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Beauty Break: Blitzen

Beautiful Boy.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Beautiful Blitzen at 1 1/2 years old.

While I am over-the-moon-thrilled that Covered in Cat Hair is a FINALIST in the Petties 2011 as the Best Social Integration Blog and BEST CAT Blog, I had to stop celebrating for a moment and pay homage to my own rescue (aka, foster fail) boy, Blitzen.

Isn't he handsome?


Turning 50 & Life Turning Upside Down


I'm very sorry to not have been tending to my Blog over the last week and a half. Every day that passes that I don't write, bothers me a bit more.

Initially, my plans were to talk about the lovely birthday party-a SURPRISE party, that Sam held for me, now over a week ago. He really pulled the wool over my eyes. I had no idea until the very last second-when I hoped, against hope, that maybe even though he had a bad cold, even though he said there could be no birthday this year, even though most of my friends said they were busy that weekend, it would happen.

It was Connie's doing, too. She called me around noon on my birthday, to say her cat, Big O was very sick and could I come over and help her give him a bath? Oh yes and “Happy Birthday.” Big O was covered with poo! She sounded so sad, I realized it didn't matter if it was my birthday, so I got changed, grabbed some things to help with the bath and told Sam I was off. He knew I was hungry so he said he'd come with me and we could go eat afterwards.

Connie lives a mile away. As I started to pull up her driveway, I realized that Sam had asked me to “kill” a half hour before we went to lunch, then Connie called me, it was too much of a coincidence. Maybe something was going on at her house? Surely not. No. I was going to break up with Sam. I was really mad at him. He'd hardly talked to me for weeks. He didn't even notice when I got my hair done (like a porn star-that's what my stylist called it)-and it wasn't just because he didn't give me a birthday party. The near-silent treatment was killing me!

Then I noticed two cars in the driveway, but certainly it couldn't be cars I knew. It must be a...then I saw it...a “Happy 50th Birthday” banner over Connie's front door. There stood Marcia, Super-Deb and Connie, all waving and shouting Happy Birthday and here I am in a t-shirt with a glow-in-the-dark Cheshire Cat on it and crappy pants. Thank God I had a change of clothes with me! I looked over at Sam and was torn between slapping him and kissing him. I never had anyone throw me a surprise party in my life. It was really nice.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

No sooner than we walked in the door, I realized there was no sick cat, so I got changed, then we all left for lunch. As I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, I saw my dear nephew, Ryan and my sister, Anne! Another suprise, yay! This was going to be a nice day after all.

But then I walked into the dining room at the restaurant. There sat Mary. My other sister. I didn't see anyone else for a moment. My mouth fell open. Mary had LIED to me, first saying she was coming to take me to lunch and there was no way I'd be alone on my birthday, then she begged off saying her cat was sick not 6 hours later. She had been in Baltimore for a book show (Mary is a Writer and Graphic Designer)! Then I realized she must have driven up from there. What a shock!..and there sat her partner, Shelly...and my friends Irene and Jennifer I.! I love those babes! I was literally speechless and it took all my reserve not to burst into happy tears.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nephew Ryan shoots the flames while his mom, Anne watches.

We ate at a Hibachi style restaurant and had TWO chefs taking turns either trying to set fire to the place or tossing food bits at our faces (since most of us couldn't hope to catch the food in our mouth). Everyone was happy and getting along well. I never wanted it to end. I had a nice lunch and lots of lovely gifts. I missed my Mother and Father so much, but they were there, too, in spirit (and later that day, I discovered my Mother had sent me a message, too. More on that, in another post).

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The cake on the left is what I ordered for myself, thinking there would be no celebration of any sort. I cut out the frown and turned it upside down later that day.


I have a lot to tell you about the cats-especially Bob. The short version is, to me, he seems to have turned a corner and is doing better. He seems to have gained weight. Tomorrow he gets Chemo #9. I'll find out if he gained any weight then. A surprise blessing is that some of his fur is growing back ever so slowly. It's just peach fuzz on his head, but I can see the subtle stripe of his tabby pattern in the fur.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob and the gang on the electric blanket

I took him to a Dermatologist and she confirmed he as a terrible case of ringworm and that only he can really fend it off and with cancer and a bad immune system, the odds aren't great. We give him baths and add a special lotion afterwards. He's lost half of his coat, but I think, just maybe it's slowed down. He seems comfortable and he seems a lot more like his old self.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

The kittens are still struggling with URI's and this and that. Cara has grown some, but one of the kittens has been vomiting. I don't know if it's Cara. We're closer to the day we can call her healed, but we're not there yet. The kittens are as big as their Mom, now. I think Chester will be even bigger. He is the most darling cat in the world. He really is sweet.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and Chester, bigger and better every day.

MacGruber is still here, too. Got a tiny dot of ringworm on his paw, so he seems to stay here another month and another month...he's a bit like gum stuck on the shoe...but very cute gum.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Okay. I'm suppose to adopt this cat out! Really?

I'm bringing Noelle to Connecticut next week, along with Amelia, another Henry Co. Cat we rescued last year. It's time for them to get their forever homes. I need to write more about that soon.


The main reason I need to write is I need to tell you what happened and why I haven't been able to write more than this post-we had a family tragedy and I'm struggling to cope with it.

A few days ago, Sam and I were to visit his Mother in Manhattan. We were going to have a belated birthday party for me and Sam's adult daughter, Kate, whose birthday is two days before mine. The day before we left, Sam told me his mother was having trouble walking. The pain from her hip, which she broke six years ago and has long since healed, was back. We worried that if she couldn't stand for a long period of time, that we needed to come up with ways for her to fix meals that didn't require much effort. The plan was to finally buy her a microwave whether she liked it or not. Get her some wholesome meals she could just pop into the microwave and eat without standing over a stove or getting up and down to check on a pot on a burner. We put a lot of time into planning how we'd manage to get all this stuff into her apartment, since we'd have to double park to get the car unloaded. Parking is a bear on the upper West side on a weekend.

We thought we had it all worked out. We got a bit of a late start, but we got everything done. Sam called his Mom to tell her we wold be there soon. She didn't sound right. She said she might need to go to the ER. Sam pressed her as to why. All she said was, “You'll find out when you get here.”

This was not something his Mother would say. She has always been the most polite and kind person I have ever known. She was raised in the south and that sweetness never faded away even though she's lived in Manhattan most of her life. What was going on?

Sam drove as fast as he could to NYC. We had an hour to go. I texted his daughter. She called her Grandmother and found out that she was asked to get there soon. Clearly something was terribly wrong. Had Sam's 82 year old mother re-broken her hip? Why didn't she call 9-1-1? Why was she waiting?

When we got to the apartment building, I got a txt. Kate was there. I said we would be right up. I stayed with the car, as Sam ran up to her apartment. A neighbor came out and signaled to me to follow him up the block to take his parking spot. As I was about to try to park the car, I saw Sam in my rearview mirror. I got out of the car. Something was wrong-really wrong.

“It's bad up there. It's a need to be calm about this, but get up there now. I'll park the car.”

“What happened?”

“She slit her wrists. Prepare yourself. She's alive, but it's a mess. Just get up there.

No one had called 9-1-1. I think everyone was in shock. As much as I wanted to help, I had a bad flashback and my heart started racing. Years ago, my Father took his own life. I didn't want to go through this again, but I went upstairs and walked into the apartment filled with dread and absolute fear.

Poor Kate was kneeling on the floor, next to the sofa. She wasn't saying a word. I could see Sam's Mother's white hair on the arm of the sofa. She must be laying down. I walked over to her and tried to be calm. It was very gorey, but she was conscious. I asked her what she did and she told me that the pain was so bad in her hip that she just couldn't take it any more. That she felt so bad she couldn't do anything any more and didn't want to get in the way. I asked to see her wrists. I saw that the blood was congealing. This was good, but she injured both wrists and up her arms. I talked to her for a few minutes. Everyone was calm, almost matter-of-fact. As if nothing terrible had happened at all. It was surreal.

I told her that we all loved her and it would be so terrible if she left us without letting us even say goodbye...that we didn't know she was hurting so much and that we wished she could have told us so we could help her.

Then I did something weird. I'd bought her a hyacinth. It was in bloom and so fragrant. I held it up to her nose and asked her to smell it. She smiled as she smelled the sweet flowers, even though her skin was as pale as a sheet and her robe was crimson. I reminded her that it was finally spring. That even on our worst day, another day will follow and maybe that day we will smell the sweetness of a flower or see the sunny sky and it will remind us to try to get to the next moment, and the next after that. To not give up.

I calmly told her she needed some help and that I was going to get that for her. She said it was ok, if I really thought she needed help I could do that (as if anyone could to STOP me from calling for help!!!) I left the room and called 9-1-1. In less than 5 minutes, 5 NYPD officers were at the door. A few minutes later, the EMS arrived. I had to stay away from them so I could completely fall apart and cry. I felt so bad for Sam and Kate and his Mom. I worried about Kate, who found her Grandmother just moments before we arrived. I was in a bad place, myself. I couldn't believe it. It was not about me, it was about his Mother and getting her help. I pulled myself together and did whatever I could to help until she was ready to be taken to the hospital.

It was about 10 hours before we could get his Mother admitted. We waited in one room after another. She barely was tended to at all. We had to fight and make a fuss for every little thing. No one was “supposed” to make a decision or do what was needed. I never so much “passing the buck” in my life.

She's stable now. She had to be admitted into the Psych ward, though she is the last person on this Earth I would ever think belongs there. I don't know for sure, but I think she just wanted the pain to stop so badly that maybe this was the only way anyone would really hear her? If that's the case there's a big disconnect that needs to be fixed. Between her Doctor putting her off for almost a week, to even our relationship with her. We all need to learn to stop being polite and start getting “real” with each other.

Since Sunday, my life, Sam's life and Kate's have been turned upside down. There is so much to do, so much to try to figure out. Will Sam's mom ever be able to live alone again? How can we get her help? Who can pay for these things? And who is going to clean up the apartment?

The last question, I answered. I cleaned it up. I didn't want Sam or Kate to have to do that. Even though I've known her for almost 20 years, I was still the person most removed from this situation, so I got to work. I just did what I needed to do. I started to clean away more than just the accident scene. I started to clean everything. I wanted to put life back into that apartment. I wanted the space to feel happy again. In a way, it was like cleaning my Mother's house after she died. It was so nice, freshly painted, re-carpeted, sparkling, even. It made me sad she never go to see it. I hope that Sam's Mother gets to see this. Her home, which was dark and sad, will be clean, fresh and even have lots of color and comfortable places to sit. Perhaps the gloom, washed away, will give his Mother something she's needed in addition to being free of pain, maybe it will give her some joy, some delight in her day to day life?

Perhaps this is the start of her new life? Perhaps it's a new start for all of us?

I don't have the answers. I can tell you I had a breakdown the night after I cleaned things up. I couldn't stop crying. Other than my little birthday lunch, it's been one bad thing after another for more than a year. Every time I feel down, I look to the positive. I get myself back up. You guys lift me back up, heck you catapult me back up! But with all of those blessings, that love and generous support, sadly there is a darkness that remains in my heart. The same thing that drove Sam's mother to do what she did, the same thing that drove my Father to do what he's there, waiting. I am terrified one day I will lose this battle to stay in the sunshine, but I am equally determined to not give up and to help Sam's mother do the same.

One of my friends said something to me once in jest; “Life. It's not for everyone.” He couldn't have been more right.

Amidst the Sadness, a Moment of Pure Bliss

I don't know if the cats realize that Bob is sick with lymphoma. Nor do I know if Bob has become more needy towards us and some of the other cats because he's not feeling well.

Last night Bob climbed into a cat bed next to Nora. She turned on her side and casually rested her back leg over Bob's belly. They napped together for awhile, but every time I get up, Bob follows me to see if he can get another snack (the answer is usually, yes).

But something unusual happened next. Bob went back to the cat bed, which was now empty. A few moments later, Blitzen climbed into the cat bed next to him. Blitzen has NEVER done this before with ANY of the cats.

Bob and Blitzen Snuggle.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob and Blitzen share a snuggle.

Blitzen began to groom Bob's back. Bob settled down, not protesting a bit. I thought about Blitzen getting ringworm, but it's too late to worry about that. Blitzen seemed to want to comfort Bob. He snuggled in close, eventually “spooning” with old Bob. As I watched them cuddle, everything suddenly felt right with the world. Bob didn't have cancer any more and I finally had cats that liked each other enough to sleep cuddled together. Even though the moment didn't last for hours, that it happened at all and I got to see it...well, that's enough for me.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The old man and the new kid in town.

It was also the first time I've seen Bob really close his eyes and sleep in months.

Sweet dreams, boys. Sweet dreams.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: The Good, The Bad, The Fugly

I took photos in case no one would believe all the crap going on with Bob. My poor baby. I don't even want to write about it. It's enough already that Bob has FIV+, a URI, one or TWO kinds of cancer and now this...

We visited Dr. Larry and Super Deb today. I have to find out what is on Bob's head. Is it ringworm? Is it a fungal infection, but NOT ringworm? Of course it's #@#@!! ringworm, who am I kidding? How many times have I seen this in the past year? We did a DTM culture to see if it's positive, but since I know I have ringworm in the house, DUH, that's what Bob has. The culture can begin to show signs of being positive in a few days to a week, but we really don't know for TWO WEEKS.

Meanwhile, Itraconazole which is an anti-fungal, is really toxic so we can't give it to Bob. Okay, I won't give it to Bob and neither will Dr. Larry. We CAN treat it topically and I already started that, BUT the treatment duration is a month.

Bobs Ringworm with Blitz.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob's head was shaved here and there to slow down the spread of #$@$!! ringworm.

We don't HAVE a month to do this treatment. Bob MUST get back to Chemo, but if we put him on another dose, the ringworm will spread like wildfire, then guess what? ALL of my cats could get it and Sam and I could get it, too. This really SUCKS and it's a very tough decision to make. We either have a cat who looks awful but is alive or a cat full of cancer and who's going to die very soon.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob won't pose for the camera and neither will Blitzen. Hmpf!

So we wait for Dr. Larry to talk to Dr. I and we see how it goes. Maybe we wait one week...get Bob loaded up with Conofite lotion and hopefully, at least have stopped it from spreading.

But wait...the title of this post says, “GOOD” in it!

According to Super Deb, the only way to tell if Bob gained weight is to weigh him on the SAME scale every time. That's why I can't be TOO excited that Bab's weight, at Dr. Larry's, was up 3 oz in one week from the weigh-in at Dr. I's office. He could actually weigh more, less or the same. We won't know for sure until Bob goes back for chemo. and is weighed at Dr. I's office. That said, Bob appears to be less shrunken in, less skeletal. He's certainly eating like a champ!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor sweetie. Mama will make it better somehow.

The other news that truly IS good is that Bob's liver function blood test came back at 475. Normal is about 100, BUT...his last ALT was 1265 so this is a BIG improvement! It proves that the surgery to remove 1/2 of his liver WAS a good choice...yeah, 'cause the liver lobe that was removed was CANCEROUS, too.

But it doesn't end there. Of course there's the FUGLY: last night, I went out to buy..ha ha ha...MORE CAT FOOD. I met Jennifer and we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for a chat and a snack. Okay, it was the only place near the pet store that wasn't awful. Anyway, we had a nice visit. Jennifer BLASTED off to get back home. I started my car. Started right up. Tried to turn the wheel. NO GO. You would have to be Hurcules to turn that steering wheel! Of COURSE my car is busted. Is it the Power Steering Pump? Fluid? A hose? I have to call AAA for a tow. It's 28°F outside. Nice. Why do I feel lke the car repair is going to cost exactly how much money we just raised towards Bob's Vet Bill? It never ends, I swear.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. By Bye Car! You're only 11 years old! Why did you break?

I guess the good thing is that I didn't get stuck tonight. We're supposed to get TWO FEET of SNOW and we already have more than that on the ground. I would have waited a week for a tow with that going on! My car is at the shop now. I guess I won't be seeing it any time soon since they're overrun with folks trying to get their cars fixed before the storm hits.

I'm not complaining, really. I'm just a bit amazed at how much crap has hit the fan. Hopefully it will be dealt with and we'll get through it okay-as long as the power stays on, I have cat food, and cookies (for me); we should get through this all right.[crossing fingers! anti-jinx]

But I did forget to buy marshmallows.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: Transformation.

I suppose that like anything else, sooner or later, regardless of whatever the bad news is, you get to a place where the hard edges of pain, soften and you find a new routine. Your heart may be aching, but you have to find a way, right?

Bob's been transformed in the past month, from a sweet (and some times bratty) elderly gentlecat to a frail old man. Bob's thinner. Down two pounds since September of last year. Bob's coat is greasy and he belly is bare from being shaved for surgery just before Christmas. His eyes are the most startling. They seem sunken and dark. Not as sparkly as they once were. Bob used to have quite dilated pupils and there were times when he's look up at me and he'd remind me of Puss in Boots from Shrek. He was very good at that look whenever I was trying to eat dinner and he'd want a bite of something off my plate (which, I have too often given him).

©2001 Dreamworks SKG

Bob has a new routine. He's being treated for a URI (of course, he can't just have cancer and FIV+). One of the meds makes him hungry, so every two hours or so, he finds me or he follows me around so if I get up, I can get him some food, too.

He eats his many small meals. I give him treats. I have to give him a few pills, so more treats with that, too. Bob's been coming upstairs, which was rare. I think he's driven by hunger, but some times I wonder if he feels a bit clingy? He's never been a lap cat. He was so heavy my Mother, who used to have Bob, discouraged him from sitting on her lap. He could sit with his front paws on one leg, so that's as far as Bob will go on us, too.

The days are spent on the good old heated cat bed or lying under my desk in the sunshine. It's common to see most of the beds filled as the sun makes up for the thermostat being kept very low.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The “Under the Desk Gang” at it again.

Today I realized there's another problem facing Bob. I won't swear but imagine the “F-word” right here...I think Bob has ringworm.

Last week when we met the oncologist I mentioned the skin issue on Bob's head. He didn't want to deal with it-not his thing. He said it should be cultured and that we couldn't do chemo if it was ringworm because it would set the ringworm off like wildfire. I really thought that the ringworm was on the way out, but I was wrong. Bob's head has more lesions and the fur has come off most of the back of his ears. I've been treating it with goldenseal and giving Bob sulpher, per my homeopathic Vet's suggestion. I don't know if it will help. It's too soon to tell. All I know is that this could prevent me from doing ANY more Chemo for Bob until this is resolved. If so, that would mean another MONTH lost. Conventional treatments are VERY toxic and take a month, so I'm not sure we can even DO that. I need to talk to Dr. Larry and the Oncologist. This is all so twisted and confusing. It's tough enough trying to figure out how to manage the cancer.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen, Bob, Spencer & MacGruber leaving me to figure out where I can lay down so I can go to sleep, too.

I wish I could make Bob smile or see him appear to be happy again. I don't know if I will ever see that perky look on his face, the big begging eyes, the swat with the paw to get my attention. Bob has been transformed and with his change, I change, too. I'm so gentle and careful. I'm not so mad all the time. I'm letting things roll off my back. All that matters are the days I have left with Bob. I know I'm going to mess up what should be done for him or when or how it's done, but in the end, all I want is for Bob to be happy again.

Sifting Through the Pieces

I'm trying not to think about Bob...24 hours a day. I'm trying to remember to not loose my footing, to stay calm, to try to breathe. I don't want to make a rash decision, but I also don't feel like I have a lot of time to think. With the Holiday crush upon me and with Polly and her family and MacGruber about to arrive, I need to get things ready, but all I want to do is lie down next to Bob and just be with him.

I know I can't take enough photos of him. I can't pet him enough times. I can't listen to his crazy purr long enough. I got up at 5am, went downstairs and just sat with him and petted him. I can't take one second for granted. I can't assume he will be here tomorrow. Sure, that's true for all of us, but when you KNOW the sand in the hour glass is running low, is there any way to prepare?

I've made a few more decisions. I took Bob to get a blood test to check to see if his blood will coagulate properly. If it does, then he is a better candidate for surgery. If it does not, then we'll stop here and just let Bob live out whatever days he has left. If he's OK to go ahead, then I'll meet with the surgeon. She is VERY well respected-certainly one of the best. I'll only have a consult with her, that's it. If she says we can go ahead, then I have to make a very difficult decision. Dr. Larry told me that if we did open Bob up and they find that he has cancer, to wake him up out of sedation is unkind. It would be asking so much of Bob-to have him wake up, then face painful recovery, only to die a few weeks or months later in even more pain from the cancer spreading.

“You have to prepare yourself now for being able to make that choice for Bob, if it comes to that.”

There goes my heart, breaking into little pieces. I can't put Bob through Hell, but there IS a chance it is benign, operable, can be removed and he can live for a few more YEARS. How can I not take that chance? My head feels like it's going to explode.

I ordered a new cat tree a few weeks ago-before all this mess with Bob. I bought it on a lark, thinking it would give another one of my cats a place to go if she got stressed out. The box just arrived a few days ago when I was hormonal (why do cat trees show up when I have PMS? If you want a laugh, read THIS and THIS). Sam and I weren't on great terms (still). Somehow we still managed to put the thing together without killing each other.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen, the parts inspector arrives.

In a way, it was nice to do something that got my mind off things. The simplicity of tightening down a bolt helped me stop obsessing. Seeing the parts scattered across the floor, while my cats excitedly inspected every piece made me break with tradition, as of late, and actually smile.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob helps with the inspection, but as usual, Nicky fails by smelling Bob's tail, instead of the parts of the cat tree.

Blitzen was fascinated. He sniffed and climbed on everything. Bob and Nicky joined in, but were soon bored and went back to taking a nap. Blitzen, began to scratch on the sisal posts just seconds after they were in place. Lock down a sleeping platform and he was on it having a field day.

Bob Helping.jpg
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob!

Blitz was certainly test-driving the cat tree and it was a good thing he did-he's about the ONLY cat that will actually FIT onto or into most of the damn thing!

©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bratty boy “helps.” (we're still building the cat tree at this point)

It's small. This is not a cat tree for full grown cats, save for the main platform that's big enough for any cat to lie on, but the rest of it is tiny. One piece was so small we didn't even bother to attach it. Honestly, this will be GREAT for my foster kittens, but my guys will not be able to enjoy this very much.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson

Of course, tell that to Blitzen. He loved it. There was only one problem.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen gives this cat tree a 1-Belly Up!

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bucket o' Blitz.

“Someone” is not big on sharing.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer was investigating the top of the cat tree when Blitzen reminding him whose cat tree it was.

©2010 Robin A.F. Olson

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Not sure which end of Spencer you're seeing in this photo.

I admit that Blitzen is good for cheering me up when I'm feeling down, but it makes me feel guilty, too. Blitz is, in some ways, much like Bob. Blitz has a crazy purr and it's obvious he shares a resemblance with Bob, though Blitz is very light in coloring. Blitzen is all things joyous and fun-full of promise and magic. He has decades ahead of him, most likely. His story is just beginning.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. King of the Cat Tree (for now)

Bob was like Blitzen once-a long time ago. I never knew Bob in his youth, only as an adult. I bet he was a handful when he was a baby. I find myself wishing that I COULD have been his “mama,” from day one. I could have prevented him from getting FIV+, he'd still have all his teeth and most likely, he never would have gotten a mass on his liver in the first place...but I can't get a “do over” to put Bob back together again. I don't have the right tools and I'm pretty sure the instructions are written in Chinese.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, enjoying his heated cat bed.

When the Going Gets Tough

I know this road. I've walked it more times than I care to recall. It's the moment at which I realize the time I have with one of my cats is coming to an end. The road is full of hopeful moments that will ultimately lead to despair and to the final choice we must make for our cat, one day.

I hate this road more than I can say. It eats at my heart and taxes my reserves. I try to prepare myself, but there is no preparing for death. It comes, as it does for all of us. We either accept it and find peace or fight and have the same end, no matter what.

On Saturday I got Bob's blood test results. His liver function, one test indicated by his ALT, was stratospherically high. A normal value would be 10-100. Bob was at 1240.

Other liver values were also very high, save for his Bilirubin, no it's not a sandwich, it's a blood test. That test result was normal. This is a good thing.

From Cat World, Australia, I found this description of Bilirubin:

Bilirubin: This is a major breakdown product of red blood cells. When red blood cells wear out they are trapped in the spleen and destroyed, releasing bilirubin into the blood. This type of bilirubin is called unconjugated. This bilirubin is transported in the blood to the liver, where it is taken up & conjugated (joined with glycuronic acid). This conjugated form may either be stored in the liver cells or excreted into the bile. Bilirubin levels are increased in cats with liver disease, gallbladder disease or have excessive destruction of red blood cells (known as hemolysis).

Blood test.jpg
What do these numbers mean? See THIS web site for some helpful guidelines.

Then the kicker came today. Bob had an ultrasound done of his heart and abdomen. I thought I was going to be able to sit in during the ultrasound, but Dr. K said it would be quicker if he was on his own. Super Deb assured me she'd be with him and answer any questions. I kept thinking about this and that thing I wanted to make sure he knew, but in the end, nothing I was worried about mattered.

I took Super Deb's dog, Jayne for a walk, instead of twiddling my thumbs in the waiting room. It was freezing cold outside with a bitter wind. I tried to shake off the fear of what I would find out in a few more minutes. I tried to not cry thinking about it. I know as any good cat-parent knows-something is wrong, I just didn't know what it was. I didn't really WANT to know.

When I returned to Dr. Larry's office, grabbed a magazine about celebrities and their fabulous lives and pretended to look at it. I saw Super Deb. She wouldn't make eye contact with me. Then Dr. Larry arrived to start his day. He didn't even look towards the waiting room. Maybe it was not a big deal that he didn't look, but it seemed like no one wanted to even give me a hint as to what was going on.

Sam arrived with Petunia and Nora. He sat next to me, but we didn't speak. It's been a common thread here for a very long time. We only speak when necessary. Something is going on with Sam. I can guess, but he won't talk to me about it. Instead he hides in his office in the basement and plays his guitar. He mumbles this and that. He helps out around the house, in silence. Each day I grow a little more resentful, more angry. I am shut out and alone. I didn't do anything wrong. I can't wait forever for his life to be in a place where he feels like being a partner to me again. I'm still suffering from the car accident, in tremendous pain, but he does nothing. No comforting. No nothing. With all the stress I have about Bob, he only taps my shoulder or brushes my hand. When I need him most, he is the furthest away. I have to ask myself how many more years can this go on? What happened to having joy? Companionship? Even a dear friendship? For so long I have tried to encourage him to trust me, to talk to me, to give him guidance and support, but I am tired of trying.

So, Sam is there, but not there. I am there, but wishing I was somewhere else.

Petunia is getting a dental. One of her molars has a HOLE in it! Was THIS what was causing her to go on a pee-storm throughout the house? Fight with the other cats? Did she also have a urinary tract infection or impacted anal glads? While under anesthesia we'd be finding out. Maybe after all these years, I'd finally have a true end to the inappropriate urination going on in my home.

Nora was there to check her foot. We thought she had ringworm, but turns out she did not. She has some sort of fungal infection on one foot. It hasn't spread. We've treated it and it's getting better. But what about BOB??! Will someone please TELL ME what is GOING ON?

Dr. Larry took a deep breath. That was all he had to do. I knew it was bad news and he was preparing himself to speak.

Bob's heart is normal, which is very good, but...

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Fun with ultrasound results.

As you can see, above, the many LONG words that I can't make heads or tails of spell out that Bob has a 5 cm mass present in the right lobe of his liver. It is not possible to tell if it's a cancer or if it's a benign tumor that could be treated or removed surgically.

With FIV+ and being a senior cat, Bob may not be a good candidate for surgery. He may have cancer and if they do the surgery they will open him up, then say they have to put him down. That it would not be fair to wake him up when he will only live a little while longer, anyway. It's a big crap shoot.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob ponders his future (on his new blanket from Jennifer)

Thanks to one of my readers who works with FIV+ and Feline Leukemia positive cats, she told me something shocking:

...for any kitty that has been tested since the beginning of this year with the new IDEXX 3-way test (FIV/FeLV/HW), you cannot trust ANY positive result on the FIV or FeLV component: incredibly high rate of false positives, confirmed by retests with the western blot for FIV or the IFA for FeLV. the true positive rate on retest is the normal, VERY LOW, percentage. (and, of course, the FeLV component only tests for EXPOSURE, and most cats are able to process the virus out of their systems, which is why retesting is imperative. usually, the retest should be done 90-120 days after last exposure, but with the nationwide problems on the new test, we-who-get-the-panicked-calls-to-place-these-cats are advising that cats be retested immediately. (IDEXX does know about the problem, and will admit it to vets; however, tho they've asked for the names and contact info for those who have stats--national rescues, and special-needs sanctuaries--they've never followed up when they were provided with same.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Nicky try to cheer Bob up.

Even though Bob was tested years ago, this is the time to make SURE he is FIV+ because that will effect his ability to get a surgeon to take on his case. Because he was not neutered at an appropriate age, he got FIV. This is my Mother's fault and I will never forgive her for not caring for her cat. His life would have been so much better if he'd been neutered sooner and not left outdoors to get into fights with other territorial males.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen decides to lick Bob's head while Nicky is...Nicky.

I started to cry when I got the news...big, shaky tears. I tried not to cry, but he knew I couldn't hold back. Dr. Larry rubbed my arm and told me about a woman whose dog had the same thing Bob does. That he opened the dog up and saw the mass and called the owner and said he should put the dog down. The mass was too big. The dog would die anyway. She was going through a bad divorce. The dog was all she had. She demanded he cut the mass off-so he took half the liver. The dog lived...another two and a half YEARS. But Bob's not that dog and Bob could have cancer and Bob has FIV+ and he's a senior...blah blah blah...

©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen being cute, as usual.

I just wanted to fall over, curl up in a ball and weep. But that won't help Bob get better or live a bit longer, at least.

So I asked a few questions, then left the exam room. The first thing I saw was Moonpie's face! His new owner, as promised, brought Moonie and Patty to meet Dr. Larry now that they are adopted. I couldn't have been happier to see their friendly faces. I took Moonie out of his cat carrier and held him. He sat comfortably in my arms. Both cats meowed furiously at me. I hope they weren't asking me to take them home. I wanted to, but they will be happy in their new home one day. Right now they're doing well, but are still scared. Their new owner says that each day the calm down a bit more and become a bit more cuddly. With three young boys to play with, it's a big change for them. I told her to give it a month and that I'm always there for her whenever she had a question. She told me to come visit them any time. It would be too tempting to sneak them back home with me, but it was really GOOD to see them again.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. My boy, Bob.

We loaded Bob into the car, alongside Nora and drove separately home. I got Bob fed and gave him his liver medicine. He ate well, then went to his heated bed for a nap. It was just like any other day, completely unremarkable, save for the part that I know there may not be many more such unremarkable days ahead.

Foster Cat Journal: Moonpie & Pattycake: Their Journey Ends.

©2010 Maria Sandoval. Moonie and Patty at Maria's house just after they were rescued off death row.

They arrived in August from good old Georgia. Their mama, Tansy, was adopted right away. Now it was their turn to find a forever home. I had no idea the journey would last FOUR MONTHS.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Moonie (left) and Patty (right) as they are today.

I'm a stubborn old broad. I couldn't see separating Moonpie and his sister, Pattycake. They always seemed to be an unmatched pair. I knew it would cut down the number of potential adopters, but I had to do right by them. Even if I separated them briefly, they would cry. I just couldn't separate them.

©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Ringworm I know thee too well! Meh!

A few weeks after they arrived, I noticed a spot on Patty. Turns out it was ringworm rearing its ugly head. I had to lock the sad pair into my bathroom and try to keep it from spreading (which it ended up infecting Blitzen, Nicky and Nora about 6 weeks later...SO FAR!). This added another month to having to keep the cats here. They were already getting big-too big to be cutesy kittens so their chance at being adopted went a tick lower.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Moonie plays with his buddy, Blitzen.

Eventually they were cleared of ringworm and were allowed out of the tiny bathroom to mingle with my cats. They were too big to be in such a small room. They loved the freedom and Blitzen LOVED having friends that were close to his own age. It seemed to be ideal, but sadly one of my cats did not care for the intruders and began peeing all over the house. Many of the other cats began to do it, as well. It was a complete nightmare.

I did my best to reduce stress, give her attention, clean up the mess after mess...everything was being urinated on-even Blitzen peed on the sofa while I saw him do the deed. I had SSSCATS set up. I sanitize-wasehed everything I could. I only let Patty and Moonie out during the day and let them sleep in the bathroom at night, but nothing worked.

I got only TWO applications on the kitties. Each one was approved. Each family came over to see the cats, but it just wasn't right. They didn't want two cats. Moonie and Patty were almost nine pounds! They were bigger than Blitzen, who is a year old. Who would want such big cats?

I got another application last week. A family with THREE boys! The oldest is 11. They had no Vet reference because they have no pets. They wanted BIG cats that could handle the energy of young boys. I did a home visit and I'll just say the home should be called a MANSION it was so huge and very well kept. The family was very very nice AND they were completely willing to feed the cats their raw diet, keep them indoor-only and do whatever it took to keep them healthy. They're even going to use Dr. Larry as their Vet (who LOVES THESE CATS, by the way!). I couldn't have asked for more. The boys were very well behaved and very smart (of course, they chose my cats!). I liked them very much. I felt that Moonie and Patty could take whatever the kids dished out and, once they got used to their new home, would really enjoy running around the 5000 sq ft of space!

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky, Moonie, Spencer and Patty enjoy bed time.

It's always tough to say good bye. It's harder the longer you foster a cat. Moonie and Patty really got under my skin. They had very curious quirks that I loved-including fetching, sleeping on my head and bringing cat toys to bed, then leaving them by my pillow. The one thing that blew me away was Patty. I caught her NURSING ON HERSELF!

©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Patty getting her “freak” on.

She'd sit like a person, start to purr, then “make muffins” as she suckled at herself. YIKES! Have I seen it all? Sheesh-YES!

I knew the kitties needed to leave, for any chance of the peeing to stop. I grabbed Petunia, the offender, and put her into the guest room by herself. I thought that while the fosters were still here, she should be alone. The peeing stopped. Not one drop anywhere in the house. Unfortunately, Petunia continued to pee in the guest room and ruined two cat beds-no doubt because they smelled like other cats. Now she can sit on the bed, but it's covered with a plastic mattress cover. There is little left for her to ruin and I see she has begun to use the litter pan for peeing. It's not ideal, but having the peeing stop is heavenly. I hope that after the fosters leave, I can reintroduce Petunia into the household, but I fear that may never be possible. She is the “pariah cat.” She has very high anxiety about everything. I'm going to try homeopathy and I'm going to talk to some of my cat-writer-friends. Yes, even I get stuck and am not sure what to do next. Finding her a new home is probably not something I can do, so I need to work it out.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Moonpie featuring his very swanky pink toe!

Maybe I'm an awful person, but Moonie and Patty did so well here that I would have traded Petunia out and kept them. It's tough to love the kid who just is a pain in the neck and who ruins everything in the house. I was grateful a wonderful family stepped up so I didn't have to be tempted any longer. Last night Moonie and Patty went to their new home and we had a chance to get them settled. I didn't get much of a chance to kiss them goodbye, but all the kisses and photos I could take will never change that it's time for them to go. My heart aches and I'm sad, but I know I'll have more kitties to care for in a few weeks and I need a break.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. My shiny self with Patty. A hug good bye.

On Sunday, Sam and I were in a car accident. We were rear-ended by a glib jerkwad while we were stopped at a traffic light on our way to the book store. Sam is doing well, but I have a sprained back and neck-at least. I'm moving slower than usual and in a lot of pain. Having a few weeks off will give me a chance to begin to recover and prepare for the next arrivals.

Until then, my heart is full of memories of two very goofy kitties who I love dearly and hope that though their journey with me is over, that their next adventure brings them even more joy.

Covered in Cat Writers Part 1 of 2

Once a year, as the full moon rises and the planets align into a cat-shaped orbit, the scribes of the feline world join together. It's a sacred gathering of secret handshakes and mystical rituals that date back to 1992, when the organization first came into being.

In other words, The 2010 Cat Writers' Association, which was established in 1992, held its' annual Conference in White Plains, New York at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Oh yeah, and there was a full moon.

Prior to the formal Conference starting, many of us got together for the “TNT”-Thursday Night Thing? I have no idea what the last “T” stands for, so you'll have to excuse me for guessing. The goal of TNT is for everyone to help stuff the HUMUNGOUS SWAG BAGS full of cat-centric goodies and to get to know each other. After the bags are stuffed, we get to stuff our faces with pizza. Post stuff-fest, We were asked to form a circle, but no joining hands or animal sacrifice followed. We simply took turns saying a few words about our background, how many cats we had and what sort of books we had published so that everyone could get to know us a bit better. There were quite a few folks in the circle, so we added a second concentric ring to accommodate everyone. Many folks said their bit and moved on to the next, but a few decided to pontificate (that's a big word meaning they were time-hogs/show offs, were inconsiderate since it was pushing 9pm and instead of being naked, perhaps we only needed a tease to know enough. I struggled to fight off the urge to roll my eyes back and scream; NEXT! as loudly as I could.)

The thing that surprised and or scared me was realizing that with the exception of only one person, we had the MOST cats of anyone else-by far.


I hoped we'd get an elevated status within the organization for our cat-population prowess, but maybe these folks knew better than we did- that having so many cats is not necessarily a great idea. (this is written as I fear finding out how many times my cats puked, pooped and peed in the house while I'm away from home.)

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Enter the Swag Bag!

But then there was the swag bags. As I live and breathe, it's like the Christmas I never had, looking into the depths of that black World's Best Cat Litter Bag. Every time I took something out, I'd get a peek at something even better. My imagination ran wild, anticipating how my cats would dive bomb the bag the second I walked it in the door. They'd drag out the catnip laden Hot Cat (awesome!) or wrestle the KONG Kickaroo (love those!) and we got a NEKO Flies wand toy (with the great tagline: “It's swat cats love!”). I can't wait to see how the cats will react once they see it. In addition to the super-schwing-swag-bag, we got eve MORE goodies. I scored some Feliway diffusers (THANK YOU CARRIE!), a cute kitten-sized cat tree (THANK YOU ALLIA ZOBEL! and ARUBACAT) and coupons to buy World's Best Cat Litter at a discount (YEAH, BABY!). ...AND some folks didn't want some of their swag so they gave it to me to give to my foster babies!

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Pattycake get first dibs.

Honestly, I could have just gone home with that bag and skipped the Conference, but heck, I had a hotel room booked so might as well stay...oh that and This year I was slated to be a Speaker! The topic was: “Using Analytics to Measure Your Reach.” How boring does this sound? Yeah, pretty boring. In fact, our (Sam was a Co-Presenter with me) presentation was quite perky and charming, but there wasn't much time to get folks excited about it since we were FIRST to go on Friday at 9AM.

©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. I can't believe Blitzen used this tiny cat scratcher right away!

But now we must change pace. This is the first of two sad parts of my story. We got all set up, the projector ran just fine. Mary, my sister-in-writing, had loaned us her projector as a backup! How great was this? No worries about a failed projector. The Keynote presentations we created were working fine, too.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. MINE! MINE! MINE!

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Like Catnip much?

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer, Nora, Petunia and Blitzen are mesmerized by the Neko Flies.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Moonpie grabs it!

But my camera was not doing so well. It showed signs of being under the weather about a week before the Conference. I didn't have time to fool around with it before we left and it was in our room, moments before we were to being that I realized my camera, though it functioned, it only worked when it FELT like doing so. I thought it might be the battery or the fact that my Digital SLR had reached retirement age. Drat! Not having a good camera is like having my arm cut off. Let us take a moment to reflect on the thousands of cute kitten photos that camera has captured for me, as we try not to be pissed off that it's going to cost and arm (and leg) to replace it. But, the show must go or no.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. No, our Presentation wasn't in an empty room. Folks actually showed up!

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. The graphics are ready, the bowels are empty, let the Presentation begin!

The Presentation went well. Sam did the tech stuff, I told the warm fuzzy story. We hit our times well, fielded a few questions and were done! Felt good.

Then I realized I had a “pitch” session with Susan Logan the super-boss of Cat Fancy magazine in 30 minutes. I'd worked so hard on the Presentation, I didn't prepare my pitch, which I hate doing in the first place. If I ever want a shot at writing for a national publication, I better get my act together.

My brain started to fuzz over. I hadn't sleep more than an hour the night before. You know how it goes when you try to sleep in hotel. Some times it just doesn't happen. The thought that I'd become accustom to cats jumping on my face, screaming in the middle of the night and laying all over me as my evening tonic was depressing. Here I was in a king sized bed and no cats and sleep would not come. The real reason I couldn't sleep was this.

So I dragged my sleepy self over to the Editors room. I prayed my mind would begin to fire on at least ONE cylinder. I sat down to speak with Ms. Logan and my mind went blank...

...part two of my adventures at the CWA Conference soon! Will I face plant in from of a respected colleague? Will I WIN an AWARD for..umm...ANYTHING YOU MIGHT BE READING? Will I make a new friend? Get rid of an old one? Will I wear more bling than the ladies from Texas? Will there be an underlying theme of FIRE TRUCKS and loss in this story?

Stay tuned...


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