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Rainbow Bridge

FCJ: Day Three. Beyond Heartbreak.

I was preparing to write about the conference I attended yesterday regarding the law changes for transporting animals into Connecticut. I was going to talk about what it may mean for my ability to rescue cats from the south, but all that is a blur now.

Last night I was sitting on my bed, playing with Doodlebug. It was 10:20pm. My phone rang. It was Maria. Oh no. She normally would not call me so late at night.

Maria's voice was low, emotionless, she was having trouble saying the words. I knew something was wrong. I wanted her to tell me what happened, but it was taking her too much time to get the words out and my anxiety was building with every second. I'm sure she was just trying to talk and not cry.

“One of the kittens just passed.”

It took a second for the news to sink in. My heart sank and I tried not to cry, too. What happened?! Maria felt he was just too little and underdeveloped-the runt of the litter.

Maria weighed the kittens earlier that night. Three were about 4.5-5 oz and three were around 3 oz. Maria had been feeling that something wasn't quite right about the smaller kittens, but she saw them being fed and she also gave them some milk replacer. Mama had gained almost ONE POUND in a few DAYS. Her diarrhea is resolving and she is clearly getting stronger, but it was too late for the little runt. We weren't even sure if it was a boy or girl who passed. I asked Maria to name the baby so she chose the name, Sammy.

I asked her if she thought the others would be all right and she said she was worried about the other two small ones. I asked her to make sure they were nice and warm-yes, heating pads were going...were they dehydrated? Did they need more milk? I didn't know what to tell her. I'm 1000 miles away and I could only try to think of who lived close by that could help. Should she take the kittens to the vet? If they had fading kitten syndrome there was nothing we could do. Putting them in the car would be further stress on them.

I started to regret referring to the kittens as Bob's Angels. Now it was coming true. Less than an hour later a second kitten died. Maria named him, Red.

I don't know what I'm supposed to say. I know that this happens. You can say it's nature. This is how it goes. The mother is barely a kitten herself. She was grossly malnourished. It's doubtful she was producing enough milk from each mammary gland. She is sick, herself, with diarrhea and is exhausted. There are many reasons why these two babies died, but I had been dreaming of having six orange babies running around my house one day. It was a comfort to having lost my own cat, Bob just two weeks ago. Now that dream was lost and utter grief was taking its place.

There was one kitten left that Maria was worried about. She named him Rocky because he was a fighter. She kept feeding him. Kept him close to her all night. Our friend, Izzy called her and gave her suggestions as to what to do, since she had just bottle fed the little white Angel babies (who are big enough to come here in a few days). Maria and I talked about taking the rest of the family to the emergency vet, but again-the fear of the stress on them just didn't make sense.

Brokenhearted, Maria fought hard for Rocky and urged him to stay strong, but early this morning, Rocky died, too. In his last moments, she held him in her hands and kissed him goodbye. She told him, as she did with his siblings who passed earlier in the night, that she love him.

©2011 Maria S. The last photo of the kittens before three died. The top one is Red, then Sammy, second from top and the bottom right was little Rocky.

Three of our kittens have died. The world can stop spinning now. Time has to stand still and take notice of these poor beautiful creatures who never even were old enough to open their eyes and see the world-who will never know the joy of playtime with their siblings-who will never grow into lovely orange adult cats. To say Maria is in pain right now is an understatement. To say I am not right there with her, is one, too. My heart is broken. I am terrified we will lose them all.

I feel like I jinxed the babies. I'm not going to call them Bob's Angels any more. They are “Bob's Pumpkin Patch.” They are going to make it. We are going to fight hard for them. They must survive. They are bigger and their eyes are opening. Let them not see the loss of their brothers and sister, let them see a beautiful world full of love. That's all we wanted for all our kittens, but like any rescue group, we will lose some along the way. These are the first kittens lost to us and we hope will be the last.

We need to fill our fundraiser for the kittens. They are going to have to have more vet care and monitoring and we want to make sure we have funds to cover all their needs. If you can help out with a donation, we would appreciate it a lot. If you already helped them, then thank you so much!

We have to find a way to be strong, for the ones are left, but I just want to crawl into my closet, curl up in the darkness and die. How do we go on?

This family deserves names and I was remiss in waiting so long to give them ones. An animal communicator told me that she never met an orange cat who didn't have a human name, so I'm keeping that in mind now.

Mama is Bobette. Means “bright fame.”

Three remaining kittens are: Teddy Boo, Jake O'Lantern & Mikey D. Cider.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: IT IS VERY POSSIBLE THE KITTENS WERE BORN ON 9|11, not much earlier. Shelter thinks they were born the day after their mama arrived at Henry Co., not days prior. Waiting on confirmation, but this puts them at SIX DAYS OLD as of last night.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: Fly Free. Part 5 of 5

Sam and I drank toasts to Bob’s life, then we did something I never imagined-we set up a place for Bob in our bedroom. It was late at night and the Vet wouldn’t be open until morning. We decided to keep Bob near us-not in our bed, but nearby. I put a small blanket over Bob’s body, foolishly, to keep him warm. I could see his head resting on another blanket. He looked comfortable. I kissed him good night with tears in my eyes. It was very surreal.

Sam fell asleep, but I could not. I kept thinking about Bob, reliving watching him die, wondering if I did right by him or if there even is such a thing as the “right thing.” I gave up trying to sleep at 3am. I went downstairs to my office and put together a little memorial page for Bob to be posted on Covered in Cat Hair. I wanted to close the door to this blog-in his honor. My heart was broken and my voice, silenced. There were no words for me, for now. Just tears.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Rest in Peace.

The next morning, we drove to the Vet. I sat in the back seat with Bob’s body on a cat bed next to me. His body was cold and hard. I petted him anyway. I thought about all the drives we made to Wappinger Falls, NY, for Bob to get chemo with me sitting next to him, his head resting on my hand. How I could feel his purr through my palm…the time he sat on my lap, he saw a truck passing and HISSED at it through the closed window—how it made me laugh. I remembered, too, that Bob never hissed at us.

I thought about how Bob was a stray cat that showed up at my Mother’s house in 1999; that my Father let Bob in the house, against my Mother’s wishes. My Father had dementia from numerous strokes, but he loved Bob and wanted him to be part of our family. Tragically, Daddy killed himself later that year. Bob stayed on with my Mother.

People will say he was her cat and that now he would go to Heaven and be with her, but I would argue that point. My Mother never cared for Bob. She fed him crap. She petted him, but she NEVER took him to the Vet. For the past five years I struggled to help Bob overcome the fact he had FIV+ because my Mother didn’t neuter the FIV caused him all sorts of issues and probably caused the cancer to develop, too. I was so angry. Bob never had to die like this-and maybe he could have had an even longer life if he had just been neutered when he was young. My only solace was imagining that there were little “Bobs” all over northern Trumbull, CT. It made me smile as I looked down at my dead friend’s body.

We arrived at the Vet. We had to go to the back door of the building-of course, so the other clients wouldn’t see a dead cat and get upset. There was a big freezer by the door. I knew what it was for. I asked if we could put Bob in the body bag-that was protocol-a task they would normally do for their clients, but I didn’t think it was right for anyone but Sam or I to handle him.

They brought us a black plastic bag and some tape. We left Bob on his favorite blanket and I kissed him goodbye. Sam slipped his body and the blanket into the bag. I didn’t want to leave his body-I guess that’s pretty sick, but I did not want to let go. It’s our nature to feel this way, I knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier to leave him. I took another deep breath and carefully sealed up the bag. I wrote Bob’s name on the tape and drew hearts on either side of it. I knew they would place his body in the freezer, until the person from the pet crematory arrived to take him after the Labor Day holiday is over.

Bob will come back to me next week, but this time it will be inside a little tin box. I hate those boxes. I have a collection of them now. Each one reminds me of a life lost, of a friend I will never see again.

Robin and Bob.jpg
©2011 Ryan Feminella. This is the only photo of have of me & Bob together. It was taken a few weeks before he died.

My only comfort is knowing that I fought hard for Bob. I didn’t put him down months ago when he was starting to go downhill, I kept fighting for him-for his dignity-for the right to die in a natural way no matter how grueling it was on us and as long as Bob wasn’t in obvious pain. He was a living creature who deserved that basic tenet. Through this experience I’ve learned a lot more about being patient, being gentle with myself and others, and to deeply appreciate the little things. I look around and see my seven cats. This story will be about them, one day, but today we’re all together and we’re all basically fine. We have our obstacles, like anyone else, but maybe now just the fact that Spencer sits beside me washing his face after having his breakfast is just as wonderful as if I won a Lottery. He’s healthy and robust, relaxed and content. This moment is not ignored, it’s quite the opposite. This moment, like each moment today, should be revered because it isn't always going to be like this. I won't always have this moment. I don’t want to look back and realized I didn’t know how much I had, as the saying goes, until it’s gone.

Beautiful Bob.jpg
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Beautiful Bob as he once was.

Bob was a magnificent creature—so perfectly calm, cool and collected with a big, big heart. I never heard him growl. He mooched food off my dinner plate and hated to be picked up, but there was something about him that always made me smile. I was honored to be part of his life and now, his death.

Rest in Peace, Robert J. Dole. Fly free.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: Goodbye, My Love. Part 4 of 5

I offered Bob some treats. He didn’t really want anything. He couldn’t seem to sit normally. He was “meatloafing” and then hung his head. He was sitting in the sun, at least. He wasn’t cold. I moved his bedding around on the floor to make him more comfortable. I offered him a sniff of catnip, but he didn’t notice it any more. I kept checking on him every few minutes. In the afternoon I picked him up and put him on his favorite blanket on the sofa. I rolled one edge up so it could act as a pillow. Bob rested against it, but never really settled down. I sat next to him and jumped, every time he moved. Did he need the litter pan? Did he want water? He was very weak now…where was Sam?

Bob and Nicky the Last Time.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. One of the last times Bob & Nicky had a nap together.

I called Sam, he was on the way home. I told him to hurry. Once he arrived we decided not to leave Bob alone any more. I fed Bob around 5:30pm. He really didn’t want it. I got two syringes into him, but he didn’t want the third. He threw it back up. He hadn’t vomited in months. He was so weak he could barely move. I gave him some water. He was so thirsty. He almost drowned in the bowl. He could barely hold his head up. When he was done, I dried his face and gave him a kiss. I’d been with him all day. I needed a break. At 8 pm I asked Sam to sit with Bob so I could look in on the kittens and get them fed. I sat with them for a little over an hour. I didn’t want to go back downstairs. At 9:15 pm I walked back into the living room. Sam was sitting next to Bob. I asked him how Bob was doing. I looked at Bob and he was lying awkwardly, with his head hanging over the rolled up edge of the blanket. I said something about it to Sam. He thought Bob was too warm. I’d put a heating blanket over Bob and he had gotten out from under it and laid down away from it-more like fallen over.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Growing ever thinner, Bob still enjoys being outside.

I lifted Bob’s head. He was facing away from me. His head was curiously heavy. He wasn’t resisting me at all. I put my index finger near Bob’s open eye. He didn’t blink or react. I could have touched his open eye, but didn’t. Bob was still breathing.

I realized that Bob was in a coma.

He was no longer responsive to our touch. It was time.

All I could say was; “Oh no…!” as the tears began to roll down my cheeks.

Just Bob.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. All of his glamorous fur gone and still losing weight, Bob still had his dignity.

Sam sat on the sofa and I sat on a footstool so I could be just about the same level as Bob. We started to pet him and I talked to him. I told him I loved him. I told him it was okay to go, but that we would miss him for the rest of our lives. I told him to let go. I wanted this over and done, but I didn’t want this to happen at all. I wanted my old Bob back. My fluffy sweetheart who never growled-who everyone loved, but now he was dying in front of me and there was no turning back. I had to stay strong for Bob.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Bob stretched out suddenly and put his front paws together with the paw pads touching. I suddenly smelled feces. Bob was letting go of his bodily functions. We didn’t move to clean him up, we just kept petting him and talking to him. His body was shutting down. This is what happens. We had to stay with it.

Bob’s breath became a struggle for him. He would take in a sharp breath, then let it out raggedly. Each breath was paced further and further apart. Then, Bob stretched out again, his body suddenly relaxing. I realized it was the first time he really looked comfortable in weeks. Then he took another breath…and a few moments later, there were no more.

Bob was gone.

It was 9:53 pm EST. September 3, 2011.

We got some warm water and paper towels. Sam and I washed Bob’s body. I lit a candle. We kept petting him and talking to him as we worked on removing the soil from his body. Though he was gone, it mattered greatly to me, to respect his remains and to treat them with great regard.

When we finished bathing his body and he was in a comfortable position, I tried to close his eyes, but I could not. I looked at his face and he still had that “Puss in Boots” look…emaciated and hollow-eyed, but it was still there. I loved that face more than I can say. I loved that cat more than all the others-even dead, his body growing cold, I was glad to be near him.

We sat with Bob and didn’t say much. After an hour or so I asked Sam to stay with Bob so I could go back upstairs and tuck the kittens in for the night. I walked into the foster room and sat on the edge of the bed. I didn’t want to see these two month old kittens-with their entire lives ahead of them. I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to think about cats. I looked at Amberly and her five kittens and said; “My cat just died.” I hung my head and cried.

Bob on the Bed.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye my sweet friend.

Within seconds, every one of those kittens along with their mother, Amberly, came up to me. They formed a semi-circle around my crossed legs and started to purr. A few reached out their paws and touched me, wanting to be petted. It was if they understood my pain and were trying to comfort me. I told them thank you and gave them some pets, turned off the light and left the room, the tears racing down my face leaving a trail of drops on the floor behind me.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: The Last Day. Part 3 of 5

I couldn’t eat much or sleep. I had a constant knot of fear in my gut. Every morning I wondered if I would find Bob dead. A few mornings ago, I got up and I could not find him. I called to Sam, urging him to come down stairs to help me find Bob. We looked all around the downstairs, searching frantically. We knew Bob could no longer make the trip up to our bedroom, but where was he? I panicked and started to cry. I thought Bob tried to go downstairs to the litter pans-instead of using the one nearby in the kitchen. We found him at the base of the stairs one night, struggling to get back up the steps. I envisioned him lying there, unable to make it back, but he wasn’t there…so I blocked off access to make sure he couldn’t do it again.

Bob and Blitzen.jpg
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Bob.

After 20 minutes, I found him in my office, calmly sitting on a cat bed between two filing cabinets. I was so glad to find him, but knew that one day I would not be so lucky.

I got to a point were I hated to get up in the morning. I dreaded coming down stairs to start my day…to look for Bob—then the relief of finding him still alive. Getting him fresh water for the bowl, scoop the pans, clean up any messes the other cats made, get Bob’s food ready, get Bob fed.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Spencer watch Bob eat in case they can sneak some off his plate.

Some days when the weather was nice, I’d ask Bob if he wanted to “go outside?” He would walk over to the sliding door and I’d let him out onto the deck. I often had a dish of cat grass waiting for him to munch on. Oh how he loved it! Bob couldn’t get out into the yard, but he could enjoy the fresh air and summer sun. It was my dream that if Bob had to die, he would do it on his chaise lounge, on the green cushion, with the sun in the sky and the birds singing sweetly nearby. I knew it was a long shot, but that’s what I wanted for him.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob in his happy place.

Some times Nicky would keep him company and the two would hang out all afternoon. A few days before he died, four crows flew near Bob, cawing wildly. I got up and grabbed Bob, brought him inside. I knew the Crows knew Bob was getting close. I was NOT going to let them NEAR HIM! The next day the same thing happened with a big hawk. It flew past my office window, screaming, flying towards the deck. I got up and saw it swoop over Bob’s head! I ran outside and screamed at it to go away. It flew off, but I knew that it would be back.

Bob never went outside again after that.

The First Time on the Deck in 2009.jpg
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. First time on the deck in 2009.

Bob was so thin. I could see his ribs, all the bones in his spine. He lost the fat padding in his cheeks and around his eye sockets, but he could still walk and still purred a tiny bit and still used the litter pan. He seemed happy after the syringe feeding was over. I would always wash his face and coo and fuss over him, telling him he was a good boy. I wanted him to have some good, after the bad, that even if we had to syringe feed him that something nice would happen when we were done. Some times I brushed him. When he had his full coat-before the ringworm destroyed it, he loved to be brushed. Now I could only brush under his chin and his chest. I used soft bristles on the rest of his body. It was shocking how much fur he was losing now. There was more of his fur on the floor, than on him, but he was still Bob.

Bob and MacGruber.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. MacGruber making friends with Bob.

I got to a point where I wished Bob would die. I hated myself for feeling that way. I couldn’t take the stress any more. Seeing him broke my heart. I couldn’t sleep or eat much. I asked Sam to call Dr. Larry just to find out if we could book an appointment. It was right after the hurricane passed through and they had plenty of openings. We didn’t book a time. I just kept going back to understanding it was my fear motivating me to do this. I had to do the right thing for Bob. Sam and I talked about it all the time. We checked with each other-do we do it now? What about today?

Bob Nora and Nicky.jpg
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob used to be much bigger, but now he is dwarfed by Nora and Nicky-who were his best buddies.

Bob survived the hypo incident, but the next day he was more frail than ever. Sam had to go to NYC to see his Mother. I didn’t want him to leave. He promised to come back as soon as he could. I knew Bob wasn’t going to live much longer. He was just too thin to survive more than a day or two and I was getting ready to call Dr. Larry.

Sweet Dreams.jpg
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and Bob enjoy naptime.

Bob was a bit uncomfortable. He couldn’t walk very far so I brought him water, which he drank and I carried him to the litter pan-and he used it. I washed his feet and I fed him. I kept reminding myself to be GENTLE, to LOVE BOB, to just feel my heart connection to him, despite the anguish of seeing him near death. I had to ride this out with him. These were my last days with him. It was my way of honoring Bob’s life by making sure the end was as good as it could be. Yes, it was KILLING ME inside. My heart was breaking. I took a breath and just looked at Bob. Then, I noticed…one of his pupils was dilated and the other was not. My heart sank. He’d probably had a small stroke. My poor baby. It wasn't going to be much longer.

...end of part 3...

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: Arrogance. Part 2 of 5

I don’t like to get into a discussion about religion, but I have to admit that if I hadn’t spent a few years taking classes in Shambhala Buddhism (a Tibetan form of Buddhism) and taking Refuge as a Buddhist, I never could have handled this situation as I did. I kept reminding myself things that I learned-that it was MY FEAR of watching Bob die that upset me so much. That it was MY FEAR that made me want to call my Vet and have him come over and put Bob to sleep to stop MY SUFFERING over seeing him decline. I didn’t want to witness these last days. I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to see my once beautiful Maine Coon, fade away into a walking skeleton, with barely a tuft of fur left on his body.

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©2005 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob has a bath, while still living at my Mother's house.

But I didn’t run.

I stayed put. I did Tonglen. I focused on Bob. I took joy in little things—his interest in eating a bit of baby food, watching his cute, soft tongue gently lap at the plate. He’d often turn his head away when I brought him a snack. He’d rarely eat much of anything on his own. I’d warm the food, I’d sprinkle treats on it. I’d rub a bit on his gums, to get him to taste it. I’d see something spark behind his eyes for a moment, then, he’d suddenly eat a bit while my other cats circled him, hoping to get a bite of that treat, too. I had to stand near Bob with a broom, to keep the cats away. Towards the end, I just held the plate in my hands-an offering to my friend, hoping he would take another mouthful. “Each bite is a victory for you, Bob” I’d say. “Eat up, Baba-D! Good boy!”

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob's favorite place-outside on the deck.

Some times Bob would purr. When he was well, he purred every time we fed him. I found it so endearing. He and Spencer would sit side by side, in the doorway of the kitchen, patiently waiting for breakfast to be served. Spencer got served first, then Bob, then, the others. They’d all go to “their place” and we’d present each cat with a ceramic dish, a dollop of raw food on top. Bob would go to his plate and eat it right up. Some times I had to sprinkle bonito flakes or dehydrated chicken to help him find the scent of the food. He would purr and purr while he ate. I loved that sound. I recorded him purring one night last December. You can hear his “burbling purr” below.

[swf file="Bob_Purring.mp3"]

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob & Nora were very close pals.

With my friend Jennifer’s help, I was able to learn how to home test Bob’s blood sugar. She left me with some tools so I could do it myself. We never got his blood sugar to a normal level-it was very high. I started him on insulin, but I was arrogant thinking I didn’t have to watch his blood sugar values. I was too scared to try to test Bob’s blood, so I just watched him. He was doing ok, but drinking a lot of water-a big sign of a diabetic issue, but he had so many other problems, I could never truly be sure. I made a big mistake. I thought Bob might need more insulin and I gave him a few drops more. In a few days he was doing very very badly. His fur was falling out, he could barely walk, he was emaciated.

I got up the nerve to test his blood sugar. It was 32. He was having hypoglycemic attack and could have a seizure and die at any moment. How could I have done this to my cat?! I called Jennifer about 10 times. She helped guide me through the process of getting Bob’s blood sugar to rise. We gave him kayro syrup. I checked his blood sugar again. I HATED doing it because Bob was so frail, I couldn’t easily get blood from his ears. I had to poke him with the lancet over and over again. I cried. I fumed. I cussed! I HAD to do this. I kept saying I was sorry to Bob. He sat there and didn’t fuss. He was always a good boy.

©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. No greenery was safe around Bob. Not even this lavendar plant-which I had to take away from him after shooting this photo.

Over two hours of small meals every five minutes, some laced with more kayro syrup, Bob’s blood sugar rose from 32 to 41, then fell to 36, then came back up to 78, then down to 70. Bob felt well enough to wobble-walk around the living room. He used the corrugated cat scratchers on the floor. He had a drink of water. He used the litter pan, but had the runs-most likely from all the sugar we’d given him...but he was doing a bit better.

Bob and Nicky on the Deck.jpg
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Nicky & Bob help me write my Blog in 2008.

His left rear foot was raw and red. We had to keep it clean and free from litter. I would carefully swab between his toes with a Q-tip. I used calendula cream to soothe his skin. Some times we had to fill a small container with warm water and a special cat shampoo to soak Bob’s paws. Some times he cried a bit, but he had started to limp a little and we need we had to help him stay comfortable.

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Who's my buddy?!

It was a battle every day for a few weeks; making sure I got up early so Bob would be fed. I had to get out fresh water for his bowl because he liked to have a drink in the morning. I kept the litter pan he used spotlessly clean-I scooped it about 5 or more times a day. I kept a schedule of when Bob should be fed. Sam and I took turns or mostly I fed Bob while Sam held and soothed him.

...end of part two...

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: Letting Go. Part 1 of 5

As you may know, a few days ago, on September 3, 2011, my dear cat, Bob Dole passed away. This is the unvarnished record of the last days of Bob’s life. It includes a description of Bob’s last moments. While difficult to write, and to read, I felt it was my duty to close this chapter with a brave heart, not to whitewash it or make it more palatable. This is life and this is death.

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©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob comes to live with me in 2006.

Less than a month ago, I noticed Bob was getting dramatically thinner. We ended up taking him to the oncologist where they did $1600.00 of tests and told us that Bob’s hepatic cancer was back in what remained of his liver, that the small-t cell lymphoma was getting worse, that his pancreas was probably involved and that he was also diabetic with a blood glucose of 500-onset from steroids used to treat the cancer.

It was determined that chemo was not working any longer and that no further treatments were recommended. It was time to let Bob go. We could take him home and care for him or put him down. It was time.

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©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob and Nicky are fast friends.

I got sick to my stomach. My head ached. I cried when I looked at Bob. At first, we chose to euthanize him in a few days, but after spending time with Bob and having many conversations, we made a difficult choice-to provide him with palliative care-simply feed him, keep him clean and comfortable and let him go on his terms, at his time. We knew this would not be an easy road, but since Bob was diagnosed with cancer last December, it’s been tough. Nothing new here. It was a crap shoot doing this. I risked Bob passing in a lot of pain. I risked that if we needed Dr. Larry, that we could not get him here because it would be late at night or a weekend---or during Hurricane Irene. Yet, we OWED it to Bob, to give him the dignity to live those last days on his terms, not on ours. It is part of nature for ALL of us to slowly fade away, from the moment we are born. To prematurely interrupt that process because we are afraid of seeing what will happen next, is not something I could accept doing to Bob.

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©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob loved to straddle the top of my Mother's old recliner.

I began to pay even closer attention to Bob’s every move. Was he eating? Sometimes, but not enough. I had to learn how to syringe feed him. This was very difficult-from an emotional standpoint. Here I was FORCING Bob to eat, when he clearly didn’t love being fed this way. I had to struggle with him. It made a mess. When I prepared his food, it had to be in a slurry. Too thin and it would drip out of the bird feeder size syringes-too thick and it would be tough for him to swallow and he’d protest by lifting his paw to push me away. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too hot-or too cold. I added baby food to give him more potassium. I added a bit of tuna water or even blended raw chicken liver so it might taste better and so I could get more nutrition into him.

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob just plowed over any cat that might be in his path. Here Nora is getting squashed.

It was a struggle, not just with Bob, but with myself. I knew if I stopped feeding him, Bob would die. I knew if I kept going, was I just forcing Bob to live unnaturally? How could I live with myself if I just watched Bob starve to death? Yet, he was getting thinner and thinner no matter what I did. Every day I was shocked to my core at the sight of him. I couldn’t believe he could get so thin. We were feeding him every 4 or 5 hours with small offerings between that. It was exhausting, but it had to be done.

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, Spencer, Nicky, Gracie & Petunia (and me under the covers).

Then, I came to a painful realization. Bob had been getting very low carbohydrate food. It was to keep from giving the cancer something to thrive on, but what I didn’t understand is that it was also probably keeping Bob from keeping any weight on his bones and it was keeping his blood sugar low-maybe too low! I was starving him and I didn’t even know it. Did you know that there is some sort of regulation that PREVENTS pet food company’s from listing carbohydrate values on their labels! You have to do math to figure it out. Why do they do this? To disguise the crap they put in food-you think you’re buying high quality stuff, but if it’s full of carbs, it’s going to be BAD for your cat. Dry food is the worst-even high quality brands-it’s VERY high in carbs and for a protein hungry, obligate CARNIVORE, it’s not appropriate…but Bob DID need SOME carbs in his diet, so I got something else to feed him to see if that would help.

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©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Home from being hospitalized for two weeks in 2008, battling Pancreatitis, Bob finally has his moment in the sun.

Every day I asked myself; “Is it time? Is he telling me he’s ready? Should I just put him down?”

...end of part one...

The Angel Babies

I know a lot of people who rescue cats and they often say to me that they think they're cat magnets because cats who need help, always seem to find them. My friend, Izzy, is one such person and recently she had to take quick action to save the lives of helpless neonatal kittens.

Izzy and her husband, Mark were helping bring in hay at the boarding farm where they keep their horses. While they were there she found out something that was was both heartbreaking and a true emergency.

At the boarding farm there was a tractor shed on the property. The owner found 5 newborn kittens without their mother. The owner figured the mama would come back, so she didn't worry about it. She checked on the kittens the next day, but no mama. For two days the kittens were left alone, not fed or kept warm. At less then a week old, without urgent care these kittens would perish.

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©2011 Isilwath. Izzy smartly used an insulated thermal bag to help keep the kittens warm. One of the MOST important things you need to provide to very young kittens is warmth.

She mentioned her find to her next door neighbor who said he'd shot and killed a white cat in his yard, worried she'd kill his ducklings. Without pity or concern, he ended her life, not realizing he may have also just ended the lives of five little kittens, as well.

The owner moved the kittens to her stable, hoping another feral mama would find them and care for the three boys and two little girls, but no help arrived...until Izzy got there.

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©2011 Isilwath. Some of the Angel Babies.

Now Izzy has a few, ah cats, dogs, horses...well more than you can count on your fingers and maybe toes, so Izzy knows how to care for animals, but she's got her hands full already. She didn't bat an eye, or try to get out of helping these babies. One look at them and she was smitten. Each delicate creature was snow white, but by some comedic genetic twist, all but one has at least one black dot on their head. It's as if a cosmic force anointed them, marking them as ones to be saved. Izzy knew she had to move quickly, so she took the kittens and got them home where she began the difficult task of trying to warm them up get them FED. Time was of the essence!

©2011 Isilwath. Jazz.

Izzy and her husband, Mark, also a dedicated animal rescuer, helped tend to the kittens. The phone rang. It was the owner of the farm. They found a sixth kitten. He, too, looked like the others, but was strangely about a week older. He was alone and crying. Mark drove back to get him. They weren't going to turn their backs on kittens in such dire circumstances. The kitten was sick and probably starved. They put him in with the others, hoping for the best.

©2011 Isilwath. Vash.

It was touch and go for a few long days. Izzy and Mark took turns feeding and helping the kittens void their bladder and bowels. At that age, the kittens can't even do that without help. It's a very difficult thing to do TIMES SIX. Every few hours the kittens were fed, cleaned, loved. Now was the time to pray and hope that they weren't too late, at least for some of them.

©2011 Isilwath. Princess.

It's been two weeks and the kittens have survived so far. Each day they live is a big success for Izzy and Mark. They decided it was ok to go ahead and name the kittens.

Their names are:

Justin - older kitten - two gray spots on his head
Shiro - all white female
Princess - white female with two very small gray spots on her head
Screamer - little male with a black spot on his head
Jazz - little male with a large gray spot on his head
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©2011 Isilwath. Screamer.

©2011 Isilwath. Watch Izzy manage feeding six HUNGRY kittens!

They're squirming and crying and eating and doing all the things little kittens should do. Two of Izzy & Mark's own cats, have become surrogate mothers to the little ones, offering their own warmth and companionship, (though since they're spayed-no milk) that the kittens so desperately need. It's as if they knew, too, that these little angels needed them.

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©2011 Isilwath. Cee Cee with her foster babies.

But what happens next? Izzy and Mark don't live in a big metropolitan area full of potential adoptesr and don't have resources to home so many kittens. Well, that's where I stepped in. I told Izzy I had her back. I didn't want her to fear having six extra cats. Even though I'll have Amberly and her five kittens by then, I'll find a room for these angel babies. I'm just part of the team that's going to get them to their forever homes. We're trying to right a heartbreaking wrong and perhaps in getting these kittens strong and adopted into great homes, we're honoring the spirit of their Mother, who truly is an angel now.

©2011 Isilwath. Sophie, one of Izzy & Mark's cats, helps with motherly duties when it comes to giving Justin a bath.


Can you help provide a small donation so we can pay for the Angel babies vet care? Your donation is Tax Deductible as the money goes to my 501(c)3 Non-Profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, Inc.

You can use the ChipIn widget, above or mail a check to:

Kitten Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470. (make check out to: Kitten Associates and note "Angel Babies" on your check)

The kittens will need shots, to be spayed or neutered and microchipped. It's about $85/cat to do it here in CT, so we're just asking for the basics. If you can help, great! If not, you can help by sharing this with your friends. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Making Friends with Death

Our society has such an aversion to death. We don't want to talk about it, let alone, acknowledge it happens. If we can talk about it, it happens to other people, not us. We're fixated on making ourselves appear younger, shooting our faces full of botulism, getting lip injections, face lifts, hair transplants, in an ever more desperate attempt to cover up that we are, with every moment that ticks by, one step closer to “The Big Sleep.”

In the early 1900's people held funerals in their own home, in the parlour, the fanciest room in the house. It was reserved for only the most special occasions, like the death of a loved one or a wedding. I have to wonder if solemn, it was also dignified and beautiful to have this ceremony in the most uplifted space a family could provide. Nowadays, we run off to a funeral home, they touch “the body,” they prepare it for burial or cremation, they provide the space to have a service for a few hours or days. There is an aseptic quality to death. Someone else deals with the “gorey” details. We bring the checkbook and the tissues while our loved one is hidden away in a refrigerated compartment.

I'm not making a judgment, rather an observation. I ask that we take a moment to think about death, which in turn, asks us to think about life. How do we want to live our life so that when we die, we die with dignity, in a beautiful setting, with peace, instead of being surrounded by hysteria? How do we look death in the eye and make friends? How do we find a way to watch our loved ones with terminal illness, weaken and die, knowing there is no pill to fix this situation. There is no bargain to be made. I think somewhere in that is the key-there is nothing you can do sometimes, but to bear witness, provide loving compassion, then let go. Stop clinging to what you can do nothing about.

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©1990 Judith K Feminella. Daddy with Blue, the cat.

Originally this topic was on my mind because June was approaching. I hate June. I hate it. June is not wedding month for me. It's “death month” in my family. My father took his own life on June 27, 1999. A few years later, two of my cats died in June and over the years there have been other losses during this month. When June arrives, I duck my head under the covers until July.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Sammy needs a rescue. Read his back story HERE

The other reason I was thinking about death is because of Big O. Big O was one of Kitten Associates' first rescues from Georgia. Big was kicked outdoors when his owner died. Big was declawed and thin, kicked and teased by the neighborhood kids. Mary Jo, a kind-hearted cat rescuer in Georgia, took him in, then started to look for a home for the cat who was called, Sammy, back then.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Big O just after he arrived in Connie's home.

It was early September 2010. I had just gotten Kitten Associates off the ground. I wrote about Sammy's plight, hoping to find a rescue to help him. I got more than that. I found an adopter. My own friend, Connie, who is passionate about helping every cat she meets. Connie has a few...cough...cats. She read about Sammy and decided to adopt him in honor of Lion King, a cat she had lost a few weeks prior. She didn't care what shape Sammy was in or what he needed. She knew whatever it was, she would take care of the problem.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Only the best for Big O!

When Sammy arrived, we had already been calling him by his nickname, Big O (for Big Orange, not big you-know-what). Big had a big personality. He liked to talk and boss the other cats around. His tail was badly damaged by some sort of abuse so it had to be removed. He had hyperthyroid, so Connie took him to RadioCat to have his thyroid zapped with radiation to cure the problem.

Big O had a benign growth on his foot. She had it surgically removed so he would be comfortable.

Big peed all over her house after a few months, then focused on peeing on some furniture, ruining it. Connie was frustrated, but never gave up. We often tried to joke about our cats peeing issues. Connie tried to find out what was wrong with Big O by taking him to the Vet for more tests. They found nothing. Meanwhile, Big started to lose weight, but no amount of food would bring it back.

Yesterday morning, Connie discovered a huge pool of bloody vomit near Big O's bed. She knew he was in crisis and got him to the Vet. They took an x-ray. His abdomen was filled with fluid, obscuring the tumor they suspected was there. Big O, now just a few pounds in weight, was going to die. Connie wanted him to go home to live out whatever time he had left.

I went to see Big O last night. Connie warned me he wasn't doing well at all. When I first saw him, all I saw was orange fur. His body was mostly obscured by the bright green grass in Connie's back yard. Big O was laying flat, his eyes open, his breathing slow and regular. It was a warm day. I remarked at how all my cats were flat, too, not wanting to be completely hopeless for a few minutes more. Death was nearby. We all knew it. I felt like I was on a roller coaster. The car was traveling up the steep rise on the track. I felt my insides tense up, knowing I was about to go over the edge-not wanting to fall-not wanting to feel that sharp fear of facing something that terrifies me.

Big O got up a few times, clearly using everything he had to try to hide under the bushes or under the deck. I wouldn't let him. Instead, I bent down and gingerly lifted him up. There was nothing to him. He was skin and bones. He didn't resist. He basically fell over when I put him down. I'd been crying a lot since I first saw him, but now I needed to stop. I needed to face this for Big O's sake, if not my own.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Big O rests on my leg last night. He had the softest, nicest fur.

So I sat with him while Connie tended to her other cats. I did a Buddhist practice called Tonglen. It was very hard to do, but the more I did it, the more relaxed I felt. I allowed my feelings to drop away and just focused on Big O. Focused on being there for him, being calm and peaceful. If it was his time to go, then he would die with as much dignity and love as possible. I wanted him to have a good death. He deserved nothing less.

It was too late to go the Vet, anyway, better to let Big O enjoy being outside. In a way, I wish he could have passed then and there, but in my own fear and my own desire to make it better, I suggested we syringe feed him some water and food. Although Big O perked up after that and we both felt a little bit more hopeful, last night things got much worse. Big O vomited a lot more blood and hid behind the toilet. He wanted to die alone, but Connie wanted to be with him, staying close to him until the morning came.

Connie drove Big O to her Vet this morning. He sat quietly in her lap during the drive. Normally he'd make a big fuss. A few minutes after arriving at the Vet, Big O was humanely euthanized. Connie did the right thing. She stayed on the roller coaster, riding the fear and sadness, then did what needed to be done. She wished Big could have passed at home, but he was in too much agony. It wasn't fair to him. Most of his life wasn't fair, but in the end Big O knew great love and care and is at peace. Sadly, we are far from it.

I'd like to say I've made friends with Death. I know the grim reaper lurks out there, lightly touching the next to go on the shoulder. He whispers; “It's time.” They leave sweetly and with love. I wish that was the case, but frankly it doesn't work that way. I can't do it. I still want to kick Death in the ass. He took a great cat to the Rainbow Bridge, one who deserved more time with those of us who loved him.

So Death, you can suck it. The month of June can rot. Big O fly free and go with love.

On My Watch...Another Senseless Loss.

We didn't make it happen for these kittens. Now they are gone. Lost to us forever. They only knew life in a cage with newspaper for a bed. They never knew the comfort of a soft blanket or the loving gift of a forever home.
I couldn't act fast enough to help these kittens. They started to get sick so they were euthanized. HCC&C has no ability to deal with sick animals so they get put down.

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It is my fault they died. I was dragging my feet, hoping a bigger rescue group could have taken them in because I am full up and have no funds. I can make every excuse I want to, but in the end, the kittens lost out. I can't tell you how bad I felt, because the call I originally planned to make was to tell the Kennel Master to pull the kittens and that I HAD worked out a way to rescue them!!! I was all ready to go. Everything was in place. I stupidly thought I had today to get it worked out and I was wrong.

It's one thing to take the wrong exit off the highway-usually no one dies is you mess up. I know it's not my responsibility to rescue every kitten from Henry who needs it, but it doesn't stop my from trying! In fact, a Mama and her two newborns were also put down. I could not help them, either.

I can't bear this. It is so heartbreaking. When I spoke to Robin, the Kennel Master, I could hear the pain in her voice. She had to make the choice to kill these creatures and I know she did not take that decision lightly. I wish I could help her so she never has to make this choice again. I offered to help the next litter she gets and I told her some good news about the cats I've already rescued from her-to soften the blow of the cruel part of her job. As much as it is easy to hate someone for doing this as a job-we have to remember she tries so very hard to save them, but like me, her hands are tied as to how much just one person can do.

The tears that fall down my cheek, as I write this, are dedicated to the four little kittens, above. They mattered to me, and to so many of you. Their life was not for nothing. Though they are gone, we memorialize them here and pay them our respects and send them our love. I hope they look down on me from the Rainbow Bridge and find a way to forgive me for messing it up for them. I am so very sorry.

Another One Lost to Us Forever

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Rest in peace, sweet angel.

Jill had a seizure today. Was it due to her poor body condition? She was skin and bones, after all. She was abandoned by her owner when she moved away. The woman's roomate gave her up to Henry County-just passing off what she considered a inconvenience...a the County.

Since Jill was emaciated, it's very likely no one even bothered to feed her for a long time, or fed her food that wasn't appropriate for a cat. Perhaps Jill had an underlying problem that was amplified by lack of nutrition or perhaps Jill was a senior cat. We will never know the cause. We will never know more than she did not recover after her seizure. Since there is no Vet on staff, nor money to get her to a Vet, she was euthanized.

Could she have been saved? I don't honestly know. I know that even in her last day, Betsy remarked that she LOVED this girl and that this pretty tux was very loving right back to her. Is it some comfort to us to know this? I'm not even sure it is.

Anyone who reads this blog, probably loves cats dearly and we would easily agree that this cat, like so many others, is not trash to be tossed to the curb and left to slowly die. She knew love from Betsy and the other volunteers at the Shelter, but their hands are often tied. There is little they can do. They have no money for flea treatments, and barely any for food or litter, how can they afford Vet care that we take for granted?

I'm so sorry to tell you all this sad news after we just enjoyed a happy ending for KoKo-now Sophie, but we all know that this is the fate more often than not, of most cats who are taken to municipal shelters.

...and until we can find a solution, there will be more sad stories to come.


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