Last year I fostered four kittens. One of them was fractious. He bit the Director, then when I got him he ended up biting me, twice. I wrote about this kitten's journey, being in foster care and the tug of war over whether or not I would be able to socialize him before he was neutered, ear-tipped and released to the woods. While his brother and sisters played, I got into an argument with the Director about this cat's future. While I won the battle, I lost the war. We never truly got along after that. For this one cat, named Tweetie, I took a big chance. I was either going to be stuck with him forever as an unadoptable cat or I was going to have to find a way to reach his heart and help him learn that humans are ok.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Arrival day. Tweetie (top left), Angel (center), Twitter (right), Fluffy (front left).
I wrote about this crazy journey in “The Tweetie Chronicles.” Little did I know that this little cat would make such a huge impact on my life. As I was working with him and he began to trust me. One day I noticed he looked just like “The Internet's Most Famous Cat, Sockington!” and decided to Tweet about it. If you read the Chronicles, you'll see in detail how Socks' Fans, “Socks Army” rallied around Tweetie and urged Sockington to do the right thing and acknowledge that Tweetie was his secret son. It was all fun and games, until I was contacted by Socks' Mom, “Food Lady” and his dad, “Fatty,” who I call, Mr. Scott.
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Tweetie while still in “Feral Rehab,” but bearing a shocking resemblance to Sockington.
Food Lady came to visit Tweetie. Her tender heart urged her to help. Since her other cats, PennyCat and Sockington were also rescued from dire situations, it just felt right to help another cat in need. The visit went better than I could have dreamed. Tweetie went right up to Food Lady and sat on her lap, purring. He looked up at her and perhaps, in that moment, his future was locked into place.
A few days later, Sam and I drove Tweetie to Boston for a “trial” adoption. That was ONE YEAR ago TODAY.
Tweetie's trial is long over. He's now a cherished member of the family. A few days ago I got an email from Food Lady, updating me on how Tweetie's been doing. Here's some of what she had to say:
©2010 Food Lady. Tweetie (right), plots his next bum attack on Sockington (left).
“He's still a real snugglebug. He tends to follow me around the house (although having said that, I'm not sure where he is at the moment). He can't jump as well or as elegantly as Socks (those long legs, you know) so Socks will hop atop the bookcase or dresser, causing Tweetie to get very vocally upset. :)
©2010 Food Lady. “His newest discovery is that he can be *under* the blanket as well as on top of it. So he'll quite often root around until he can get his head under the blanket. So one of the shots is of that. In one of them, he's got half a shakymouse toy in his mouth. He adores boxes of all kinds - I think they remind him of the crate at your house.”
He's got a thing for brushes - I now have to hide away my makeup brushes and the big poofy wool duster, because he runs off with them in his mouth. :)”
Food Lady also told me that Tweetie eats everyone's food so he has to be fed in a separate room! Oops! He also likes to sneak up on Socks and bite him in the bum! Tweetie and Socks are quite close, even if Tweetie is a pain in the butt-literally.
©2010 Food Lady. Tweetie with Baron Von Shakeymouse
What lies ahead for our former foster? We really don't know anything more than Tweetie has grown up into a big, sweet, playful kitty. Will he ever be as famous as his dad? Probably not. Does it matter? Not to him, surely.
So without further adieu, put on your party hat and get out the nose makers! Not only can we celebrate the adoption of a cat who beat the odds, but we can take delight in the fact that Tweetie's life in the glow of the nearby limelight suits him just fine.
In fact, it was meant to be.
©2010 Food Lady (goofy type by Robin).
©2010Food Lady. Tweetie all grown up. The spitting image of his Pop, Socks.
Another chapter in the Tweetie Chronicles draws to a close. Along with the big smile on my face and the proud feeling I have about Tweetie's success, I'm enjoying the new nickname “Tweetie” gave me in honor of this special day. You may now call me, “Nice Robin Lady.”
I have NO idea how I got enough votes in the Best Cause Related Blog category since I didn't vote for myself, nor did I ask anyone to vote for me in this category! So it brings a question to mind...who is out there who believes so much in what I do that they would put me alongside other folks who focus on a Cause?
What's even more curious to me...you guys are right! I'm glad you know me better than I know myself. Heck, YEAH, I'm all about the CAUSE. This isn't a blog just about my cats or fun cat products or the latest cat news, though I DO include those things here on Covered in Cat Hair. Where my heart has led me, is to reaching out and helping as many cats as I can, regardless of where they are located or how old or young they might be.
When I started this blog over four years ago, it was supposed to be a vehicle for my book project, entitled: Covered in Cat Hair: Mostly True Stories of a Life Spent with Cats. I imagined an Editor at a major publishing house would “discover” me and offer me a book contract since I have lots of great stories written. I'd sit in my office, surrounded by annoying cats and write, write, write, then look forward to going to the local bookstore to see the finished product on the shelf.
Yet here I sit, surrounded by annoying cats, writing, not published, other than a few little things here and there, but making connections to many people across the Country, who, like me, want to make a difference in saving cats (and dogs!) lives, but maybe aren't so perfect at how they go about it. They just want to do something, anything, but more than donating to a charity, then not seeing the results of that donation. They are willing to take a risk, get their hands dirty, be willing to not know the outcome will be a happy ending, but do it anyway.
Slowly, but surely, you all have found me, as I have found you. Many of us have worked together creating some amazing rescues-whether it was with our $5 donation or by offering to foster cats for weeks at a time. Whatever you did, you were wiling to dive in and trust that we could do it-then all of a sudden we DID. We DID IT and we keep doing it.
For every life we save, we can turn to each other and say “THANK YOU for taking part in this wonderful and bittersweet challenge to save every cat and kitten we can and rejoice in the human bond we are making with each other.”
So, whoever voted for my Blog, in a category I did not expect, I thank you most sincerely for seeing in me, what I did not see in myself and for encouraging my efforts and making them seem so very worthwhile at the moment I'm about to embark on a bigger journey and form my own Non-Profit Organization!
You guys are the BEST! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
We're doing the Happy Dance here at CiCH HQ!
If you like what we're doing and believe in helping all animals find safe harbor, loving homes and be freed from Kill Shelters, then please vote for us!
As many of you know, we're about to embark on a big, new program that will be part of our new non-profit rescue organization called Kitten Associates. We're going to be able to not only rescue some kittens-as many as our foster network allows and we can afford, but we're also going to be helping the small shelters and rescue groups, who can't afford to build a website or don't have the savvy to benefit from using online marketing. How we help, will be announced soon, but it's going to be great and will allow us to impact the lives of SO MANY dogs and cats in need. We're really excited about our plans and can't wait to share them with you in detail.
In the meantime,
Also, two of our good friends, Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat and Janiss Garza of Sparkle the Designer Cat were nominated for Best Cat Blog. I can't say which one to vote for because they are both terrific, but vote for one of those two!
Voting ends on August 20th, so vote soon! Thank you!
I visited with Carole and Connie last night at Animals in Distress, a small, local no-kill cat shelter. They have 3 rooms that are open so the cats there can freely walk around. There are cat trees aplenty and big windows to look out of. There are cages for the newcomers and for poor Gizmo, a big red tabby sweetheart. He has to be locked up at night-for his own safety. Poor Gizmo gets picked on by another cat and the staff make sure he is safe by keeping him in a very large cage overnight. This kitty is a big love monster with a sweet temperament. He wouldn't hurt a fly. He's on his own, now that his brother got adopted. This boy needs a good home, where he doesn't have to worry about being attacked.
Here's Gizmo's Petfinder Page
One of the cats at A.I.D. will not be getting adopted. Her name is Samantha, a big white kitty with tabby patches on her back and face. She sits serenely in a cat bed overlooking the room. She has a brain tumor and has to be medicated every other day. Her life may not be long, but she is not considered adoptable and the staff love her too much to let her go.
There are other kitties there who are too feral or too old to be placed in a home. They're the lucky ones. No harm will come to them. They are safe for as long as they live. I met other cats like Blondie and Norman and Norman's best buddy, Gatsby. You can see them all HERE.
But there was one cat who stole my heart. His name? Marshmellow.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. How cute is this tuxy boy?!
Marshy is a love bug, too. He loves to be HELD. He has a soft purr. His green eyes are stunning. His silly markings make you smile. I held him for a long time, even though his claws were, a bit long and the fabric of my shirt was a bit too thin. He likes to just sit quietly and hang out with the other cats. He doesn't seem to be a trouble maker, but has an impish quality about him. I am completely smitten with him.
Marshmellow has been waiting for a home for two months. I would so love to bring him home with me!
If you love this big, sweet boy, too, here's his Petfinder Page so you can read more about him.
It was getting late, almost 9pm. Carole and Connie have generously offered to help me with some “things” I will tell you about soon. In return, I will be helping them with a few “things” as well. It's curious. I just met Connie after she contacted me when she read the article about Chester being found. She was very kind and gracious to me and was so happy that Chester was safe and sound. We began chatting once in awhile. Connie asked me if I could help A.I.D. get the word out about their cats needing homes. They're facing very tough times and have had no adopters for awhile now.
Two shelters have moved in to the area. While that is good for the animals, it's bad for this little rescue. They have gotten lost in the shuffle. Volunteers are hard to come by and so are donations. They've been around since 1960-a rare thing in these hard times. They're not sure how much longer they can go on without more help. I promised I would lend a hand, as I can.
We fed the cats, each one getting their own bowl of food. Carole knew just what each cat liked and made sure they got what they wanted. After cleaning up and turning off the lights, it was our time to get going. I said goodnight to the kitties and walked out the front door. There was a loud humming sound coming from an air conditioning unit, but I thought I heard something else.
A cat was crying in the darkness. At first I wasn't sure, but then, yes, it was a cat, indeed. I said something to Connie and Carole, who were busy talking. They stopped, listened, then I saw the cat in the shadow of the Police Department building that was about 20 feet away. Connie let out a shriek and Carole ran to her car, grabbed a can of food and chased after the cat.
Connie was visibly upset. She asked me if the cat was gray and I said yes! She told me that the cat was theirs and his name was Gray. He had gone missing a few weeks ago! He normally NEVER meowed and they had not seen him since the night he escaped! Connie told Carole about Chester. She remarked that Connie should bring me down to the shelter so I could find Gray, too. Guess that worked out well!
Gray, just moments after being rescued.
Carole disappeared for a few minutes while we waited and hoped she would find the cat. I was told he was very friendly, so that was a good sign. Carole came running back, yelling to us to get the building open so she could get more food and a cat carrier! What cat would just go back into a cat carrier after being gone for weeks?
We rushed into the building. Carole grabbed what she needed and ran off. We followed her, but not too closely as we were worried we would scare Gray away. We could hear Carole calling to him. Meanwhile I saw a movement in the parking lot not far from us. It was a big skunk, headed our way. I motioned to Connie. Her eyes grew wide as she realized what was going on. If we made a run for it we might scare off the cat, but if we didn't run, the skunk might get scared and blast us!
Suddenly, it took a sharp turn and went another direction just as we heard the door of a cat carrier slam shut. Gray began vocalizing LOUDLY as Carole came out from behind a building, carrying him in a half run.
Gray gets brushed and fussed over, which he enjoyed between taking bites of food.
Gray's brother sat in the window at the shelter. The screen was open. He could hear his brother yeowl. We couldn't get Gray into the building fast enough. Carole feared he was COVERED with ticks. She wrapped him in a towel and brought him into the kitchen. Connie jumped in and began to pick tiny burrs off his coat. Carole checked him for fleas while they both continued to pick and brush his coat. He was in good shape, other than being far too thin. No sign of ticks or fleas! He nibbled at some kibble and enjoyed all the attention. At one point he laid down on his side and allowed belly rubs. This boy was home and he knew it.
Gray says hello to Marshmellow.
Once Gray was settled in his cage with lots of food and water, we, once again, turned off the lights to let the cats rest until morning. There was a bright yellow sign that said "LOST CAT" with a description and the shelter's number on it. It was hanging on a cork board near the front door. I told Carole she needed to scratch out the word “LOST” and write, “Found.” Tired as she was, she grabbed a pen and edited the poster, a smile forming on her lips.
This kitty is safe once again and in a place where he will be loved and cared for until his new family finds him. Not so different a journey than our dear friend, Chester made, who disappeared on the exact same date as Gray did so many weeks before.
I checked my email late last night. There were lots and lots of pleas for cats in dire need. Cats of all ages. Some were local, some were from good old Henry Co. There was an urgent notice put out that three kittens had been there too long and that by 7am they were slated to be euthanized if a rescue didn't come forward to save their lives.
I looked at the photos and descriptions. Any one of these cats would make a great addition to any family. I asked myself what I could do to help? I don't have any more space in my own home to foster these cats. My dear foster mama in Georgia is also full up. I don't know where I could board the cats and even if I did, I still could not take them here. I looked at the photo, below. It's an “odd-eyed” (one green and one blue) white kitten. She's sitting on a little bed. The pattern on the fabric is whimsical with cute little candy corns on it. For some reason this got to me. I started to cry. This poor little kitty has no idea her life is about to end in a few more hours.
I talked to Sam. I asked him; “Should I tell my readers about this even though there is no time to put in place a rescue or adoption? Or should I just not say anything? There are SO MANY that need help, I can't list them all. No one likes to know about these cats dying when they can't do much to help them. It's so frustrating and painful! And the cccccandy corn bed!!”..then I started crying again.
It's one thing for me to cry, but for this situation, I felt it was better to hope that someone could step in and help them, knowing that help was probably too late to arrive.
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Odd-Eyed White kitty with a blue and a green eye.
I could not sleep. Not a wink. I was very tired from the stress of seeing my client fall ill and be whisked off in the ambulance a few hours earlier. I kept thinking about the kittens. I just felt sick and angry. I want to go to Georgia and make them pass a law that forces everyone to Spay & Neuter their pets! No, not realistic, but I'm entitled to my wishes, right?
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Little Flame Point with lovely blue eyes.
I got up at 1AM. I sat on the sofa with one of the cats and had a cup of mint tea to settle my tummy. I tried to feel sleepy, but it didn't work. I didn't want to go near my computer, but I didn't want to wake Sam up by turning on the TV. I got up and walked to my office and turned the computer back on. I poked around and looked at my email, went on Facebook, then...it dawned on me. I knew it was stupid but what the heck?
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Little Lynxy Point with lovely blue eyes, too. What a charmer!
A few days prior, we had a new visitor on the Covered in Cat Hair Facebook page. She, too, did fostering and rescue right in Georgia! She has a Blog about her foster cats that was really cute. I don't know what prompted me, but I sent her an email entitled; “Silly Question.” It was 2AM. I told her about the kittens and asked if she might know anyone that could help. Realizing it was the 11th hour...
A few MINUTES later, she wrote me back. She just happened to be awake, medicating one of her cats. She wrote me a sweet note and said to send her the info, so I did. I sent her listings on 6 or 7 cats. I waited...
She wrote me back. She cc:d Betsy, our contact at Henry Co. She said to go ahead and pull ID#'s...1, 2, 3...KITTENS! My stomach flipped. My heart skipped a beat...did she just say YES to taking the kittens? Did that mean I was going to foster them here? I HAVE NO SPACE!!!
I quickly wrote her back and told her my concerns. Her kind reply was that, no, she didn't need me to find homes. She could do that locally. She just needed me to get the kittens busted out and have our SUPER BEST FRIEND IN THE WORLD, BOBBY, pick them up and get them to the Vet. She would do the rest!
And so...at 3AM, just FOUR HOURS before these kittens took their last breath, the paperwork for them would be updated to read; “RESCUE HOLD,” but in the language of the shelter means;
I sent out some emails and did what I needed to do to get things in order. I was feeling pretty wobbly I needed to try to sleep. I set my alarm for 6:45AM to make sure Betsy got my message. I crawled into bed next to Sam. I woke him up. I whispered that I was sorry, but I couldn't wait to tell him something. I tried to keep calm, but I couldn't hold back the tears any more. I started to cry again, as I told him the kittens were saved and he said a sleepy “Oh that's so wonderful!” as he held me tight. I thought about the little kitten and the silly candy corn print cat bed, but this time, as the tears fell down my cheeks, they were not tears of grief-they were tears of joy.
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control
Please thank Kate for stepping up and helping us out. As a "Thank You" to her, I paid her Vet bill. I felt like it was the least I could do. Please also thank, Bobby, for picking up the kitties this afternoon and sitting with them at the Vet's office and for making sure they are safe and loved until they go to foster care.
All right. Someone needs to make sense of what's been happening in my life and explain it to me. I've been lucky to be part of some amazing cat rescues the past few weeks---First there was our Black Adult Mama Cat, now named Freya, who had no chance at Henry Co. Care & Control, but who, after I posted a plea for her, through the help of a lot of great folks, was able to get busted out and off to new, loving home. Then I found Chester, the 21 yr old kitty, who got away from his family and was lost for 5 days. I found him-saved his life. As of just yesterday, Chester is still doing well and more and more like his “old” self every day.
Then there was the Calico Mama, so friendly and loving, but who had no hope to be free from Death Row. Fate stepped in for her and I was able to help be part of the team of folks who got her out of the shelter and into loving foster care. She was adopted before she even made it out of the shelter and will be in her new home in another week or so.
It wasn't enough. Her two cowbaby kittens needed a rescue as well. This one I handled on my own and these babies are coming to me. Within hours of their rescue, I found out about four more kittens who had just arrived at the shelter and who face the same odds of getting out alive. I rescued them, too, but now I'm “full up” and can't take any more to foster.
That's a lot of saves for ONE person with no shelter and just a few bucks in her pocket. But...
Yesterday I saved my first HUMAN and things got even crazier after that happened!
Sam and I had a client meeting at a local coffee shop at noon. We were starving for something to eat and to finally get paid for our web design project we had just finished. Our client walked in the door, but looked strange. He had a bruise under his left eye and on the bridge of his nose. I made a joke as he sat down and asked him what happened.
He said; “You know...” and could not finish the sentence. He kept saying the same thing and gesturing in frustration. Then it hit me, the injury was NEW and he was either having a stroke or something else was going on!!!
Thankfully, my Mother was an Emergency Medical Technician Crew Chief, and I learned a few things from her. I asked my client to smile. He did. Nice and symmetrical-but it was a grimace of frustration. Okay, no drooping facial things going on, so maybe not a stroke, but he cannot speak any more! He gestured for paper so we grabbed a note pad, we couldn't read his writing. I looked around and noticed a bicycle cop-who, I'm sorry but I can't take them seriously, and told him something was wrong and we needed an ambulance.
This is crazy. I don't know my client that well and I didn't want to overreact when maybe he was diabetic and needed sugar or gosh, I knew he had a clear airway, was breathing basically ok, was agitated (if I couldn't talk I would be, too), but what was wrong with him? I hoped he would not be mad at me for jumping to get him on an ambulance when maybe he just needed a cookie?...I managed to get his phone. I apologized for going through his private stuff, but he wrote his wife's name down and I found it as a "favorite" on his iPhone. Another cop showed up as I reached his wife.
The Cop wanted to talk to me, but I had to talk to her first. I didn't have time to rehearse what to say, so it came out weird. First, I was calling on her husband's phone and she didn't know this woman using her husband's phone! In a shaky voice I told her what my Mother said to me when my father had a stroke. She said he had “an event”...then I told her he could not speak and she started to cry. She was an hour away, but thankfully had a friend who could drive her to the local hospital. I got off the phone and talked to the Officer.
We were all trying to figure out our Client's address-Sam had that since he had the invoice in his hand that we were not going to get paid for that day (hey, these are desperate times!) and it had the info on it. Finally an EMT showed up and started to assess things. About 10 minutes later, a huge mob of folks showed up. More cops, some official looking woman in a suit with a badge attached to her belt, 3 or 4 more EMTs. Meanwhile the folks in the cafe are wondering what is going on and the staff is worried that he fell on their property!
My poor client. I rubbed his back and told him it was going to be okay and to not worry. That we caught it soon and he would be in good hands. He is friends with surgeons at the same hospital so I knew he would get extra good attention. I just wanted him OUT of the cafe so he could get the help he needed, fast!
I asked one of the Officers if I should go with my client or follow in the car, but he reminded me that not being a family member, they would pretty much ignore me. Since they had everything worked out and knew how to reach me and Sam, we decided it was best to just let them take our Client and leave it at that.
After they left, a few of the staff came over and asked us if we wanted anything. Sam and I just sat there with our eyes full of tears and said “no thank you.”
Then Sam turned to me and said; “That was the WORST client meeting I've ever had!”
I didn't want to leave him, but I had another meeting to get to. I went to dish big time dirt on the shhhh...Director of the group I used to be with and the person I was meeting didn't have a cell phone so I couldn't call to cancel. Suddenly, I didn't want to dish dirt or get into my car and drive off. Life just felt so fragile. He was our client, a few years older than we are. He seems in good health, has a wicked sharp mind and loving family. How quickly all that can change. It's very sobering.
I ended up having a good chat with this top secret person. I heard some interesting things and realized that my leaving that group was what I needed to do. Now I have the freedom to really make a difference and find my own way in the world...
But that was before I got the call asking me if I was maybe interested in taking over a shelter and running it as my own. It is staffed with volunteers. Has been around for a long time. They don't even do fundraising. They have plenty of money! And no, I was not sleeping and having a nice dream. The offer, though not a serious one at this point, is a sincere one. I can just step in and do my thing...or maybe I can't, but it's a SHELTER with only cages for new arrivals and they really are NO KILL. They don't put down for space reasons or healthy animals. What the heck?! This can't be!
It's kinda like the OTHER thing that happened yesterday between the tornado warnings and violent thunderstorms...I could not sleep. I went to bed crying, knowing a few more sweet babies were going to be euthanized at 7am. I didn't want to tell you guys about it. It's bad enough that I knew. It was late at night when I got the message. There was no time to find a rescue, so I laid there and wept for them.
©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control
But it's okay. Don't you cry for them, too. Good old Fate was keeping me awake, I guess. 'Cause something miraculous happened. I pulled off the one thing I was sure I could not...
I've been trying to write this post for a week. I'm torn between writing a virtual rant vs. just moving forward with my life. The temptation is to light these words on fire and to really let off a years' worth of steam, but reason states that those of us in the rescue community all know each other and burn one bridge now means making trouble for yourself later.
So with that in mind, I will write this:
©2009 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer says it all.
I left The Animal Center for good. No turning back. Done. Whatever reasons I have for this, for now, will be my own. I gave it my all for 5 years, but there was a price to pay that I wasn't willing to pay any longer. I leave angry and hurt, but I know in time those feelings will fade away and for now, I can use that energy to do something positive.
I've been grappling with what to do next. The answer has been right in front of me for a long time, but I was afraid to give it a shot. I'll continue to use my tiny networking skills to help rescue cats from southern death row shelters. I'll also keep doing everything I did before, but...
I'm going to make a go of it on my own. I'm going to start my own Non-Profit Cat Rescue Group. Stupid idea or perfect timing, I have no idea. There are lots of hurdles ahead, but I'm going to try. This is the dawning of my new journey. The road I've travelled on has led me to this place. I stand here before you and take a deep breath. I'm ready to stick my neck out, kick some ass and save lots more cats.
You're welcome to come along for the ride and see how this pans out. Maybe you'll say “I knew her back when she first started that group...it was just her, but now look at it!” but hopefully not; “Oh yes, that was before she got stuck with all those cats she couldn't adopt out and went crazy and they found her body...the cats got to it first...”
I'm truly scared. I had all these plans to start super small, go slowly, only take those two cute cow kittens in to foster and see how it goes...
But so many need help! I can't just sit here with two foster kittens when I have room for more! Oh boy...what have I done?
Details of my craziness coming soon...
I returned to the Blue Colony Diner, the location where Chester was last seen before he got away from his family's car on June 28th. Even though I knew Chester was safely tucked at home and eating well, the rescue a thing of the past; I still felt distressed being back there again. The shock of finding Chester lingers. His limp, almost lifeless body in my arms. Trying not to lose my cool, while I was shaking, trying to think of what to do next, hoping he would not die. I will never forget it.
The Blue Colony Diner.
The Diner is surrounded on two sides by DENSE brush. The north side is almost impenetrable. The west and south sides are flanked by either a very busy main road or an interstate highway (I-84). This is definitely not a great place to lose a cat.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. The east side of the property, facing the woods where I eventually found Chester.
The back of the parking lot is where we thought Chester had escaped to. Over to the far right of the lot, there's an access point to the woods, past some large boulders. That's where I wanted to enter, but as you may recall from my original post about finding Chester, there was a creepy SUV parked there, so I entered the woods to the right of the 4th car from the left.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. The woods by the Diner.
Just steps over some large rocks and into a dry creek gully, this is what you'd see. Thick woodland. When I was there last, the sun was very low. The woods had an orange cast and it was much darker. I was pulled in a direction that was almost straight out from the middle of this photo.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Artists' interpretation of finding Chester. The lighting was much different. Everything had a bright orange cast or deep shadow. Chester was well into the shadows.
I was looking left, right, up, down. I walked about 40 or 50 feet. Then, I thought I saw something. I tried to re-create what I saw, above. If you look closely, you can see Chester, just about the same way I did. He was so still, I thought he was just part of the brush-and sadly, he matched it perfectly, too!
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Looking towards the Diner from where Chester was found.
Once I realized I'd found my boy, (sorry, he's not mine, but I do feel a certainly attachment to him) had him untangled from his leash and in my arms, I turned to face the Diner parking lot. This is the view. As you can see, the diner is out of sight. I could hear the music faintly from the loudspeakers they have near the front door, but I couldn't see the building until I got closer.
Being back on the scene, I was surprised at how much brush there was. I don't recall running through it. In fact, I remember little of anything after I had Chester. I know I ran as fast as I could towards the parking lot and my waiting car. How I got there...not sure.
Last night I got an email from Ruth, Chester's Mama. She told me that Chester is eating well and surprising them every moment. Chester was adopted as a kitten from a shelter in Westchester County, NY, which is how he got his name. Chester also lives with a big doggie and travels with his family from their home in NY to their summer home in Maine. A nice life for a kitty and fortunately, he will be able to continue to enjoy it.
Late this summer when Chester and his family return to NY, they might stop by so we can finally meet each other and the story will have come full circle. Be assured, should that day arrive, that I will be waiting, heart racing, camera in hand, ready to share the moment with all of you who worried and prayed for this story to have a happy ending.
...and thankfully right now, we have just that.
I'm sitting here at my desk. It's 102°F outside. It's a bit warm in the house even with the A/C on, but none of that matters. All I can think about is Chester.
I just went to Dr. Larry's to visit Chester. It was quiet there today. The usual sounds of construction were thankfully absent. There weren't any clients. The mad rush had just ended. I wasn't sure I wanted to know how Chester was doing, but there I was, anyway. Lauren, one of the very nice lady-Vet techs, smiled when she spoke of how Chester was doing. I couldn't wait to see him.
Over night Chester had made some sort of great improvement. No longer laying down and eating out of the side of his mouth-he was sitting up and eating furiously. He was sleeping, not like a damp rag, spread out on a table, but curled up as any normal cat might do. Not only that, but when she brought him out for us to visit, I gasped when I saw him. He was standing on all fours!
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Chester looks like a cat again. Hurrah!
Chester is still weak. It's to be expected, but he was UP and reacting to being petted. He was looking around and appeared to be much perkier than even the day before.
I was simply, astonished.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Chester gets a bit of help to keep him steady as they take his weight for the day.
I bought Chester a catnip mousy toy. This catnip is REALLY strong and there isn't a lot available to purchase. I felt lucky to get some. I wanted to see if Chester would react to it at all; another way to gauge how he's doing.
I should have brought him a napkin because once he got a whiff of the catnip he started to drool a bit! It was clear he liked it very much. Seeing him do something, so completely normal, something I would never think twice about seeing, was truly remarkable. This cat is a cat again!
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Chester digs his catnip mousy toy.
While Chester was rubbing against his mousy, Sam, Lauren and I petted him. His coat feels much cleaner and softer. Though he is still quit thin, he appears to have gained some weight. His eyes were almost zombie-like on Saturday and now they react in a more normal way. It was a blessing to witness this transformation.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. A little bit stoned from the catnip (the tail of the mousy is under his arm), Chester enjoys his pets.
I spoke with Dr. M., who works with Dr. Larry. She was also very impressed with Chester's improvements. I asked if he was going home tomorrow and I think there is a good chance of that happening. It's not for me to discuss or decide-that's up to his family. I might give him one more day of Vet care since traveling in this terrible heat might be very hard on him, but again...that is out of my hands. One way or the other, I think Chester will be home one day soon (KNOCK WOOD, no jinxing here!)
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Chester, you ARE amazing!
We had a nice visit with Chester. It may be our last before he leaves for home. I told him I loved him and that I was proud of him for doing so well and to keep up the good work. I could tell that he was getting tired and needed to rest more. He probably has a long recovery period yet to go.
©2010 Robin AF Olson. Chester loves the attention from his new friends, as he thinks of home and his family who are waiting to see him.
It dawned on me just as we left-that Chester has been receiving Vet care for almost as long as he was lost in the woods. In my minds' eye, I can still see his face, the eyes dark, his body unmoving, under that fallen tree, perfectly blended in with the dead leaves he was about to become part of, forever. For the rest of my life, I will never forget rescuing Chester and his remarkable recovery. There are so few things to be happy about these days. For once, it's nice to take a moment and have something to smile about.
Chester is out of the woods, in more ways than one.
Writing on 2 hours of sleep may not be the smartest thing I've ever done, but this story needs to break right NOW!!!
A few days ago I got an email from Diane, who runs a local rescue group alerting me to the fact that a 19 year old cat named, Chester had been lost in the woods by the local diner. The family hails from Maine and for reasons that are not clear to me, somehow Chester, who wore a collar and leash, got out of the car while the family was eating their meal. When they got back to the car, Chester was gone.
From Chester's "LOST" Flyer.
There's a lot of very dense brush around the diner and beyond that there are thick woods. I-84 passes one side of it.
It's been a common dumping ground for cats, garbage, beer cans and other debris. It's not where you'd want to take a walk alone late a night-not that it's "that" dangerous, but...the diner is open 24/7 so all sorts of folks stop by and many of them are just passing through the state.
We also have foxes and coyotes here-an occasional bear. There are lots of good reasons to find this geriatric cat as soon as possible. This morning, the temperatures were going to rise into the low 90's and today is slated to be very humid, too. Chester has been missing since June 28, 2010 and the run of cooler, drier weather is done.
We had our uber-trapper, Karlyn, working the case, along with Barb a really nice lady with another rescue group. We were all doing what we could to find Chester, along with another cat, Cowboy, who is also gone missing, too. His family is from VA and has been looking for him for over a week.
Karlyn set up a feeding station to see if she could tell if there were cats coming to it. Then she'd set humane traps to get the cats at the feeding station. We set up a wildlife camera but caught nothing the first day. We were going to buy another camera today, but something inside me was grinding. I kept feeling like I HAD to go look for Chester again. The last time I was ill prepared, stupidly wearing sandals which prevented me from looking too far into the woods.
I didn't sleep last night. Finally at 6:00 AM I got up, covered myself with bug repellant, put on heavy clothes to protect me from ticks. I put a feliway wipe in my pocket along with some dry food and a can of very wet food and some water. I know there's no scientific proof, but all that stuff didn't matter. I almost felt pushed to get out of the house as soon as I could. I could have left in my PJ's and slippers. I didn't care what I had on me. I just had to GO.
As I pulled up to the diner, the sun was getting stronger. It was barely 7AM. I started to think that all I should look for was a sign of the leash and the collar, so at least I would know if the cat had gotten out of it or if he was still attached to it and had maybe passed away. I tried to prepare myself to see a dead cat-the last thing I would ever want to see, but I had to be tough and just get out there.
There were some creepy cars in the back of the parking lot, so I opted to walk the perimeter and just look into the brush. I couldn't get over how dense the brush was so close to the edge of the parking lot. There's a path that leads to a dried out stream, off one of the corners of the lot. A big SUV/pickup thing was blocking it. I didn't want to go near it. It gave me the creeps.
Instead I found another place to enter the woods by one of the dumpsters. I walked down a short incline and walked along the dried river bed since it was just about the only place that was clear of thorny brush. I called to Chester, waited, listened. I could hear the traffic from the highway. A bird flew over my head. A branch fell onto the ground. I thought I heard something else...a cry?
I felt like I just had to walk in a particular direction. I saw a big tree, some of it had fallen down. Under one of the large limbs, I thought I saw a FACE. I was about 40 feet away? Was it the morning light playing a trick on my eyes? I called out to Chester. Nothing. I got closer. The thing wasn't moving. I thought that maybe it was a fox. We'd heard one a few nights ago when we were last there. I took a few steps closer, then I realized...it was CHESTER!!!!!!!!
I pushed through the brush, which was much more sparse, thankfully, and ran over to Chester. I could see his lead caught up in some debris. He wasn't moving. I thought he was gone. I started to talk to him as I broke apart the branches to free up his chain. He moved a tiny bit. I reached under the tree to pick him up. He was very limp, but alive.
As I ran back to the parking lot I kept talking to Chester, telling him it was going to be ok. He didn't move, which made it easier to get him to my car, but made me more worried that he was going to die in my arms.
Chester just moments after I got him into the back of the car.
It was only 7am, but I called Karlyn anyway. I breathlessly told her I found Chester!!! She said she would be right there. I opened some food and rubbed some water on his mouth. Chester was clearly well out of it, but for a moment he furiously lapped at a little bit of canned food.
Karlyn arrived. I emailed Super-Deb, hoping she would be into work early so I could get Chester over to her. SD called and said it would be 9am before anyone would see Chester. Too late. I needed to move him to a Vet-whoever was open. I didn't care. Karlyn helped me get Chester into my carrier and gave me a towel for him to lie on. I got the car going and drove as fast as I dared to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Danbury.
It was a long 15 minute drive, but they were expecting us, thanks to Karlyn's call. They took Chester and I waited. Then they told me his condition was "iffy" and that they could not get a pulse on his limbs but his heart sounded surprisingly good. His BUN was high, his potassium was good, but his sodium was high. Obviously, his kidneys are not in a good place. Chester was not 19. Turns out he is 21! That this cat was even breathing after almost 5 days of no food or water, is amazing.
I called Chester's family and gave them the good news wakeup call. They know where he is now and they know he won't die alone in the woods or by the claws of a predator. I gave him a hug and kiss and told him he was a good boy and that he would be ok. I hope I didn't lie to him, but it's out of my hands.
Chester. Out of the woods and safe, at last.
I hope Chester has a few lives left. I hope his family will be willing to pay for his care. It's going to be expensive if The Animal Emergency Clinic keeps him for the weekend. Right now I'm paying for it, but this isn't a time to fuss about money. It's a a time to pray or send good vibes or just think kindly about a very old kitty who lost his way and who was very lucky this crazy cat lady had his back.