(continued from part 1)
After a month of tests, I continued on, but this time weighing about 20 pounds less. The pain wasn’t as severe and I was a pro at checking my blood glucose every day. I never saw it go beyond a normal reading, but I was also terrified to go out to eat (so I didn’t). I cooked more than I cared to, but if I controlled what went into the food, I was “safe.”
I was lost trying to sort out what to eat, what not to eat. I hadn’t had sugar or much white flour. No more pasta, no more nuttin’. I had terrible cravings, but I knew that if worked very hard, it would go away and I’d make new routines eventually…yeah, right. We’re talking about me, a self-confessed “foodie” who felt like her whole life was over.
At least I got to rescue a kitten we named, Tink. She came flea-infested from Animal Care & Control in NYC. It was our first rescue-pull from them and it was a proud moment for me because if you’re going to rescue a cat from a tough place, NYACC is it. They do a great job partnering with an organization called HOPE, to get the animals OUT of their facilities, but you can imagine they are overloaded day and night.
Tink went to foster care and her foster mom fell in love so Tink’s adoption was sealed.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Think, a mini-Freya, bright light in an otherwise dreary world.
Meanwhile, I wasn’t too sick to notice that my cat, Gracie wasn’t eating well. No matter what we did or tried to feed her she was clearly off her food. I took her to the vet and they said she needed a dental cleaning right away. Other than the fact I hadn’t been working and was low on funds, there was nothing to be particularly concerned about as it was a routine procedure.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Minus most of her teeth after a dental, now Gracie was facing something much more dire.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. At one of a million vet visits, each one giving us hope that we'd find the answer of what was ailing our girl.
And so began a torturous two months of trying to save Gracie’s life. It was so hard on me that I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had such bad anxiety because we couldn’t find what was going on, but could only guess it was neoplasia (cancer), somewhere. If we didn't know what was slowly killing my sweet cat, we couldn't TREAT it. The clock was ticking. I’m not a loser when it comes to my cats. I will fight and fight for them but nothing I did helped Gracie get any better.
2015 used with permission. Woody on his mom's lap. He's where he was supposed to be all along.
There was a moment of joy. Woody, the last of Mia’s kittens, finally got adopted after a 18 months. Woody’s siblings, Greta and Lil’ Snickers had been in their forever home for 6 months, but their mom, Nicole and been aching over the fact that Woody was left behind. She and her family agreed that Woody needed to join them. I couldn’t believe it when she called, but indeed that’s what she really wanted all along.
It was a shaky two weeks because Woody had to leave his mother, Mia. I hated separating them, but truth be told, Mia is not friendly enough to be adopted and this was Woody’s best chance.
2015 used with permission. Wood (on recliner) reunited with Lil Snickers (front) and sister, Greta (sofa).
Woody is doing great and his siblings remembered him after a few days. Mia is showing signs of coming around, too, so maybe one day she’ll find her family, too.
Lex & Lucy got adopted even though I was pretty much checked out of running Kitten Associates. I was glad for them because the couple was great and I’ve heard the kitties are doing well, but it also meant the remaining foster cats were well beyond being cute kittens. They were all over 8 pounds and too big for their prime adoptable time.
Used with permission. Lex & Lucy together always, in their forever home.
I began taking an online class with the Humane Society of the United States. It was 10-weeks long plus 5 hours of course week, at least, every week. At the end of it I’d be certified as a Cat Behavior Counselor. The question was, could I do it when my heart was breaking and my mind was numb from stress?
Our sole remaining feral cat, Bronte showed up looking frail and sickly. We put out a trap so we could get her to the vet, but instead of trapping Bronte, we got this big tom cat who had been hanging around our house for months. I was able to learn he was being fed down the street, but the person at that home said he wasn’t her cat. Since we had the cat and to get back at him for ripping my screen window open a few days before, I took him to be neutered (okay I wasn’t getting revenge, but…).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry sat outside my office window (before he ripped it open) and cried. Meanwhile DOOD and Blitzen egg him on.
I named the cat, Barry.
I figured I’d let him go back outside after he recovered from surgery. What I didn’t expect was that Barry was friendly, so then I was faced with what to do with him.
©2008 Robin AF Olson. Bronte, the last time we were able to trap her and get her vetted.
Sadly, we never saw Bronte again. She’d been with us for seven years. We had heated cabins for her in our screen porch and heated water dishes. We fed her every single day and now she was gone. We couldn’t even say goodbye. I still find myself looking for her when I go outside.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Cricket with frankenbutt.
One night I looked over at our cat Cricket. I saw blood all over his rear end. It was bad enough we were doing vet runs and fussing over Gracie, but now Cricket was in big trouble. It was clear he blew out one of his anal glands and needed surgery to repair the wound. We had him stitched up the next morning. He needed 17 stitches and was just in time for Halloween.
©2006 Robin AF Olson. The most beautiful, sweet-natured cat I've ever known. I miss you, Gracie, so much.
I suppose the best news of the year was that after repeating my blood work it was determined I didn’t have diabetes after all. I didn’t even know I could hope for that outcome. I'd lost about 45 pounds and still need to lose more, but the change in my body was starting to be pretty clear since none of my clothes fit me any more.
I knew I still had to be very careful because I can become diabetic due to my family history, so I can’t go back to eating things I used to like, but at least I can have a cookie or some such thing once in awhile.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my future?
On the flip side, the bad news is there is trouble with my heart, a lack of blood flow that is either a small or moderate in area in the lower part of the muscle. My cardiologist wanted me to take a fist full of medications, but after careful consideration I decided not to take his advice. As of this writing, I’m still on this journey trying to find out what this pain is from. It’s mostly gone these days, but not entirely. I’m getting out for walks more, but not enough. I’m still eating well, too, but I don’t know what is really going on. Hopefully some day I will. I’m getting a second opinion.
Poor Petunia was getting picked on too often, even after the surgery. I decided to create a penned off space for her near the living room. She has her own litter pan, water, cat tree, scratcher, heated bed, cozy hut to hide in. Pretty much the second she realized the other cats couldn’t bother her, she calmed down and never missed the litter pan once. Though it’s not a perfect solution, it stopped the insanity. I don’t feel stressed out because seeing the cats go after Petunia upset me a lot. Now I can relate to Petunia differently, too. She’s not soiling anything and I’m not unfairly vilifying her. I learned I can start over and re-introduce her to the other cats. It’s going to take a long time, but in the meantime she’s calm and content and that’s what matters.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Petunia watches DOOD from a safe distance. After I took this photo, I covered the pen with towels to give her more separation from the other cats.
As for the other cats, I had to suck it up and take my beloved boy Spencer in for a dental. I had put it off after the disaster following Gracie's final cleaning. Spencer HATES to go to the vet and is very tough to handle. They got the job done, but I have to say I was very upset until he came back home. Even then I noticed he's showing his age. He's 14 going on 15 and I just can't "go there" when I think about how we lost Gracie and she was younger. Spencer has the early signs of kidney issues so he'll be going back to the vet for blood work again soon.
I got the flu for Thanksgiving. Not a surprise, really. After all the stress with caring for Gracie, no wonder I got sick. I lucked out and was just well enough a week later to meet Mike Bridavsky and see Lil Bub again. I’d designed Bub’s BUBblehead box and was really proud to be part of her world, even in some small way.
I got home and went back to bed. Sam joined me. He had just been hit by the flu, too.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The bright spot to an otherwise sad year-seeing Mike & Bub again.
Somehow I managed to graduate my class! I got a 98! I’m a Certified Cat Behavior Counselor. Now I can help people keep their cats instead of giving them up when times get tough.
The results of not working much and a lot of sick cats hit my bank account really hard. Christmas ended up being mostly just another day. I was grateful that at least I could keep things going with Kitten Associates. I had some folks interested in wanting one or two of the cats. I’m hoping it will pan out in the new year.
Laney and family had been here so long they needed their vaccinations boostered. I had Dr. Larry and Super-Deb do a house call. I figured it would be a routine visit. No big deal.
I was wrong.
Laney needed a dental. Winnie and Piglet had severe stomatitis and needed not only dental cleanings ASAP, but they both were going to lose teeth. Just how many teeth would be taken was to be determined. There went $2200.00 in vet care I hadn’t figured on.
Barry sounds “bad.” He’s getting x-rays of his lungs done in a few days.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Barry, no longer the "feral" cat, is making his home in my bathroom until we complete his vet care (and he quits biting me!).
The “good” news I found out today is that Winnie has raging bartonella. It’s good because it means she probably does NOT have an immune disorder that will effect the rest of her life. We’re going to re-test Piglet because she was a +1, when Winnie was a +4 (+4 is the highest level of infection). Since the protocol is to not treat for a +1 and it’s been 9 months since we tested Piglet, it’s possible Piglet had it, but we caught it early and that now she, too may be a +4 (which would explain her bad mouth).
If it means neither cat will have to lose all their teeth one day, I’m all for it.
It was a really tough year. I miss having kittens so much, but I needed a break without being able to really take one. I helped about 45 cats, mostly behind-the-scenes. I was going to end the year by rescuing this super cute ginger boy in South Carolina but happily for him he got adopted before they found out we’d take him.
I faced my mortality in a way I never did before. I made many difficult choices and ended up deciding to give myself the respect I never could before. I'm trying to treasure this body I have, faults, extra padding and all. It's been the toughest thing I've ever done and I have a long way to go, but for the first time I think that maybe, just maybe I'll get there and end up being the girl who really liked herself instead of loathing the face in the mirror.
My dreams for 2016 are a mixed bag. Firstly, I want to get as healthy as I can and get to the bottom of the chest pain. Second, I hope 2016 will be a re-birth of sorts. This humble blog has been far overdue for a re-design and Kitten Associates' web site needs a facelift, too. I'd also like to take my writing to the next level-which means a book project. Will you read a book if I write it? I've got to do this. If I can't make this one dream come true I never will.
...The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Necklace from my friend, Adria.
The theme for 2015 was “the Year of the Vet Visit.” Laney’s older kittens, the “J-kitties” arrived from Georgia in mid-December 2014 and were acting a bit off so I took them to the vet a few times. Eventually we decided to test them for Bartonella. Sure enough they tested strong positive. Freya came up strong positive for Bartonella, too, so they were on antibiotics for 3 WEEKS.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. The J-kitties all got adopted in less than a month after arriving from Georgia.
Lil Snickers, Ivy, Greta, Junipurr, Jasmine and Jasper got adopted so that was the good news, but it didn’t last long. Something was wrong with Freya’s eye so I rushed her to the ER where she was diagnosed with Horner’s Syndrome. The cause? No one really knew.
The month for Groundhogs and love…for me, love of taking cats to the vet. Not! Freya continued to struggle. It was bad enough to know that Freya could barely see with her third eyelids exposed as a result of the Horner’s Syndrome, but I began to think she was walking with her head tilted to one side. Back to the vet we went and sure enough Freya had a terrible infection inside her ear that had to be frequently monitored. Was it due to all the antibiotics she’d been on? It was only her right ear causing trouble. Dr. Mary was concerned about how much fluid was building up and that we HAD to put Freya on another type of very strong antibiotics to push this infection back. The problem is, Baytril can cause some very scary side effects. I did not want to give Freya the medication, especially for six WEEKS, but it was the only hope we had, other than doing a CT scan, then risky surgery to drain her ear canal.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. When Freya got Horner's Syndrome I thought I could handle any of her health challenges, but never seeing her turquoise blue eyes again felt like too much to bear.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. My poor baby. Head-tilt, vision problems, lovely.
At least Wallace, the tiny kitten who was rescued by the Danbury Fire Department from inside a wall, was now a big grown boy. He got adopted with the remaining “J-kitty”, Jules. They looked like brother and sister and ended up getting along very well. Jules is madly in love with one of her new family’s other pets—a dog named Coco. They spend too much time together, if you ask Wallace.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Jules (left) and Wallace (right) in their forever home.
Laney, Winnie and their offspring arrived from Georgia. ALL of them broke with a nasty upper respiratory tract infection the day after they arrived. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was terribly worried about Piglet because she was doing the worst of all the cats. Most of her family members got better over the next few weeks, but she didn’t.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet takes comfort with her grandma-Laney and Louie.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Fluff sick again.
Of course you can’t have sick foster cats, then expect your own cats will miraculously not get sick at some point, too. Fluff Daddy was hit the worst and required a few vet visits and many trips to the bathroom where I ran a steamy shower for him. With his smooshy-face, Fluff was having a tough time breathing. He’d had pneumonia a few months earlier so I couldn’t risk waiting it out that he’d get better on his own.
Freya’s ear did not improve enough so we had to continue giving her Baytril.
Meanwhile my 11 year old cat, Petunia, who I have struggled to love all these years, was just not peeing in the litter pan any more. It was a horrible mess. Petunia gets bullied and try as we might, Sam and I have spent a lot of money and effort adding cat trees, barriers, adding litter pans, adding litter additives to attract Petunia to the pan, but nothing worked.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. What can happen to your cat inside her bladder when she experiences long-term stress.
Poor Piglet. She was just not getting better. We ran a DNA test called a PCR on her mucus and found out she had a triple-threat viral infection of calici, herpes and mycoplasma! No wonder she was so sick.
Petunia’s surgery was a success. I could tell she was feeling a lot better. The cats who picked on her backed off a little bit, but ultimately we had to do more to help her so we went back to the drawing board to figure out what we could do.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Piglet's struggles continue.
Now Piglet had an ear infection so we began treating her for that. It was odd because it seemed like she had weird-gummy-dirt-stuff (not ear mites) in one ear and that one ear was susceptible to getting infected. She did NOT like being medicated and for a little cat, she sure is strong.
May arrives along with a sad realization. Where are my kittens? I usually have rescued a pregnant cat or a mom-cat and kittens by now. I had no space for kittens. Even if I did open up my nearby foster home, I couldn’t oversee their care remotely. I had a full house and most of my cats were either sick or just getting over it. My home was no place for any kitten. It was simply too dangerous. It was the first time since we opened Kitten Associates in 2010 that we didn’t have any foster kittens.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Finally, Freya is doing well.
Although we had no foster kittens, I was helping behind the scenes. By pure accident I discovered that a gentleman who called me about getting a c-section for his cat (no, I’m not kidding), ended up telling me he had 22 cats that were INTACT. He was in his 70’s and was overwhelmed. I put out the call to help and thankfully my friends at Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic and PAWS jumped in to help out. You can read more about that HERE.
And then everything stopped and my life came to an end as I knew it.
In late June, I was experiencing severe chest pains so Sam took me to the walk-in clinic right after they opened at 8AM. I was positive I was having a heart attack. I was so upset I almost passed out from worry. I explained to the doctor my weird, radiating pains. I’d read that women present heart attack symptoms differently than men do and I was sure I was in trouble.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Is this my new best friend?
The doctor said the strangest thing to me. He said he believed me but he couldn’t sort out what was going on. They did an ECG and said it was pretty normal but there was something about a q-wave abnormality that might be worth checking into. He said I should follow up with my GP (I didn’t have one) and that if I felt worse to get to the ER.
For the rest of the month I didn’t do much of anything. I was already exhausted from doing rescue and never taking any time off. I let adoption applications go down the drain. The cats got the care they needed, but Sam had to help me because I couldn’t lift ANYTHING. I could barely climb the stairs without the pain returning. I felt lost, broken, angry. How was I going to go on?
the rest of this craptastic year in review coming up next...
Both of my parents were scientists. I think that’s why when one of my cat’s gets sick I spend a great deal of time trying to sort out what is going on if we don’t have a clear cut answer. I’d been keeping a diary of when Gracie should have her meds, which meds she should get, what time I tried to get her to eat, if she ate and how much she ate. I also added other notes about her, like “Perky today” or “Kinda limp.”
When she’d do badly for a few days I'd look back over my notes for clues. Nothing added up. I also never knew if “this was it”-sort of decline or if she could rebound. We had no idea which, if any, of her medications were helping her. She’d go through periods of not eating for a day or a bit longer. I’d syringe-feed her and she’d perk up and eat again, getting her energy back, too. Though she didn’t return to her “old self” she'd sit up and meow at me when I came near or she’d, at least, walk over to the kitchen, far beyond her regular spot in the living room where she spends a majority of her day. One day I gave her a rainbow shaped catnip toy and she loved it. She even fell asleep with her head on it. She was still a cat by all definitions.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Although the catnip toy didn't make Gracie get frisky, she did really enjoy it and even nibbled on it with the few teeth she has left.
Monday arrived. Test result day. Once again my gut was in a knot. I had my phone ringer turned on and turned up. I carried my phone wherever I went. Every time someone else called me I jumped out of my skin. Would this be the day I find out my cat has a deadly cancer or would it be treatable? We’d been down this road before but truly this time we’d KNOW.
Or would we?
“We don’t know just yet.”
Dr. Carolyn went on to describe our next options. We had three:
1. Do a Tru-cut ultrasound guided biopsy of Gracie’s liver because most of the Vets on this case agreed that the culprit still is her liver. Yes, she has benign cysts there that we know of but there’s a chance there's more going on than we realize. A needle aspirate can't get enough tissue to give us a more complete picture, which is why we only found out there were cysts when we had that done a month ago. The Tru-cut would tell us what's happening in the surrounding liver tissue. Doing this type of biopsy, while gets good results, isn’t as accurate as doing a “wedge” biopsy (see below).
With this procedure there's a risk Gracie could bleed more and possibly not recover. It’s a quick procedure and the least invasive. There isn’t even a suture needed, the opening created is so tiny. They'd also do another transfusion, this time doing it FIRST to give Gracie the best chance to survive and feel good after the procedure is done. If she starts to decline they would do a SECOND transfusion, which of course adds to costs and is no guarantee she will come out of it.
Dr. Carolyn felt that this test WOULD tell us once and for all what is going on and if we knew, then there would be a chance for some sort of treatment, though a cure is very unlikely. It would buy us more quality time and we could treat her with appropriate medications and stop giving her ones she didn't need in the first place. It would cost another $1500.00 or so.
2. Do nothing. Keep Gracie comfortable and she may become so anemic she'll die. We could try to up her dose of steroids, but that's not a fix and we'll never know what happened or if we could have done something about it. She'll have much less time with us and potentially be much more uncomfortable.
3. Do a wedge biopsy of her liver. This way a surgeon would SEE her liver and be able to take a sample that was big enough to test, as well as suture closed any bleeding issues. It would cost about $5,000.00. It would likely KILL Gracie before she was even out of sedation.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Laying on a pet-safe heated bed and some sunshine helps soothe Gracie's discomfort.
I’ve had a number of conversations with all the major players in our story. Two of the three said YES, do the Tru-cut. Dr. Carolyn feels there's a very good chance Gracie WILL survive the procedure. Gracie's 13, not 18. We would finally know what's going on and know if there is more to be done to help Gracie feel comfortable.
One of the Vets said not to do it because it was too risky and that some times you just don’t know and that we could come in to see him and he’d discuss treatment options. For what? What are we treating if we DON’T KNOW what it is?! Frankly, I think he was back-peddling because he should have caught something worse was going on with Gracie over a month ago and he didn’t.
Sam and I have discussed this a few times. I’ve asked questions and still have more to ask. Three days ago Gracie was not eating and I wouldn’t have done a thing to her. Today she she's on her third day of feeling perky and eating again, but how long will that last?
I want to know what’s killing my cat, but to find out she may die anyway. There’s a very decent chance she'll make it and we’ll have answers, but I have to be willing to let my cat pay the price if I’m wrong.
So now I find myself like a deer caught in the headlights. I don't know what to do. I think we should do the Tru-cut biopsy since Gracie is stable. The costs are an issue. In truth, we need help to make this happen.
If you’d like to take Gracie under your wing and help with a small donation toward her care, it could mean a world of difference to her and would honor our hard work helping others.
You can mail a check to Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354. Put a note "for Gracie" it so we can direct the funds to her.
Just SHARE this with your friends who have kind hearts and love cats. That helps Gracie, too.
Your donation is Tax Deductible. K.A. is a non-profit rescue and our IRS EIN is 27-3 597692.
We will stop our fundraiser as soon as we’ve raised $2000.00, which we hope will cover Gracie's care and allow some funds to be banked in case she needs a second transfusion. Any funds we don’t use for Gracie, we'll set aside for other kitties in our program who need help like our recently rescued big guy, Barry.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Gracie.
Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to share their love, prayers and good wishes for Gracie. We can't do this without you. #ComeOnGracie #LoveYouGracie
I raced over to the kitchen and put some food on a plate, warmed it and added some water so she would stay hydrated. I sat next to her holding the plate in my hands. I noticed she seemed too painful bending over so I held the plate up high and she did better eating that way. The problem was she ate very slowly so I began to cramp up hunched over holding the plate. I didn’t care. She was eating. I knew it was likely just the medication making her do that but I couldn’t help but think that “every bite is a victory.” I knew that good nutrition would possibly help her recover from the anemia and that would go a long way to helping her be comfortable.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Gracie laps at her food.
I got Gracie brushed, gave her fresh water, and cleaned her litter pan. I found she was ready to eat a small amount every 5 hours or so and I was determined to keep her fed. Whatever she wanted she was going to get. The more she ate, the better for her anemia.
Meanwhile, I was falling apart.
I couldn’t concentrate, so reading was out of the question. I didn’t answer emails. I didn’t want to go on Facebook and see more sad stories. I had to force myself to eat something-scrambled eggs was all I could choke down. I couldn’t sit by the TV and eat. Gracie was right there. I couldn’t look at my cat and eat breakfast and I didn’t want the sound of the TV to bother her. I went upstairs and grabbed my old iPad. I sat on the bed with my eggs and started watching Fraiser, a TV-show from the early 1990s. It didn’t require any effort to watch the episodes and there were over 200 of them in the queue. I could zone out and let Kelsey Grammer help me forget about how terrible things were for 22 minutes, though nothing loosened the knot in my gut.
Gracie’s Cytology Report Arrives
I forced myself to check my email inbox. There was a message from Pieper Memorial waiting to be read. I knew it was Gracie’s ultrasound report. I didn’t want to read it, but I had no choice. I opened the file and began to read. Other than words like “and” or “the” all the other words were very long, technical jargon. I believed it said that basically there was a good sample of a cyst taken. That there was activity indicating a reaction to possibly some sort of thing…infection maybe? That a cyst or more had ruptured and was bleeding.
What grabbed me was the following:
I showed the report to Connie, to Katherine, to Warren, to Sam, to the folks on the SmallCell Lymphoma Board and they all said the same thing. No cancer is NO CANCER. Could it be true?!
By Monday evening Gracie continued to show signs of perking up. She sat up a little more, looked a little more comfortable. She wasn’t eating a lot but I stopped syringe-feeding her. We had to decide what to do about Tuesday’s appointment. Gracie seemed a bit better but maybe we were kidding ourselves and we still had to do what needed to be done.
Dr. Larry called to go over the cytology results with me. I was so excited that it wasn’t cancer until he said that he HAD to speak with Dr. Sean before he could feel like we were out of the woods and that Gracie had cysts in her liver that weren’t cancer. My joy quickly faded when he said that Dr. Sean might feel his sample wasn’t perfect or that even WITH a good sample that there was still a cancer diagnosis hanging over us. He needed more time to reach Dr. Sean and since Gracie seemed stable, though weak, he would NOT put her down, not if she was showing improvement. She wasn’t ready to leave us just yet.
Tuesday at 2pm arrived. I was sitting with Gracie, watching her take dainty licks at her food instead of watching Dr. Larry put her down. Starting from this moment on was “bonus time” for us both. I wanted to see her get better. I wanted a WIN! I didn’t want my cat to die soon, but I also didn’t have a lot of hope.
Dr. Larry called again later that day. He’d reached Dr. Sean. Before he said much, I already knew it was bad news. I could tell from Dr. Larry’s tone of voice. He wasn’t his usual jovial self. He was very serious-deadly serious.
I asked if we should keep our appointment with the oncologist and he said YES. We needed a diagnosis and Dr. Post was the guy to give that to us. We HAD to keep trying as long as Gracie was stable.
It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I wasn’t surprised, either. Though I hold Dr. Post in VERY high regard, I knew we also had to be prepared for the costs to put us in a place where we couldn’t afford to care for Gracie. I checked all my accounts and decided I could stitch something together. If I had to, I’d take the last bits out of my retirement account, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to go there. I couldn’t be reckless, but I could provide more for a little while longer.
The Veterinary Cancer Center is an hour west, near where my rescue-friend Katherine lives. She and my other dear rescue-friend, Connie had been in contact with me every day, checking on Gracie, offering advice. I told Katherine about our appointment, in case she wanted to meet us at the cancer center. I needed all my friends more than ever as we were about to get the news I’d been dreading for a week.
Part 5 is next. Yes, this is a long story, but imagine having to live through it! And this final chapter is the one where as a writer you dream of being able to write an ending like this.
In my last post I wrote about trusting your gut instincts. My 14-year old cat, Gracie hadn’t been quite right after having a dental cleaning. She was barely eating and becoming less and less active. I kept taking her to see my vets, telling them something was still wrong. We all tried to sort out what was going on, but as often happens with cats, they’re great at hiding health issues until they’re in such bad shape that their life is in jeopardy.
Gracie's x-rays. Another good reason to do a baseline x-ray of your cat during a routine exam when they're seniors. (top) You can see how the center of Gracie's abdomen, where her liver is located, looks cloudy. That's the fluid buildup in her abdomen and her liver is enlarged. (Bottom) organs look more defined.
I knew we could get the ultrasound done at one of many emergency veterinary hospitals in the area, but Dr. Larry said he really wanted me to take Gracie to the one he considers top notch and that meant a trip to Pieper Memorial, which is over an hour drive away. Though other hospitals were closer, Dr. Larry trusted Dr. Sean’s expertise and he knew I'd do whatever was asked to get to the bottom of Gracie’s issues.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Waiting for Dr. Larry.
The thought of the trip gave me painful flashbacks to the last time I went to Pieper. It was in 2012 and I had Fred with me; a 10-month old kitten who had lost use of his back legs. Dr. Sean was to look for signs of FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) because that was our fear. I remember pacing anxiously outside the hospital in their garden. It was early April and still cold, but I couldn’t stay inside and sit quietly waiting for the results. I prayed and prayed that Dr. Sean would tell me Fred was going to be okay. Ironically, he did tell me there were no signs of FIP, but sadly Fred did have it and died a few weeks later. I didn’t want to have the same experience now—a clean ultrasound and heartbreak later. I angrily wondered why even bother doing an ultrasound if the results are so questionable, but it was safer than doing exploratory surgery by far.
Sam had been working around-the-clock on a very challenging project and was exhausted. I was emotionally wiped out from worrying about Gracie and didn’t sleep the night before the test. I was going to take Gracie by myself so Sam could stay home and tend to the cats, but Sam somehow dragged himself out of bed, after very little sleep, and we both took Gracie to Pieper. I was so grateful he made the effort because frankly I didn’t want to be alone. I needed him to be with us.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. A very sick girl on the way to Pieper.
It was a sunny morning and the commuters were out in full force. I sat with the cat carrier on my lap with the top unzipped so I could pet Gracie. She was not happy to be back in the car yet again, but she was comforted by my gentle caress. I felt sick to my stomach with worry, but we had to know what was going on and if there was a chance we could do something about it.
We didn’t have to wait long before a cheerful vet tech took Gracie from us. I stopped her before she could turn away and asked if didn’t Dr. Sean want to talk to us first and she said no, that he had all her notes. I found that odd and wondered if they didn’t value my observations. I’m not a vet so what do I know. Maybe it’s not necessary. All he’s doing is looking into her abdomen. Whatever I say won’t change what he finds.
I sat against the side of an austere hallway lined with chairs with Sam by my side. Sam was drinking coffee, trying to wake up and I was trying to be calm while my heart was pounding in my chest. I saw a lot of dogs with their parents. I tried to distract myself by people-watching. Did they match their pets? Not really. Did one of them have a really big behind when the rest of her body was tiny? Yes. Did I wonder if the golden retriever with the white mask of fur on his face was going to be around much longer. Yes.
A few minutes later, the tech arrived and said the Dr. Sean was ready to talk to us. My stomach did a flip-flop as I stood. I reached out to Sam for support as we entered a nearby exam room.
We thanked Dr. Sean and left him to do the test. I felt like my heart was going to explode. I wanted to run away. How the HELL did I miss my cat having CANCER? How is this happening? Just the day before all I thought I needed to do was fine tune Gracie’s medications so that we could get her eating better and now I’m thinking my cat is possibly terminally ill.
I needed to go outside. I didn’t want people to see me react to the news. I raced out the door back to the garden. I paced. I cried. I prayed for a glimmer of hope. Sam tried to comfort me but I couldn’t stand still. I wanted Gracie to be okay. I wasn’t ready for this to happen. My mind was swirling with dark visions of what the future held-if there was to be any future-for my girl.
It didn’t take long for the test to be done. One of the techs came outside to find us to tell us we could check out and take Gracie home. It being a Thursday meant that the results would probably not be ready until Monday. MONDAY?! I wondered if Gracie would be alive by Monday—and sadly I wasn’t wrong to worry about that.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Gracie's little blankee area where she spends most of her day.
I’d set Gracie up inside a big dog crate with a cat bed and heated pad. She’d spent the last week on the bed, but now she wanted to lay on the cooler flat oriental rug near the crate. I imagined that her belly must have hurt based on how awkwardly she would lay down. I grabbed some soft blankets and made some bumpers for her to rest her head on and one where she could prop herself up. She’d sit up, stretching her abdomen, no doubt to give her enlarged liver and fluid build-up more space inside her. I wanted to keep her as comfortable as possible. I also had to figure out a way to get her to eat.
So began an all-too-familiar odyssey—trying to find the Holy Grail of cat nutrition to keep Gracie alive, at least for a few more days.
Part 2, to Hell and Back, next...and don't think you already know what's going to happen, because no one saw this coming.
Note: As of this writing the initial reports that Cecil’s brother, Jericho was also murdered, are untrue. Sadly what IS likely is a second lion was murdered from Zimbabwe’s biggest park a few days after Cecil was killed. Regardless of which lion died, the death of any creature, especially ones that are endangered, purely for sport, is unconscionable.
Over the past week I’ve barely been able to look at Facebook because it seems almost every status update carries a link to a story about Cecil the Lion, who was murdered by a Minnesotan Dentist named Walter Palmer. Like so many others, I was outraged to learn the King of the Jungle’s death was completely senseless beyond how morally reprehensible it was. With each image I saw of Cecil, laying bloodied and dead at the feet of a psychotically-smiling Palmer, I felt an all too familiar rage boiling inside me towards yet another person causing death to an innocent creature.
There’s no need to re-hash Cecil’s story here, and in truth, I had no intention of writing about it; but with breaking news, the almost incomprehensible news, that a second lion was killed by poachers a few days after Cecil drives me to say something about it now.
As someone who respects all life and who works to help others I can never understand what would drive someone to kill animals for sport. I realize some of us eat meat and those animals are killed so we can live, but to spend an outrageous amount of money to go to another country and purposely kill an animal who is part of a group of animals that are struggling to survive is beyond comprehension.
I have to wonder if these same people struggle to stay on the “right side” of a fragile line between showing their true nature and using hunting as a smoke screen for what they really want to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d rather be serial killers, but maybe they’re sane enough to know that posing as hunters of animals is still acceptable in society. Who’s to say their repeated killing of big game animals isn’t just a cover up. In the least they're sadists. If they didn’t have the outlet of killing a rare beast would they have turned to killing humans? Perhaps that’s how the dentist can fit in with society by masking his true desires.
Have you noticed that killers like Palmer or Lindsey or the latest poor excuse for a human being, Sabrina Corgatelli , know exactly how many and of what type of animal they’ve killed? They love posing next to the dead animal proving they did it. They cut off parts of the animal and take it with them so they can look at it again and again to relive the few SECONDS it took them to slaughter an innocent animal. Palmer was quoted as bragging about killing Cecil and waving photos of his dead body as he tried to impress a waitress at a restaurant in Alexandria, MN. She was disgusted, saying Palmer was old enough to be her dad and his creepy way of flirting scared her badly. What kind of twisted mental disorder do these people suffer from?
I want to know why there’s an airport storage room in Denver with thousands of animal trophies confiscated from hunters trying to smuggle them into the country. Heads of tigers, bodies of lions, tusks of rhinos. And why is it OKAY that our country allows the importing of 440 lion carcasses a YEAR. How many other Cecils were destroyed, setting off a chain reaction of cub and lioness death? How many other animals considered “big game” are suffering the same fate when for FOUR YEARS there has been legislation on the books to ban the import of these items beyond the ivory ban that’s in place now.
I know what will happen next. Everyone who totes a gun around will wave it in the air and shout how it’s their right to have a gun and they can kill animals with it if they want to. Hunting is part of our culture and tradition—just for the “sport” of it, not to provide food for anyone. Just for bragging rights. They can go trophy hunting with a permit and kill animals with a bow and arrow. They can throw rocks at the animals. Who gives a shit about them. They just want their trophy and to feel like someone important, when in truth they are lower than pond scum.
Shame on all of you. Shame.
Shame on all of you. Shame.
Or do you stop being a big tough person if you can’t KILL another creature? Or is this about bloodlust? Maybe you need a therapist? Medication? Do you really know what being tough truly means? Do you have any idea how tough it is to care for a terminally ill kitten? How tough of a person you have to be to stay up for days straight trying to save the life of a tiny newborn kitten? With one heartbreak after another that very same person will go out and rescue MORE KITTENS. They will gladly suffer through more challenges involving just as much heartache so those animals have a chance to grow up and have a good life. THAT IS A TOUGH PERSON, not someone who hides behind a bow and arrow or a gun.
Mankind will be known for thousands of years of killing each other, animals, the planet. We’ll be known for our “1 percent” who greedily have it all and want more, when they know they could stop trophy hunting and paying outrageous sums for animal body parts and finally do something decent with all that money.
It is NEVER going to end until we ALL DIE from the effects of the greedy-entitled continuing to take and take and take---from aggression and inability to see the power of simple compassion and empathy. Then, at least Mother Nature will do what she does best. She will step in after we’ve trashed the place and the earth will go on without us and it will be far better off.
I hope we can find a way to criminalize big game hunting throughout the world and give those animals a real chance to regain their numbers. If the good people of Africa and beyond need tourism to rule over big game hunters, then let’s all go visit. Let’s show our support for doing the right thing and let’s NEVER FORGET this lesson when the next big story hits the airwaves.
...and all the precious animals that are being lost to us in record numbers. Your death matters.
continued from part 16
I didn’t want to take Freya to the Vet. I was sick with worry about it. If Freya was a “normal” cat I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we already know that Freya has lots of deformities so it wouldn’t be surprising that her ovaries or uterus had some issues. I knew she’d be in very good hands because Dr. Chris, our Board Certified surgeon, was going to do the procedure. He’d also be the final word on whether or not Freya still needed to have her right inner ear CT scanned and if she'd also needed surgery on her ear canal to drain any remaining infection.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Our Freya.
I love Dr. Chris, not like I want to run away and bear his children love, but I really cherish working with him. He’s always smiling even though the poor guy has often had to soothe my fears about Freya. He’s extremely smart and talented and I trust his opinion (okay and he’s really cute, too, but that has nothing to do with it. I’m just dutifully relating information as any good writer would).
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Chris last December with Freya.
So this morning I sat in the now so very familiar waiting room at NVS with Freya at my side, who was snuggled inside her Robin’s egg blue cat carrier. Dr. Chris came out from the back of the building to escort us into an exam room. Just seeing his radiant smile made me feel more relaxed. I hadn’t seen him for a few months and it was good to see him again. After we said a quick hello, I found myself focusing on the mental laundry list of things he needed to know about Freya. As I spoke I noticed he was looking at Freya as she ran around the room. He was smiling, then remarked how great she looked. After all she’d been through I didn’t see her transformation as clearly as Dr. Chris did.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's nickname is Monkeypants, so this is a box of monkeypants.
Dr. Chris examined Freya as we spoke about what should be done today. We went over the costs which would range from $1800.00 to $5100.00, the low price being only the spay. Of course many of you who do rescue know we can get spays done for under $100 at a clinic, but Freya couldn’t go to a clinic since we didn’t know what was yet to be discovered inside her.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. At the vet yet again. At least Freya's not scared being there.
It was a tough nut to swallow, but I knew we had to do what was right for our kitten. Dr. Chris said that he didn’t feel Freya should have the CT scan yet. Clinically she was doing very well. She was playing, eating, passing stool. She no longer had a head-tilt, though she does have some deafness, which could be something she’s had since birth. Instead of spending that money on the CT now, he thought it was wise to wait and give her more time. If she relapses then we’d have to do the scan, but for now the less we do to her, the better.
All that was left to decide was when to do her spay surgery. Again, I was surprised by the answer. Dr. Chris felt that Dr. Mary or Dr. Larry could do the spay and that as a rescue it would be better for us to bank the savings so we could rescue more cats than spend it on having him do the procedure. I asked if he felt it was safe to have our G.P. Vet do the surgery and he thought they could easily handle it. He also said I could bring her back and he would still perform the procedure if our other vets didn’t feel comfortable taking her on.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya meets the raccoon.
I agreed to call Dr. Larry and to determine whether or not we could have Freya’s spay performed today since she was already fasted and ready to go. Then, what I never expected happened. In my writer’s mind I'd describe a romantic scene about being alone in the exam room with Dr. Chris; about how our eyes locked in an intense gaze across the room, the passion building between us, undeniable, magnetically drawing us ever closer, but also knowing his peers and my friends might read this; I’ll have to keep a more detailed fantasy to myself. In truth, what really happened was very straightforward, COMPLETELY professional and G-rated.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya loves Aunt Nora.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after such a long journey. After discussing the results of a million x-rays of Freya’s colon, after a hundred tears worrying about my kitten, after all this; it was over. Dr. Chris said his residency is wrapping up in Newtown and he’s accepted a position in Miami and will be leaving in July (in that heat?!).
Resigned to this disappointing news, I gave Dr. Chris a hug goodbye and told him I was sorry to see him go (along with my silly schoolgirl crush). He walked us over to the reception desk, smiling politely as he said goodbye, then turned, greeting the next couple waiting to meet with him.
Two hours later.
Freya and I were in the exam room at Dr. Larry’s office. As he entered the room I could feel the energy shift. I knew that Dr. Larry’s in-law had passed away a few days ago and that he was truly hurting. He looked visibly thinner and tired. Before we could talk about Freya I reached out and gave him a big hug and told him how sorry I was for his loss. Dr. Larry’s my brother from another mother and I hate to see him suffering. I felt badly for even asking him to spay Freya. He should be home with his family.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya's tail obsession goes into overload when she sees Spencer's tail.
I gave Dr. Larry the rundown and explained to him why I felt it was okay to at least try to spay Freya. We had a few rounds of blood work done in the past that were very clean. She’d had a 2-hour long surgery and did well. She was eating and playing normally. She went into “heat” so that meant something was working inside her. We just didn’t know how well it worked or if there were other surprises.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Yes, Freya watches TV.
In the end I agreed that he should consider this an exploratory surgery and if she was well enough to be spayed, to do so and if not I’d take her to Dr. Chris for a surgery at a later date.
He told me that he’d call me right away if there was a problem and that if she did all right he’d wait until he was done to let me know how things went. Basically if there was no news any time soon, that was good.
Three hours later.
Dr. Mary, Dr. Larry’s partner, called me. She sounded as cheerful and bubbly as ever. She said; “Well, Miss Freya is all set. We did the spay and she’s recovering now.”
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Freya vs. Fluff Daddy.
“Yes, she did fine. Everything was normal. She may act a bit odd for a few days since she her hormones were still elevated, but other than that she’s doing well. You can pick her up later this afternoon.”
After I hung up the phone it hit me. It’s OVER. Freya doesn’t need any more surgeries and hopefully will never need a CT scan. She’s spayed. She’s had her shots. She’s been de-wormed. She’s passed all the milestones our other foster cats have passed. It just took a lot longer and we never were sure we'd make it this far.
No more worrying about if she’s going to survive her surgeries. She did. No more worrying about her being able to pass stool. She does.
No more wondering if she’ll ever hold her head straight or have both eyes open. It’s all good.
Then I recalled something I wrote in my very first post about Freya:
“In my mind’s eye I can see Freya, sleeping on a soft bed that is bathed in sunlight. She’s comfortable and plump. She looks like she’s smiling as she sleeps away the afternoon. She is healthy and well and these dark days are over for her. She didn’t have to die, she got to live. That is my dream for Freya...”
And for once, my dream came true due in part to so MANY generous donors who offered not only financial support but sent cards and gifts to Freya, who put tires on my old car, who sent us emails and called and told us they cared so very much about our little foster kitten. To our amazing Vets: Dr. Chris, Dr. Larry, Dr. Mary, Dr. Pav, Dr. Deb and Dr. Cory--yes, it took all your expertise to bring us to this fine day and I appreciate it so much. To Chelsea and Randy, who gave up their kitten because it was the right thing to do for her, even though it meant giving her up (and it was Chelsea's birthday that day, too), thank you for your bravery and trust in letting a rescue take over when you weren't able to.
I guess there's only one thing left to do. It’s time to put Freya up for adoption.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Home from being spayed, Freya gets some much needed rest.
It's been a year since Mabel made her BIG ESCAPE out of a Kill Shelter, then home of a HOARDER, then from a SECOND KILL SHELTER and finally to my home to be fostered. In some ways she’s like many of the adult foster cats we've had. I expect it to take a long time for her to find her new forever home after her adjustment period is over. We don’t have a shelter or do many adoption events and that’s usually the best way to get adults into homes. In other ways, how Mabel got here and my reluctance to let her go is unique.
©2010 Foster Mom Moe. Used with Permission. Mabel, called Cali-Mama back then, just after being spayed.
Mabel, along with her two kittens, Moonpie and Pattycake, were our first rescues under the Kitten Associates banner. Everything back then was so nerve-wracking because I’d only ever fostered kittens before under the guidance of another rescue. I never had to take on the responsibility for paying for their care or screening applicants, let alone sorting out what vet care they required or how to know they’d be good candidates for adoption. Mabel and family were in Georgia, too, which added to the difficulty in sorting out what the next steps for her would be as well as who would help me accomplish those things from 1000 miles away.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Moonpie (left) and sister Pattycake (right). Mabel's kittens.
I’d had it drilled into my head by my former “boss” at another rescue that adult cats should be avoided. “Just focus on the kittens.” I didn’t agree with that but I admit that taking on Mabel made me nervous. She was barely a year old, but I was so accustomed to fostering 6-8 week old kittens that she might as well have been 10 years old. It left me feeling anxious about finding her a new home, but I couldn’t let her die in animal control where euthanasia rates are 98%. It wasn’t fair that she and her kittens should die. I couldn’t take the kittens and leave her behind either, as some rescues do. It wasn’t right.
What surprised me was that before the kittens were even put up for adoption, I got an email from someone in North Carolina who wanted to adopt Mabel. The woman had read my blog post about her and seen her photos. I had a long email volley with her about Mabel and talked on the phone a few times. I had a good feeling about her, but my error, one I will regret forever, was that I never asked her to fill out an application. I trusted her without checking on her background. I never called the Vet for a reference. It’s all it would have taken for me to find out she was a hoarder, but I didn’t do that. I sent Mabel off to her doom with a smile on my face, believing she was going to a good home.
Mabel could have gotten sick and died in the filth she was trapped in, but she didn’t. After a year someone reported this woman to Animal Control. They seized all the 22 cats and 1 dog (I was only told this person had 1 cat and 1 dog). What’s even more shocking was that she called ME to complain. I was expected to come to HER rescue. I told her flat out not to talk to me any further, that Mabel was OUR cat and that I would do everything I could to get her back. I told her to get a lawyer. I was furious. She was stunned that I had no compassion for her situation, yet another red flag that maybe she was a few fries short of a Happy Meal. How could her home smell so badly that people could smell it from the OUTSIDE? She tried to make it sound like she was a victim when she had done nothing but LIE to me.
Video still of the Summons sent to the woman who was charged with Animal Cruelty.
That began a painful, humiliating journey lasting nearly 2 YEARS. I called Animal Control right away so they knew someone would take at least one of the cats back. They couldn’t tell me details, but confirmed the situation at the home was ghastly. They grilled me about my rescue and in so many words chastised me for being so gullible (hey, I deserved it).
I could check in with them and they’d let me know when, if ever, I could take Mabel back.
Every month thereafter I wrote to Animal Control asking if Mabel was free to come to us. Every month they said the owner was taking it to another Judge, fighting to get her dog back, which were a package deal, so the cats, who she gave up on, were stuck until the entire case was settled. Meanwhile, I didn’t even KNOW if Mabel was ALIVE because they never seemed to have time to verify that the cat I was trying to get back was still there.
©2012 Iredell Animal Control. Used with Permission. My first confirmation Mabel was alive after 2 years.
Every month I wrote and every month when I saw they’d replied I felt sick to my stomach, wondering if this was the time they’d tell me she was gone. There are so many illnesses that can run through a municipal animal control and only so much vet care they can provide. It means a quick death to most animals because they don’t let them recover. It’s too costly and they can quickly spread disease. In this case, the fact that these animals belonged to the Court also meant if they got sick, they could not be euthanized unless it was an incurable illness, but once the case was resolved, any cats that were the property of animal control did not have long to live. During the two years I found out that one cat had to be put down, but I never was sure if it was or wasn’t Mabel.
But somehow, though she did get sick while caged for all those months, Mabel recovered. Finally, one day in late January of 2013, I got the email I was hoping for. The case was decided. She’d lost custody of all of her animals. Mabel was free to be released into my care and when did I want to come get her? [The answer was YES because that very next morning I had a friend in the area who could sign her out.]
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. First time NOT in a cage and probably first time with catnip, too.
Mabel finally arrived in Connecticut in February of 2013. What shocked me about her was that she seemed unscathed by what she suffered. Right away she was affectionate. So unaccustomed to being petted, that when I ran my hand over her back her tailed pouffed out. She let me rub her belly. She purred right away. Her only fear seems to be the sound of someone walking in hard-soled shoes across the floor. I wonder if it was the sound she heard of the ACO coming to get the next victim to be put down to make space for more.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel makes herself at home just about anywhere.
Over the past year Mabel’s almost been adopted a few times, but I’ve been so overprotective of her that I’ve had to say no when push came to shove. The homes were all GREAT, but they lacked something, too. I didn’t see love in their eyes for her. I didn’t know if Mabel would be happy alone and every home would have had her as the only pet. I found myself trying very hard to move forward with each adoption and finish the process, often taking it way too far before I put the brakes on, leaving MANY people very angry at me.
I’m not proud of this and in my own defense, I was feeling very mixed up. As a rescuer, every cat I take on I love. I love them, but I admit to having a little barrier there, too. It’s just enough so that when the time comes I can part with that cat without falling to pieces. It’s too much pain if I don’t have that little wall and I have to think about my own mental health and the stress on me. I can’t save more if I’m a wreck.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. This is when I know fighting to save her life (again) for two years was worth it.
I also feel that I’m being irresponsible if I take on any more cats and declare them as my own. I have very good friends who have more than 20 cats. They provide them with loving care in a nice home. They manage that but I do NOT want to take that on. I have had over 20 cats, but most were rescue kittens. That’s fine for me, but to be a cat-mama to that many, plus extra foster cats, too? No. I need to have at least some of my home be set aside for humans and to not take on too much.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mabel fetches!
So there's my problem in a nutshell. The barrier I put up with Mabel was being worn away. I’d watch Mabel run across the room with her precious pom-pom in her mouth. Mabel is a freak about pom-poms and even fetches them from time to time. She somehow manages to meow while she holds the pom-pom, too. Her chubby butt wiggles left and right as she races across the floor with her tail held high, proud to have her sparkling possession. It makes me laugh, while at the same time I cringe inside. She was really getting under my skin. What the heck was I going to do?
Can I let her be adopted after all she's been through or will I find relief in knowing I finally have the perfect forever home for her? Find out in the NEXT POST!
Three weeks ago Sam and I drove to Philadelphia. With miserable traffic on a Friday night and rainy roads it took 5 hours instead of 3, but we were determined to get there. Our goal was simple, eat a big sandwich at Tony Luke’s and pick up 6 orange kittens who were scheduled to arrive via a legged transport. They were nicknamed the Clementines, but some might have called them the Lucky Ones because we had rescued them from a small rural animal control in eastern Kentucky just hours before their lives were scheduled to end.
There were six kittens from one litter and one kitten (the dilute calico pictured here) from another litter. The dilute was “pulled” from the shelter by a rescue group right away, leaving the orange kittens behind.
I’d never done a rescue from Kentucky before and I had to trust people I didn’t know who promised me they would make sure the kittens were quarantined properly and vetted before they arrived. It left me feeling very uneasy because I had no choice but to hope that the kittens were really cleared of fleas, de-wormed, given their first vaccination and checked before leaving for Connecticut. I feared that coming out of a shelter they would be sick, but was assured they were healthy. The last thing I wanted to do was put my other foster cats or my own cats at risk of getting a disease or parasite.
Before we even started our trip, I got a call from my friend, Izzy. She and her hubby, Mark, will frankly drive just about anywhere to help cats in need get to their home and on this day they’d offered to drive from Pennsylvania to West Virginia and back to Philly to rendezvous with us. I’ve depended on them many times as my link to make some of these rescues happen. Izzy’s voice sounded a bit funny as she started to speak. I knew something was wrong.
©2013 Friends of Powell County. Not a life for such lovely creatures. I'm so grateful we could get them out thanks to the efforts of people in Powell County.
“Did these kittens get treated for fleas, by any chance?”
I told her they had been bathed only and a vet had seen them just the day before to give them a clean bill of health.
“Well I just killed a little bugger coming off one of the kittens and now I’m seeing another one.”
My heart sank.
©2013 Foster Home in KY. Just for the record, this is NOT QUARANTINE.
During the supposed two week quarantine, I learned that the kittens had been brought outside, Vet’s orders. He said they needed 15 minutes of fresh air every day. When I learned that I just about popped. What kind of foolishness is this? I sent my contact a number of emails, furious that they kept breaking quarantine by going outside. She wouldn’t understand why that was wrong. I saw photos of them in a cage outside in someone’s yard, but when I saw photos of then running around in the grass that just infuriated me. You can’t have quarantine if the cats go outside! Am I crazy? I felt like I was losing my mind. They just didn’t get it and I knew they were exposing the cats to who knows what. So much for having “clean” kittens arrive. It also made me very worried-did they REALLY get ANY vetting? How could a vet see them the day before, say they were ready to travel, when they were crawling with fleas? You might get a stray flea after seeing the vet, but a lot of them? No way.
©2013 Foster Home in KY. Blossom enjoying "quarantine."
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
“Well, we can stop at Walmart and I can get some supplies and bathe them while we’re driving.” Izzy said without skipping a beat.”
“It won’t be perfect but it will be something. I’m seeing a lot of fleas.”
So Izzy rigged up a small container with apple cider vinegar and a drop or two of dish soap and water. She soaked the kittens up to their necks as Mark drove 65 mph towards Philly. She picked off and killed as many fleas as she could while I sent off an angry email to the folks in Kentucky.
©2013 Izzy. Fleas anyone?
Once I had time to let the news settle I became fearful I was now going to have to deal with an explosion of fleas throughout my house.
I made a few calls and talked to some of my rescue friends. They assured me it’s not that big of a deal, but to not take it lightly, either. There would be a great deal of vacuuming in my future and washing all the linens that the kittens were exposed to.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The photo is not great, but the dark blobs in the photo are clumps of dead fleas. The bottle was full of them
I had a big tub of diotamaceous earth. It’s fossilized algae and it gets onto the exoskeleton of the flea and basically dries them out and they die. It’s very safe for pets so I sprinkled it liberally all over the room, the bedding where the kittens would sleep, anywhere that made sense. The plan was to re-bathe them at their new foster home that would open up the following morning. I just had to keep the fleas at bay for one night.
This foolishness cost me. I had to buy 16 doses of Revolution® to cover my cats and the foster cats. I could not risk letting one flea start a nightmare throughout my cats. I had to buy another 12 doses (for now) to cover the kittens (a 2-month supply) once they were big enough to be treated. I didn’t dare do it right away because I was told they were all very underweight and probably a bit too young for much more than a bath.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. After three tries I finally named all the kittens. We have: Mango (top left), Sherbert (below Mango), Marigold (center), Mandarin/Mandy (lower right), Buttercup (top right) and Blossom (not in photo) .
I couldn’t give them Capstar, which kills fleas in 45 minutes, because they were too fragile. It was very frustrating.
We arrived in Philly around 8:30pm and had a few minutes to eat before Izzy and Mark arrived. The sandwiches we’d been looking forward to were VERY spicy, not at all what we remembered. Just as we gave up on finishing them our friends arrived.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Sherbert before things got really bad for him.
“I didn’t get them all, but I got a lot of them, nasty buggers.” Izzy said as she shook her head.
I bent down and looked into the cat carrier. It was dark and tough to see the kittens. I could barely make out their faces, but I could see their coats were ratty and they were anxious, unsure of what had been happening. I told them it would be okay and that they were almost home, but I feared this was just the tip of the iceberg with having problems with the kittens and sadly I was right. Having fleas would be nothing compared to what was to happen next.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The first sign of problems to come. Blossom's eye is infected. Will this happen times 6 kittens?
Part two next up…
The sun’s not even up yet. I was woken up by wild animals fighting somewhere outside in my yard. The cries lasted for a moment, my half-asleep brain ticking off a checklist of what it could have been. I couldn’t replay the sound so I left my warm bed and went downstairs, turned on the flood lights that illuminated a sliver of the yard and searched for answers. Finding nothing, I returned to bed. There weren’t cats taking up the space on my side, which was odd. I stretched out, then as I struggled to get comfortable I realized I had a bad headache. I laid there, hoping to return to my dreams, but I couldn’t get Barney out of my mind.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy (inset). ©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney then and now.
Barney got adopted barely 8 hours ago. I can’t believe I’m writing those words. Though the road to this moment took over a year (15 months to be exact), the actual event of his adoption took a little over an hour. One moment I was holding Barney in my arms, giving him a kiss goodbye and in the next, he was in a cat carrier in the car of his new dad and on his way to his forever home.
©2012 Cyndie Tweedy. Baby Fred comforting Barney as they sleep.
The more I do adoptions, the more I believe I DO see connections. Perhaps I’m training myself to be more aware of the interconnectedness of these events and that’s what motivates me to follow through on an application instead of let it sit open on my computer screen for days on end.
Barney didn’t even have an application on him, not one. Last year a woman came to meet Barney and his brother, Fred. For some reason they were shy with the newcomers and the woman realized she didn’t feel ready to take on the responsibility of having two cats. Barney and Fred were overlooked as the six other cats that shared the foster room with them got adopted. Tater Tot, Chi Chi, Choco, Coco, Latte and Barney's best friend Willow. Not long after that, Barney began to lick the fur off his sides and his belly. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney was badly effected by Fred's passing.
Two months later, it was clear that Fred was sick, not Barney. Two months after that, Fred died from the dry form of FIP, leaving Barney as the sole survivor of the litter of four kittens. I found myself reluctant to let Barney go after that. Barney had lost his entire family. His mother, Opal was semi-feral and through our friend Bobby, we were able to place her in a sanctuary of sorts. We were assured that they would work with her and if she could be socialized, they’d find her a good home in time. What surprised all of us was that over these many months, Opal has turned into a very friendly cat and the owner of the sanctuary has decided to keep her as her own. Now if only I could find a happy ending for Barney.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney and George were fast friends.
Barney’s alopecia began to resolve and his fur grew back nicely. All the other cats he’d been sharing the foster room with had been adopted, so he got to meet our new fosters Bongo, George and Bunny Boo-Boo. They made fast friends and everyone seemed quite happy, but still there was no interest in Barney while George and Bongo found their forever home together.
After a period of grieving, I decided I needed to rescue orange kitties in honor of Fred. I took on Minnie, who looked like Barney's sister, and her kittens. When the kittens were big enough, they got to meet Barney and Bunny. It didn’t go well at first. Barney was irritated by the energy of the five kittens and I worried he would harm them, but his anger soon subsided and he became their big brother, fussing after them if they didn’t feel well or playfully chasing them around the room. Each night I’d sit with all of them on a heated blanket and they’d all purr and groom each other. Inasmuch as I knew I had to get these cats homes, I was reluctant for this newly formed family to be broken apart.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney watches Confetti Joe get crazy.
I got a call from the fellow who adopted Willow in March. She was urinating around the house and he needed my help to resolve the issue. As we talked, I learned that one of his two other cats wasn’t happy to have Willow around and that he had rushed their introduction.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney with his newly made family of foster kittens and Bunny Boo-Boo.
After more discussions I learned that Willow and another cat had been killing mice, which would explain the fleas. Stress would cause her illness to return and even though he’d been to the vet, I’d warned him to go easy on antibiotics so he opted to wait thinking she was doing better on her own, but clearly she was struggling to breathe. I wanted her out of there, but I could only remind him I’d take her back if it wasn’t working out and if the things I suggested didn’t help the situation.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow returns, a pound lighter and in much worse shape than when she left us in March.
He said he wanted to see it through even though he reluctantly told me he was getting divorced and his wife had already moved away. We made a date to get Willow back to the Vet in a few days. I’d go over her care with Dr. Mary and get everything sorted out. I even offered to pay for some of the visit since I wanted to do a more sensitive test on Willow to see if we could sort out what was causing the upper respiratory issues.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Lolly, one of Willow's new roommates. Would they get along or would it be a blood bath? I had no choice. These cats had to be housed together, like it or not.
I was glad to have Willow back, but the truth is I didn't have room for her. I scrambled to figure out where I’d put her and knew I’d have to add her to a room with two newly rescued kittens, Lolly and Clark because they had fleas, too and I didn’t want to expose Barney, Bunny and the kittens to them.
It just had to work out.
Stay tuned for final chapter of this two-part post! Is Willow going to do well back in foster care with Lolly and Clark? How will Barney react to seeing his old friend again?