section for his cat (no, I’m not kidding), ended up telling me he had 22 cats that were INTACT. He was in his 70’s and was overwhelmed. I put out the call to help and thankfully my friends at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic and PAWS jumped in to help out. You can read more about that HERE.
And then everything stopped and my life came to an end as I knew it.
In late June, I was experiencing severe chest pains so Sam took me to the walk-in clinic right after they opened at 8AM. I was positive I was having a heart attack. I was so upset I almost passed out from worry. I explained to the doctor my weird, radiating pains. I’d read that women present heart attack symptoms differently than men do and I was sure I was in trouble.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my new best friend?
The doctor said the strangest thing to me. He said he believed me but he couldn’t sort out what was going on. They did an ECG and said it was pretty normal but there was something about a q-wave abnormality that might be worth checking into. He said I should follow up with my GP (I didn’t have one) and that if I felt worse to get to the ER.
For the rest of the month I didn’t do much of anything. I was already exhausted from doing rescue and never taking any time off. I let adoption applications go down the drain. The cats got the care they needed, but Sam had to help me because I couldn’t lift ANYTHING. I could barely climb the stairs without the pain returning. I felt lost, broken, angry. How was I going to go on?
the rest of this craptastic year in review coming up next...
Before I could do a thing I got a call from my friends over at Animals in Distress about a kitten with a serious birth defect and could I just foster her for a weekend?
Continued from Part 1
That was the day I met Freya and you know what happened after that. Freya required round-the-clock care, specialized surgery and lots and lots of vet visits. Freya is still here 8 months later and is now part of the Kitten Associates family. Sadly, once again, Mia would have to wait to be socialized and I felt terrible about that.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya.
Mia’s offspring began to find their forever homes and so did a few of Celeste’s. Whichever cats were still waiting were moved over to the big foster room. Mia was nonplussed with newcomers. In fact I began to wonder if she had a vision problem because she didn’t react to anything. Her eyes were often dilated when I thought they shouldn’t be. She didn’t seem to look at toys if they weren’t making sounds, as if she was blind. I did a few tests but I’m not sure if she saw me or only has shadow vision. She’s too fractious to take to the vet and our vet said unless it’s pretty obvious (like cataracts) it’s tough to tell the degree of vision loss a cat has.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The first group of Laney's kittens arrive. Jules, Jasper, Jasmine and Junipurr (are all adopted now!).
We began transporting Laney’s family north from Georgia earlier this year. The oldest four came up first and were quickly adopted because they were outstanding cats. One of them, Jules, was adopted along with Wallace, the once tiny kitten we’d taken from the Danbury Fire Department after they’d pulled him out of a concrete wall. Fernando and Astro were adopted together and so were Jasper and Jasmine.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Woody with his mama-Mia.
With Woody vying for my attention, I could only do a little bit with Mia. I’d tempt her with treats and lightly brush her paw with my finger. I was careful to be at ease with her and not tense. I wanted her to be used to me being around but she always hid in a corner if she heard me coming. She never climbed on the cat tree, which added to my suspicion about her vision. It might also make socializing her much harder if she couldn’t see me very well, if at all.
Laney and the gang have been here for about 2 months and I hopefully have a lead on ONE home for two of the kitties, but that’s it. Poor Woody, Mia’s remaining son, who has been with us over a YEAR, has never had even one application. I don’t know why we can’t find him a home because he’s amazing, but sadly he’s also keeping me from working with his mom.
During these past few months one of our adopters, who has become a good friend, came to visit the kitties. Her name is Kendra and she teaches art to children. She’s a wonderful artist in her own right and has volunteered to create torn paper portraits for many of our donors (she even did a big one for us of our dearly departed kitten, Fred that you can see on her ETSY page). Kendra is adorable and when she’s with our cats she her voice takes on a magical quality. It sounds a bit like a cross between a little girl and an elf. The cats love it. Even my shy boy Cricket will sit in her lap while she tells him how handsome he is.
©2015 KendyBo. One of Kendra's many awesome portraits. This is of Jayne Dog, who I wrote about HERE.
I spoke with Kendra about my frustrations with Mia while we were in the blue bathroom with her. Without hesitation, Kendra reached out and started petting Mia while we were talking! WHAT????!!!!
Did Mia like it? Meh; not so much.
Did Mia bite her or swat at her or growl? No.
It was shortly after that when Kendra contacted me and offered to foster Mia, hopefully unlocking the key to help socialize her. I had my hands more than full and she wanted to help. Kendra’s boyfriend, Brian, had been around feral cats all his life. She referred to him as the “feral cat whisperer.” Once we worked out the details we set a date to begin.
Saturday, Kendra came over to pick up Mia, but first I had to get Mia into a cat carrier.
I was lucky that Mia was in the bathroom because removing hiding places is the key to getting a cat into a carrier when you can’t pick them up. The first thing I did was move Woody out of the room, then move the cat tree, litter pan and anything else giving me full access to Mia. I also knew that because fearful cats feel safer in a small dark space that if I controlled where the small dark space was, then she’d go to it sooner or later.
I knew, too, that Mia had already had this happen to her before so even with a plan of action it might prove difficult.
As I moved things out of the way, Mia dashed across the floor and hid behind the toilet, which was the only thing I couldn’t move. I put the open cat carrier to her right. It was covered with a big towel so it was nice and dark inside. Mia wouldn’t budge.
I had to get the broom. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t risk being bitten. I tried to keep Mia calm, but she shot between a small space between the toilet and the cat carrier and jumped into the bathtub. She was very scared but didn’t growl or try to attack me. I kept at it, coming towards her, slowly herding her back to the cat carrier.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya peeks in on Mia.
She was so afraid her bladder let go. I felt so badly when I saw the pale yellow fluid run out from under her tail. I wanted to rinse her off, but it was make or break and she needed to get into the carrier. I used the broom to carefully push her towards the open cat carrier. She wouldn’t move at first, but then suddenly made a run for it, this time into the cat carrier. I closed the door behind her and made sure it was closed properly.
Kendra had a room ready for Mia, with no places to hide. I waited for her to get home and update me on how things were going. Within a few minutes of her arriving, she sent me this video.
Later that night I got more images and videos. Brian was working on becoming Mia’s BFF. He “forgot” she was feral and picked her up. She just hissed, confused by the sudden contact. Brian and Kendra are both able to pet Mia, not just on her face, but on her back and even on her paws. Even Kendra's 8-year old son could pet her! Mia is stressed, but has moments where she closes her eyes and relaxes. It seems that it’s just a matter of time before we see even bigger changes. Maybe by tomorrow she’ll be ready to go?
The past month has been one of the worst of my life. Although I’ve witnessed the slow decline and eventual passing of my own senior cats, and all the fear and sadness that brings, I’ve never watched it happen to a mere kitten. It is so much worse because there’s the added tragedy of the full, long life that never got to be lived. The family I imagined coming to adopt him, never came to the door. The joy he’d have being loved and cherished for a lifetime, was taken away by a fatal disease.
Yesterday afternoon, Fred made his journey over the Rainbow Bridge.
The past month, I’ve had to face Fred’s decline, despite so many efforts to revive him, find an answer, at least keep him stable for a while longer. I’ve had to watch him as he lost use of his back legs. He could still get around after we made changes to his living space to make it easier on him to still have some freedom.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney often tried to get Fred to play, which I discouraged. Eventually, Barney realized his brother couldn't play with him any longer.
He became incontinent. Not surprisingly because he couldn’t get to the litter pan. We just made more adjustments and bought a lot of “wee-wee” pads. The goal was to keep him comfortable, hoping we’d get enough time for the test results to come back or to start another treatment.
I set up the web cam so I could watch him when I wasn’t in the room, but felt sick to my stomach every time I looked in on him. Seeing him struggling broke my heart. There was a time I saw him slip and fall off the pet stairs onto the floor. I raced up to the room to help him back up. He seemed so confused about how such things could happen to a once agile creature. I kissed him and told him to hang on that I would find a way to make it better.
I realized I was running out of things to hope for last week. I realized how ridiculous it was to find myself hoping Fred had lymphoma, instead of FIP. Both were fatal, but at least with lymphoma Fred could live longer, maybe over a year. It was crazy to hope that, at least, Fred wouldn’t lose use of his front legs, too, but eventually he did. He could sit up, but other than that, he didn’t move around. Sam and I took turns changing his position or location in the room. I’d place him on a bed in the sunshine and he’d groom himself, perked up by the joy of being in his favorite place.
Fred hadn’t eaten anything on his own over the past week, not even his favorite chicken treat. Sam and I fed him three times a day via a syringe. He struggled at first, but as the days passed, he just took his food without a fuss. Sam would hold him against his chest, shielded by a pad because Fred would often urinate when we held him up to feed him. We’d cheer him on when he peed because that meant his body was still functioning normally. A few times we even got him to poop, which caused us to be even happier. He still had some strength. It wasn’t time. We still had a chance.
I would focus on coming up with the tastiest, most nutritious, combinations I could put into the blender to make Fred enjoy his food. He would take a taste, then smack his mouth with his tongue. He’d look up at Sam with this silly, sweet expression and Sam would look down so lovingly at this little cat. I’d syringe a tiny bit more food into him and he’d swallow some and dribble some onto his fur. Between syringes of food, I’d carefully wipe Fred’s face with a paper towel I’d wetted with very warm water. I wanted to recreate the feeling of his mama washing his face. He seemed to like it and often purred.
When we finished feeding, there were the many medications, eye drops, bad things. I washed Fred again and we’d put him on a soft bed. We’d take turns brushing him, again, anything to help him feel clean and comfortable. Some times Barney would come over and lick Fred’s face, ears, or paws. Fred almost smiled at Barney’s attempts to connect with his brother.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred (front) and Barney (by the pillows).
I found I couldn’t focus on work or eat much. My only respite was sleep and I couldn’t get to sleep unless I was exhausted. I’d get a few hours, only to wake up as the first glow of sun peeked over the horizon. My gut would go back to its familiar ache. Should I look at the web cam? Is Fred still alive? Did he pass away over night?
Time was quickly running out for Fred. Tests kept coming in negative for lymphoma so for certain it was FIP. Fred’s condition got much worse on Tuesday night. We had to hold his head up to get him fed. He was much weaker. I’ve never seen a cat, while still alive, who was so very limp-everywhere. Fred couldn’t lift his head or lick his paw. He could flick his tail ever so slightly-and that’s how I knew it was time to change his wee wee pad, but that was it. After we fed Fred, got him cleaned up and on a fresh blanket, we left the room. I broke down in tears and said to Sam that it was time. He agreed. We were taking turns changing Fred’s position every hour and making sure he wasn’t urinating on himself. I was to call Dr Larry in the morning to make the appointment for that day. We couldn’t wait any more. Now my last hope was that we could end Fred’s life in a peaceful way and without pain or fear.
Sam and I discussed what we would do, how it would be done. I made a promise to Fred-no more Vet runs and that the Vet would come to us. Sick to my stomach, I made the call. Dr. Larry was out sick that day. My only option was to bring Fred to them and have Dr. Mary put Fred down. Sam and I discussed it and felt we could keep Fred going on more day, so we made the appointment for yesterday afternoon.
When you know your cat is going to die and you know when, you can’t focus on anything else going on in your life. Any other issues fall to the wayside. The irony is that through this past month, Sam and I have been working on refinancing our mortgage so we can stay in our home. I’ve been so sidetracked I ignored all the calls and paperwork. I even put off the Closing last week so we could watch over Fred. We managed to get everything taken care of and in the end it saved us a lot of money. We should have been happy since it’s been a constant worry for us for a long time, but we were both like zombies, signing papers, nodding yes or no to any questions our Lawyer had, hoping we’d just get it over with. We got the job done and raced home to be with Fred because we knew we had less than 24 hours to be with him.
The last twelve hours were spent with Fred. He was not left alone, even for a second. Around 10pm on Wednesday, we put or pajamas on and set ourselves up in the foster room with Fred and Barney. Fred was either on a cozy cat bed between us or on Sam's chest. We each were petting him or holding his little paws. They were starting to feel cooler and I wanted him to feel the warmth of my hand. We didn’t say much.
I thought Clark would be a good name for the next cat we rescue, then I caught myself. The next cat? Would there be one after this?
We tried to include Barney or play a little bit with him. He was somewhat curious about what was going on, but eventually settled down on a blanket near Fred, too. We formed a circle of loving kindness around Fred. His breathing was slower. He reacted to less and less. I started to hope that Fred would hang on because I didn’t know how the FIP would kill him. Would he suffocate and struggle? Would his heart just give out? I just wanted this one thing since I couldn’t have anything else. I couldn’t have Fred rebound or recover. At least he could die without pain.
Sam slept with Fred that last night. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t see him in such terrible condition for hours on end. I still got up at 4am and again at 7am to check on Fred and to clean him up because he was urinating on himself. Every time Fred peed we still cheered him on. “Good boy! Okay, let’s get you cleaned up. Oops! Here’s some more! Get another pad. Okay, good boy, Freddie!”
But this was it, the morning of the end. I did all the chores getting our other cats feed, watered, boxes cleaned out, so Sam could stay with Fred. I was so busted up that seeing him was killing me, too. I had to go back and face him because time was running out. We got the room cleaned up and got ourselves washed and dressed. Fred was very frail now. We both sat on either side of him, petting him, talking to him. Telling him we loved him. He was barely conscious. It was devastating.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sam holding Fred before we start feeding time. You can see how limp he is in Sam's arms.
It was a gray day. I was hoping for some last rays of sun for Fred, but it rained. Around 12:30pm, the clouds opened up and it started to pour. I saw Dr. Larry’s car come down the driveway and my heart sank. This was it. It was time. I got up to answer the door, but my legs felt weak. Dr. Larry and super-Deb said hello as they entered the house. My mouth opened to reply, but no words came out.
We went upstairs to the room where Sam was waiting with Fred. Dr. Larry was quiet, then sighed and looked at Fred. He and Deb got to work. I had to sign a form saying Fred hadn’t bitten anyone in 15 days and that I was giving my consent to have him euthanized. Dr. Larry talked about how tough cats are and that he could see Fred living a few more days even though he was barely alive. He said that Fred’s body condition looked really good because we’d been constantly feeding and cleaning him, but that, too, it was clear it was time for Fred to be helped to pass away.
I asked if Dr. Larry could take a look at Barney first. I was worried that Barney could get sick, too, because I’d heard that FIP can hit siblings since they have the same DNA. He and Deb examined Barney and felt he was okay, but we would keep a close eye on him going forward. He suggested we thoroughly scrub down the room and get rid of the cat trees and bedding, just to be safe. We couldn’t risk having an unhealthy environment since I still have three adult foster cats in my bathroom who would benefit being in a bigger space. Although I knew it meant more fundraising to replace all the cat furniture, I agreed it made sense.
There wasn’t anything else I could do to put off what was to come next. It was time to let Fred go. Dr. Larry explained that we had to be calm because Fred’s veins were compromised by the steroids and that the needle might blow out a vein and that we had to not get upset. Sam was still sitting on the bed next to Fred so he lifted the cat bed with Fred on it into his lap. I gave Fred a few kisses and moved aside to hold his front paw while Dr. Larry slipped the first needle into his vein. Dr. Larry fussed over the placement, but the vein held. Fred didn’t even react to the sting of the needle. Fred was already so far gone that when he passed, none of us even saw him go.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred's last night. Sam held him for hours.
I kissed Fred a few more times and told him I was sorry and how much I loved him. Deb carried him out in her arms. He was still on his comfy cat bed. She said she didn’t want us to see her put him in the black plastic bag and I agreed I didn’t want to see that either.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fly free, sweet Fred. We will love you and miss you, always.
I closed the door and came close to fainting. I was crying so hard I couldn’t stand. I willed myself to go back to the foster room, which had so often been a place of joy, to find Sam on the bed, weeping.
I sat on the bed, in the same place I’d spent the better part of the last day, but now we were on the other side of this journey, the side where the questions are answered and where the real pain begins.
A loud rumble of thunder traveled through the house. I said to Sam; “that was Fred. He’s on his way to be with the children and they’re celebrating his arrival.” He looked at me through tear-filled eyes and nodded “yes.”
What the Hell is wrong with me? The current group of foster cats has been here for FIVE MONTHS. They started out as kittens and now they’re young adults. Each day they grow a little less adoptable and each day I grow a little more concerned that I will never get them adopted.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow has blossomed into a lovely young lady.
I had lunch with Super-Deb yesterday and we got into a heated discussion about appropriate nutrition for cats. We were both respectful to each other, but I also felt like perhaps I was seen as being arrogant about my views about NO KIBBLE for cats, ever. It gave me pause. I would never want to be seen in that light.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred with Latte.
Deb surprised me by saying she feeds grain-free dry, along with grain-free canned and some raw. After all, Deb was one of the people who inspired me to look into feeding a raw diet for my cats so I assumed she was only feeding raw, too. She said she doesn’t claim to know everything about what is the perfect food for cats. What she feeds her cats is based on what she feels is acceptable. She does not find issue with grain-free kibble. Go figure.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow's pantaloons.
Deb reminded me that some cats live to be 20 years old on crappy dry food and little to no Vet care. I countered that some people live to be 100 and they smoke cigarettes every day, too, but it’s only SOME people, not MOST. What is the QUALITY of that cat’s life over the years versus a cat on a species appropriate diet? What is a daily smoker’s life like over 100 years? What is it about some cats who can live just fine on dry while so many others get seriously sickened to the point of dying? At least half of my cats had issues that were resolved once I put them on a raw/grain-free diet. Two of the issues would have eventually caused the cats to die.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow with her Cat Dancer®.
The jury is still out and perhaps we will never know what the perfect diet is for our cats, but in my book; garbage in is garbage out. Obligate carnivore cats need PROTEIN for energy, not a baked, extruded, blast-heated granule of grain and vegetable-based proteins and chemicals. It sounds disgusting even imagining it. Even if the dry food had animal protein how much nutrition is left in it after the massive amounts of processing are completed?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney (left) with Fred (right).
Then, the epiphany came into the diner astride a gleaming white horse. I realized the primary reason I’m not finding good adopters is because I need to find people who share the same passion about caring for their cats as I do. What I don't want are people who don’t treat their cat as, well, a cat; something to pet when it’s convenient-to provide care for rarely if, at all. People who easily assume a cat is “evil” if it doesn’t behave in the way the cat expected to—even if it’s against their nature. They don't look past the assumption that the cat is being evil and don't seek out WHY the cat is acting that way or ask their Vet. People who when given common sense information about appropriate nutrition stiffen their back and refuse to even listen. That is not my idea of a good adopter.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally Willow holds still long enough to get a photo of her.
Yes. I ask a lot. I realize that.
I don’t need people to be as cat-centric as I am. I’ve been working very hard to pry my mind open and give every possible adopter the benefit of the doubt when they want to adopt one of my foster cats. I try to keep expectations simple. I do my best to educate, to be respectful, but in the end there can be a parting of the ways and another potential adopter finds a cat elsewhere.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, now a refined ladycat.
To date, Coco has lost out on MANY applications. I went as far as I could with each one. I even went on a home visit. I loved the people, but their home wasn’t a good fit. I had very long conversations with Sam debating about what really mattered—the family or the condition of the home or both? In the end I knew Coco would have spent her life hiding under the bed if she lived there and I couldn’t let her go. There have been other homes that were really crazy-messy but there was so much love in the home that I knew the cat would be happy. I try really hard not to judge, but there's a lot of pressure to get it right. I don't get a second chance to find a better home once the cat leaves here.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I don't know what Willow is doing to Barney.
I finally found a great adopter. He and his family came over a few times. Each time there was a reason why they couldn’t do the adoption right then and there. I gave him the benefit of the doubt knowing he would adopt her after the Holidays were over. He finally got back to me and because his daughter didn’t do some mysterious chore she couldn’t have the cat. I wasted two months on this.
I found another good candidate and was about to do the home visit when the former applicant contacted me and asked if Coco was still available and could they adopt her that weekend? My gut instincts said no way so I moved on.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fabulous Fred.
Saturday Coco might FINALLY be getting adopted except that the woman who was going to adopt her called a few hours ago and said her father has had a serious health issue and she was going out of town for ten days at least. Could I hold Coco? Oh dear..not again. [note: and as of this writing Coco has just come back from the Vet. She's SICK with a mysterious “Fever of Unknown Origin”]
There have been many other setbacks with adopters wanting the cats, coming to visit, leaving empty handed, then contacting me later to see how the cats are doing but they don’t want to adopt them! It's not completely my fault, but I want to do better.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. I still haven't gotten even one application for Latte.
After the Shooting in Sandy Hook and the launch of our Kitties for Kids program I didn’t push too hard to move the cats out. It would be tough to have a program involving cats if all the cats were gone so I lost more time there.
Tomorrow my friends Izzy and Mark are driving to Georgia to pick up Maria’s foster cats: Bongo, George and Bunny Boo-Boo. I’ll meet them late Thursday night in Pennsylvania to bring the cats to Connecticut. While my house is already full, I’m bringing these guys here. They’ve been waiting for four months to come up and start the process of finding their forever homes and with Kitten Season upon us I have to get things going.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney-chomp.
There is a great temptation to not be so strict, to bend the rules, let the cats go to homes where they will go outside to roam freely, where there is no Vet reference, let alone a good one, where it just doesn’t matter what they get fed as long as there’s food. I could get the cats homes in a heartbeat if that was the case…
…and I’d never be able to live with myself.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and Latte wrestle.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred with favorite toy.
Note: Before you even go there, if you free-feed your cat kibble, that’s YOUR choice. I’m not suggesting you’re a bad person if this is what you do. Everyone does the best they can with what they have and as I said, there are some cats who are fine on kibble and nothing more. If you read this blog, odds are you really care a lot about your cat. Be assured I would never want to offend any of you. That's never my intention.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow with cool slow motion tail blur.
I AM, however, suggesting that you feed on a timed schedule-twice or three times a day, tops and NOT leave a bowl of food out all day and night. This is true for MOST, not ALL cats. There are always situations where cats need access to food all the time. I can only think of a senior cat who doesn't eat much as an example but I'm sure there are others. Free-feeding can easily cause your cat to become obese and diabetic. Just that small change could mean a lot to your cat even if that's the only adjustment you make to feeding him or her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Fred.
It’s easy to associate food with love. You can still love your cat more than anyone or anything in the world, but you don’t have to show it by overfeeding them. Love your cat with pets, with lots of play time and environmental stimulation. Keep the bowl empty unless it's time for breakfast or dinner.
Almost a year ago I saw three photos of you in an email from a kill shelter in Georgia. In one of them someone was holding you up under your front legs, while you stood on your back ones. It was clear you were a big cat, with a big “biscuit head,” but there was something so sad about your expression that touched my heart. Perhaps you had given up and for a two-year old cat to feel that way, just wasn’t right. Even though I don’t often take on adult cats, I had to save your life.
©2012 Betsy Merchant. My first glimpse of Jackson.
I named you in honor of my hero, the Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, whose hit TV Show, “My Cat From Hell” had me glued to my television every Saturday night. When I named you I had no idea a few months later I'd be having dinner with the man himself. In a way, Mr. Galaxy is your Kitty Godfather.
There were a few bumps in the road. You weren’t neutered. After we did get you neutered, you got a terrible infection from the surgery and we had to do an emergency procedure to save your life again.
I pulled a favor with my friend Katherine and got you a placement with her shelter. You got sick after you arrived. We all thought you had a cold. Looking back on it I wonder if it was something else we’d discover more about later.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After arriving at Animals in Distress, Jackson took ill.
In a month you found your forever home. We were all so very happy. Your namesake, Jackson Galaxy the Cat Daddy was delighted by the news. Our joy was short lived because in barely a few months, you came back to the shelter. The family said you were getting picked on by their other cats so they gave you to a family member, but shortly thereafter her husband died and that caused another round of problems. They were really sad to let you go, but they felt it was “for the best.”
I felt you needed to come here and be with me until we could find you another home. I counted it up and you’d lived in seven places in the past six months. The last place I wanted you to be was back at the shelter. You needed a break, a home and lots of attention.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This silly side of Jackson emerges.
You didn’t have an easy time being here. With eight other cats you had to find your place in the hierarchy. You attacked some of my cats while they slept. Some of them started urinating all over the house, clearly angered with the new cat in their midst. I yelled at you. I hated you. I hated myself for taking you on but there was also something about you that made me smile. You loved the people you were with and were happy to greet every visitor. I was sad you were having a tough time in an already crowded home. We all suffered.
Then you got sick and we found out about your bad heart and that you were really three to five years old, not two, and that you might not live to be six. After that day I let a lot of my anger go. I accepted you as my own and struggled to figure out how we could all get along.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My beautiful boy.
It’s been a very long road, Jackson, and not an easy one, but during the past six months I have come to love you, just as I love my other cats. I love your chatty nature. Your meow is hilarious. You talk to me all the time and some times you talk too much—especially at 3 AM. You wake me up every single morning, wanting your pill and your breakfast. You head-butt me while you stand on the bathroom counter, while I’m sitting on the throne “doing my business.” You love those tiny pom-pom toys and it makes me laugh when I see you chasing after them. Your feline acne and poor body condition is improved. At 15.10 pounds you’ve gained five pounds since last year. You’re a fine specimen of snow-white male-catlyness with sexy-beast-pale-lime-green eyes. They make me swoon.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson visits Dr Mary and Super-Deb for his checkup before leaving Connecticut.
You vex me as much as you charm me. Though I’ll never know what sort of lousy life you had before, I’m determined whatever you have left will be the best I can provide. I ache for you that some of the cats won’t accept you and I see how you feel like an outsider. Sometimes I wish I had you all to myself. I cherish you so very much.
But now, my friend, it’s time for us to say goodbye. You’ll never get the attention you deserve here and that’s not fair to you. You need to be the star of the show and get all the love and attention. You need less stress so your heart will keep beating. I think you’ll be very happy and I hope this will be the best, last place you will ever live.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. It's 7:30AM and my alarm goes off. It's white and furry and named Jackson.
I’ve been crying every time I think of you leaving. I know I will probably never see you again, unless it’s in a photo. I’m usually okay with that, but this time I think about how I know you’re going to die and I won’t be there with you to help you pass. I can’t protect you any more, but I have to have faith that your new mom will take over my reins with the same passion. It’s just that as annoying as you can be, you also have such a huge, magnetic personality that I can’t help but love you and dread you not being in my daily life.
It will be very quiet and boring here without you. You’re one very special cat who I had the honor of fostering and who I will never forget.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My boy. Life saved. Home secured. At last.
Have a great life, Jax. We’ve had quite a run together and I will miss you more than words can express.
Your foster mom, Robin
©2013 Ryan Feminella.
The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.
I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”
It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?
I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.
Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.
I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.
Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.
Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.
For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.
I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.
I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!
Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.
I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.
I was finally well enough to sit at my desk and try to string together a few cohesive thoughts. Three days of a cliché cold: sore throat, stuffy head, lungs loaded and tight were in the rear view mirror now. The only thing remaining was the kind of headache that makes you wish you didn't have a head. I couldn't spend another day in bed watching episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs on my small iPad screen. I would muddle along.
I tried to catch up on e-mails and sort out what I needed to get done. I didn't want to do too much right away because relapse is not an option, especially this time of year. As I sat at my desk, the late morning sun was bright and warmed my feet. Cats came and went, searching for the prime spot to nap away the afternoon. I heard Bandit and Honeydew running around the house, chasing each other, wrestling, but eventually they, too, couldn't resist my warm office full of soft cat beds.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit keeps me company while I'm in bed with a cold.
I happened to glance down to my left. Bandit was belly up, apparently asleep. She was trembling. Amused, I thought she was dreaming, but her movements weren't the quirky-jerky shifts I've seen other cats do. I shot a video of her, at first trying not to wake her, then worried something was wrong. I woke her up and she was still shaking. I wondered if she was cold so I cradled her in my arms as her body continued to quake.
I petted her and talked to her. For a second or two she'd stop, then start up again. She seemed sleepy so I sat back in my chair and held her, falling ever deeper in love with this tiny little kitten. She's half the size of her brother and light as a feather. She would wake slightly, but the shaking didn't stop. I called the Vet and they said to watch her, keep her warm, let them know if it keeps going on.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. If you're not in love with Bandit there's something wrong with you.
I called out to Sam and the two of us began to set up a heated bed for her. I worried she was feverish so I took her temperature. It was 100.6°F which is normal.
After fifteen minutes passed, with Bandit still shaking, I called my Vet again. They could see her at 5pm. It was barely 12:30pm. Something in my gut said not to wait. I asked if I could bring her and leave her in case they could see her sooner and they agreed, offering I could see Dr. Mary right away if I didn't want to wait to see Dr. Larry.
As I raced to the Vet, I started to run through what could be troubling Bandit. Was she fighting off an infection? Was a toxin coursing through her? Did she get hurt? I said a silent prayer for Bandit to please be all right. Not Bandit. Not this sweet angel of a kitten. I also hoped this wouldn't cost too much. Our finances aren't the best and I knew too well how one Vet visit could easily break the bank.
Thankfully it was quiet at my Vet's office. They immediately took Bandit in the back room to check her temperature. It had gone up to 101.4°F which is still normal, but on the rise. I felt panicked and weak. I realized I hadn't eaten anything and my stomach growled loudly. I didn't care about eating, but the stress and low blood sugar was making me feel faint.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit appeared to be dreaming, but then I realized she was awake and shaking badly. I rushed her to the Vet shortly after this was shot.
Dr. Mary and Super Deb began a careful examination. Dr. Mary talked about everything she was doing and what she was or wasn't finding. “Her heart and lungs sound normal. I'm palpating her abdomen and she's not complaining so there's no pain there. I don't feel anything abnormal.” Dr. Mary continued on as Super Deb comforted Bandit and kept her from wiggling off the table. She put Bandit on the floor and we watched her walk. I called to her and she ran over to me with her tail up high.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
They ran a complete blood panel and re-did her snap test. I sat in the waiting room with my heart pounding. Every time a door opened I jumped-wondering what the news would reveal. Those fifteen minutes passed, taking a few years off my life as I worried. When Dr. Mary came to discuss the results I almost jumped out of my skin.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Super Deb comforts Bandit.
Dr. Mary began researching toxins. The only thing I could think of were a few plants-none were an issue and an open (empty) bottle of Dayquil that I remembered I'd left on the counter. Dr. Mary was very worried about that and said that the blood work wouldn't show if Bandit had been poisoned, depending on what she ingested and when. My heart sank. Surely this kitten wasn't going to DIE?!
We discussed everything from epilepsy to birth defects to the dry form of FIP. Red-faced, I told her that earlier that morning Bandit almost jumped into an open toilet and I'd had no other choice but to pin her against the vanity with my leg to keep her from falling in. I felt terrible. Did I cause her internal damage? What the HELL was going on?
I had to leave Bandit with Dr. Mary. They gave her pain meds and sub q fluids. Dr. Mary felt if she could calm Bandit down and soothe her pain she would stop shaking, then hopefully it would not resume once the pain meds wore off. If not, Bandit would have to see a neurologist and get a CT scan. I knew if that happened we were done for-the costs-$1200 to $1400 just for the scan. Bandit had to get better.
It was a long afternoon. I kept running things over in my head. What did I do? What did she get into? Facebook friends gave suggestions or left supportive comments, praying for Bandit to be ok.
I had the difficult task of calling Donna, Bandit's rescuer and first foster mama to tell her the news. I knew she'd be just as upset as I was and I struggled, trying to be calm and not burst into tears. She took the news well, but I knew it was killing her, too.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit says goodbye the to the staff at Dr. Larry's.
I felt so happy and light, not bothered by anything as I drove along the crowded highway, a journey I've probably taken a thousand times over the years. This was a good trip. I couldn't wait to see Bandit. I got to the Clinic, smiling and anxious. One of the staff told me that Dr. Mary wanted to talk to me. I said I'd just spoken to her on the phone and she said she knew that, but that the doctor still wanted to talk about something. My heart sank.
I went in the back room where only staff were usually allowed. The walls are lined with varying sizes of stainless steel cages. It's brightly lit and spotlessly clean. I zeroed in on Bandit. She was far off to the left, curled up on a heated pad in the back of her 2' x 2' cage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After a long, difficult day, finally some rest.
Whatever joy I may have felt evaporated into the frosty night air. The drive home in the darkness did nothing to soothe either myself or Bandit, who cried, desperate to get out of her carrier. We set up a dog crate for her, hoping she would rest and do nothing else. I offered her a litter pan and she peed away all the sub q fluids. I gave her something to eat and she didn't hesitate to enjoy her dinner. I shut the door to the crate and she sat there, mild tremors coursing through her body. I resigned myself to it being a long night and began my hyper-vigilant watch of her every move.
Over the next hour or two it was clear that Bandit was not happy being confined. Each time I opened the crate door she'd slip past me and dash around the living room. I decided to bring her to my bedroom and close the door so I could watch her and she'd have space to move around and not feel stressed. I offered her toys and she wanted to play. She jumped on the bed. She chased her brother, then her brother chased her. She wouldn't sit still long enough for me to see if she was shaking. She seemed like her old self, yet I couldn't believe she was suddenly just fine.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I didn't want to believe it, but she seemed fine. This morning she was playful, hungry and just as loving as ever. As I sat at my desk, trying to put this story together, she climbed into my arms, fussing about until she found a comfortable position. I cradled her just as I had a day before, but this time the only vibration I felt was from her deep, blissful purr.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This morning with Bandit in my arms.
It started around Saturday. the DOOD wasn't eating well. I didn't notice because Sam usually feeds the cats (while I feed the foster cats). With everything going on with Jackson, we didn't notice the DOOD wasn't moving around much, either-until we looked back on it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting to see Dr. Larry.
By Monday, I did notice that DOOD was staying put in one place for most of the day. He won't get up to eat, but would eat if I brought him his food. He wasn't running around, jumping on Blitzen or bulldozing his way to get a piece of chicken before the others could reach it. DOOD wasn't even climbing into my lap to lick my face as he does just about every evening.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I cooked broccoli. Yes, that's how I cure disease. Okay, maybe not, but I knew DOOD would get up if he smelled the vegetable cooking. He didn't get up. I brought him the bowl filled with his favorite thing in the world. He was very interested in it and got up. I encouraged him to climb down from the cat tree onto the floor. He did so, but he did it slowly. I knew something was wrong, but not sure what it was.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I saw DOOD take a few steps. I shot a quick video to document the problem. DOOD was limping very badly. He cried a little when he reached me. I tried to examine him after he had some broccoli, but he hissed, then nipped at my hand. He even growled.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Being a good boy with Dr. Larry and Super-Deb.
I felt the urge to panic, but fought it back. He's a very clumsy cat. When he runs, his back feet get out from under him all the time. When he wants to push the others out of the way to get a treat, he might overshoot where he's trying to jump and miss.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yes, DOOD is high.
I gave it a few days. DOOD seemed to act a bit brighter each day. Then yesterday morning the DOOD jumped onto the chair next to me. He began trembling from pain. I knew I was pushing my luck and called Dr. Larry. We had to wait until the afternoon, but we brought him in for an examination, blood work and x-rays.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Poor DOOD. He was very good with Dr. Larry and Super-Deb. He didn't make much of a fuss until Dr Larry touched the center of his spine-then he hissed and growled. I was very worried DOOD had a spinal cord injury, but then he wouldn't be able to walk, right? I also worried about an abscess that I missed finding. Something happened with Jackson because DOOD hissed at him and hid when Jackson was near him. Maybe there was a bite wound in DOOD's back?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Dr. Larry took a long time reviewing the x-rays. I got more worried as each minute ticked by. He came back into the exam room and motioned for Sam and I to follow him to the back where we could see the x-rays. Dr. Larry sighed. I started to imagine very bad news.
“I just can't find anything wrong.”
Next, Dr. Larry went over the x-rays, pointing out how he'd look for signs of an abscess-little wisps or lines passing through the skin where gas/air pockets were forming around the wound. None were found. Vertebrae looked good-intact. We looked at DOOD's right front paw and it was fine. Then we saw DOOD's heart and I almost fainted. I realized Dr. Larry brought up Jackson's X-ray on the screen! Right???!! RIGHT!..whew…
The blood work was normal. DOOD's temp was a bit high, but that could have been caused by stress. Bottom line-this was probably a fairly bad soft tissue injury. Rest and pain meds-which are tough to come by for cats-was prescribed. The choice, buprenex and aspirin-yes aspirin, but only twice over the next 4 days, but I'm not sure I can give that to him.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Waitin' to feel better. (with Nicky in the background)
DOOD is home, laying on the bed. He doesn't move much and his eyes seem glued open. I'm sure he's tripping out on the buprenex. I'll give him the aspirin tonight. He's not eating unless I put extra treats on his food and he growls when he has to walk. DOOD must have really twisted his back, but good. I wish he could talk to me and tell me where it hurts.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Zonked.
It's wait and see, like so many other health related problems with our cats. At least nothing is broken and DOOD does not require surgery. I hope that with some TLC and rest he'll be back to running around like a maniac.
Plus, my face needs a DOOD-special-bath.