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Foster Cat Journal: Seeing Dancer & Donner Again

I've been avoiding writing about visiting Donner and Dancer last Friday. Part of the reason is I feel that I didn't say the right things when I was there and I didn't just scoop those kittens up and run off, once I saw them. I've also been going back and forth over this entire situation, waaaay too many times. For some reason, distilling all these thoughts into bite sized pieces seems impossible, but I owe it to you to let you know what happened.

Ryan and I went to visit the kittens. It was a lovely sunny day and coincidently, the kittens live down the street from Ryan's house, so it took only a minute to get there after I picked him up. The new “mom and dad” met us in the driveway at the gate to their back yard. It was odd not to go in the front door of their small single story home, but we followed their lead.

The yard was quite large with only a few trees. They had to be cleared to make room for the impressive stonework that surrounded a nice sized in-ground pool. I was told they did most of the work themselves and that they were planning on adding Brazilian-something wood benches to finish off the area and provide seating. They also had built a huge stone surrounded outdoor fireplace. There were some young fruit trees planted and a small outbuilding/shed. They spoke of their plans to put in a flower garden and showed me their fenced in yard and talked about how it saved so much money to do it with just the two of them and the kids as laborers. I was impressed with their efforts and ambition to turn their yard into a family oasis, though I couldn't quite figure out why they were showing me this, until we got indoors.

We walked up a few very worn wooden steps into a room that appeared to have been added on to the back of the house. Perhaps it had been a screen porch converted for all-season use? There were a few desks with 6 or so flat screen monitors and computers. The Mr. Adopter said that was his office. He does IT work for a big company. The room was cluttered and very run down looking. There were a few fish tanks, one was in the sun. Not sure that was a great idea. Then he pointed out a big iron stove and said they heated the house with wood. As I looked around I realized there was a huge fan near the stove, then another fan in the next room over, which would direct the heat towards the back of the house. Sorry, but it was creepy and I thought the folks in the back of the house had to be cold. He made a comment about being glad they were able to keep the heat off. Yeah I would not want to have to stoke a wood stove. I have one. It's a pain in the butt.

We were ushered into the house. Everything was very tidy, but run down. The carpet was worn and with few windows, it was rather dark. Mrs. Adopter cheerfully said to be quiet that the kids were sleeping-she meant the kittens, who she now calls kids. It could be endearing, but I think she was doing it for my benefit. I can't be sure.

Before we got to their room, we passed a section of the hallway that was covered with plywood. What are these people up to? It was floor to ceiling-basically covering over a doorway. The last room to the left was were the kittens mostly stay. I saw Dooner and Dancer sitting on a well made bed in a tidy, but run down room.

Donner looked like all the life had drained out of her eyes. She was not abused, but she was no longer lively. I petted her and she let me, but she didn't purr or react as she normally would have. She was wearing a collar with a bell, but Dancer was not. I asked about it and Mr. Adopted said something about looking into GPS collars but that they were too heavy. Why it did not dawn on me to drill him about GPS when he promised to keep the cats indoors is beyond me. It nags at me that I didn't say something.

Dancer was still shy as ever, but was willing to play. They have ONE toy in their room. The food bowl had that awful crap in the bowl, it looked uneaten. There were no scratching pads, cat beds or any toys to stimulate the kittens. No wonder they were brain dead! BUT it didn't HIT me until AFTER I left that that was what was wrong!!! I am such a jerk!

Ryan took a few photos which I'll add as soon as I get them. Then we excused ourselves. I asked them if they had any questions or if they needed anything and to always feel free to contact me. We walked into the living room. There was one sunny bay window full of plants. Mrs. Adopter said her friend told her to make some room for the cats so they can sit in the sun and look out the window-which I agreed with and she is going to do. As we spoke, Donner walked up to the tiny spot of sunshine on the carpet and sat and looked at me. I wanted to die. Here she was, in this tiny puddle of sun in this otherwise dark, dreary house, with no toys and a collar around her neck, but it was not so bad that it would be considered cruel, yet it was not so good that it helped me feel like I could let go of this situation.

After we left, Ryan and I spoke at length about it. It took me another day of running it over in my head to think of a few reasons why it might not be so bad and how I can make it better...

1. I used to have adopters pre-approved and that was good enough for me. For all I know most of the adopters I've gotten cats to are just like this family. It's partially because I have become so involved in screening adopters that I became aware that some are not as great as they appear on paper.

2. I know I am overly protective of Santa's Team, but that's my right after all we went through and that's why I'm beating myself up about it. I should have done better for them.

3. The cats are in no immediate danger, even though I'm sure they are going to go outdoors one day. The street they live on is very quiet, but the wildlife will be their problem. The yard is fenced in for a dog. The cats will run right through it, but I can't do anything about this. What is done is done.

4. Ryan agreed that they showed us the back yard so we could see that they are in the process of making their home nicer. The plywood is over the bathroom. Apparently, they are renovating that, as well. We thought we needed to think of the home as a work in progress and that the situation may improve for the cats in time.

5. I still owe these folks a tiny bit of paperwork, so I went to the Pet Shop and bought a bunch of toys, catnip, a scratcher and am going to drop it off for them. I'm just going to say I got it as a donation and not make a big deal about it. I will leave it at the door and not bother these folks any longer. At least I will know the cats have some toys, okay, and a few extra cans of cat food I have laying around, too. It's not much, but it's all I can think to do.

I will always look back on this adoption with regret and will hope to learn from this lesson. They are nice people. I'm not looking down on them as though I'm better than they are because I have a furnace and central heat. It's not about how fancy the house is, it's about how the cats looked. If they were feeding crappy food, but the cats were bouncing around, thriving, happy, I would be FINE with that...but they weren't. They were okay. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay. And for the next 10 or 15 years of their life, knowing they are just OKAY...that just doesn't cut it for me.

Letting Go. A Few More Things.

Instead of adding another comment to the growing comments under some of my recent posts about my fears concerning the adoption of Donner & Dancer; I thought I'd address them here.

Thank you to everyone for sharing your concerns, suggestions and stories about how you came to have cats and how you care for them. In some instances, you may have been a “novice” cat parent, in others, you've done rescue for years and “been there and felt those tears” yourself. I've considered what each of you has to say and it does make a difference in how I'm processing this situation.

As a Buddhist, I am familiar with the importance of compassion, which was partially why I was so conflicted about this particular adoption. I wanted to give these people a chance-even though they had no Vet reference, which for two kittens who'd spent the majority of their life sick, was no easy feat. They'd had cats over ten years ago, so at least they'd had them. They have two young boys and two older girls. That felt like a lot of folks for Dancer, who is shy. I didn't want to overly stress her out. My own cat, Gracie has chronic dermatitis, which we believe is due to stress. It is my compassion for my foster cats, which comes first, that makes me want to protect them and provide the best home for them I can. Add to that, I must open myself up to adopting to families I'm not positive about, because like many of you said, if the family provides love over all else, then is that was is most important to the well being of a cat?

That sparks an interesting debate, one I hope you will take part of-What IS the most important thing, we as cat lovers, provide to our cats? Is it a clean, stable home environment? Is it a warm place to sleep? Is it species appropriate food and a desire to keep the cat healthy for the duration of its' life? What is the balance, if there must be at least love and....what?

There's no easy answer. Perhaps the kittens ARE getting lots of play time and love OR as their own stepmother said to me as they were walking out the door, ”You know how kids are...two days from now they'll forget about the cats.” That does not sit well with me. Nor does this “gut” feeling that can't be teased apart into perfectly identifiable chunks- the clear list as to why this adoption bothers me like few others have. I fear the cats are living in poor conditions and I know they are being feed very lousy food. In my minds' eye, I see them as adults. They are obese. One is so fearful they joke about never seeing it. They don't have a sparkle in their eyes. Maybe they just sit around and wait for the bowl of kibble to be filled up again. That's why I'm upset.

After all those kittens suffered, I've placed them somewhere where their future may be even worse than their past. For that, I will never forgive myself. I need to make some changes in how I approach adoptions and I hope to be able to get permission to do a home visit prior to the adoption-if I feel it's necessary. Most groups around here do them. It's not a big deal to ask someone if you can just make sure the environment is safe and appropriate. It would also help when we adopt to families with dogs or other cats.

Will I go visit Dancer and Donner to see how they're doing? I'm not sure I can, though the family has invited me to see them when I'm in the area. They live 2 miles from here, near my where my nephew lives. I'm torn. If I go, see the cats, see they are living in what I fear, then I will really be upset and unless they are clearly in an abusive situation, I can do nothing to get them back.

So, do I go or do I just go on with my life and hope the cats will be all right?

While Spencer Sleeps...

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...I toss and turn. I'm still in the throes of doing my blasted taxes. I'm in a foul mood. I don't see the sense in wasting days of my life, adding up countless receipts because when it's all said and done, I probably won't owe any taxes and I won't deserve a refund. So why bother?

Last night I did a home visit for DRNA. They posted a message about needing help here in Newtown, so I offered. Along with my home visit, I had to fill out a very comprehensive form, detailing my visit. It made me realize how little we ask of our own adopters. We certainly don't do a home visit and we only ask that they don't declaw the cat and have their other animals up to date on vaccines and wellness exams. That's about it.

After the home visit, which went fine, we stopped at the grocery store to buy cat litter. Who should I run into but the dad and two sons of the family I adopted Donner & Dancer to. In the guy's hands was a stack of canned food-the cheapest, most awful crap you can imagine. It was 20 cans for $7; full of grain and mystery meat products. I almost screamed.

I did my best to be friendly about it and he said he didn't know how to tell it had grain or not and I reminded him that he can't buy grain free in a grocery store-which also pisses me off. Why can't you get good cat food at the grocer? At least you can't get it around here. There wasn't anything I could do. I said I'd send him info and he bought the crap food.

Once home, I sent him a long email with links to cat food resources and a discount code. I could not sleep. I kept thinking about how awful this was and that they said Dancer was still very scared-probably because there are two rambunctious boys in the house. I imagine her cowering in fear and growing into a messed up adult. I want to think the best of these people, but I really f-cked up. I should not have adopted to them, but the deed is done. I can't go get the cats when I don't have a great reason to do so. Now I fear the cats will become fat and unhealthy and I wonder if they will even keep up with Vet visits? Will they even keep them indoor only, as promised?

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I'm sick about this. I know it could be worse. Even two of my best friends, who adopted from me two years ago, feed crappy cat food and the cats are chubby but they are loved so very much. They seem to be content in their home and maybe that is enough?

Why We Do Early Spay/Neuter

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I like the way their eyes reflect on the floor! Yikes!

Looks like Zombie-Kitten changed tactics from brain-eating to humping!

No worries. No spermies were released during the shooting of this photo.

Foster Cat Journal: Talking Myself Off the Ledge

I knew today would be tough. Donner and Dancer were slated to be adopted together. I was somewhat prepared to let them go, knowing they were going to a good home. Sure, I would cry, but they need to be with a new family who will love them always.

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Little Donner. ©2010 Ryan Feminella

A few minutes before the adopters arrived, I noticed that Dancer had a bald patch on her leg-surely not RINGWORM again?!!! I began to worry that if Dancer had to stay behind, then Donner would go alone and I could not allow that. Donner is far too social of a cat to be without the company of another cat. This family had no other pets. In fact, it's been so long that they had anything other than fish, they had no Vet reference. I was willing to overlook that because they would not let the cats outdoors, not declaw them and were certainly willing to feed them a grain free canned food diet-maybe even raw. They were going to take the kittens to my own Vet, too. So maybe it would be okay?

Then the family arrived. All six of them. The youngest was 11 and the oldest child is in college. I felt like it would be too much for Dancer to handle and the poor cat freaked out. She showed terribly and if Donner hadn't been so fantastic, I doubt they would have adopted the kittens. My heart began to sink. I just thought that maybe it was too much. That how could I adopt to people with no Vet reference? They didn't seem to be madly in love with the kittens. Maybe something was wrong. I can't say exactly why, but I started to feel that maybe this was not a good idea...but it was too late.

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Dancer looking lovely as ever. ©2010 Ryan Feminella

I tried to talk them out of the adoption-offering them first pick of the next litter due in a month or so. They said they had been looking for a long time and that they were sure these were the right kittens. The eldest daughter said she knew the kittens needed time and that it would be all right for them, but I kept hoping they would change their minds-even after knowing that Dancer probably had ringworm.

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My sweet muffin, Donner. ©2010 Robin Olson

Apparently, the two youngest boys do wrestling in school and perked up when I mentioned ringworm. One of them casually replied; “ Oh yeah, if a kid gets ringworm, he can't wrestle. It happens all the time!” Yikes! Their stepmom looked worried about it, but they all assured her it was not a big deal.

I called Dr. Larry and made them an appointment for the kittens. At least I know they will, hopefully, continue to use him as their Vet and that way I'll get some updates on how they're doing. I offered to pay for the visit, since Dancer will need medications and a DTM. I should have kept her here for another 30 days, but the adopters wanted her today. There was just no keeping them here. The giant band-aid had to come off and boy did it hurt.

I'm very thankful that Jennifer called me while I was writing this post. I cried for the better part of an hour after everyone left. Sam comforted me as best he could, but somehow it wasn't until Jennifer talked to me-my comrade in mourning-that things didn't feel quite so painful. She smartly reminded me of another adoption I did last year. I was SO sure it was the PERFECT family for my one little kitten. They were going to dote on her and they had a big McMansion, etc...

Then, Jennifer and I paid them a visit. Once there we both got the creeps, very bad creeps. These folks wanted to adopt another kitten from me and I kept putting them off-for MONTHS. I was sure they were not great adopters and I had wished I hadn't adopted to them at all. Jennifer reminded me that where I thought these guys were perfect, they were lacking. That the adopted kitten should be all right, but no more should go to this home-ever. That perhaps, the people who adopted from me today, might not appear to be that great on paper, but may, in the end, turn out to provide a big, loving home, for two cats who have carved a place in my heart, forever.

Foster Cat Journal: Fare Thee Well

December 17, 2009. 7pm EST. A date and time I will never forget. It was the start of a three month long trial that shook my resolve to the core and left me questioning whether or not I could go on. It ripped my very long term relationship into shreds. It broke my heart. It left me crying and raging, all for a handful of homeless shelter cats.

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Donner, Prancer, Dancer and Blitzen the day they arrived.

The journey of Santa's Team is ending. No more medicating wriggling kittens 50 times a day. No more force feeding them or endless Vet runs. It's done now. We made it. We're all okay and little wards are leaving the “nest” just hours after Jennifer's two were adopted.

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Prancer & Dancer. ©2010 Photo by Ryan Feminella (my nephew!)

Yesterday, a family from Newtown met Dancer and Prancer. Though we all wished the two girls could stay together, they could only take one. Prancer left with them in a brand new cat carrier, off to meet her new friend, Luna. She will be renamed, Bella. A nice match and a pretty name for a quirky kitten. I'm invited to stop over and visit “any time” and was promised lots of photos and updates. I think Prancer will be happy with her new family. I hope she's not missing us too much.

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Prancer. ©2010 Photo by Ryan Feminella

Donner was supposed to be adopted yesterday, too, but I put a stop to it. I've never had to tell someone to their face that I couldn't go on with an adoption and I feel terrible about it. I screened the young applicants as best I could. Some things didn't add up and I pressed them for more information. I found out they lied on their form and they declared it was not done to deceive, but an innocent mistake. The damage was done. I kept trying to make it work and I should have stopped the adoption the second I found out about the lie, but I wanted to give them a chance. In the end, I discovered some other things that weren't so hot and I realized I had to trust my instincts. It was not a stable placement for Donner. For now, she's staying with me until I can sort things out for her.

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Donner. ©2010 Photo by Ryan Feminella

It would be one thing I was selling a car, but this is a living creature who may live 20 or more years. As much as I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings, I'd rather have them hate me, than let Donner go somewhere that wasn't right for her.

Last night, another cat was adopted. It's Cupid's turn.


Mama. Cupid. ©2009 Photo by Henry County Care & Control

Cupid-what a journey you've made. From an emaciated Mama, on the verge of being euthanized to weighing more than twice what you did when you arrived, with a glossy, soft coat and life in your eyes. I did this. I fattened you up. I saved your life. This is one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. It really hurts to see you leave, but there's so much joy in my heart and so much relief. Cupid didn't have to die on a cold steel table in a heartless shelter. She is the living proof all the effort was worth it.

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Cupid, today-chubby and content. ©2010 Photo by Robin Olson

Now Cupid will get a break from her kittens-one that will last the rest of her life. She'll be the only cat in a well-to-do family's home. She'll have two doggie friends and a kind 9 year old boy and his toddler sister to play with. Their Au Pair from Uruguay can't wait for Cupid to arrive and has asked if Cupid can live in her room with her, until Cupid adjusts to her new home. She will make sure everyone is looked after and loved and Cupid will never have a worry again. Her new parents are going to feed her a raw diet!!! They also are spending the next few days shopping for her, so they've asked me to hold her until Friday, while they buy her cat trees and scratching posts, toys and get the raw food ready, too. I could not ask for more!

As much as I'd like her to go with one of her kittens, I see her frustration and anger towards them some times. I think she'll enjoy being pampered and I know, in time, any sadness she'll have will be replaced by the love of her new family.

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Cupid and Dancer kiss goodbye. ©2010 Photo by Robin Olson

That will leave, of the original nine cats, just three: Donner, Blitzen and Dancer. Since I first wrote this article, there's been an update. In a few hours, a family is coming to meet Dancer and Donner. They've wanted a cat for months and have been searching for the right fit. They're very excited to meet the girls and with no pets, other than fish, the girls will be spoiled rotten. Saying goodbye to Donner will be very very tough. She was my inspiration to rescue this cat-family. When I saw her little face, I knew I had to do something.


How do you say, No to those faces? Photo taken at Henry Co. Care & Control in GA.

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Donner & Blitzen today. ©2010 Photo by Ryan Feminella

There is one other bit of news. There's been a gesture made to me. A folded note, left upon my desk, with words that brought more tears. From Sam, to me...not a goodbye, but one last promise. That no matter what happens to us and whatever we choose to do next, he will love me forever-even if it means farewell and our paths go separate directions.

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My heart is not so cold that his words did not effect me. While there is no certainty of what tomorrow will bring, perhaps it's time to put our weapons down and remember what's important?

My lonely ring finger has its' old friend back. My lonely heart has a glimmer of hope and my lonely life isn't so lonely after all.

To my little foster babies. Good luck on your next adventure. May you live long and happy lives.

Cute Break

I was going to post a big article today about some recent events but I've had to hold off on publishing it for another day. In the meantime, please enjoy this uber-cute photo my nephew, Ryan, shot of the girls: Prancer & Dancer!

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©2010 Ryan C. Feminella

Foster Cat Journal: AT LAST!!!!!

The first hint of Spring arrived today with sunny skies and the first temperatures over 50°F. A perfect day for our Adoption Event!

Comet and Rudy, two of Santa's Team, were able to be at the event. Sadly my guys had to stay home due to Blitzen still having ringworm. In a way, I was glad. I don't want them to go, but they're all so big and feisty. I know they need more space to play in and I know they're ready to go, too.

I already had pre-approved a nice couple from right here in Newtown to adopt Rudy & Comet, but I wasn't sure that they were going to stop by today. I didn't have to wait long to find out. Shortly after we got set up, they introduced themselves and asked to meet the kitties.

Jennifer was delayed. Traffic was halted on the Interstate, so they waited around and we chatted. They seem like great folks, have one other cat and are hoping to add two more to their family.

When Jennifer arrived, I felt a mix of dread and joy. I knew this was going to be hard on her and her husband, but I knew it was time for Rudy and Comet to start the next part of their journey-and hopefully their last.

The couple was smitten. Jennifer got to quiz them and make sure that they were the right family for her fosters. Everyone agreed it was a good match so we filled out the Contract and handed over their medical records and the last bit of Rudy's medicine. Jennifer got teared up, but did a great job not balling her head off! I can't say I would have done as well. I had to fight back tears, too. These two cats almost died—first they were saved from a Kill Shelter, then arrived in such poor condition that I almost lost them, then. Comet has gained about 4 lbs. Rudy, the same. They both survived their battles and are loving, wonderful creatures. I couldn't help but think about that as I loaded them into their cat carrier and said by goodbye to them.

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Tomorrow, Donner and Prancer will probably be adopted and Monday, may see Dancer and yes, CUPID being adopted, as well. That will leave me with Blitzen, who has to stay with us until his 30 day ringworm treatment is over...or...maybe he'll stay a bit longer? We'll see.

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For now, let's raise our glasses high and drink deeply in the satisfaction that another two lives are truly saved. We won another battle! Hurrah!

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Rumor has it that Rudy and Comet may be renamed; Leroy and Ziva from NCIS! Seen here with their new family! Yay!

Foster Cat Journal: Cat in the...what?

Last night while I was sitting at my desk, surfing the net, I heard a loud noise from the foster room, which is on the floor above my office.
Okay, so I'm not great about looking in on every single loud noise I hear. Usually, the cats have either unplugged the cable box or knocked books onto the floor, but this sound was rather a loud “thud.” I gave it a few minutes, then dragged my fat arse up the stairs to see “what now?!” was going on.

“Hello, Cupid.”

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This is a cover for one of my studio lights, called a soft box. It's used in photography. Instead of folding it down and storing it, I have it sitting on top of a shelf in the foster room. Apparently, Cupid go up into the shelf, then into the soft box, then fell. Once she landed, she realized she could not get OUT of the contraption!

When I walked into the room, she just sat there and stared at me. If I hadn't checked on her...yikes...she might have had a bad night and I might of had a poop filled soft to speak.

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I think Cupid was embarrassed and I was certainly amused. Amused enough so that I didn't help her right away. Bad foster mommy. I had to take photos first. Hey, I have my priorities.

Foster Cat Journal: I'm in Big Trouble

People often ask me; ”How can you let foster cats go? Don't you miss them? Doesn't it make you sad? Cry?”

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I energetically answer that if I don't adopt them out, I can't rescue more. I already have seven cats, which is more than plenty. It's not wise to add on to the “family” for a variety of reasons. Sure, it hurts when the cats leave, but usually they're only here from just a few days to a few weeks. If that's the case, hey, anyone can do this. Just keep them moving in, then leaving promptly. It's doable.

What happens when it's NOT the case? What happens not only when you've had foster cats for a few MONTHS, but what if they were all sick? They all needed you? Some were so sick you didn't know if they would survive? How can you not become deeply attached?

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How do you let THOSE foster cats go?

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Jennifer has been caring for Rudy & Comet for months. They are no longer in their foster room, but have the full run of the house. They frolic and play and love life. Jennifer's been crying, thinking about them leaving. I've been reminding her that we'll find them a great home and we'll keep them together if we can. That she can't adopt more cats. Jennifer not only has plenty of cats, too, but she has seniors and special needs kitties. Adding two spunky kittens to that mix would not be good in the long term.

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I'm not telling her anything she hasn't told herself. She's steeling herself for the day, which may come VERY soon, for when she has to say goodbye to them and I feel really bad about that. I never wanted her to have a bad experience fostering, but I can't protect her from this.

I, too, am faced with the same thing.

Today was the big day. After MONTHS of struggle, I was able to put all but Blitzen on Petfinder. The cats are ready to go, at last!


The problem looking over my photos and selecting the ones that are the cutest and will garner lots of interested adopters, I found myself awash in tears. I could barely type out a description or upload a photo. I'm still crying now.


I just kept looking at their faces. I missed them and they are still here. I never want any of them to leave. They've all captured my heart and I honestly don't know if I can be here when they get adopted.

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And if this wasn't painful enough, Sam and I are done after 17 years. I am flat out heartbroken. The person I used to be able to go to when I was sad and needed a hug is lost to me, probably forever.

I have lost so much in my life. I don't know how to go on.

I suppose this is what they call burnout or just a big, bad bump in the road? Whatever it's called, I don't recommend it.


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