I was invited by Hill’s to tour their Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas and to listen to a number of presentations by Vets, Vet-Nutritionists, Scientists and staff. They also opened the doors to their state-of-the-art, very high-security manufacturing plant in Emporia, Kansas for an additional tour. They paid for my trip and accommodations, but not for my review, concerns or approval of their products or processing methods. This blog post series is based on my personal experience and opinion, only. Your experiences and opinions may differ.
I had a lot of apprehension about going on this trip. As many of you know, I’m a diehard believer in “species appropriate” diets for cats. Translation: I feed a raw diet to my cats with no grain, no preservatives, no chemicals; just meat, egg yolks and a few other things like extra taurine and salmon oil. There are Vets, Vet Associations and pet food companies who would tell you that you risk sickening your cats and yourself with Salmonella and other food borne illnesses and that you should never feed a raw meat diet to your cat, while there are other organizations and Vets who believe differently.
Without getting into an argument about what IS the perfect diet for cats, my other apprehension was simple; I’m just a lone blogger. My net worth equals the change you might find in Hill’s lobby sofa cushions. Does this “David” dare to speak up about a “Goliath” of the pet food industry? Do I have the nerve to write about something where I can be subject to scrutiny, blacklisting or worse; accusations of libel or lawsuits?
I will tread respectfully and as thoughtfully as possible.
Hill’s is a multi-billion dollar company whose parent company is Colgate-Palmolive. Being their guest was frankly a bit intimidating. I knew they knew my position on appropriate diet for cats so I couldn’t understand why they’d want me to see their operations. I decided to be as open-minded as I could and just listen to what they had to say.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I am definitely not in New York any more.
Arriving at Kansas City International airport, I expected to be tossed onto a shuttle bus and driven the hour-long ride to the Hyatt Topeka. I was surprised to be met by a cheerful driver and my friend, Angie Bailey (of the infamous CatladyLand), who’d just arrived from Minneapolis and who was also going on the tour.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Angie and me livin' large by our private car.
The driver carried my bag and escorted us to a waiting black, shiny livery car with cushy back seats and bottled water waiting to refresh us. I admit to feeling pampered and possibly a bit more nervous about what this tour was going to mean to my future. Clearly Hill’s was going to take good care of us on this trip.
The schedule was tightly paced. We had about 90 minutes after we arrived at the Hyatt to get ready for welcome dinner at the Kansas Museum of History. I entered my room and took a deep breath as I scanned the large, modern furnished space. Before me was a sitting room, wet bar, huge flat screen tv, along with a segregated space containing two freshly made double beds. Again, I expected less and got more. I was told when I got my room key that whatever I needed I should just put on the Hill’s tab. Yikes. Is this what life is like for a rock star? I could get used to this.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One end of my palatial room.
I got unpacked then met with Angie and an acquaintance, Teri Thorsteinson, a Vet Tech who writes Curlz and Swirlz. Teri had two little bottles of champagne in her room and was determined we start the trip off right. The three of us shared a toast and a few laughs before we left for the museum. Even though I didn’t know Teri very well, I had a feeling she was going to become a good friend with a start like this.
I enjoyed having dinner at a Museum after hours when all the tours for the day had left. The group of media people and bloggers was fairly small, only about 14 people plus a few folks from Hill’s, so it felt much more informal. I kept waiting for the pitch about Hill’s products to start, but it didn’t come. We just chatted and got to know each other then finally, barely 25 minutes before we were scheduled to leave, we got to run around the museum and look at some of the exhibits.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Angie, me and Teri (left to right). Why we're leaning over I have no idea.
Of course Angie, Teri and I ran for the gift shop. There wasn’t one in the hotel and we had hoped to find some trinkets with the Wizard of Oz theme to bring home to our loved ones. This was my first visit to Kansas after all.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Real train inside the museum surrounded by other artifacts.
Though the museum was quite enjoyable to explore, the gift shop left us wanting. This was a business trip, darn it! We’re not really there to have fun, but somehow we managed to squeeze in a few laughs and take delight in hearing that one specific seat on the REAL Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe locomotive inside the building was haunted!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Angie afraid she'll be vaporized while sitting on the haunted seat.
The next day’s schedule was jam-packed and we had to get up around 6AM, which was NOT my idea of a good time. We had to be ready to board the bus for the Pet Nutrition Center (PNC) at 7:15AM. I never sleep well in a hotel, but luckily for me, for the first time in my life, after I had a quick shower, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I passed out cold.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Wonderful vintage McDonald's neon sign.
I had weird dreams about the garage doors at my Mother’s house collapsing, falling and crushing my car. The next morning I realized it was the 6th anniversary of her passing. As I got ready to leave my room, I thought about her and my throat tightened as I remembered finding her passed away. I wondered what she would have thought about me going on this trip. I guessed she would have given me grief that I care what I feed my cats. She fed my cat Bob Dole (he was her cat before he lived with me) Friskies® dry and wet. His teeth were so bad that 6 had to go the day after my Mom died and I took Bob to my Vet before bringing him into my home. In time, Bob ended up loving raw food and regained back some of the vitality he’d lost, but sadly not his teeth.
Tour. Day One.
©2012 Hill's. Used with permission. Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center, Aerial View
Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center is set up like a college campus with a central grassy courtyard, surrounded by two storey buildings. Wearing security badges, we were escorted into an underground lecture room that could also be used as a tornado shelter (which I found amusing and a bit scary at the same time). Internet access was iffy and there was no cell service. We were asked to not take photos, which made me itchy. I couldn’t imagine what we could see in this room that we couldn’t show anyone in the world.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tour badge.
We had assigned seats and at each place there was a name placard and some promotional goodies from Hill’s. Angie and I were separated by a few other visitors. I thought they may have done it on purpose since we seem to go into high-powered joke mode if we get too close to each other. It was for the best. Time to concentrate, stay strong, but open-minded and make sure I didn’t drink any Kool-Aid®.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Kostas Kontopanos (okay I snuck ONE photo).
First up was President of Hill’s USA, Kostas Kontopanos. Clearly we were not going to get a pitch from a junior executive. Mr. Kontopanos wasn’t going to say hello and rush off to a meeting, either. He was there for the day to share his vision and to listen to our questions. It was hard not to be impressed by how seriously Hill’s takes the paradigm shift of the past few years—people inherently do not trust marketing or advertising. With the advent of knowledgeable bloggers who have nothing to gain by speaking their mind about product quality or appropriateness, big companies are discovering that these bloggers strongly influence the purchasing power of their desired demographic. In fact, as with my own blog, my demographic of readers is their target audience—much moreso than they can reach through an ad agency. They knew what I said DID matter and my readers trust me. The itchy feeling returned as I listened to the presentation.
Hill’s is guided by its Mission:
“To help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets.”
How they achieve or fail to achieve that goal is rather impressive. That they opened their doors and invited “transparency” was a smart move. Their fear is misinformation—that bloggers will declare their products are garbage or contain metal shavings or whatever you can dream up—and that the folks who read those blogs will believe what they say.
I’d like to think that anyone who writes a blog that includes information about pet nutrition would do some research before making such a declaration. Perhaps I read between the lines of Mr. Kontopanos presentation, that what Hill’s may fear most is that people will become more educated and realize that they might want to reconsider what food they purchase for their cat or dog once they understand a few basic tenets about nutrition.
Hill’s stable of Vets (they employ the second largest number of Vets in the world) is responsible for creating and updating their “Small Animal Guide to Clinical Nutrition.” The Guide can be found on the website of the Mark Morris Institute (MMI)—which was named after Hill’s founder Mark L. Morris, Sr., DVM.
I find the link between MMI and Hill’s to be somewhat distressing. This may be completely innocent, but when you control the information about what makes up balanced nutrition, you affect the entire industry. It makes it easy to point a finger at any of the 175 other pet food companies in the US and say they don’t follow your guide, they don’t do clinical testing and therefore the food may not be balanced, which could make consumers fearful of making the wrong choice. We all want to do right by our pets, but understanding what “right” may be an ever-changing answer or perhaps it's been right under our noses all along?
On MMI’s website it states: “MMI provides pet nutrition education for veterinarians and students of veterinary medicine around the world.”
How better to color a Vet’s perception of what makes up an appropriate diet if the company controlled the flow of information about nutrition to Vets while getting their training?
Perhaps, this multi-million dollar research is guided purely by the passion of a company to ensure that all small animals get the best nutrition possible? But again, I’d ask, what is a “for profit” company’s ultimate goal? Maybe it’s both to make a profit and to educate? Maybe not.
To be fair, I’ve ordered a copy of the Guide to review and to compare with the other books on pet nutrition I’ve read already, but I can already sense what I’m going to be reading.
I spoke with my own Vet about this and he agreed that Hill’s makes it very easy for young Vets to get free products and education, but is that education completely balanced?
My Vet is constantly “courted” by Hill’s, Purina and Royal Canin. The representatives from those companies frequently ask him out to dinner and cajole him to only carry their product line. (he carries a few lines of each brand and says there are too many choices and it’s too confusing to try to carry any more than that).
Pet food industry sales are well into the billions of dollars. People WILL spend MORE for what they perceive is a better product. There's a lot at stake. How is Hill's going to stay competitive?
…part two next up…animal testing at Hill's.
Boogie has two brothers, Otis and Milo. They all lived in a kennel at my Vet's Office. Dr. Mixon of the Newtown Veterinary Center decided to take them in since they were surrendered by a good samaritan a few months ago. I couldn't help him with them right away, but a few weeks ago I started by trying to work with Boogie, which I detailed HERE. He was very fractious AND sick and things didn't go very well. Boogie was so sick that I had to bring him back to the Vet until he could recover.
The good news is that Boogie had a fan in Mandy, one of the Vet Techs at Dr. Mixon's practice. Mandy adopted Boogie and reports that although he is still hissing, she is able to handle him and is in no rush to get him socialized. She can take it at his pace and hopefully, in time, he'll be used to human contact and actually enjoy it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Unhappy Boy.
Otis was able to find his forever home and has been with them for a few days. That left Milo, a lovely orange tabby mix with medium length fur. I'd heard that Milo's personality was somewhere between Boogie's fearfulness and his brother Otis's friendliness. I was somewhat concerned what that might mean, but since it was just one kitten I decided to take him on. I brought him home today.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Milo photo bombed by his cat dancer toy.
Milo is very pretty. He's three months old, but looks like he may grow to be a big kitty one day. Milo cried furiously from inside his cat carrier, scratching at the walls of it to get out as I drove us home. Nothing I said would soothe him. I hoped he would quiet down so I could sneak into Panera Bread and buy a few treats since I hadn't had anything to eat since last night. I knew bringing a cat into a restaurant would be frowned upon, but it was too hot to leave him in the car and I thought I'd be in and out before anyone was the wiser.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello Milo!
The second I walked in the door, Milo began CRYING. I walked up to the counter mentally tracking how much time was passing. I acted like nothing was going on. The women in line ahead of me were looking around. One started to rub her watering eyes. I started to panic. Could an allergic reaction happen this quickly?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You can almost see Milo's tail. It's VERY long and fluffy.
Milo was bouncing around inside the carrier that was slung over my arm like a big purse. He meowed frantically. I said something to the ladies about how I'd only be in the store for a minute and they agreed he should not be in the car and thankfully did not point at me and scream that their runny eyes were from the cat being there!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
The young woman at the counter was in a daze. She had NO idea I had a cat with me and took forever to fulfill my order. I beat cheeks out of there while Milo continued to protest.
I got Milo settled into his new home. He was out of a cage at the Vet's office and in my bathroom. He'd have sunlight and fresh air and lots of toys and a cat tree. Sadly, he would be on his own for awhile. I want to make certain he's not sick, then I'll start to introduce him to the girls, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia. Once that is done, he can live in the room with them as long as he's friendly and doesn't need me to work with him.
I let Milo out of the carrier. He stopped crying. He sniffed around with his tail down, but not tucked between his legs. I didn't know if I could touch him so I simply observed him. After a few minutes I spoke to him and he meowed back at me. He sniffed at the food I gave him and had a few bites. When he came over towards me I reached out to pet him. He reacted by raising his back to meet my hand! Once he did that he relaxed and so did I.
Milo got a few more pets, then I took out a toy for him to play with. He was engaged right away, the stopped playing and ate more food. I'm not worried that he'll need work. He's in good shape already.
Dr. Mixon provided all of Milo's Vet care for no cost so there's nothing for me to do but find Milo a great home. If all rescues could be this easy…:::KNOCK WOOD:::
We all had a very bad scare a month ago when Tater fell ill. The Vet felt it was the “wet” form of FIP, a fatal disease. We were all heartbroken and scared, but determined that if there was ANY chance Tater could survive, we would make that happen no matter what we had to do.
©2012 Maria S. Still got that belly, but we're not concerned that it's FIP.
Miraculously, through a twist of fate and our foster mom, Maria's careful observation, we were led down a path to a possible answer. It was NOT FIP, but a double-whammy parasitic infection along with a very nasty upper respiratory infection. We began treatment right away and sure enough, Tater's condition began to improve.
©2012 Maria S. Mugging for Maria.
Tater began to EAT again, then began to play; two big signs he might survive. The Vet finally took the FIP diagnosis off the table and we all breathed a sigh of relief for the remainder of July. Sadly, a few days ago Tater relapsed or is battling something new.
Tater was carefully examined. His lung sounds were not good. The Vet wanted to take x-rays and do blood work. We had that done and the Vet decided to put Tater on strong antibiotics for the next THREE weeks. This poor kitten can't catch a break. I asked if we had to consider the FIP diagnosis once again-terrified of the answer.
©2012 Maria S. and Robin A.F. Olson. Check in with Tater, ChiChi and Latte, too.
Due to the costs for care and to also provide care for Willow, who is still struggling with a URI,
The ChipIn for the fund is below and is also in the RIGHT sidebar on my blog. PLEASE do not feel badly if you can't donate at this time. That's why we're only asking that everyone chip in a small amount. That way it will add up to a great donation if everyone takes part!
©2012 Maria S. Tater getting some comfort from his new buddy, Sammy.
Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.
If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Tater Tot" mail it to:
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Any funds not used for the care of this family will go into our General Fund.
©2012 Maria S. Love that little curl in Tater's tail.
Day six has drawn to a close. I can't sleep. My heart is broken. It's not that I even feel the need for it ever to be “repaired-” if such a thing is possible. While I was working on the story of my cats falling ill, another story began to form. Stories that follow along with a real person's life don't transpire in tidy little packages, so here I stop to inject something else before I get back to the mystery ailment.
Two nights ago I found a small, odd looking black growth on the edge of Spencer's right ear. In my foggy memory, I believe I saw it long ago, thought about running Spencer to the Vet, got sidetracked and forgot. There it was, this rubbery, creepy mass, well hidden by the dark fur along the cap of Spencer's head.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Back at the Vet for a second time.
At first I thought it was a tick, then realized there were two masses, one “tick sized” and the other much smaller. I knew this was something that Dr. Larry needed to take a look at so yesterday morning I took Spencer back to the Vet for the second time in less than a week.
Super Deb entered the exam room first. After working with Spencer the other day, she realized that he was calmer if we didn't cover him during procedures. She got to work taking his temperature and he was basically calm. He had no fever.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The growth was easily overlooked. Follow the left edge of Spencer's ear. Where the fur gets dark you'll see a tiny black area where there is no fur. That's the growth. It's just right of center of the photo.
She weighed him and he'd lost 4 ounces in five days. Not surprising, but a reminder to keep him eating as much as he wanted while he recovers from his illness. His fluffy rear end, which had become soiled yellow from having diarrhea, was looking cleaner. Perhaps he was feeling better?
Dr. Larry entered the room and I was relieved to see him now that he's back from his vacation. He's been my Vet for more years than I can remember. Though we may not always agree on things, he's open minded and in return I'm very respectful of him. We've had some difficult discussions about my choice to feed a raw diet to my cats. It's unfortunate that even now I have to be on the “down low” about it, but there is so much fear mongering going on about it that it's just easier not to talk about it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. She didn't even buy him dinner first! Spencer gets his temperature taken.
On this day we HAD to talk about it. He approached the topic carefully. I felt myself taking a step back, crossing my arms over my chest as he spoke. What is sickening my cats could have been caused by the raw food. Though rare, salmonella could be a culprit, yet we did NOT see any indications in the blood work to show us it was a possibility. It could be e.coli or other bacterial culprits. To really know for certain, Dr. Larry asked if we could get a stool sample on Spencer and run a PCR test on it. Though expensive, running over $200.00, the test would show us what was causing the diarrhea. If we could manage, he wanted a sample from Nicky, as well. Using that information we could get a better picture of what happened and how to NOT let it happen again-IF it's something we can control.
I said yes to the test and I told Dr. Larry that we stopped feeding raw the day the cats got sick. We've discussed how we prep the food and saw some minor things we can and will correct. We're going to throw out the litter pans and start anew. We've been feeding raw for many years and the cats have NEVER gotten sick, but in case we did something to cause this, we will find a way to do right by them.
Before we went too much further down this path we agreed it might still be something else and NOT the food.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. At least he's starting to eat again.
Then Dr. Larry examined Spencer's ear. He measured it and said it measured out larger then he expected. He didn't “like the look of it” and said we should remove it. He looked at Spencer's teeth and mentioned Spencer really needed a dental cleaning. I asked him to look into Spencer's ears because I noticed they appeared a bit dirty.
Spencer fussed and hissed angrily as Dr Larry looked into his ears. The right was dirty and irritated. Dr. Larry told me that some times cats can have an over production of a greasy residue in their ears. The ear gets dirty and very itchy. Certainly Spencer would need drops to get him feeling more comfortable.
Next, Dr. Larry looked at Spencer's left ear. As Spencer fussed, Dr. Larry adjusted the angle of the scope. He stopped for a second and removed the scope.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Measuring the growth.
I felt a lump form in my throat. I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself. I brought my cat to the Vet to look at this weird thing on his ear. Hopefully it was just a funky benign mole or something, but with the discovery of a second growth I knew what that could mean and I didn't know if I could get the words out to ask the question.
Dr. Larry has this serious expression I've seen too many times before. He had it when he examined Bob's belly and said it didn't feel right. It turned out Bob had a cancerous tumor engulfing half his liver. Dr. Larry never makes light of a diagnosis like this. Being conservative and I'm sure not wanting to upset me, he would only answer; “I don't like the look of this. It could be benign, but…”
He said if it was cancer that the rule of thumb would be to excise enough tissue to get a clean margin. It would mean removing Spencer's ear or ears. It was too much to imagine. I had to keep it together. I said if it was malignant, what was the point of cutting his ears off? His lovely little elfin ears…how could I do that to him? We didn't talk much beyond that. It was too soon to go down that road.
First Spencer had to get well and recover from whatever was causing his gastric issues. We'd schedule a dental and surgery for sometime near the end of the month. He wished me well and left to attend to the next patient. I put Spencer back into his cat carrier and went to the lobby to pay the bill, not sure I could get out of the clinic without bursting into tears.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My little pouff-waiting, wondering and scared.
Although I have no idea how I'm going to pay for this surgery, I will find a way. The overriding thought in my mind as I waited to hand over my credit card was; this can't be cancer. I just lost a cat to cancer 11 months ago. I just watched my dear Bob slowly die over the course of a horrible year. I can't go through that again.
I thought about what my lawyer said to me on the phone when we were talking about a car accident I was in two years ago. The case is either going to be settled or go to trial. He asked me my age, then told me the insurance company figures that based on my current age I have 29 more years to live which is how they will base my settlement offer. At first it really bothered me that there's a computer program that bets on how long I'll live. After we ended our conversation, I started to think maybe that was too many more years; more years of witnessing the pain and suffering of my dear cats.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After the exam, Spencer sat in the window, trying to regain his composure after being poked and prodded.
Last night Spencer came over to me as I laid in bed. He did his little routine of laying on my arm, with his fluffy ruff in my face, purring loudly next to my ear. I tried to hold back, but I began to sob. I wondered how many more nights we would have together like this-where he is himself, not broken or wasting away. He is my beloved cat and together we have a simple joy that is deeply profound.
Spencer got up and walked to the end of the bed. I gave up trying to sleep, got up and went downstairs to my office and began to write. Between writing and tears I heard a sound. I turned to look and Spencer was there in his cat bed next to me. He was purring away like nothing was wrong.
I hope he's right.
The PCR test results are due in a day or two. I won't know about Spencer until we biopsy the mass towards the end of the month. The sliver lining has to do with a surprise adoption. Find out who it was and about their forever family in the next installment (unless something ELSE happens first).
German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said; “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”After enduring the past four days I would add; “That which does not kill us, makes us eat a bag of Lays Wavy Potato Chips and a container of French Onion dip—and feel no guilt in doing so.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. You can tell from Nicky's posture that he doesn't feel well.
Nicky was the camel and white colored canary in the coal mine. It started on Friday. Nicky wasn't “right.” He wouldn't eat and he vomited. As I was about to brush my teeth, I heard the sound of water running. I turned to see Nicky urinating on the floor a few feet away from me. A few hours later, he walked over to the base of a cat tree and began to urinate on it-not even stopping as I started to scream, unable to reach him through the jungle of furniture blocking my way. I was jumping up and down like a two year old having a tantrum. I had no effect on his eliminating. He just kept peeing. There was no way to get to him from where I was standing so all I could was watch him ruin something else.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. With Dr. C and Super-Deb.
Nicky has Chronic Renal Failure and has been known to get urinary tract infections (as I wrote about HERE). Clearly something was WRONG. Dr. Larry was out of town until Monday so I made an appointment to bring him in then. I HATE it when Dr. Larry goes away because we often seem to have an emergency when he's not available. As the day wore on, Nicky grew weaker. I took his temperature. It was 103.2°F. He had a fever. We couldn't wait until Monday.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fun at the Emergency Vet…and this was the cost to basically have them hook up the IV to Nicky's catheter (which was in place already) and giving him a place to lay in over night.
Dr. C examined Nicky and took his temperature again. It was over 104°F. They took some blood and did an in-house test. The good news was that basically the values did not indicate something terrible was going on-like kidney failure or high white blood count, which would show he had an infection. The bad news was that we didn't know what was going on but with a fever on the rise we agreed he should be on an IV. The Vet closed in two hours so they could get him started, but we'd have to move him to the Emergency Vet to continue treatment overnight.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Portait of a sick kitty.
Sam and I cringed. Hearing “Emergency Vet” means huge expense. How were we going to pay for all of this? How could we not? We HAD to find a way. Both of us were panicking. We had to wait and see how Nicky would respond to treatment first before we'd even know if he needed to be moved.
Nicky's temperature when to 105.1°F. After two hours it went down to about 103°F so there was a chance a few more hours of treatment would benefit him.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Another Vet, another examination with Sam reaching out to comfort his cat.
It would have been somehow manageable if we only had to help Nicky, but after getting him settled at the Emergency Vet and putting another charge on my AmEx, we discovered he wasn't the only cat who was not feeling well.
With all the commotion going on with Nicky, I didn't get to pay as much attention to the others cats as I would have liked. Even with that, I did notice something out of the ordinary. When we got home around 7pm, I realized I hadn't seen Spencer ALL DAY. I knew he hadn't eaten his breakfast. He's not always a fan of turkey, but this cat always shows up for a meal.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky with Sam.
Sam and I tore through the house, calling out to Spencer. The longer it took, the more I started to panic. Had he gotten outside? Was he stuck in a closet? Spencer has no real meow, so he couldn't cry to us for help. Where the heck was he? Why wasn't he showing up for dinner? Now that I thought about it, where were the rest of the cats? None of them were hungry and waiting by their food dishes. Something was wrong. Something bad.
Sam found Spencer in the basement, which is very tough area for the cats to get into. For Spencer to not be near me or near any of us was a bad sign. Spencer wouldn't eat his dinner. In fact most of the cats were off their food. I told myself there was no need to panic. No one would die without eating for a day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky at the Emergency Vet hooked up to his Heska VetIV 2.2
The next morning we got the news that Nicky's fever broke and he'd eaten a small amount of food. He was ready to come home. The news should have been cause for celebration, but Spencer had vanished again and I knew he had to go to the Vet, too. It wasn't a big, obvious sign of sickness but it's so out of the ordinary I had to make sure he wasn't sick, too.
Again I started to panic. We'd just spent so much money on Nicky, would anything be left for Spencer? I was angry and resentful, all stemming from the fear that I wouldn't be able to do for Spencer what we just did for Nicky. If Spencer was ailing, I HAD to do something for him, but my own Vet refused to just give me antibiotics without seeing the cat firstI realized they were right, but I was truly hurting. There's dust in my bank account. I thought about home remedies and trying to avoid a Vet visit, but Spencer was due for blood work and a checkup anyway. If I could avoid hospitalizing him, I'd be able to have the exam and tests for done, but I couldn't do much more.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Saying good night to Nicky.
I took Spencer's temperature. It was 102.3°F which put him in the range to be percolating a fever. I was really missing Dr. Larry and wishing I didn't have to see Dr. C, but he'd seen Nicky so he could compare the cat's symptoms.
The exam went fairly well. The Vet retained use of his fingers. Spencer's not the easiest cat to mess with and he gets crabby if he's at the Vet. I warned the staff and fussed over Dr. C, worried he'd get bitten. Spencer was pretty good-for Spencer. They managed to get some blood and sent it out for testing. Since we didn't know what was going on the Vet suggested putting him on antibiotics “just in case,” but I won't do that without having a darn good reason. It could make whatever is going on even worse. I'd do the best I could for Spencer until we had the test results.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky being a good boy, as usual.
I started making charts and lists of each cat-if they ate, if so, what they ate. I was looking for a pattern. I began to have suspicions that Gracie, Petunia and Jackson were also getting sick based on my notes about them not eating and their behavior. I knew I'd just had Boogie in the house. He was separated from my cats and I washed my hands and showered after I was with him, even though I didn't touch the kitten until the last day he was here. Boogie was VERY sick, but he had an upper respiratory infection, not something potentially gastrointestinal. What was going on?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hiding under the bed between two storage containers-not a good sign.
Feeding time was bizarre, maybe one or two cats showed up for their food. The others weren't even in the vicinity. I'm so accustomed to the energy of feeding time, the cats circling, meowing, the sound of them lapping at their food. It was too quiet. My babies weren't eating. My fear factor increased tenfold.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor, sweet baby, Spencer-the mascot of Covered in Cat Hair.
Saturday night the mood in the house was downright miserable. Nicky stopped eating again. of course, the benefits of the IV wore off. Whatever he had, whatever Spencer and the others may have was not going to just go away. We had to buckle down and figure something out. The clock was ticking. The spector of Hepatic Lipidosis was hanging over our heads. If the cats didn't start eating soon, they could all sicken and die. This is why you can't put a cat on a diet. This is why if you don't get some food into the cat after four days, your cat could enter a whole new world of pain.
We were approaching day three. Time was running out and we had more questions than we had answers….
Stay tuned for part three next..and YES, there IS a silver lining coming…
I'm not even certain where to start all this…the past week has been a nightmare and there are no signs of it being over any time soon. Even with all the doom and gloom there were a few bright spots; maybe just enough to keep me from jumping off a cliff.
My Vet took on three, eight-week old kittens who were found by a friend. They were all sick with an upper respiratory infection and needed a lot of care. Two of the kittens were basically friendly, but one was not. Clearly this kitten had no socialization and was in dire need of one on one time to turn him around. I was asked to take all the kittens, but I could not at the time so my Vet provided care for them.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Milo.
During that time the two kittens got better and more friendly. They may be getting adopted together soon, but sadly, the lone gray kitten was still fractious and faced the sad reality of being released outdoors once he was vetted and healthy.
I just couldn't let that happen. After King was adopted I picked up the cat who my friend, Jill named Boogie. I liked the name because the kitten wanted to "boogie" away from me (and he had “eye boogies”).
The goal was to get him socialized and ready for adoption. I'd done it before with much older cats. I could do it again.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Otis.
What was different this time was that I made many mistakes and Boogie had to pay the price.
One of the Vet Techs was able to handle Boogie, but he was very fearful. With that in mind, I chose to allow him to have free reign over the small bathroom that would be his home. This is a mistake. I should have crated him so I could control the space and his interaction with me.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Boogie, not loving being handled by his friend, Kristen.
Boogie was clearly SICK, not just a runny eye. He cried and he cried, missing his brothers and being scared in the new space; his meow was clearly rough. He was hoarse, sneezing, shooting goo out of his nose. He obviously was not going to be able to smell any food I offered him. It would make it impossible for me to get him socialized if I couldn't get him to connect me with something good (food).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Boogie, terrified, in the cat tree in the foster room.
For a few days I struggled with him and made some progress, but after about four days he got worse and more skittish. He also stopped eating more than a bite of food. The kitten only weighed a few pounds. Not eating is potentially fatal. As I grew more stressed out about him not eating, I'm sure it didn't help him want to eat. I even gave up and offered him some dry food. He ate a few bites, but not enough.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Boogie arrives and sings a song of sadness.
By the fifth day I decided he needed to be crated and I'd just work on getting him well, then worry about socializing later. The problem was that I couldn't medicate him. First, I had to get him in the crate if I had any hope of doing anything with him.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A moment of calm. I wish I could have cleaned the crust off his eyes, but he was too fractious for me to try.
I set up the crate. There wasn't much space around it. I got a broom and figured I would gently sweep him into the crate. It didn't work. He flipped out. I had to move everything out of the room other than the crate. He hid behind the toilet, crying. I kept trying to get him to move. He wouldn't. I started to get mad and frustrated. He flipped out more, then jumped into the sink, accidentally turning the faucet onto himself! He sat there crying, looking at me terrified with the water drizzling over his fur.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Crying. Missing his brothers, but “tough love”-separating Boogie from other kittens was the only way to get him socialized.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Baby steps with baby food and canned grain free food.
I finally got Boogie into the crate after about 30 painful minutes. He sat on his pink bed and cried. I had to leave the room and cry. I didn't go back for a day because I felt so guilty. I asked Sam to try to get him to eat off a spoon taped to a long stick. Boogie ate only a tiny amount of food.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The first day or two went all right.
The next day I tried again, very calmly to get him to eat. I know all the tricks and I tried most of them. He just wouldn't eat, but I did happen to catch him near the front of the crate. I reached out to pet him. I needed to feel his body to asses how thin he had become. As I touched him he turned, violently hissing at me, but he didn't bite me. I tried not to be scared, tried to soothe. I stroked him again and felt a skeleton under my fingers. Boogie was in critical condition. He had to go back to the Vet—NOW.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. It was clear that Boogie was in no hurry to make friends, but at least he wouldn't hide.
He had to go back and get fed and get WELL. I would work with him all over again once I knew for creation his URI was resolved. I couldn't take him to the Vet. Sam had to do it, so I asked him to underscore that I wanted Boogie back as soon as he was well. I couldn't let him go back outside and live the life of a feral cat. I got him to play, jump over my leg, eat just inches away from my hands. I could turn him around, but first he had to be well enough to smell his food and get some weight back on his frail frame.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Afraid of me taking his photo…
The Vet was supposed to contact me with an update, but I haven't heard a word in 48 hours. I fear the worse for Boogie. The Vet is closed tomorrow. I'll have to wait until Monday to find out what became of him. I pray I was not too late and that they could help him.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Boogie felt safe in the tub and would even play with a Cat Dancer until he started to feel worse and refused to play.
I will have nightmares for a long time about him crying in the sink with that pleading look in his eyes, the water running over him while he was too scared to move.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky on one of his two trips to the Vet.
The clouds continues to darken and the pressure of trying to cure what ails my cats is crippling. More on that in part two, along with the silver lining no one could have seen coming.
It feels like a month's worth of time has passed over the last 10 days since Tater Tot first fell ill. Between sleepless nights, emails to colleagues, calls and visits to Vets; we teased out a possible answer to what has been ailing our little foster kitten.
Tater has Coccidia, Tapeworm and a bad Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (and maybe pneumonia). Three days after we began treatment, Tater's temperature dropped and by day four, his temperature was within a normal range.
©2012 Maria S. Tater on the way to the Vet yesterday.
On day four of treatment, Tater began to eat on his own. By day five, Tater gained back some of the weight he lost.
We brought Tater back to the Vet for a re-check and to discuss what sort of testing we should consider doing. We have a suspicion Tater has Bartonella, which is now called Mycoplasma haemofelis ("feline infectious anemia").
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson & Maria S. Tater's Tale. Tissue Warning.
The Vet didn't feel we needed to do tests just yet, but to continue with treatment though she did agree to change Tater's antibiotic to Doxycycline which would fend off the Bartonella, if that's what he's been battling. There are no conclusive tests that will tell us more than just levels of exposure to the Coronavirus if he has FIP or if he has Bartonella.
For now she wants to stay the course and see how he does. Tater is NOT out of the woods, BUT he is also NOT close to death as he was just one week ago today. It will be a long road to recovery, if we are lucky enough to get him healthy. I know for certain that Maria and I are dedicated to his well being and that he should enjoy a happy future.
I know we have a long way to go, but for now we can rejoice that Tater is with us—hopefully for a long time to come. We've learned a lot about FIP and perhaps what is NOT FIP. Nothing is certain, but in time all this will make sense.
Tater Tot's life hangs in the balance. Since I first broke the news a few days ago that Tater may have FIP, his foster mom Maria and I have been working around the clock trying to find out if this diagnosis is accurate. Because he may have FIP, we have more questions than answers. It seems every moment something changes and throws us into a tailspin of fear that this IS FIP. It really IS.
OR IS IT?
©2012 Maria S. As we found Tater, laying on the pavement, sick and flea infested a few weeks ago.
I flat out don't know. This is the first case of FIP I've ever encountered (again, IF that's what is ailing Tater). I feared Tater was going to die a few days ago, but it's Thursday and he's still with us.I just found out if he has FIP he can live for a few MONTHS like this so any hope I had of it not being the wet form of FIP is dashed again. I feel like I'm losing my mind trying to sort this all out.
©2012 Maria S. Tater this morning.
Tater had a fever as early as Sunday or possibly before that, but Maria only started to check his temperature when he showed physical signs of not feeling well. From Sunday to yesterday morning his temperature ranged from 103.4°F to 104°F. Yesterday morning his fever broke and his temp. fell to 101.5°F and today it is a normal 101°F.
So NO fever for over 24 hours. Does that mean this is not FIP?
Tater hasn't eaten for a few days. His sinuses are stuffed up. He can't smell. He walks over to his food and looks at it-so he's interested in eating, but Maria has to syringe feed him. He didn't move his bowels for two days. Today he finally started doing that again, but it's a bit soft.
We discovered that Tater has Tapeworms AND Coccidia so he was de-wormed on Tuesday. [note: we have de-wormed him twice since rescue, but our dewormer doesn't work on tapeworms or coccidia]
Tater is on clavamox since his lungs sounded crackly. I know it can cause tummy upset so we have yet another call into the Vet to find out if we should change course or give him a minute amount of Pepcid to settle his belly after his meds?
©2012 Maria S. Unable to share his space with his sister, Tater's only comfort is knowing she's nearby.
The problem is we just don't have enough information to make certain we're doing the right thing for Tater. Maria has barely slept. She moved a cot into the foster room with Tater so she can keep an eye on him and continue giving him his medications throughout the night. She can't keep doing this. I'm lucky she's off work this week. I don't know what we'll do next week when she has to return to work.
©2012 Maria S.Tater on Tuesday morning and today (right)
Tater still purrs. Maria watched him as he licked his paw, then rubbed it against his face. That he is grooming himself is another check that goes under the column of “Maybe NOT FIP?”
We MUST do more tests. Nothing is definitive, but getting more information will help us possibly rule FIP out. Tater needs a complete blood workup done and we need to sample his abdominal fluid and check serum protein levels.
Between the emergency Vet visits for Opal's kittens and the daily Vet visits and medications for Tater, then more for Choco, ChiChi, Coco and Latte, most of the funds we just raised are getting depleted quickly. We don't get much discount on blood work so it will cost at least $500.00 to do the tests (I added more to the ChipIn because I fear we may end up needing to do more.). If we don't do the tests, we can't give Tater the appropriate care he needs. It would also be heartless to ignore that it would help Maria be able to handle what may yet come to pass if she can understand better what is wrong with Tater instead of playing a frustrating guessing game.
©2012 Maria S. Tater would thank you for your help but he needs to rest so he can get better.
Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.
If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Tater Tot" mail it to:
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Any funds not used for the care of this family will go into our General Fund.
©2012 Maria S. We just want our sweet boy back to his old self. This is Tater a few hours after we started treatment.
When we rescued Tater on June 15th, he’d been very frail. He was already flea covered and underweight and battling an upper respiratory infection. After a bath and good food, some eye meds, he began to perk up. A few days later, we took in his sister, Latte and the two of them stayed together in Maria’s home.
©2012 Maria S. Tater waiting to see the Vet.
Being concerned about FIP, Maria moved Latte into a separate cage. I told her to take Tater to the Vet right away. I didn’t know must about FIP, but I knew it was fatal and I knew diagnosing it isn’t clear cut, either.
Since Sunday morning, Maria and I have been working non-stop. I’m doing research, trying to understand what to do, what to test for, if there’s new research, anything we can do to save Tater’s life. We just lost two kittens! My rescue group is small. We shouldn’t be seeing so much loss, let alone FIP! I know a few others who have never seen it who have been in rescue longer than I have.
©2012 Maria S. Sunday before his Vet visit.
E-mails poured in, comments on Facebook were all supporting Tater and Maria, saying prayers, wishing us all well, sharing their stories of losing kittens to this unforgiving disease. I hated to keep loading up the bad news. I know it takes a toll on readers, but I can’t lie and pretend everything is ok. From the get-go this has been an unvarnished look a life doing cat rescue. It’s a very gut-wrenching thing to write about. I want my happy stories back. I want my miracle-rescues! I don’t know if I can take this pressure after just having lost two kittens.
I’m not going to go into a long description of what FIP is other than to say there are two mains forms of it: “Wet” and “Dry.” One is basically an immune reaction that causes an accumulation of fluid in the belly (wet), though there are more symptoms that I've listed. The other one is neurological in nature (dry). There is no cure. It’s fatal. There are whisperings of advancements in the treatment or cure of FIP, but so far the only hope is one study says they saved 20% of a small number of FIP cats who had the dry form. Steve Dale covered this story using Polyprenyl Immunostimulant. You can read more about it HERE
©2012 Maria S. Back home eating normally.
Some say that if FIP occurred in puppies this would have been cured 20 years ago. Cats have been “second class” animals for far too long.I’m glad that UCDavis is doing a major study and Vets like Dr. Dianne Addie, among others, have been working tirelessly to come up with a cure. /
So where does this leave Tater?
Tater is a sweet, lovely little boy. The Vet felt that he did have FIP but there are no clear diagnostics. Tater’s belly is full of fluid-so much so that an xray couldn’t even see his organs through the liquid. The liquid was slightly tacky-another indicator. We were going to run a titer, but after doing more reading, it was clear we didn’t have time for the results and it wouldn’t really tell us anything. We could run a test on the protein levels in the fluid and that would be a better indicator, but what is the point? Tater’s got a fever, runny eyes and fluid filled abdomen. I couldn’t get a clear answer on what ELSE it might be and I’m not sure other than heart issues, if there would be anything else it could be.
It doesn’t hurt to try alternative therapies as long as Tater is not suffering badly. I found out about a rescuer who is using a different method, who swears she is having success turning kittens around who have FIP. That she has one kitten in her office who is running around, doing fine.
©2012 Maria S. Tater playing less than 24 hours ago.
Yes, I know. I don’t know her but a trusted friend put me in touch with this person. I know it’s not traditional western medicine, it’s eastern medicine which is based on 4000 years of study. I can’t disregard that and I’ve had success using different treatments for upper respiratory and skin ailments. And if it doesn’t work, Tater dies. Tater is going to die, anyway, so I want to try.
The problem is getting the medicine to Maria in time. It will arrive tomorrow at some point. Tater has been to the Vet again today. I asked them to remove some fluid from his abdomen to buy us time. They only got about 1cc out of him-not nearly enough to make a difference.
After another endless number of texts, calls and e-mails, Maria opted to take Tater home. If he continues to be uncomfortable, she’ll bring him back to the vet to get a shot of Depo (steroids). It’s not ideal, but we have to keep him going until tomorrow. We have to try. If this person says she’s helped quite a few kittens with FIP maybe there is a bizarre chance. Yes, I could be deluding myself. Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe she didn’t have cats with FIP? Maybe we don’t?
©2012 Maria S. No one can tell me why this would happen to such an amazing little guy. No one can tell me IF he truly has FIP or something else. We're doing our best, all we can think of…but it may not be enough.
The problem is NO ONE KNOWS. The stress of not knowing, of trying to make the BEST choice for Tater, has gotten to Maria and myself. We’ve both broken down, crying. We both are second-guessing our every move. We have to hurry up and accept what may come to pass. We have to make life or death choices. Death doesn’t wait. We’re trying so hard to keep him from coming in the door.
If we could get Tater to live until tomorrow, perhaps this stuff will work or we’ll have to say farewell to a very sweet little guy. I don’t know. All I know is I wish the phone would stop ringing and the questions would stop coming. I need peace in my heart. I need to get some sleep, real sleep. I hate feeling greedy, but I can barely function. After the stress of two weeks of being sick and stressed out of my mind about flying before I flew to Salt Lake for BlogPaws, then the stress of what to do with Opal’s kittens and now the troubles with Tater…it just feels like way too much, but I can’t give up for Tater’s sake. No way.
Please, please, please…let this be some freakish or just “normal” parasitic infection combined with an upper respiratory infection that we can CURE!!!!!Please let Tater Tot live a full and happy life.
I don’t feel like I can breathe. It’s 1pm. I haven’t eaten anything since last night. I feel like I’m going to collapse. I’m so wrung out and tired. I don’t want to hear the sound of my phone ringing or the tone that indicates I have an incoming text message. Every time I hear my phone chime, my heart races. What am I going to find out now? How much more can I take?
I barely stepped off the plane at JFK Airport when things started to race downhill. Opal, our rather feral, far too young mama, gave birth to a kitten last Monday. Cyndie, the foster mom, found the kitten laying on the tile floor, cool, but alive. She put the kitten with Opal, hoping Opal would care for her newborns. Twenty four hours later, Opal gave birth to 3 additional kittens.
The next three days were a blur of phone calls, texts, e-mails. Opal wasn’t caring for her kittens and we weren’t even sure if she had any milk to give them if she could. Opal was more and more fractious. Cyndie had a tough time intervening, but eventually was able to start bottle feeding the neonatal kittens to ensure they were getting some sustenance.
The challenges began to pile up. Cyndie couldn’t provide round-the-clock care to such young animals. Frankly, I couldn’t have done it, either. I started a frantic search to find a nursing mama cat we could either rescue (and take any of her kittens, too), or one we could put our four kittens with. There were no mamas to be found—all already had 5 or 6 kittens. We couldn’t put 4 more with them.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. We need a name for this little kitten.
Cyndie called an old friend who had experience with newborns. She offered to take the kittens and give them all the care they needed. It would relieve Cyndie and give the kittens a better chance at surviving. Cyndie chose to only give her to the two most critical kittens, a boy who was born first, and a girl who was born last (Opal wouldn’t even clean off the amniotic sack on this kitten, who Cyndie initially feared was dead). The other two kittens appeared to be doing ok. Opal seemed to be feeding them, but no one was really sure since getting close to Opal meant getting clawed.
Meanwhile, two kittens were doing worse and worse. Then, on Thursday, the little boy passed away. We knew that the mortality rate for newborns is 30-40%, but it didn’t make what happened any easier. The little girl, Baby G., was not doing well, either. As if things couldn’t get worse for her, they did. The bottle feeder who was helping Cyndie had to rush to the hospital because her Mother had a bad gallbladder attack and had to have emergency surgery. Now Cyndie was alone with the ailing kitten and didn’t know what to do. She placed the kitten with Opal, who ignored her baby. When Cyndie looked at the little kitten, she realized the other two siblings were MUCH larger and clearly doing much better. A few hours passed and Opal had her leg over Baby G. Baby G. wasn’t nursing or doing much of anything. Something had to be done.
©2012 Maria S. Maria took this photo last year. This is Opal, just a kitten, before she became hateful of humans and had her kittens. It's so unfair to see this precious kitty and know her fate as it is now.
I have to take on the responsibility for ALL decisions for our foster cats and trying to do it from 1000 miles away is grueling. Not only do I emotionally support our volunteers, I have to help them make difficult choices and I have to KNOW what I’m talking about to do that…which would be fine IF I knew what I was talking about.
I took a Bottle Baby Bootcamp class at Tabby’s Place a few months ago and it dawned on me that Baby G. should be tube fed. Cyndie was massively sleep deprived and stressed out and didn’t feel this was a good option and that it could hurt the kitten. I had to try to draw from my own reserves to help her have faith that tube feeding was the best and possibly last option for Baby G. I wished I could have just taken the situation out of her hands so she could rest. We were both so tired, but in the end the buck stops with me. It was barely 6:30 AM on Friday the 29th. Not the best time to even be able to think (at least for me)
Cyndie rushed Baby G. to our Vet. They weren’t busy and could offer her supportive care until she stabilized. Over the course of the next few hours Baby G. was fed and got some fluids. She perked up and they thought she was going to improve so we made plans for them to keep her at the Vet partly so Cyndie could rest and partly so we could be sure Baby G. was stable before we brought her back to her mom.
The Vet graciously offered that one of their Vet Techs would take Baby G. home and tube feed her over the weekend. They would do it for NO COST, which truly was a blessing. I think everyone on Facebook started to feel like all their prayers and hopes were working. I did, too.
Early that evening, Cyndie called me. Baby G.’s temp started to fluctuate
wildly. Shortly thereafter Baby G. took her last breath and passed away. I was speechless. What happened? I really thought we were going to save her life. How arrogant of me to think that! Now Baby G. would join her brother, the two would be cremated together. I found it ironic that the costs for the cremation would be more than what we spent for her Vet care. They would ship the ashes to me. I already have many little tin boxes of ashes and these two babies could rest with my cats, never to be forgotten.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Opal with the surviving kittens.
After many tears I hoped that perhaps we all could finally breathe? The stress gone, only our broken hearts remained. Over the past day, Opal had started to produce milk and eat a great deal of food, indicating that her milk production was strong. The two remaining kittens, a boy and girl, were twice the weight of the kittens who died. These two had a very good chance of making it. Opal, fiercely protective of her young, was in mom-mode now. We just had to keep her fed and keep an eye on the kittens, but she would do the rest for the next few weeks.
©2012 Maria S. Tater Tot on the way to the Vet.
Less than a day passed and Maria called me. She didn’t like the way Tater Tot was looking. His belly was big, his eyes runny, he seemed flat. She feared FIP. I didn’t want to accept that-who would? I asked if she de-wormed him and she said she had a few days ago when she first noticed his belly getting round.
The next 24 hours were spent in a mad dash to see if there was anything we could do to save Tater's life. Part two shares our roller coaster ride with you.