Chloe sits in the center of the living room. I can’t see her back legs from where I’m sitting, a few feet away. Her front legs are comically dwarfed, little white mitts, in comparison to the rest of her body.
It’s completely heartbreaking to look at her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Look, but don't touch.
I met Chloe last week after getting a number of calls from my Vet, the Animal Control Officer in town and a woman who is friends with Chloe’s guardian. The story I got was that the guardian, who I will call Dave, was calling our ACO and Vet to find out if he could get someone to come over to euthanize his cat.
Upon further discussion it was disclosed the Chloe had been biting people and that Dave, being basically house-bound and disabled, had to get rid of the cat because his caretaker was making a fuss about her.
Obviously there were other reasons why the caretaker wanted to end Chloe’s life, but I couldn’t know the reason until I learned more.
The ACO said she might have to put the cat down if it was a biter. She couldn’t be adopted if she was going to hurt a future adopter. Chloe was at least 10 years old, if not older, and the odds of finding her any home were slim to none, even if she was a Siamese under all that extra weight.
I offered to go to the home to assess the cat. We could hear stories about her, but I needed to see her for myself. I was told the cat was chubby, but I had no idea how grossly obese she was until I met her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Chole's back fur is quite matted and I'm sure causing her some discomfort.
I visited Dave, along with his friend, Frances (not her real name). She’d met Chloe many times, but was hard pressed to describe her behavior to me, which I found very puzzling. Is the cat friendly or not? What’s the deal here?
I entered the small living room of the 1-bedroom apartment. Chloe was sitting on the top of the sofa. As I walked into the room and sat down on a nearby chair, she came over to say hello.
I let her settle down. She sat in the center of the room, commanding the space. She growled softly, which turned into a whine, then back to a growl. Her ears were not flat. Her tail didn’t whip up and down in anger. Her pupils were dilated. I made no move to touch her.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. There IS a cat under there, somewhere.
I spoke with Dave and got some history on the cat. He’d gotten her a few years ago from a woman in Fairfield. Chloe supposedly slept on his chest and would tap him to get petted. That the day before three Missionaries had come to visit, all men, and she had been fine with them, so why was she so distressed by me?
We talked about food. He said he got really good food (not even close to good-in my opinion) for the cats, some sort of house brand dry and that was it. Clearly this cat was being given a huge bowl of food to snack on day and night. She could barely walk. I imagined that part of her fear was that she was too fat to flee, should I be a threat to her. She might also be in a lot of pain from carrying so much weight on her bones.
I’d worked out a deal with my dear friend, Katherine from Animals in Distress. We would get the cat vetted, then re-assess her behavior at that time. We owed it to Chloe to give her a chance to stabilize her weight and behavior before making any other decisions about her future.
It’s one thing to deal with a feral cat, but a fearful cat is a different thing altogether.
Our choices were to either put Chloe down or give her a chance. Katherine and I chose to give her some time. The problem is we needed a foster home for Chloe and Katherine had to sacrifice the last precious space she has left in her home that doesn’t already have cats in it. It wasn’t ideal, but for now it’s all we had. No one would step up to take this cat and most of my fosters are sick and I know I’d have her with me forever and I just couldn’t do that to my cats. At least Katherine might be able to put Chloe into their shelter if she was ever well enough to go there.
A few days later, Chloe was taken to the Vet. I don’t know how they managed, but they did get blood work done and there was nothing indicating her thyroid was off, which could have caused her emotional issues, or that she was diabetic, which was surprising. I don’t know if the Vet looked at her teeth, but Chloe probably had some painful gums, at least, from all the junky food.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh dear, dear, Chloe.
Katherine brought Chloe home and placed her in a bathroom where she’d be living until we could get her settled. It’s unlikely we’d find her a foster home with her behavior issues, at least for now.
All Katherine was doing was trying to help Chloe feel more comfortable and clean. She called me, distressed, but laughing through her irritation. I felt so badly, but I hadn’t told Katherine anything other than the truth-the cat was NOT adoptable right now, but that we should at least try to give her a chance to blossom. These would be the worst days-hopefully better ones would follow.
I contacted my friend, Wendy Christensen, who is an award-winning author and illustrator. Her books include The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Cat Care. She's written for Cat Fancy, Kittens USA, Catnip, CatWatch, Natural Cat, and Natural Pet. Wendy is one of my go-to people when I have a cat behavior issue that stumps me. Because she’s not directly involved with Chloe, I knew she could offer me perspective without any bias one way or the other.
Wendy wrote me back, a very long email. She was very troubled by what she was told about Chloe. She said what I also feared, it’s very likely that Chloe has been abused.
Wendy wrote: “I would concur that she's probably been abused. What she needs more than anything else is peace and quiet and a calm, stable environment. She is just too stressed to deal with any human interaction right now. I know it sounds "cruel," but she needs to be left alone to get some of her confidence back, stabilize and heal for awhile. She needs to be alone so she can start to feel safe again.
Her size has clearly made it very hard for her to move about and escape whatever peril she was placed in. Escapability is primary for cats' mental health. She has felt (and still feels) utterly trapped and at the mercy of others -- possibly the worst thing a cat can experience. She is in a super-super-sensitive frame of mind. She doesn't need a lot of space, but she DOES need safety, peace, quiet, stability, and predictability.”
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. With pupils dilated with fear, Chloe readies herself to strike, but I can't help wanting to pet her and soothe her anxiety, regardless.
Of course, my first thought was, that the caretaker who hated this cat and wanted her put to sleep was responsible. What was he doing to her when no one was looking?
There’s no way to know if he ever even lifted a finger to Chloe, but it certainly makes sense. There’s no way to know that Dave wasn’t the one who harmed her either, but clearly something terrible happened to Chloe and now she needs us to understand that and give her the space she needs to heal.
And then there’s the other cat in the home, Lucy; Lucy who is so friendly and outgoing. What will become of her? We need to get her out of this place, too. It’s only a matter of time before she is so big she can’t walk either, or so sick from never being vetted that she dies.
Our first goal is to focus on Chloe and hope her sweet nature will emerge one day. I saw a flicker of that sweetness the first moment I met her. She’s suffering from crippling fear brought on by abuse.
I realize this is a long-shot, but if you live in the Wilton, CT area and have lots of experience working with cats, if you can provide a SEPARATE space in your home that’s quiet and safe and you’re willing to basically just keep Chloe fed, but otherwise left alone, please contact me: email@example.com
Chloe is going to need long-term care. If you’d like to make a donation to help Chloe, please donate via PayPal HERE. Animals in Distress is a 501(c) 3, non-profit so your donation is tax deductible.
Wendy has recently begun offering fee-based cat behavior consultations. If you're in need of her services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details
Another resources for help with cat behavior issues, is Wendy's latest book: Outsmarting Cats: How to Persuade the Felines in Your Life to do What You Want which was just published earlier this month.
I’ve been skulking around, carrying a shameful secret in my heart for almost three years. Only a very few trusted friends knew what was going on. For legal reasons I couldn’t say anything online about what was happening until there was a verdict in the court case. Yes, COURT CASE. I suffered in silence, but I deserved it. It was part of the penance I had to pay for what I did.
Simply put, I made a terrible judgement error. I trusted a stranger when I should have been more careful. Although I consider myself to be a responsible person, I trust others too easily. When I take something on, I do it to the best of my ability. If I fail, I take the blame. I hold my head up and apologize and do my best to make it right again. Because of my actions, a cat suffered in a most unfair and despicable way. I know that even now going public with my story may risk serious backlash from the other person involved in this horror. She will rain down on me, make untrue accusations, she will whine and twist her words. She may even do more than that, but I don’t care about her feelings after what she's allowed to happen.
I’ve been skulking around, carrying a shameful secret in my heart for almost three years. Only a very few trusted friends knew what was going on. For legal reasons I couldn’t say anything online about what was happening until there was a verdict in the court case. Yes, COURT CASE.
I suffered in silence, but I deserved it. It was part of the penance I had to pay for what I did.
Simply put, I made a terrible judgement error. I trusted a stranger when I should have been more careful. Although I consider myself to be a responsible person, I trust others too easily. When I take something on, I do it to the best of my ability. If I fail, I take the blame. I hold my head up and apologize and do my best to make it right again.
Because of my actions, a cat suffered in a most unfair and despicable way. I know that even now going public with my story may risk serious backlash from the other person involved in this horror. She will rain down on me, make untrue accusations, she will whine and twist her words. She may even do more than that, but I don’t care about her feelings after what she's allowed to happen.
In July of 2010, we opened the doors to my Non-Profit rescue group, Kitten Associates. We were still getting things sorted out, building our web site, setting up the foster room, sorting out what cats we rescue and how we would find them good homes. I already had almost a decade of fostering and working with other cat rescues, so this was a natural next step. I was scared. I was excited. I hoped I could help make a positive difference for cats and the people they live with. This was a big test for me.
At that time this blog, Covered in Cat Hair, had been going for over 4 years. I had a growing readership and my stories about rescue life were going very well. I leveraged my readership to help me get the word out on cats at kill shelters in the southern US who needed rescue. It was working to make a difference and continues to be an exciting part of what I do.
I’d already rescued cats from a few Georiga shelters in the past so when I heard about a calico mama and her two, cow-patterned kittens, who needed to get “busted out,” I jumped at the chance to help.
©2010 Maria S. Cali-Mama our first rescued cat, just after her spay surgery. She is mama to Pattycake and Moonpie.
I was worried about what to do with this cat, who we called Cali-mama, but just after I broke the news that we were taking on our first rescues, one of my readers contacted me saying she wanted to adopt the mom before we'd even gotten Cali OUT of the shelter!
I was over-the-moon happy. It didn’t occur to me to have her fill out an adoption application. We spoke on the phone at great length and shared many emails. I was so relieved she wanted this cat that I didn’t even charge her an adoption fee or ask her to sign an adoption contract! Yes, I was STUPID.
©2010 Maria S. Cali and her daughter, Pattycake.
Within two weeks, we had the cat fully vetted, since the kittens were already weaned, and our friend, Bobby, drove her to her new home in North Carolina. Cali-mama was our first adoption.
Bobby told me he didn’t like the look of the woman. The first warning sign – she wouldn’t let him drop the cat off to her at home. Though he offered many times, she wanted to meet him a few miles away-and this is after he just drove a few hundred miles with the cat - what was a few more? He said there was something about her he didn’t feel comfortable about and he wished he’d kept the cat, instead of let her go. When he told me that I feared we'd made a terrible mistake, but it was too late.
©2010 HCC&C. From my original post announcing that Cali had been adopted.
I got a few updates telling me that the cat was renamed Tansy. She was doing okay but a bit uncomfortable with the dog. She’d tried to get out of the house a few times, but seemed to be calming down. I didn’t worry about Tansy. It sounded like she was adjusting, so I continued on with rescuing more cats.
I asked her to tell me what happened. She went into a long rant, saying all sorts of things about the Home Owner’s Association saying that there was a stench coming from inside her home that could be smelled outside her home. It that was so bad they eventually called Animal Control. She said she was getting vilified and it was unfair; that there was some sort of pond causing the odor, not her house.
©2010 Maria S. One of the last photos we'd see of Cali for the next two years.
Pressing for more details, I finally got my answer. When I heard it I felt like throwing up, then passing out, as the blood went out of my head, into my toes. WHAT HAD I DONE?! When I had a second to process her words I wanted to reach through the phone line to let’s just say do something really bad involving causing this person a lot of PAIN, but I said nothing at first. I was too stunned to talk.
What happened next literally took a piece out of my heart.
This person, who I will call Sue (not her real name), tried to convince me she was a victim and that I should help her get her animals back.
I was able to find out where Tansy had been taken, so I immediately began calling and emailing them to get more information.
I found out the that conditions in the home were terrible. They would not say more than that for legal reasons. They said they would not euthanize any of the animals unless they became seriously ill, so Tansy had a chance to get out alive.
Humiliated, I had to tell the Director of Animal Control about my terrible error adopting out this cat to Sue. I couldn’t even give her a microchip number because we hadn’t started doing chips then. I had a few photos and luckily they matched one of the cats in custody. They took down my information and were a bit terse about dealing with me. I deserved it, but at least they knew I would be there for this cat, with bells on, if I could only get her back.
And then the wait began. The fear left me breathless each time I emailed Animal Control to ask for an update. I didn’t want them to forget me. I feared if I waited too long I’d miss my chance to get this poor cat back, so I just kept contacting them, hoping for good news.
I thought about Tansy’s life—living in a tiny cage with no sunshine or fresh air, most likely living near barking dogs - what torture for her. It would be a few weeks before the case would be heard, but certainly it wasn’t a long enough time for being back in a kill shelter to do any harm to her, right?
But Sue wanted a fight so she got one. The case dragged on. It went to a higher court. There were delays and more delays. MONTHS passed. Each time I had to contact Animal Control for an update, my heart sank when I saw they’d replied. Were they going to tell me I was too late or worse, that she went back to Sue?
In part two, the wait continues, as does the fear that I will never get Tansy back alive.
I didn’t plan on writing more about life here after the shooting in Sandy Hook. My blog is focused on cat rescue and the challenges of living within a multiple-cat household, but something happened today that must write about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
This post is regarding people who call themselves “truthers” or conspiracy theorists. They play detective, purportedly sniffing tiny “details” out of a tragedy that when taken out of context or when twisted about to suit their agenda and strung together with bits of dried up tape and spit, turn into their version of “the truth.” They supposedly get their data from credible news outlets or mysterious unnamed “sources.” They make things up. They see something in a photo that only their twisted perception can reveal.
The case in point is what happened here in Sandy Hook.
They say the shooting was faked, portrayed by “crisis actors,” not “real people” (these actors DO exist, but they are used for Emergency Training seminars, etc. These folks concur-they had no role in what happened—DUH!). They are determined to prove that the situation was used to push tougher gun control laws. Really?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Wow. If the U.S. Government was that creative do you think the economy would be in such dire straits? No way! They’d open a movie studio to rival Paramount Pictures. They’d be profitable, save the economy and we'd all have jobs being hired out to be actors in the next, as-yet-to-happen faux-tragedy to befall our Country!
To be behind an event like this would be a logistical nightmare. Who has time for such tomfoolery with everything else going on in this Country? They’d have to hire a shitload of actors, who would have to be made up of PEOPLE I KNOW. One such person is someone I’ve known for over 30 YEARS. I find it impossible to believe that my dear friend, who is the Lieutenant in a local police department, who was one of the First Responders, was an actor. Bullshit. That what he saw was phony. Bullshit. The fact that he will probably need to go on a paid leave of absence after what he saw-NOT bullshit.
The other thing that makes my blood boil are the attacks on another person I know here in town named Eugene “Gene” Rosen. You may recall that Gene was the gentleman who lived down the street from Sandy Hook Elementary. Victoria Soto’s surviving students took refuge in his driveway after the massacre. Gene just happened to be home feeding his cats. When he discovered the children, he opened up his home and his heart to these kids until they could be reunited with their parents. What a good deed. How could such kindness be seen as merely staged dramatics? Disgusting!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Gene is a Pet Sitter and I’ve known him for years. Gene is a sweet, gentle person who loves animals. We serve together on the newly formed Advisory Council for the Newtown Animal Care & Control Center. I just saw him a few days ago at our last meeting. He was very quiet, clearly distressed by what has befallen him and this was BEFORE the “truthers” started attacking him.
What these “truthers” are saying is that Gene is an actor; that Gene did despicable things to the children that I will not repeat. They make outrageous claims stating they can do so because they have proof. Oh really? Do they KNOW Gene? NO. Do they live here in town? NO! Are they being “mean boys and girls,” picking on an innocent senior citizen? YES!
As always happens, those good intentions begin to fall to the wayside and people go on with their lives as the days pass. That's not a problem. It's appropriate, but the invasion of “truthers” reminds us that the flip side of compassion is stained with cruelty.
We’re still here. We’re still hurting, but we’re taking time to heal, surrounded by people we know, love and trust—our community.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
There are people out there who have too much time on their hands, who probably never got picked to be part of any team, who are paranoid, maybe a few French fries short of a Happy Meal™? They sit around looking to make trouble, to get attention, to stir things up, to make people who are in obvious pain, feel like they have to defend themselves about a situation that does not require defending.
“But it could all be Photoshopped®,” they’d say next.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
They will always come up with some reason for why they can’t believe it. A mountain of photos or miles of video will never satisfy them. Hopefully NO ONE will feel like they need to feed this ugly beast. There is nothing to prove. We don’t need to see photos of little corpses lined up in rows waiting to be taken to the morgue. I’m okay with NEVER seeing that. Why aren’t they?
Are there some “facts” that seem odd? Did someone believe they saw more than one shooter run away from the building after the massacre on a video? Can’t all that be faked, too? DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHAT THE DETAILS ARE? DOES IT CHANGE THE FACT THAT DOZENS OF PEOPLE WERE MURDERED A MONTH AGO?
I say to you “truthers” to rename yourselves-“the kids that didn’t get enough attention from their parents, who have nothing better to do than stand cowering behind Freedom of Speech, then shout out whatever hateful, disturbing, UNTRUE things just to get a rise out of us.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Yes, you got a rise out of me, but here’s one for you.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
But that would be too much to ask for, just plain decent behavior between fellow human beings. No, some of us have to piss in the pot and make life suck for everyone and make someone like Gene end up getting threats. He and his poor wife are afraid for their lives! Is that right? Pick on an innocent person?
This is APPALLING and it needs to stop. Some of us need to GROW UP and find a new way to get attention, if that’s such a precious commodity, and they need to LEAVE THE PEOPLE OF NEWTOWN ALONE. Leave decent brokenhearted people alone to grieve one of the worst tragedies to befall us in recent times.
Go find another tragedy to pick apart because the truth of what really happened here got my fellow Newtowners international media attention that NONE OF US WANTED. Are you so desperate to attach yourself to this story that you'd say or do anything to get some press? That's just depraved.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I have better things to do with my time. I suggest you do the same.
I looked over at Barney. He was playing with a toy held by a little girl who was taking part in our Kitties for Kids program. Barney was oblivious to the fact that the fur on his side looked like it had been wiped away. He wasn’t completely bald and with his white and orange coat, it was tough to see how much he was missing at a glance.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney's naked patch.
I’d noticed the foster cats have been itchy for a few weeks or more, but not so much that it caused alarms to go off. They’ve been checked a few times for fleas, but we find nothing, not even flea dirt. Last year was a VERY bad year for fleas so it wouldn’t be surprising that there were some in the foster room.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Larry takes a look.
What to do?
I’ve had a lot of experience with Miliary Dermatitis. My cat Gracie suffers from it. M.D. is basically “I don’t know that the heck it is” but it’s some sort of skin issue. Many times it’s related to a stress reaction, food or a mite or flea bite. In Gracie’s case, after YEARS of doing tests, seeing specialists, trial and error, only homeopathy worked to reduce the problem and steroids resolved it for a few weeks. The problem with steroids is-it will end up killing Gracie over time so for me, giving her more wasn’t acceptable.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred seems fine.
Gracie is covered with scabs. She stopped “barbering” (chewing) her coat and no longer has bloody lesions, but her fur is not plush and her skin feels terrible. I’m looking into acupuncture, but other than that I feel as though I’ve tried it all.
I look at Barney and think about the MANY things that could be causing him to lick off his fur. I knew a trip to see Dr. Larry would probably be a waste of time, but I had to start there.
Dr. Larry agreed with me that it was most likely M.D. and made some suggestions. One startled me, but also inspired me. He said to let Barney be an indoor/outdoor cat. That the stimulation of being outside reduced the need to over-groom because the cat was having so much FUN!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Caught in the act.
Then I realized I have NOT been spending enough time with the kittens. Playtime is for five minutes here and five minutes there. I’ve been too busy to do more than that. I figured since I hear them running around they must be playing. There are five cats in the foster room after all.
I also thought about the Kitties for Kids program. Was the stress of meeting all these strangers getting to Barney? Thing is, he is the FIRST cat to go over to a new person and say hi! He’s very social. If he was upset by the visitors wouldn’t he be hiding instead of playing?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What the?!!!…the kittens are nursing on Willow!
What about diet?
Yes, that could be a factor. Since ALL the foster cats are scratching, something is making them itchy. The donations of food we’ve gotten lately is a mixed bag of canned, grain-free food. They get fed what I have on hand, not something consistent AND I’ve fed them a tuna based food recently for the first time. Did that set them off? Gracie seems to react to having fish.
It reduces stress, stretches the muscles and the mind, it helps them have an outlet for their prey drive. If we simply shake a toy at them once in awhile, it’s just NOT enough. Their mind needs to be engaged if they stay indoors. I’ve seen Jackson get very nasty with the other cats when he’s clearly bored.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Liftoff during one of our Kitties for Kids visits.
Normally, what you do is change ONE thing and see if it works. If that doesn't work, then go on to the next thing. Because Barney is so young and should NOT be having this issue, I’m going to do a few things and hope that one of them is the answer.
I’ll start with an application of Revolution®. I like it better than some other flea treatments and it does affect mites and internal parasites, too. I realize it could make things worse, but Barney’s skin is fine. There are no open lesions. He does NOT have ringworm.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco shows how it's done.
I’ve already started ramping up playtime. I got a new Da Bird donated to us. It REALLY tires the cats out as long as I don’t let the cats catch the toy. If so, they destroy it in about 2 seconds. What I do is basically make them go nuts for at least 15 minutes. After the cats slow down or start to lay down instead of chase the toy, I start up with ANOTHER toy. I use a Cat Dancer and Rainbow CatCharmer or a laser pointer or both. I throw balls around, mouse toys, Kong® Cat Kickaroos. I want to see the cats get to the point of just about falling over they’re so tired. I’ll even open up my old iPad and play Game for Cats for them to further stimulate their minds. If I see Barney lick at himself I distract him with more playtime.
Lastly I’ve simplified their diet. Ideally I would feed them raw but that’s not in the budget. I’m cutting out fish and only giving them chicken/turkey. It’s very high quality grain-free canned food and I’m feeding them more often so they’re less stressed when they get their food. I noticed they were gulping at their meal the other day so clearly they need more to eat and more often.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Entertained by his Kong Cat Kickaroo.
The hope is that one or more of these things will work and Barney will stop licking off his fur. The fear is that he won’t and this will be a chronic problem for him. I’m also thinking about letting him run the whole house instead of just the foster room. The extra space might do him good.
Last night I let him out for a few minutes and he was terrified, so for now I’ll go more slowly and only open up smaller areas at a time.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor sweetie.
What is ailing Barney and making the others itchy? Is it dry skin or is Kitties for Kids going to have to be shelved? I can’t say right now. All I know is that I need to find an answer fast before Barney makes this into an OCD-like reaction that will require heavy-duty meds for years to come.
I live in Sandy Hook, CT, a district of Newtown, CT. I moved here 21 years ago from the Midwest. A few days ago, if I told you where I lived, you probably would have confused it with Sandy Hook, NJ or not had a clue or any sort where we’re located. Today the world knows exactly where we are. They know we’re a tight-knit small town of 27,000 (well 26, 972 now). They see our quaint New England church steeples and clapboard sided homes, then images of our hometown Fire Station draped in Christmas lights. It’s charming. It’s a sweet place to live. It’s safe.
It’s the scenes of SWAT teams brandishing weapons, K9 patrol officers like our Felicia, sending commands to her German Shepherd to find the bad guy. It’s the scenes of the people of my community hunched over, grief stricken, crying. It doesn’t fit this town. This is not OUR town.
I was in New York City on 9|11. I suffered through escaping the city, then suffered the fear of returning to work until I couldn’t take it any more and decided to work from home, giving up all my NY clients and most of my billings.
I’ve seen what guns do to people you love-so very dearly-the gore, the horror. There are images in my head I have to keep a bay or it will drive me mad…and now this.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The view down Yogananda-about 1/2 mile from my house where the shooter killed his mother.
It was a brilliant, sunny morning with crisp blue skies. It was much colder but just as cheerful a day as on 9|11. Sam and I were driving to the town landfill to drop off our recycling. There was nothing out of the ordinary until we saw police cars with lights and sirens blaring, racing down Route 25. I wondered what was going on and not long after that my friend Mary called with the shocking news.
Later that day some of the details became clear—a monster had been unleashed on our town. No, it wasn’t Big Foot or Vampires or Zombies. It was much worse. This monster had no heart and a cache of guns. In cold blood he shot his Mother in the face, then drove to our little Sandy Hook Elementary and massacred some of the staff and twenty innocent children.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is too surreal. CNN, AP, all the CT stations and now NBC NY was there, too.
One of my good friends told me her daughter went to school with him, but had no idea he would do such a thing.
Did I cross his path? Did he walk past my house as many of the local kids do? Did we see him on the road this morning between doing his terrible deeds?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lined up and sniffing the air for news. I tried to stay off to myself, but some reporters heard me say something to Sam and that was it-I had microphones and cameras in my face even though I kept saying I had no story for them.
I don’t know his story. I barely know the details of what he did. I can only think about my friends and family, our adopters and their children. I contacted one particular family and discovered their son would have been in that classroom, but he was placed in another school even though his mom had wanted him to go to Sandy Hook Elementary. He’s barely five years old, with big blue eyes, straw blonde hair and pink plump cheeks. I thought about what could have happened to him today and I started to cry yet again.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I couldn't find the correct spelling of her name, but this is Pei-Zhe Chang from WVIT our NBC affiliate.
I thought about the first day I met him. He reached up and held my hand, both surprising and delighting me. He barely knew me but trusted me to guide him along the sidewalk to a local shop while his mother and sister followed suit. How could I not love him right then and there?
I thought about all the parents in this town who are not so lucky tonight. They will never hold their child’s hand again or guide them, keeping them safe.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This guy was walking his dog and he was descended upon by news crews.
Tomorrow we find out who died and I hope it’s no one I know…but it also doesn’t matter if I know them or not. They are part of MY TOWN and their loss is mine. I share their tears and heartache and I yearn to find a way to make it better for them-to find a way to erase the stigma of what has been cruelly bestowed upon our town.
I’m going to develop this program and possibly set it up so we can give the kids a stuffed animal when they leave so they have something to hug. I don’t know what more I can do, but I’m thinking about it a lot. I need to give back. I need to help. I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This woman's home was just pass the police tape. I helped her get the attention of the reporters and Troopers so she could go home. I felt so badly for her as she was quite upset.
I have a picture in my head that I can’t shake. A friend told me she spoke with a State Trooper who was in the school today—the same concrete and tile building where Sam and I once took Ballroom Dancing classes, the one that’s down the street from the Fire Station where we have Lobster Fest and Pancake Breakfasts to help raise money for our volunteer firefighters.
He said he’s seen some crazy things in his day, some true horrors, but what he saw today, that’s a new level of Hell.
The shooter must have gunned them down without hesitation, immediately upon entering the classroom. Those babies didn’t have a chance and now the first responders and families of the victims will have nightmares for the rest of their life and those of us who live in Sandy Hook, a district of Newtown, CT, will bear the scars of this day in their hearts.
It WAS Nicer in Newtown until 9:35 AM today. I know that one day it will be so, again, but right now it’s a Nightmare in Newtown, one that I wish I could wake up from soon.
This is so surreal, so wrong, so insane. I want to cry constantly. I need a hug. I’m afraid of what the news tomorrow will bring.
Today started off so happily. Spencer doesn’t have cancer. Jackson didn’t die on Tuesday. I transported a poor kitty to a rescue group so she would have a chance to find a new forever family and now none of that matters much and I wonder when things ever will again?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Bongo is seven months old. In that time he’s made friends, learned to play and met some very nice people, all while his right front leg didn’t function properly. We rescued him before he was going to be euthanized at a shelter not knowing much about him other than something was wrong with his leg. They noted his paw was crushed, but that turned out not the case.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo.
We did tests and x-rays. Bongo met with noted Orthopedic Vet, Dr. Alan Cross of Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Cross felt that Bongo, while happy and otherwise healthy, could not feel anything in his right front paw and that he had severe nerve damage that was either not repairable or would be very costly to repair with very little hope for success. He suggested the best course would be to remove the leg since it was only getting in the way and slowing Bongo down.
©2012 Maria S. Favoring his leg.
We work with a great Vet who helps rescue groups. Her nickname is Doc Thomas and she really knows her stuff. During our rescue of Bongo, Doc had taken a few weeks off-a rare vacation for her and certainly well deserved.
©2012 Maria S. Getting some lovin' from foster sister, Bunny Boo Boo (who needs a home, too!)
We knew she could do the surgery for far less than the $2000. Dr. Cross quoted us, but we had to wait a few weeks to talk to Doc T about whether she could do it. Dr. Cross felt it was not a rush to do the surgery because Bongo wasn’t in any pain.
In the meantime, Maria, Bongo’s foster mom noticed Bongo using his leg as a crutch. He couldn’t bear weight on it, but he did push litter around and use it to help him balance. He did this by swinging his leg from his shoulder.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo with his new BFF-George who we rescued from an apartment complex in GA.
When I heard about this I thought the same thing Maria did; “Maybe we should talk to Dr. Cross again? Maybe Bongo is getting feeling back?” The last thing any of us want to do is amputate this cat’s leg unnecessarily.
Maria contacted Dr. Cross. He felt that it would be very unusual for nerves to begin to work again and that Bongo didn’t have to have the surgery–ever, as long as he wasn’t dragging the limb. Dragging the limb meant he’d get infections in it eventually and that’s dangerous especially because he can’t feel if something is wrong.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo with catnip banana.
Maria took Bongo to meet Doc Thomas today who has done plenty of amputations for other rescue groups. She looked at Bongo’s x-rays and examined him and came to the same opinion—Bongo does not need to lose his leg at this time. If it’s not bothering him, then leave it.
We worried that as Bongo ages he would have arthritis in his shoulder or as he grows larger and gains weight, that the constant pull of his “dead” leg would give him back pain.
©2012 Maria S. His leg problem doesn't stop him from climbing.
Both Vets agreed that he should be just fine. If he drags the leg it has to go, but as long as he’s holding it up, running around and having fun, then for now it can stay. It’s really up to us if we feel he would be better without it in the way.
So again, Maria and I are wondering what to do. Neither of us want to take Bongo’s leg, but how will that effect his future? Would he be better off if we amputated his leg now so he could adjust and so we can oversee his care before he gets adopted or is he more adoptable with a leg that doesn’t function? What if he got his leg stuck somewhere because he couldn’t feel it and was home alone and did worse damage to himself?
©2012 Maria S. Brothers from other mothers.
Fortunately, Bongo is adorable and affectionate. Leg or no leg we’ll find him a wonderful home one day. It would be easy to leave the leg alone because we don’t want him to lose it, but what is best for Bongo? He has to be considered first and last…not us…not our ideas of what might not be as appealing to adopters or what might make us feel sad for Bongo’s sake.
Choosing what’s best for Bongo is very difficult. Perhaps we have our answer now and just have to accept it? Perhaps we need to do something more difficult and have the amputation done?
©2012 Maria S. Da boyz.
I don’t know, but I’m grateful we have the luxury of seeing how it goes and waiting on making any firm decisions.
I don't know what day it is. Let me think about it. Yes. Ok. It's Thursday. I've been on the run for four days. Four days since the end of the world as I knew it. Four days since the wicked winds of Hurricane Sandy arrived and destroyed the power grid.
Now my life has shifted into solving the “how do I” of mundane tasks. How do I get something to eat when all the food in my refrigerator has spoiled? How do I keep myself clean if I don't have running water? Where do I go to the bathroom if I cannot flush the toilet?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Before the storm.
It boils down to that due to Hurricane Sandy, I live in a winterized cabin with no plumbing. The home I knew is gone for now-until Connecticut Light & Power has time to come to my middle class neighborhood and reconnect the line that is currently laying across the road, snaking its' way across the open woods.
The first few days weren't too bad, it was an uncomfortable flashback to last year's outage, but the nights have gotten cold. The temperature in the bedroom was in the 50's, which is not as bad as I've experienced, but it's very uncomfortable if you have to get out from under the covers. To make matters worse, the simple act of getting up to pee turns into having to get mostly undressed (at least the bottom part of any pajamas), then hover over a watering can. Yes...that's what I rigged up for myself. Its' shape is more like a pitcher so the top is open and the handle is at one end. Hovering over it with my bare feet on the cold tile, I tell myself to go ahead and pee, but my middle aged body says NO WAY. You do not just squat and pee here, you just don't do that! That's gross! But if you have not other options, what do you do? Run outside? It takes a tremendous amount of water to flush a toilet, which I was saving for “other purposes.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Only two ways out of my neighborhood. Both were blocked by fallen wires. One road was opened after less than a day, thankfully.
Eventually the task is completed. The vessel is sprayed with bleach. The contents carefully poured down the sink. Yes, gross! I hate it. I bleach out the sink and rinse it with water I saved in a large bucket before the storm hit. I'm trying very hard to keep things clean while feeling like I'm turning into a savage. I'm also worried that if I see a watering can months from now I will wet my pants…okay, maybe not.
I only worry about having my bladder suddenly behaving like Pavlov's dog is that because in the 1940's my grandmother got constipated. Her doctor prescribed something but it took a long time to work. He told her to get a copy of the New York Times and sit on the throne and wait. So she did. It worked, but after that my mother told me that every time my grandmother read the Times she had to go to the bathroom.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A common sight-many grand pine trees fell onto power lines, their root systems not deep enough to hold them in place.
Today I was able to wash 16 dishes at Animal Care & Control since I'm buddies with the ACO and they have a brand new generator so things are working there. I warmed up the raw cat food (which has not gone bad due to my pre-loading the freezer with ziplock bags of water to make big ice cubes). I got something to eat. I helped Sam do two runs to the dump to get rid of ALL the recycling that had been sitting around in the garage for months. I went on a fool's errand to Loews to try to find more portable lights, mirrored tiles (to put candles on to magnify their light and a wick for my mostly burned out hurricane lamp), but they had none of those things. I overheard one of the salespeople say you couldn't buy a gas can in the entire state since folks needed to haul gas to keep their portable generators going.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coating the doxycycline pills by flashlight.
I finished some paperwork for the Town that was due today. I got a cup of tea at the local grocery store that just opened back up. I read SOME email, but it's too difficult to reply so I gave up on that. I posted a few things here and there. Somehow that took me 11 hours. Normally I'd get all these things done in a flash.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The one thing that worked-ziplock bags filled with water before the storm kept the precious cat food cold.
We've learned that we MUST be home BEFORE dark to feed all the cats or we just can't see what we're doing. The kittens want to bust out of their room and they still have to be medicated twice day. Trying pilling a cat with the light from a flashlight as your only source of illumination or scooping the litter pan in the dark.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I knew that already!
I told Sam I feel like we're running from Zombies. We can only be out during the day. At night we race home not only for our cats, but to take shelter. To try to get some heat out of our lousy fireplace to warm the cats, to try to put on more clothes to keep the chill away, to try to think of something to do for the rest of the night, sitting in the dark by candlelight.
At least we don't have to worry about boarding up the doors and cowering in the corner in fear of having our brains eaten. The only thing that's truly horrible outside is our neighbors generator, which makes so much noise we can hear it through the walls of our house when we're trying to go to sleep. Maybe the generator is protecting us from the zombies by distracting them to go to the neighbor and kill him and crush that noisy-ass thing?
I can dream, can't I?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The second biggest oak tree in the state of CT is down the road from my house. Once I saw it still standing I had hope in my heart that everything would be okay.
I finished writing this post Thursday night, a few moments before Sam and I got kicked out of the Town Hall. They close at 8pm and we'd already run back home, fed the cats, then came back for some work time. I wanted to stay longer, but there was no place else to get internet access so we headed home.
There's a traffic light about a mile from my house. It's been off since the Hurricane hit. I said to Sam that our power would be back on when that light was on—which was wishful thinking on my part.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Empty fridge again, but this time we didn't load up on food before the storm. The loss still stung, but not as bad as in 2011.
As we approached the traffic light, Sam noticed it was on. As we drove closer to home, we saw lights in other homes, but they were located before the break in the line. Certainly our power was not back on yet?
I didn't want to get too hopeful. Most of our neighborhood had power, just our street was out. As we passed over the downed line there were signs someone had been working on it. There was an orange highway cone and some official looking tape on the line. I looked to my right and the lights were on in the house nearest the break. As we continued down the street, every house had a few lights on.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. the DOOD minds the bags of spoiled food.
Could it be true? Were our lights on FOUR DAYS SOONER THAN EXPECTED?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My food is bratty, but not that spoiled.
I immediately felt badly, too. I started texting any of my friends who were nearby and who didn't have power yet and told them to come over right away. I thought about all the other people who don't have power yet, who are cold and in the same lousy state as we had been. My joy was short-lived, but my appreciation for having a chance to get back to normal will stay with me for a very long time.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. It's al over at last. Exhausted from the craziness of the past week we simply spent the day in bed with a good book, cats and a cup of tea---and loved every second of it.
The Cutest Kittens in the World
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Charly & Buttons.
Charly and Buttons are still here giving me a reason to smile. They are such darling creatures. I love spending time with them.
It looks like one of them will be getting adopted. I don’t want to jinx it by saying more, but I promise to update you when the time comes. Until then, I’ll greedily hold onto them and try to enjoy every second.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Clean those dirty toes!
Since writing this a few days ago, a few things have happened. Charly's been adopted by a wonderful couple from Boston! (Read his new mom's blog to keep up with Charly's adventures) Though I miss Charly a lot I know he's got a great home. Buttons is keeping me company and to help him, I asked foster-mama-Donna to let me take Bandit, Button's sister. That way Buttons wouldn't have to be alone.
The problem-Bandit is NOT happy to be here at all! Oops.
About the title: The Winds of Change
There’s a huge hurricane headed our way. They’re calling it Frankenstorm or simply, Hurricane Sandy. I’m having terrible flashbacks of a year ago when we were hit by “Snowmaggedon”—the worst week of my life without electricity or friendship (Sam and I had had a bad fight and spent the week ignoring each other…I broke off our engagement and gave back the ring.) With no heat, frigid temperatures, no water, no nothing I thought I was going to lose my mind. You can read the multi-part series HERE HERE and HERE and see a visual journal of my week from Hell.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Taking five from wrestling.
A year later, the same things seem to be happening again, as if on schedule. Because I know he reads this blog, I’m not going to say much other than a simple moment of irritation on my part turned into a full blown war on his. Sam has declared he is leaving me, we are done. It’s day five when we should be planning on getting through this next storm, but we can’t even recover from the one between us.
There’s a cascading effect once these cruel winds blow. There’s the obvious sign of bags and boxes being packed, but beyond that there’s a joint business being run that saves the life of cats. There are design projects that might have been worked on hand in hand and will now be done by other firms. There is a loss of livelihood and most likely a loss of my own home.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Game for Cats is a hit with these two.
Almost twenty years have ticked past. There have been plenty of storms along the way. The winds always bring us back together and we find a way to rebuild. With all the stress in our lives I can’t see where the resources are to find a place where things are okay again. I’m so beat down by everything else it’s just one more thing. It makes me sad to write that because it should mean so much more, but my bank account is almost empty and so is my heart.
That’s why I haven’t been able to write much this week. It’s hard to write when you’re looking out the window and know something horrible is coming your way. As if in a bad dream you can’t lift your legs and run, run, run. You have to stay there and wait and let the wild winds crash the tree limbs around you, let the rain wash over you, while you pray you don’t drown.
I can't take it.
Two of Winnie's kittens are here. The others are with their foster mom in a neighboring town, waiting to be spayed/neutered in two weeks. Because Charly and Buttons had their procedures last week, they're ready to find their forever homes.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttons (left) and Charly (right).
The problem is they're so cute I can't stand the idea of them leaving.
To make matters worse they're great kittens. I don't know what foster mom Donna does, but whatever it is, these kittens are warm, loving, gentle and sweet.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
The first night they were here their little bodies shook with fear. They were scared in their new environment without their mama, Winnie, to look after them. I stayed with them for a long while, petting them, giving them treats, comforting them. They responded by purring and leaning into my hands.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I always feel guilty about separating the kittens from their mama, but it must be done. Winnie was spayed. She has a home with Donna. She's had at least three litters of kittens-three litters too many. She's done her time. It's time for her to recover and enjoy life without the burden of pregnancy in a home that will treat her with compassion and respect (and lots of love, too).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Charly thinking so hard his tongue came out.
Charly and Buttons have only been here for a few days, but if I could I'd spend day and night with them. I'm a sucker for long haired cats and it's rare that I ever get any to foster. In a way that's probably a good thing or I fear I'd have a zillion more “foster fail” cats and many fewer adoptions.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I keep torturing myself. Who would be good enough to adopt these kittens?
Within an hour of posting the kittens on Petfinder, I had 4 offers to adopt them. As with all our foster kittens, I'll be careful to review each application and hopefully will find someone amazing. All I know is, whoever adopts these cats is going to be VERY LUCKY.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
My fear is that they won't get enough attention, that they will lose their sweetness if handled roughly. Am I saying our adopters do that? Certainly not, but once out of Donna's loving care, then mine, what will become of them?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I always have to push aside my fears when doing adoptions. There has to be a point where I let go. It's unbearable to look into their eyes and feel myself getting lost in their adorable faces. I struggle to turn away. I make myself think about my cats-the cats I made a commitment to who depend on me and need my love. I want to make excuses as to why these kittens can't be adopted just yet so I can have more time with them, but that's foolish, too. That's not how you run a cat rescue.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I savor their sweetness, their silly antics, their awkward movements not yet refined into that of a graceful adult. Their adult coats haven't come in yet and they have spiky hairs along their backs that indicate just how long their coats will be one day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Beautiful Buttons.
One day that I will not witness…
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. What IS this?
In some ways it feels like I have a secret lover. I look at Charly and Buttons and I forget my troubles for awhile. It's an escape from tension in the house, the cats misbehaving, the bills growing. All I have to do is have fun and love them, guide them with a gentle hand and make sure their tummies are full. They don't have behavioral issues or diseases to treat (knock wood). They don't irritate me as my own cats sometimes do. It's the first blush of love and I'm certainly hooked. I feel reluctant to leave them to tend to the other cats. It's like going back to my husband after a whirlwind affair.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cat toy photobomb.
Reality kicks in and I move on to other things. I know they're upstairs playing or napping or looking out the window as the dried autumn leaves flicker past the window on a gust of wind.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Little hunter.
I find myself longing for our next meeting and trying to think of an excuse to go check on them. I know our time is running out. Soon they'll be adopted and all I'll have are these photos and my memories.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Is my butt too heavy for this cat cube?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello!
These are the ones who remind me that my capacity for love is infinite. It doesn't run out when I feel heartbreak. It always comes back full, complete and profound.
If we didn't have the power of imagination just think about what a dull world it would be. We'd probably all still be living in a cave, wearing animal hides. There are times, though when I wish I didn't have the ability to imagine, especially when it comes to thinking about our latest rescue, Bongo.
X-ray of Bongo's damaged leg.
In the week we've had Bongo, I've only heard good things about him. The first few days made me sad when I heard he stayed in his litter pan, comforted by his own scent-something common to cats who are confined in cages at animal shelters. In time, Bongo realized he was safe and loved and began to spend his days relaxing on a soft bed or playing with toys. He walked holding his right front leg off the ground. It doesn't seem to function properly. You can see a video of it HERE.
If you compare the front legs, you can tell one has good muscle mass and one does not.
Yesterday Bongo met with Dr. Alan Cross, a noted Orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Cross reviewed Bongo's x-rays and did a careful and thorough examination.
It could NOT have been from being hit by a car. Bongo's leg had to be grabbed and twisted by force.
I tried not to imagine who did this to him or why. I tried not to imagine that this person is still doing this to other cats. I did allow myself to imagine what I'd do to the person if I ever could find out who did this to such a sweet and innocent creature.
©2012 Maria S. Sweet Bongo.
Dr. Cross felt the best solution in this situation would be to amputate Bongo's leg. It's only in his way and over time it will become more and more of a hinderance. Bongo has NO sensation in his paws, which we originally thought he had. I've never had to make this choice for an animal and I'm not overjoyed it has come to pass. For Bongo, I will do whatever it takes to help him live the most comfortable life possible.
If there was any way we could save his leg, it would be done. I know Bongo won't mourn the loss of his leg as we will because we can imagine what life he could have had, but perhaps we can begin to imagine a new life, on three legs, that can be just as full of love and joy as it would have been on four.