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NEFHS Conference

I'm sitting in my hotel room at the Crown Plaza in Worcester, MA. after attending most of The New England Federation of Humane Societies Conference (say that five times fast). The hotel appears to be located in the center part of town, right next to some glorious old churches and WPA era buildings. My GPS didn't seem to know exactly where this hotel was so I had a not-too-thrilling-drive around town late Saturday night. Needless to say, there are some parts of town that don't appear to be places where one wants to drive a BMW. Our building is newish (less than 100 years old) and I'm sorry to say a bit creepy-okay, a lot creepy.

I was trying to figure out how to explain the decor. In the “common” areas, no pun intended, it appears that someone went to an auction of many hotels that were closing and bought up everything they could. The range of styles of furnishings is from 1970's dreck to 1990's faux antiquey. There are brown upholstered lobby chairs that look innocent enough, until you foolishly try to sit in one of them, at which point your buttocks is squeezed like a tube of cake decorating icing, then squirted into a vortex that drags you downward to the ground. They're VERY tough to “de-chair” without first having to roll to the floor, as though you're on fire and attempting to “stop, drop and roll” yourself to safety, after which you quickly stand up, brush yourself off and try to appear normal.

I know I should talk about what I learned at the conference, but the scent of lye? soap? was so strong in the hallways and guest rooms that it seared my sinuses a bit and caused me run to the window to crank it open to gasp a gulpful of freshish air.

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The rooms have been updated and they are relatively nice. The caveat is the fabric wall paper behind the bed NEEDS TO BE VACUUMED! It's covered with dust. I can see where the wall was wiped down and where it was not. It would be a very bad choice for someone with cats. That is for sure.


I'm trying not to write a whiney beyatchy review, but I believe that the crunky location, the equally crunky, err, dreadful food, the overly lit lighting and the overly warm conference rooms, just left me feeling drained and gassy (no meat for us meat eatin' folks and all dem healthy veggies go straight to “fumes.”). I also couldn't help but compare it to BlogPaws, which was a lot of FUN, high energy, a great location and good food.

Maybe that was the problem? It was the energy of the folks at the Conference? Yes, I should blame myself first, so blame me, but then blame..what was going on? I did not feel the warm welcome or the general friendliness I've felt at other conferences.

I took classes on Infectious Diseases, Working with Adopters, Social Media for Shelters, and got to see this new way to quickly socialize feral kittens. It ONLY takes a few HOURS. I'm somewhat suspect of this procedure, but it sure seems to work. I'm going to plug it so you can check it out. Fearful to Friendly. While I feel the author is on to something, I do warn you that the web site is not too informational and it points to buying a DVD. We saw some of it, and with all due respect, it's rather long and needs some editing. If you can glean the info from it with the soundtrack turned off, you're golden. I think there is valuable info there, but I would love it if it could be presented more succinctly and professionally. That said, if you can turn a kitten or cat or dog around really fast, it's worth the money and the tedious sound track.

I also learned that I'm basically f-cked. Between having coccidia and ringworm in my house, the only way to get rid of it is really to BURN the house to the ground. The ringworm will live on in HAIR for YEARS and the coccidia is not killable, if that is a word. I'm not going to get my panties in a bundle about it. It's too late. What is done is done. My cats, knock wood, are fine, but the next litter of fosters I get will be the test subjects. They say to treat the kittens for Coccidia if we had it in the foster rooms, but I am reluctant to medicate kittens unless they really need it.

I also learned to listen more to potential adopters, to not judge them first (yeah, like I'm going to be able to do that!) and speak less AND that for a few bucks, I can drive a mile and get a really BIG grilled cheese with HAM sandwich.

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The Boulevard Diner, Worcester, MA


I'm looking forward to going home and getting ready to FINALLY get my hands on some new fosters! (crossing fingers)

Foster Cat Journal: Winners and Losers

I made the call last night at 5:25pm and spoke with the adopter. I was so nervous, that I ended up just reading off my typed up script. I got to the point of asking to return the cats and I heard the adopter telling his wife “she wants the cats back.” After that point, there wasn't much more to add. I offered to return their adoption fee and to waive any future fees if they wanted to adopt more healthy cats, since it is not our policy to adopt out sick cats in the first place. The adopter said he would call me back.

So I waited.

I didn't let the phone out of my sight. I even did things, thinking it would make the phone ring. Back “in the day” we used to light up a ciggy at a restaurant to make the waiter appear with our food. Nothing helped. The phone didn't ring. I checked my email over and over. Nothing but emails from friends concerned about what was going on.

I tried to second guess what would happen. I tried to be positive that I would get the cats back, though the more time passed, the more I felt it was unlikely that I would get the result I was hoping for.

I went to bed. Little Blitzen sleeps between us now, right next to my pillow. His purr is so loud it fills the room. Spencer and Nicky were at the foot of the bed. While there wasn't much room for us, it was comforting to be surrounded by them. I passed another restless night, wondering if the phone was ever going to ring.

This morning, just about 10:00 am, I got an email. It was a long, clearly written statement, point by point going over the reason why the family was not willing to return the kittens to The Animal Center at this time. It was obvious from what was said that even though I did not say ANYTHING even close to suggesting that the family was neglecting or harming the kittens, that indeed, that's how they heard what I said. As I read their points, it was clear that they are determined to provide an excellent home for the cats. Perhaps my asking for the cats back, caused them to take notice that they DO need more than they are being provided?

Instead of getting into an email war, I called the adopter. If yesterday was tough, today was worse. I told him right off the bat that my request was in no way directed to them, as a family, and that if nothing else, I wanted him to understand that this is about my making a mistake, not what they are doing (unless they let them outdoors!). After that I could tell that any stress or animosity between us was gone. I told him that while I respected his decision that I would still like to request that he make a few small changes. He was willing to listen, so I asked him to move the cat bowls away from the cat litter, to make sure Donner goes to the Vet to be checked out and that if it wasn't being too pushy, that I had some toys for the cats that I wanted to drop off.

He thanked me for the suggestions and welcomed me to stop by and drop off the toys. He said he wanted to keep an open line of communication and I offered to be of any help at any time he needs it.

Considering how badly this could have gone, starting up some sort of legal trouble or very bad blood, it was a small success. I didn't get the kittens back, but I do feel a bit better that they are going to get better care. I will also know that they'll have a lot more toys and a cardboard scratching pad and I have to be okay with that. I'll drop those things off later today.

I shed more tears after I got off the phone, but it's done now. I did as much as I could. I made my points clear with them and I heard their concerns and got assurances that they would be taking great care of the cats. I also got permission from my Director to do home visits, as I deem necessary. I believe this will help me a lot moving forward. It just won't do much to stop me from looking back on this with regret and some embarrassment or shame over my own stupidity.

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Donner and Me. Taken before she was adopted (©2010 photo by Ryan Feminella).

In the end, I can't say there was a clear winner or loser or if that even matters. It's all about the cats-always. If this family is determined to provide a good home for the kittens, that's all I can ask. Maybe having their reassurance is enough? Okay, that and moving the litter pan away from the food bowls!

Foster Cat Journal: Throbbing Headache Tuesday

I feel like my head is going to explode. The stress from worrying about making “the phone call” to try to get Donner & Dancer back has really gotten to me.

Last night I had a shot of brandy, which didn't do a thing to help calm my nerves and I'm not much of a drinker-fyi. I had another fitful night sleep, complete with nightmares. Once again I was living in a dumpy apartment and I had to get into the elevator to get out of the building. A few weeks ago I had another dream about an elevator where it would change shape and become very small in size, so small that my claustrophobia really kicked into gear-setting me into a panic. Or I'd have to fit into a tiny space if I wanted to get from one place to another. It was Alice in Wonderland, from Hell.

I did make the call and spoke to the adopter. He was on a conference call and I asked when I could call him back and he told me “after 5pm.” So, I gotta wait. I've tried to do some work, but working on a Powerpoint presentation is not my idea of soothing my nerves. I spoke to Sam, I spoke to some of you guys, I wrote down what I was going to say, like a script, so I would stay on track.

I spoke with Dr. Larry and he told me that ringworm was far more serious than I thought it was and that he would support me if the adopters call him about it, my Director told me and Dr. Larry told me, to prepare for them getting really angry with me and to not let me have the kittens back. I completely understand that and I feel terrible about this, but my goal is that this is in the best interest of the kittens. It's not about anyone being a bad person. I made a mistake. I'm trying to correct it. If I can't, then I can't. If I can, I am gonna RUN over there and get the cats.

Thank you to everyone for all your support and kind words. It's interesting to me that if I had not posted anything about this, I might have found a way to be quietly ashamed of myself and not called these people up and had this difficult conversation. You guys keep me honest. You know I need to do this and you're paying attention, even sending me emails asking me if I called yet! Is that a good thing? I think so.

Maybe I'll go on a diet next. I could use some help in that area, too.

Foster Cat Journal: My Last Hope

I spoke with my Director and she supports me moving forward however I see fit. The problem for me is that I have to do this and of course I do. I can't ask others to do something difficult for me or on my behalf. I made this poor choice and I have one last shot at finding a way to convince these adopters to give Donner and Dancer back to me so I can re-home them.

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©2010 Ryan C. Feminella

This photo was taken on Friday. It's the only photo I have of Donner's face. She looks so sad. I hate seeing her wear a collar. In another photo I can see her food bowls right next to her litter pan!!!!! Not good.

My only hope is that I can find the right words to say that do not insult this family, but help them understand that I made a mistake placing the cats with them and that in the cats best interest, they should be returned to me.

The one tiny thing that could help is that I noticed, it looks like Donner has ringworm on her head!!! Though these folks were not bothered by ringworm cropping up, this does give me a reason to contact them and hopefully reinforce that these cats NEED better care and Donner must get to the Vet, if nothing else.

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There's little else I can do. Legally, I can't force them to do anything. I won't lie to them. I have to just appeal to them and hope they will find a way to forgive me for causing them any distress and to understand that people make mistakes and maybe they will let me take the cats back? It's a long shot, but it's my last hope.

I will risk getting called all sorts of names, humiliate myself, whatever I have to do. Maybe it will work? I hope I find the perfect words to say to convince them. If I can't, I have to find a way to live with this.

I don't know how I will.

Foster Cat Journal: Creeping Crud

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At almost four months of age, Blitzen is looking like a proper kitty now.

After a long, miserable night, spent mostly with food poisoning and an empty bed, I managed to get up another day and begin the usual rounds of caring for the cats. Tomorrow Blitzen is slated to be neutered. I called the Vet to double check that it was still all right to bring him, bearing in mind he has something on his head that is...I'm not supposed to make a diagnosis to this Vet,'s RINGWORM, OK?

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It's hard to hold a wiggly kitten still long enough to look and my close-up vision ain't what it used to be. It wasn't until I looked at the photos that I could see just how bad things were looking.

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You tell me that's not ringworm!

There's the telltale crust. It's gotta be ringworm. I've been treating it topically, but I wonder if I should do more? I guess I can wait until the Vet sees him tomorrow. Of the 4 kittens, he was the sickest, the longest, so it's not a complete surprise, what? What about his siblings? He's going to have to be with me another few weeks. There is no where to quarantine him too. Everyone has been exposed. I'm in full “fuck-it” mode about this ringworm nightmare.

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Sick or not, I've really fallen for this little guy. I'm not sure I can part with him. Maybe I'm willing him to stay here and he's responding by getting sick again? Sure. I have super powers. Why can't I have the super power that wins me a huge lottery payout?

I'd settle for super powers that make Blitzen be the last cat (or PERSON) I EVER see with RINGWORM!

Foster Cat Journal: That Sinking Feeling

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I do the best I can. Maybe it's not enough. Certainly I'm flawed in how I deal with things. It's part of the human condition-that old clichè that no one is perfect.

March is just about here and I thought that perhaps in a week, all the fosters would be ready to go on Petfinder-the process of finding them homes would finally begin. Now that Blitzen probably has ringworm, all my plans are tossed in the wind. The balance of keeping them here until I'm sure they're healthy vs. the ticking clock, is a losing one. The older they get, the less chance they'll have of finding a home.

Cupid has been going crazy being confined. After three long weeks and her nightly rants-usually around 2 AM and 5 AM, where she'll start to cry and bang on the door to be let out test my patience. One morning, I was so angry I burst in the room and yelled, shoving her with my foot. I didn't hurt her, merely scared her, but it scared me, too. I think we're all tired.

I let her out the next day. Enough is enough. Quarantining her from the kittens didn't help keep them from getting the ringworm. No big surprise. I couldn't see the how it would help to keep her locked up any longer.

The big reunion didn't go as hoped. The kittens, their tails up high, ran to their Mother, eagerly sniffing her. She grabbed one and bit down on it, wrestled it to the ground and started to bunny-kick it. This was not play time. This was serious. Long gone are the days of Motherly love. I stopped her from doing more harm, but she continued to do it to the others.

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I don't know enough about the Mother-Offspring relationship after the Mother has long since been spayed. I give her short time periods to run around with the kittens and if she gets out of hand, I put her back in seclusion. Again, the balance tips...trying to find a way for everyone to be comfortable and happy together.

Along this bumpy road, the balance has been tipped in my relationship with Sam, too. Today, out of the blue, he came down hard on me about something that didn't warrant such a harsh reaction. Apparently, I was supposed to know that whatever upset him, was not about the incident, itself, but from 17 years of other things that I can't quite understand.

I'm not asking anyone to take sides. I don't know who is right or wrong or if it matters any more. I just felt beat down and tired and done. I put my engagement ring back in its' box and left it by Sam's side of the bed. Is this it? I don't know.

All I know is that life is a struggle to seek “smooth sailing”-that perfect place where things are all right and everyone is happy. Thing is, maybe it's all just a struggle with no happy ending? Learning how to accept that...maybe that's what matters?

Foster Cat Journal: $#!@$!!!!

I was just thinking about this blog post. How I was going to write that this is it. In a few days, I can start putting some of the fosters up for adoption. FINALLY! We have an adoption event coming up on March 6th. Perfect!

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About 5 minutes after I took this photo of me with Blitzen, I thought I would check on this bloody scratch I found on his head a few days ago. I couldn't really see it, but it felt crusty. My heart sank.

I got Sam to hold Blitz for me so I could look with a magnifying lens. Yeah, looked ringwormy. Then I got out my black light and looked again. I think it was florescing green-the telltale sign but his tear ducts looked a bit green, too.

So tomorrow I'll see if I can get the little bugger over to see Dr. Larry. If it IS ringworm, I can probably kiss any hope of getting this kittens adopted before they are adults, out the window. At almost three months off schedule, this is just killing me to have them here this long.

Oh well. Not like this is all that surprising. What I'm waiting for is for ME to get it. I predict I will get a big BALD ringworm lesion on my head just around my birthday in April and my trip to attend BlogPaws. Just you wait. I said it here, first!

Foster Cat Journal: Week Three-Cupid Confined

It's tough on Cupid being confined and it's tough on me because I've got to spend time with her every day to keep her from going crazy. I know she's lonely and bored. The hour or more we spend together-spread out across the day in short play-periods, is something, but not enough. I can't wait for this to be over. I'm sure she would agree.


Still waiting for that darn ringworm to GO AWAY! Looking pretty as ever, during the process, of course.

The ringworm hasn't spread, KNOOCK WOOD, to any other part of her body, nor has is spread, KNOCOK WOOD AGAIN, to ANY of the kittens, myself, Sam or our cats. So far, so good.

Next week ends four weeks confined. At that time, I'm going to beg Dr. Larry to give me the go-ahead to free her from the bathroom. I wonder how she'll be with her kittens after such a long separation? Her mammary glands are finally flat and normal again and her spay surgery wound is healed and barely visible. Cupid's put on a few POUNDS and looks terrific. I just wonder if she'll remember her offspring or look at them as strangers?

On March 6th, we're having an Adoption Event. I had to cancel the last two because WE HAD NO CATS. With any luck, ALL the fosters will be READY to be ADOPTED-at LAST!!!!

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Cupid enjoys batting at toys with her paws. She's very expressive with them. I can get her to give me a “high five” or she'll reach out to get me to pet her. She's a very sweet cat.

By the Adoption Event, the cats will have been here almost THREE MONTHS. Compared to the last group I took in from GA, those 9 were here for only 10 days before they all went to great homes. You think this will be tough-saying goodbye to this pile o' cats?

Tough doesn't even come close.

Foster Cat Journal: Is it or Isn't it?

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Poor Cupid. Today is day nine of her being quarantined from her kittens. She's doing well, but is very sad about being alone most of the day. I'm the only one she sees and there are just not enough hours in the day to hang out with her, give the kittens some time, give my cats some time, give me some time to work.

We're all making due with less, it seems.

The DTM culture isn't done “culturing” yet, but it HAS turned slightly pink. This may indicate she has a fungal infection, but NOT ringworm. In a few days we'll know for sure. I hope she doesn't have ringworm so I can let her OUT of the bathroom! I hate keeping her confined! She's not eating well and I fear that the nice weight she's put on is going to just slip off her and she'll be back to skin and bones again.

Off to the visit Dr. Larry. This time with Blitzen! He's just not getting over the URI, so time to tweak his meds or just stop giving the poor thing antibiotics. It's so tough on him and he's been on them for over 4 weeks now!

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I'm so cute. You must LOVE ME!

Foster Cat Journal: The Cat Tree that Hormones Built-Part 2

I let the kittens out of their room to have a break while I built the cat tree. They saw the parts and got all excited! Each kitten had to sniff-test everything before they got bored and ran into the bathroom to rip the towels off the holders ('cause it's FUN).


I read the directions. I only needed ONE tool. How hard is this gonna be to build? Piece of cake! I just needed to find a 7/16" wrench (though I had to look up WHAT a wrench looked like online, first!).


This is not bad at all. I just have to screw THREE legs into the platform that has FIVE holes in it. Okay there's a clue here. Not all the holes look the same. Two do not have threads in the hole, so they must not be for the legs?!

I screwed down the legs, but they didn't fit tight to the base and I was worried I'd strip the screws, so I did the best I could. I know I'm going to use bolts on the opposite end of each cedar post, to connect it to another platform. I'm thinking this will give the cat tree the rigidity it needs. I thought it was weird that the bolts were driven into the bottom of each post, along with a tag, reminding whatever fool was building this thing that yes, THIS is the bolt you need.

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Why isn't the bolt in a NICE PLASTIC BAG? Why is the FOUR HUNDRED MILE LONG BOLT in the end of the post? I use the wrench, not sure which end of it, to get the first of THREE bolts out. I turn it. The post turns, but the bolt does not. The post is ROUGH cedar, so my hands are going to get full of splinters if I hold it tightly.

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I get a wash cloth to protect my hands, grab the post and give the bolt a turn. FINALLY it budges a QUARTER of a TURN. WHAT LUNATIC PUT THE BOLT INTO THIS POST? Was it a sister with PMS, too? I hope a woman would have more sense. This f-ker was in there so TIGHT that the best I could do was do quarter turns, even stopping every so often to MEASURE how much of the damn bolt had come out of the damn post, to see if I was ALMOST DONE. It got to 1 3/4" and I took a break. I read my book for awhile. I played with the kittens. My hands hurt and I was already getting a knot in my neck. I was not going to give up. I would just go slow.

I had no choice in the matter. My only speed was SLOW. I got up and went back and tried again. This time I discovered that being fat is an advantage. I could hold the post with my left hand, press the post against my stomach to keep the bloody thing from turning, then use my right to unscrew the damn bolt.

It worked.

It took an hour to get the three legs put on the cat tree. Just about that time, Sam came home. He must have either remembered I was having PMS or took drugs, because he came into the bedroom, saw what I was doing and offered to help get it finished up. He was nice. Something was wrong. Maybe he knocked off a piece with a Mistress! Of course! That was it! Instead of going to the Store, he shagged a cheap floozy! I'd have to check the fridge and pantry to make sure he really went to the store! I didn't say anything, but I simmered, waiting for further clues.

The rest of the assembly was very easy-of course, because Sam showed up. So no one will believe what a beyatch it was to get those bolts off! My biceps knew better, plus I swore I had a splinter just over my belly button.

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The kittens gathered around to inspect the new cat tree before it was delivered to their very lonely and bored Mama.

Sam moved the cat tree for me while I stood in the bathtub, holding Cupid in my arms, waiting for the next fight to begin. We were both being very careful to use as few words as possible and to just get the job done so we could separate again until the next mating season would draw us back together.

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I placed Cupid on her new cat tree. She gave it a sniff and jumped off it. Great. Another wise expenditure of funds I don't have.

She came right back, jumped up and begin to investigate. I scratched my fingers against the nice, tall sisal post to get her attention. Right away she grabbed it, dug her claws in deep and stretched out her back. It must have felt good to her since there is nothing soft in the bathroom she can scratch.

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She posed pretty for a few photos. At first, not sure what to think about this thing.

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I hoped she would warm up to it and in a few minutes of me petting her, she began to relax and enjoy her new hangout spot.

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It made me forget I was hormonal to see Cupid enjoying herself. Although there's little room for me to sit down with her, at least during the many hours she's alone, she can get up high enough to see out the window and scratch and nap on a number of different platforms.

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I counted my blessings that I got that cat tree built without killing anyone and that Sam and I had an unspoken truce. I would go back to the bedroom and read while the kittens played. Sam would play his guitar in the basement. Cupid would enjoy her cat tree. All of us alone, but somehow still together, under the same roof. Now we just had to wait for all this nonsense to pass and for life to settle back down again.

Update: Groceries WERE purchased. No floozies were had. Cupid enjoys the out-of-bounds, brand new, cat bed that's on the top of the dryer. So far she doesn't hang out on the cat tree unless I'm in the room. Hmpf.


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