I looked over at Barney. He was playing with a toy held by a little girl who was taking part in our Kitties for Kids program. Barney was oblivious to the fact that the fur on his side looked like it had been wiped away. He wasn’t completely bald and with his white and orange coat, it was tough to see how much he was missing at a glance.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Barney's naked patch.
I’d noticed the foster cats have been itchy for a few weeks or more, but not so much that it caused alarms to go off. They’ve been checked a few times for fleas, but we find nothing, not even flea dirt. Last year was a VERY bad year for fleas so it wouldn’t be surprising that there were some in the foster room.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Larry takes a look.
What to do?
I’ve had a lot of experience with Miliary Dermatitis. My cat Gracie suffers from it. M.D. is basically “I don’t know that the heck it is” but it’s some sort of skin issue. Many times it’s related to a stress reaction, food or a mite or flea bite. In Gracie’s case, after YEARS of doing tests, seeing specialists, trial and error, only homeopathy worked to reduce the problem and steroids resolved it for a few weeks. The problem with steroids is-it will end up killing Gracie over time so for me, giving her more wasn’t acceptable.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Fred seems fine.
Gracie is covered with scabs. She stopped “barbering” (chewing) her coat and no longer has bloody lesions, but her fur is not plush and her skin feels terrible. I’m looking into acupuncture, but other than that I feel as though I’ve tried it all.
I look at Barney and think about the MANY things that could be causing him to lick off his fur. I knew a trip to see Dr. Larry would probably be a waste of time, but I had to start there.
Dr. Larry agreed with me that it was most likely M.D. and made some suggestions. One startled me, but also inspired me. He said to let Barney be an indoor/outdoor cat. That the stimulation of being outside reduced the need to over-groom because the cat was having so much FUN!
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Caught in the act.
Then I realized I have NOT been spending enough time with the kittens. Playtime is for five minutes here and five minutes there. I’ve been too busy to do more than that. I figured since I hear them running around they must be playing. There are five cats in the foster room after all.
I also thought about the Kitties for Kids program. Was the stress of meeting all these strangers getting to Barney? Thing is, he is the FIRST cat to go over to a new person and say hi! He’s very social. If he was upset by the visitors wouldn’t he be hiding instead of playing?
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. What the?!!!…the kittens are nursing on Willow!
What about diet?
Yes, that could be a factor. Since ALL the foster cats are scratching, something is making them itchy. The donations of food we’ve gotten lately is a mixed bag of canned, grain-free food. They get fed what I have on hand, not something consistent AND I’ve fed them a tuna based food recently for the first time. Did that set them off? Gracie seems to react to having fish.
It reduces stress, stretches the muscles and the mind, it helps them have an outlet for their prey drive. If we simply shake a toy at them once in awhile, it’s just NOT enough. Their mind needs to be engaged if they stay indoors. I’ve seen Jackson get very nasty with the other cats when he’s clearly bored.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Liftoff during one of our Kitties for Kids visits.
Normally, what you do is change ONE thing and see if it works. If that doesn't work, then go on to the next thing. Because Barney is so young and should NOT be having this issue, I’m going to do a few things and hope that one of them is the answer.
I’ll start with an application of Revolution®. I like it better than some other flea treatments and it does affect mites and internal parasites, too. I realize it could make things worse, but Barney’s skin is fine. There are no open lesions. He does NOT have ringworm.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coco shows how it's done.
I’ve already started ramping up playtime. I got a new Da Bird donated to us. It REALLY tires the cats out as long as I don’t let the cats catch the toy. If so, they destroy it in about 2 seconds. What I do is basically make them go nuts for at least 15 minutes. After the cats slow down or start to lay down instead of chase the toy, I start up with ANOTHER toy. I use a Cat Dancer and Rainbow CatCharmer or a laser pointer or both. I throw balls around, mouse toys, Kong® Cat Kickaroos. I want to see the cats get to the point of just about falling over they’re so tired. I’ll even open up my old iPad and play Game for Cats for them to further stimulate their minds. If I see Barney lick at himself I distract him with more playtime.
Lastly I’ve simplified their diet. Ideally I would feed them raw but that’s not in the budget. I’m cutting out fish and only giving them chicken/turkey. It’s very high quality grain-free canned food and I’m feeding them more often so they’re less stressed when they get their food. I noticed they were gulping at their meal the other day so clearly they need more to eat and more often.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Entertained by his Kong Cat Kickaroo.
The hope is that one or more of these things will work and Barney will stop licking off his fur. The fear is that he won’t and this will be a chronic problem for him. I’m also thinking about letting him run the whole house instead of just the foster room. The extra space might do him good.
Last night I let him out for a few minutes and he was terrified, so for now I’ll go more slowly and only open up smaller areas at a time.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor sweetie.
What is ailing Barney and making the others itchy? Is it dry skin or is Kitties for Kids going to have to be shelved? I can’t say right now. All I know is that I need to find an answer fast before Barney makes this into an OCD-like reaction that will require heavy-duty meds for years to come.
I live in Sandy Hook, CT, a district of Newtown, CT. I moved here 21 years ago from the Midwest. A few days ago, if I told you where I lived, you probably would have confused it with Sandy Hook, NJ or not had a clue or any sort where we’re located. Today the world knows exactly where we are. They know we’re a tight-knit small town of 27,000 (well 26, 972 now). They see our quaint New England church steeples and clapboard sided homes, then images of our hometown Fire Station draped in Christmas lights. It’s charming. It’s a sweet place to live. It’s safe.
It’s the scenes of SWAT teams brandishing weapons, K9 patrol officers like our Felicia, sending commands to her German Shepherd to find the bad guy. It’s the scenes of the people of my community hunched over, grief stricken, crying. It doesn’t fit this town. This is not OUR town.
I was in New York City on 9|11. I suffered through escaping the city, then suffered the fear of returning to work until I couldn’t take it any more and decided to work from home, giving up all my NY clients and most of my billings.
I’ve seen what guns do to people you love-so very dearly-the gore, the horror. There are images in my head I have to keep a bay or it will drive me mad…and now this.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The view down Yogananda-about 1/2 mile from my house where the shooter killed his mother.
It was a brilliant, sunny morning with crisp blue skies. It was much colder but just as cheerful a day as on 9|11. Sam and I were driving to the town landfill to drop off our recycling. There was nothing out of the ordinary until we saw police cars with lights and sirens blaring, racing down Route 25. I wondered what was going on and not long after that my friend Mary called with the shocking news.
Later that day some of the details became clear—a monster had been unleashed on our town. No, it wasn’t Big Foot or Vampires or Zombies. It was much worse. This monster had no heart and a cache of guns. In cold blood he shot his Mother in the face, then drove to our little Sandy Hook Elementary and massacred some of the staff and twenty innocent children.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is too surreal. CNN, AP, all the CT stations and now NBC NY was there, too.
One of my good friends told me her daughter went to school with him, but had no idea he would do such a thing.
Did I cross his path? Did he walk past my house as many of the local kids do? Did we see him on the road this morning between doing his terrible deeds?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lined up and sniffing the air for news. I tried to stay off to myself, but some reporters heard me say something to Sam and that was it-I had microphones and cameras in my face even though I kept saying I had no story for them.
I don’t know his story. I barely know the details of what he did. I can only think about my friends and family, our adopters and their children. I contacted one particular family and discovered their son would have been in that classroom, but he was placed in another school even though his mom had wanted him to go to Sandy Hook Elementary. He’s barely five years old, with big blue eyes, straw blonde hair and pink plump cheeks. I thought about what could have happened to him today and I started to cry yet again.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I couldn't find the correct spelling of her name, but this is Pei-Zhe Chang from WVIT our NBC affiliate.
I thought about the first day I met him. He reached up and held my hand, both surprising and delighting me. He barely knew me but trusted me to guide him along the sidewalk to a local shop while his mother and sister followed suit. How could I not love him right then and there?
I thought about all the parents in this town who are not so lucky tonight. They will never hold their child’s hand again or guide them, keeping them safe.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This guy was walking his dog and he was descended upon by news crews.
Tomorrow we find out who died and I hope it’s no one I know…but it also doesn’t matter if I know them or not. They are part of MY TOWN and their loss is mine. I share their tears and heartache and I yearn to find a way to make it better for them-to find a way to erase the stigma of what has been cruelly bestowed upon our town.
I’m going to develop this program and possibly set it up so we can give the kids a stuffed animal when they leave so they have something to hug. I don’t know what more I can do, but I’m thinking about it a lot. I need to give back. I need to help. I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This woman's home was just pass the police tape. I helped her get the attention of the reporters and Troopers so she could go home. I felt so badly for her as she was quite upset.
I have a picture in my head that I can’t shake. A friend told me she spoke with a State Trooper who was in the school today—the same concrete and tile building where Sam and I once took Ballroom Dancing classes, the one that’s down the street from the Fire Station where we have Lobster Fest and Pancake Breakfasts to help raise money for our volunteer firefighters.
He said he’s seen some crazy things in his day, some true horrors, but what he saw today, that’s a new level of Hell.
The shooter must have gunned them down without hesitation, immediately upon entering the classroom. Those babies didn’t have a chance and now the first responders and families of the victims will have nightmares for the rest of their life and those of us who live in Sandy Hook, a district of Newtown, CT, will bear the scars of this day in their hearts.
It WAS Nicer in Newtown until 9:35 AM today. I know that one day it will be so, again, but right now it’s a Nightmare in Newtown, one that I wish I could wake up from soon.
This is so surreal, so wrong, so insane. I want to cry constantly. I need a hug. I’m afraid of what the news tomorrow will bring.
Today started off so happily. Spencer doesn’t have cancer. Jackson didn’t die on Tuesday. I transported a poor kitty to a rescue group so she would have a chance to find a new forever family and now none of that matters much and I wonder when things ever will again?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
Bongo is seven months old. In that time he’s made friends, learned to play and met some very nice people, all while his right front leg didn’t function properly. We rescued him before he was going to be euthanized at a shelter not knowing much about him other than something was wrong with his leg. They noted his paw was crushed, but that turned out not the case.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo.
We did tests and x-rays. Bongo met with noted Orthopedic Vet, Dr. Alan Cross of Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Cross felt that Bongo, while happy and otherwise healthy, could not feel anything in his right front paw and that he had severe nerve damage that was either not repairable or would be very costly to repair with very little hope for success. He suggested the best course would be to remove the leg since it was only getting in the way and slowing Bongo down.
©2012 Maria S. Favoring his leg.
We work with a great Vet who helps rescue groups. Her nickname is Doc Thomas and she really knows her stuff. During our rescue of Bongo, Doc had taken a few weeks off-a rare vacation for her and certainly well deserved.
©2012 Maria S. Getting some lovin' from foster sister, Bunny Boo Boo (who needs a home, too!)
We knew she could do the surgery for far less than the $2000. Dr. Cross quoted us, but we had to wait a few weeks to talk to Doc T about whether she could do it. Dr. Cross felt it was not a rush to do the surgery because Bongo wasn’t in any pain.
In the meantime, Maria, Bongo’s foster mom noticed Bongo using his leg as a crutch. He couldn’t bear weight on it, but he did push litter around and use it to help him balance. He did this by swinging his leg from his shoulder.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo with his new BFF-George who we rescued from an apartment complex in GA.
When I heard about this I thought the same thing Maria did; “Maybe we should talk to Dr. Cross again? Maybe Bongo is getting feeling back?” The last thing any of us want to do is amputate this cat’s leg unnecessarily.
Maria contacted Dr. Cross. He felt that it would be very unusual for nerves to begin to work again and that Bongo didn’t have to have the surgery–ever, as long as he wasn’t dragging the limb. Dragging the limb meant he’d get infections in it eventually and that’s dangerous especially because he can’t feel if something is wrong.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo with catnip banana.
Maria took Bongo to meet Doc Thomas today who has done plenty of amputations for other rescue groups. She looked at Bongo’s x-rays and examined him and came to the same opinion—Bongo does not need to lose his leg at this time. If it’s not bothering him, then leave it.
We worried that as Bongo ages he would have arthritis in his shoulder or as he grows larger and gains weight, that the constant pull of his “dead” leg would give him back pain.
©2012 Maria S. His leg problem doesn't stop him from climbing.
Both Vets agreed that he should be just fine. If he drags the leg it has to go, but as long as he’s holding it up, running around and having fun, then for now it can stay. It’s really up to us if we feel he would be better without it in the way.
So again, Maria and I are wondering what to do. Neither of us want to take Bongo’s leg, but how will that effect his future? Would he be better off if we amputated his leg now so he could adjust and so we can oversee his care before he gets adopted or is he more adoptable with a leg that doesn’t function? What if he got his leg stuck somewhere because he couldn’t feel it and was home alone and did worse damage to himself?
©2012 Maria S. Brothers from other mothers.
Fortunately, Bongo is adorable and affectionate. Leg or no leg we’ll find him a wonderful home one day. It would be easy to leave the leg alone because we don’t want him to lose it, but what is best for Bongo? He has to be considered first and last…not us…not our ideas of what might not be as appealing to adopters or what might make us feel sad for Bongo’s sake.
Choosing what’s best for Bongo is very difficult. Perhaps we have our answer now and just have to accept it? Perhaps we need to do something more difficult and have the amputation done?
©2012 Maria S. Da boyz.
I don’t know, but I’m grateful we have the luxury of seeing how it goes and waiting on making any firm decisions.
I don't know what day it is. Let me think about it. Yes. Ok. It's Thursday. I've been on the run for four days. Four days since the end of the world as I knew it. Four days since the wicked winds of Hurricane Sandy arrived and destroyed the power grid.
Now my life has shifted into solving the “how do I” of mundane tasks. How do I get something to eat when all the food in my refrigerator has spoiled? How do I keep myself clean if I don't have running water? Where do I go to the bathroom if I cannot flush the toilet?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Before the storm.
It boils down to that due to Hurricane Sandy, I live in a winterized cabin with no plumbing. The home I knew is gone for now-until Connecticut Light & Power has time to come to my middle class neighborhood and reconnect the line that is currently laying across the road, snaking its' way across the open woods.
The first few days weren't too bad, it was an uncomfortable flashback to last year's outage, but the nights have gotten cold. The temperature in the bedroom was in the 50's, which is not as bad as I've experienced, but it's very uncomfortable if you have to get out from under the covers. To make matters worse, the simple act of getting up to pee turns into having to get mostly undressed (at least the bottom part of any pajamas), then hover over a watering can. Yes...that's what I rigged up for myself. Its' shape is more like a pitcher so the top is open and the handle is at one end. Hovering over it with my bare feet on the cold tile, I tell myself to go ahead and pee, but my middle aged body says NO WAY. You do not just squat and pee here, you just don't do that! That's gross! But if you have not other options, what do you do? Run outside? It takes a tremendous amount of water to flush a toilet, which I was saving for “other purposes.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Only two ways out of my neighborhood. Both were blocked by fallen wires. One road was opened after less than a day, thankfully.
Eventually the task is completed. The vessel is sprayed with bleach. The contents carefully poured down the sink. Yes, gross! I hate it. I bleach out the sink and rinse it with water I saved in a large bucket before the storm hit. I'm trying very hard to keep things clean while feeling like I'm turning into a savage. I'm also worried that if I see a watering can months from now I will wet my pants…okay, maybe not.
I only worry about having my bladder suddenly behaving like Pavlov's dog is that because in the 1940's my grandmother got constipated. Her doctor prescribed something but it took a long time to work. He told her to get a copy of the New York Times and sit on the throne and wait. So she did. It worked, but after that my mother told me that every time my grandmother read the Times she had to go to the bathroom.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A common sight-many grand pine trees fell onto power lines, their root systems not deep enough to hold them in place.
Today I was able to wash 16 dishes at Animal Care & Control since I'm buddies with the ACO and they have a brand new generator so things are working there. I warmed up the raw cat food (which has not gone bad due to my pre-loading the freezer with ziplock bags of water to make big ice cubes). I got something to eat. I helped Sam do two runs to the dump to get rid of ALL the recycling that had been sitting around in the garage for months. I went on a fool's errand to Loews to try to find more portable lights, mirrored tiles (to put candles on to magnify their light and a wick for my mostly burned out hurricane lamp), but they had none of those things. I overheard one of the salespeople say you couldn't buy a gas can in the entire state since folks needed to haul gas to keep their portable generators going.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Coating the doxycycline pills by flashlight.
I finished some paperwork for the Town that was due today. I got a cup of tea at the local grocery store that just opened back up. I read SOME email, but it's too difficult to reply so I gave up on that. I posted a few things here and there. Somehow that took me 11 hours. Normally I'd get all these things done in a flash.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The one thing that worked-ziplock bags filled with water before the storm kept the precious cat food cold.
We've learned that we MUST be home BEFORE dark to feed all the cats or we just can't see what we're doing. The kittens want to bust out of their room and they still have to be medicated twice day. Trying pilling a cat with the light from a flashlight as your only source of illumination or scooping the litter pan in the dark.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I knew that already!
I told Sam I feel like we're running from Zombies. We can only be out during the day. At night we race home not only for our cats, but to take shelter. To try to get some heat out of our lousy fireplace to warm the cats, to try to put on more clothes to keep the chill away, to try to think of something to do for the rest of the night, sitting in the dark by candlelight.
At least we don't have to worry about boarding up the doors and cowering in the corner in fear of having our brains eaten. The only thing that's truly horrible outside is our neighbors generator, which makes so much noise we can hear it through the walls of our house when we're trying to go to sleep. Maybe the generator is protecting us from the zombies by distracting them to go to the neighbor and kill him and crush that noisy-ass thing?
I can dream, can't I?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The second biggest oak tree in the state of CT is down the road from my house. Once I saw it still standing I had hope in my heart that everything would be okay.
I finished writing this post Thursday night, a few moments before Sam and I got kicked out of the Town Hall. They close at 8pm and we'd already run back home, fed the cats, then came back for some work time. I wanted to stay longer, but there was no place else to get internet access so we headed home.
There's a traffic light about a mile from my house. It's been off since the Hurricane hit. I said to Sam that our power would be back on when that light was on—which was wishful thinking on my part.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Empty fridge again, but this time we didn't load up on food before the storm. The loss still stung, but not as bad as in 2011.
As we approached the traffic light, Sam noticed it was on. As we drove closer to home, we saw lights in other homes, but they were located before the break in the line. Certainly our power was not back on yet?
I didn't want to get too hopeful. Most of our neighborhood had power, just our street was out. As we passed over the downed line there were signs someone had been working on it. There was an orange highway cone and some official looking tape on the line. I looked to my right and the lights were on in the house nearest the break. As we continued down the street, every house had a few lights on.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. the DOOD minds the bags of spoiled food.
Could it be true? Were our lights on FOUR DAYS SOONER THAN EXPECTED?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My food is bratty, but not that spoiled.
I immediately felt badly, too. I started texting any of my friends who were nearby and who didn't have power yet and told them to come over right away. I thought about all the other people who don't have power yet, who are cold and in the same lousy state as we had been. My joy was short-lived, but my appreciation for having a chance to get back to normal will stay with me for a very long time.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. It's al over at last. Exhausted from the craziness of the past week we simply spent the day in bed with a good book, cats and a cup of tea---and loved every second of it.
The Cutest Kittens in the World
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Charly & Buttons.
Charly and Buttons are still here giving me a reason to smile. They are such darling creatures. I love spending time with them.
It looks like one of them will be getting adopted. I don’t want to jinx it by saying more, but I promise to update you when the time comes. Until then, I’ll greedily hold onto them and try to enjoy every second.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Clean those dirty toes!
Since writing this a few days ago, a few things have happened. Charly's been adopted by a wonderful couple from Boston! (Read his new mom's blog to keep up with Charly's adventures) Though I miss Charly a lot I know he's got a great home. Buttons is keeping me company and to help him, I asked foster-mama-Donna to let me take Bandit, Button's sister. That way Buttons wouldn't have to be alone.
The problem-Bandit is NOT happy to be here at all! Oops.
About the title: The Winds of Change
There’s a huge hurricane headed our way. They’re calling it Frankenstorm or simply, Hurricane Sandy. I’m having terrible flashbacks of a year ago when we were hit by “Snowmaggedon”—the worst week of my life without electricity or friendship (Sam and I had had a bad fight and spent the week ignoring each other…I broke off our engagement and gave back the ring.) With no heat, frigid temperatures, no water, no nothing I thought I was going to lose my mind. You can read the multi-part series HERE HERE and HERE and see a visual journal of my week from Hell.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Taking five from wrestling.
A year later, the same things seem to be happening again, as if on schedule. Because I know he reads this blog, I’m not going to say much other than a simple moment of irritation on my part turned into a full blown war on his. Sam has declared he is leaving me, we are done. It’s day five when we should be planning on getting through this next storm, but we can’t even recover from the one between us.
There’s a cascading effect once these cruel winds blow. There’s the obvious sign of bags and boxes being packed, but beyond that there’s a joint business being run that saves the life of cats. There are design projects that might have been worked on hand in hand and will now be done by other firms. There is a loss of livelihood and most likely a loss of my own home.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Game for Cats is a hit with these two.
Almost twenty years have ticked past. There have been plenty of storms along the way. The winds always bring us back together and we find a way to rebuild. With all the stress in our lives I can’t see where the resources are to find a place where things are okay again. I’m so beat down by everything else it’s just one more thing. It makes me sad to write that because it should mean so much more, but my bank account is almost empty and so is my heart.
That’s why I haven’t been able to write much this week. It’s hard to write when you’re looking out the window and know something horrible is coming your way. As if in a bad dream you can’t lift your legs and run, run, run. You have to stay there and wait and let the wild winds crash the tree limbs around you, let the rain wash over you, while you pray you don’t drown.
I can't take it.
Two of Winnie's kittens are here. The others are with their foster mom in a neighboring town, waiting to be spayed/neutered in two weeks. Because Charly and Buttons had their procedures last week, they're ready to find their forever homes.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Buttons (left) and Charly (right).
The problem is they're so cute I can't stand the idea of them leaving.
To make matters worse they're great kittens. I don't know what foster mom Donna does, but whatever it is, these kittens are warm, loving, gentle and sweet.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
The first night they were here their little bodies shook with fear. They were scared in their new environment without their mama, Winnie, to look after them. I stayed with them for a long while, petting them, giving them treats, comforting them. They responded by purring and leaning into my hands.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I always feel guilty about separating the kittens from their mama, but it must be done. Winnie was spayed. She has a home with Donna. She's had at least three litters of kittens-three litters too many. She's done her time. It's time for her to recover and enjoy life without the burden of pregnancy in a home that will treat her with compassion and respect (and lots of love, too).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Charly thinking so hard his tongue came out.
Charly and Buttons have only been here for a few days, but if I could I'd spend day and night with them. I'm a sucker for long haired cats and it's rare that I ever get any to foster. In a way that's probably a good thing or I fear I'd have a zillion more “foster fail” cats and many fewer adoptions.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I keep torturing myself. Who would be good enough to adopt these kittens?
Within an hour of posting the kittens on Petfinder, I had 4 offers to adopt them. As with all our foster kittens, I'll be careful to review each application and hopefully will find someone amazing. All I know is, whoever adopts these cats is going to be VERY LUCKY.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
My fear is that they won't get enough attention, that they will lose their sweetness if handled roughly. Am I saying our adopters do that? Certainly not, but once out of Donna's loving care, then mine, what will become of them?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I always have to push aside my fears when doing adoptions. There has to be a point where I let go. It's unbearable to look into their eyes and feel myself getting lost in their adorable faces. I struggle to turn away. I make myself think about my cats-the cats I made a commitment to who depend on me and need my love. I want to make excuses as to why these kittens can't be adopted just yet so I can have more time with them, but that's foolish, too. That's not how you run a cat rescue.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I savor their sweetness, their silly antics, their awkward movements not yet refined into that of a graceful adult. Their adult coats haven't come in yet and they have spiky hairs along their backs that indicate just how long their coats will be one day.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Beautiful Buttons.
One day that I will not witness…
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. What IS this?
In some ways it feels like I have a secret lover. I look at Charly and Buttons and I forget my troubles for awhile. It's an escape from tension in the house, the cats misbehaving, the bills growing. All I have to do is have fun and love them, guide them with a gentle hand and make sure their tummies are full. They don't have behavioral issues or diseases to treat (knock wood). They don't irritate me as my own cats sometimes do. It's the first blush of love and I'm certainly hooked. I feel reluctant to leave them to tend to the other cats. It's like going back to my husband after a whirlwind affair.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Cat toy photobomb.
Reality kicks in and I move on to other things. I know they're upstairs playing or napping or looking out the window as the dried autumn leaves flicker past the window on a gust of wind.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Little hunter.
I find myself longing for our next meeting and trying to think of an excuse to go check on them. I know our time is running out. Soon they'll be adopted and all I'll have are these photos and my memories.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Is my butt too heavy for this cat cube?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Hello!
These are the ones who remind me that my capacity for love is infinite. It doesn't run out when I feel heartbreak. It always comes back full, complete and profound.
If we didn't have the power of imagination just think about what a dull world it would be. We'd probably all still be living in a cave, wearing animal hides. There are times, though when I wish I didn't have the ability to imagine, especially when it comes to thinking about our latest rescue, Bongo.
X-ray of Bongo's damaged leg.
In the week we've had Bongo, I've only heard good things about him. The first few days made me sad when I heard he stayed in his litter pan, comforted by his own scent-something common to cats who are confined in cages at animal shelters. In time, Bongo realized he was safe and loved and began to spend his days relaxing on a soft bed or playing with toys. He walked holding his right front leg off the ground. It doesn't seem to function properly. You can see a video of it HERE.
If you compare the front legs, you can tell one has good muscle mass and one does not.
Yesterday Bongo met with Dr. Alan Cross, a noted Orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Cross reviewed Bongo's x-rays and did a careful and thorough examination.
It could NOT have been from being hit by a car. Bongo's leg had to be grabbed and twisted by force.
I tried not to imagine who did this to him or why. I tried not to imagine that this person is still doing this to other cats. I did allow myself to imagine what I'd do to the person if I ever could find out who did this to such a sweet and innocent creature.
©2012 Maria S. Sweet Bongo.
Dr. Cross felt the best solution in this situation would be to amputate Bongo's leg. It's only in his way and over time it will become more and more of a hinderance. Bongo has NO sensation in his paws, which we originally thought he had. I've never had to make this choice for an animal and I'm not overjoyed it has come to pass. For Bongo, I will do whatever it takes to help him live the most comfortable life possible.
If there was any way we could save his leg, it would be done. I know Bongo won't mourn the loss of his leg as we will because we can imagine what life he could have had, but perhaps we can begin to imagine a new life, on three legs, that can be just as full of love and joy as it would have been on four.
Somewhere out there is a very special person who can accept the pain of loss as part of the cycle of life. Someone who doesn’t run away from fear, but can sit with it, feel its’ vibration run through their veins and not fall apart. They may wince or shudder, but they can stay in place, take a breath and have faith that another breath will follow. That in this moment everything is okay—even if one day there will be moments of great sadness.
They realize that their experience on this mortal coil is not all about them, but about helping others and being present in the moment and cherishing every second of what remains.
This person could look at a situation like the one I’m facing with Jackson and accept that life with him will be bittersweet.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson's ever the scamp with a big personality to match his big heart.
The test results are back. Jackson’s thyroid function is normal. It takes off the table any hope that his heart problems stemmed from something else that we could control or even cure. It also doesn’t resolve why he attacked my cats or why he still howls at night. His kidney function is slightly off—not a concern right now, but may be in the future. Jackson has a worsening bacterial infection, possibly in his gut, but we’re not sure. It will mean a longer course of antibiotics as he only got Baytril for a week. It may be why I caught him peeing outside the box once or twice and explain why he’s been fairly quiet the past few days.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting for Dr. Larry.
The lasix, ACE inhibitors and aspirin (a tiny amount every 3 days) haven’t caused any positive changes to his enlarged heart. It’s only been 10 days, but I was hoping to see more signs showing the medication was helping him—although he does seem to be more comfortable. Dr. Larry feels that Jackson's always had a bad heart and that it didn't stem from a virus or other issue.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
The other thing Dr. Larry mentioned was how difficult it is to handle Jackson. When he’s at the Vet, Jackson gets amped up. They can handle him for a few minutes but to do more than that Jax begins to get nasty with the staff. His heart rate soars and his breathing becomes labored.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Taking a break at Dr. Larry's, but even with a hands off approach Jackson is still vexed.
That’s why I chose to have extra blood tests done since we had the sample available. I don’t know when we’ll be able to draw more blood. I don’t know how we’ll be able to repeat Jackson’s echocardiogram in a safe way next month.
©2012 Betsy Merchant. Jackson at the Kill Shelter.
I’m tempted to look at this situation and think that Jackson was meant to be with me. I saw his photo in a mass emailing, asking rescue groups to save this cat at a Kill shelter in Georgia. Something about him made me want to save his life. Then cruel thoughts emerge—maybe he would have been better off if they euthanized him at the shelter? Was it worth all this stress, transport to Connecticut, living in a shelter, being moved back and forth in cars because his previous adopters traveled a lot, then losing that home and coming to mine—only to have little time left to live?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Home from the Vet, Jackson still prefers to hang out in the cat carrier.
If I hadn’t been so diligent about finding out why his breathing looked odd to me, Jackson would probably be adopted with a ticking time bomb inside him that would destroy his unsuspecting family.
We know what ails Jackson, but we don’t know if there’s anyone who lives close by (we can’t transport him far ever again) who would want to open their home to a cat who probably isn’t going to live a very long time. Dr. Larry said months, years if we’re lucky.
Truly only someone with the heart of a lion would adopt Jackson and I hope very sincerely they’re reading this post. Jackson deserves a home where he doesn’t have to vie for attention as he has to do here. He’d be happy with a cat or two to make friends with, but that’s a quiet place full of love and compassion.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. I don't know why Jackson prefers cardboard, even after I bought him a nice new cat bed, but he likes what he likes.
I turn my head and see Jackson curled up in a cardboard canned cat food tray that’s on the floor. It’s not fancy, but he likes it. He’s resting quietly. All is well. I look at him and tears burn my eyes as I struggle not to cry. My life is about rescuing cats, about saving their lives and finding them wonderful families to share their life with. It’s not supposed to be like this.
I wrote most of this post yesterday before Dr. Larry told me about the severity of Jackson’s heart condition. After a brief discussion…
He shouldn't have to endure the stress of moving to another home and trying to adjust. He has his home here with us. It’s not perfect, but we do love him. We’ll keep him in our program because we honestly can’t afford to provide for another cat and had no plans to add to our family. We’ll set up a special donation page for him and continue to update everyone on how he’s doing since I know so many of you care about him and ask after him.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson holding his catnip heart.
I had no idea that one day I’d say I was living with Jackson Galaxy, cherishing him and protecting him until his last day, but there you go. Life is full of irony and surprises.
I’m just trying to keep my chin up and be brave for Jackson and enjoy every moment we have together until there are no more.
[if you missed part one, you can read it HERE]
The agenda for the rest of the day included presentations about Hill’s Philosophy of Precisely Balanced Nutrition and about their Promise of Quality & Safety.
Hill’s has 170 different products for dogs and cats that are divided into two distinct lines: “Science Diet®” and “Prescription Diet®” (which is only available through a Vet). Does that blow your mind, too? Does it seem like a bit much? Sure there are different nutritional requirements for a kitten than for a senior cat and for a dog who’s a couch potato versus a dog who does agility training, but do consumers really need to choose from 170 different products?
I had to take a deep breath. Does it make sense that there needed to be such clearly defined types of food? There’s food for cats who have kidney problems, cats with thyroid problems, cats who are fat, cats who have skin allergies. There’s wet, there’s dry, there’s more versions of the same for dogs.
But why not take a step back? Treat the underlying cause for these issues. What CAUSED these problems instead of treating them using the same mindset as a pharmaceutical company—don't cure the problem, manage the symptoms and keep the patient comfortable.
©2012 Hill's. Black cat in group home. (used with permission)
From my standpoint, there really only needs to be one wholesome food that branches out to a variety of single, unique proteins with slight tweaks of additional ingredients you can rotate feeding. That way the cat or dog doesn’t get bored and it ensures the animal gets a balanced diet since some proteins are higher in fat or other vitamins and minerals and some are lower in differing ratios. Rotating the proteins, again, just common sense (and yes there are Vets who support this notion as well).
My father, who was a microbiologist and in charge of Quality Assurance for a major corporation in the dairy industry always said this to me about proper nutrition; “Everything in moderation.”
If I was going to get on board with the need for a growing number of different foods, then I would be very impressed with how Hill’s goes about creating them. They do palatability tests. They have humans learn to sniff out different flavors, then do testing on those flavor combinations to see what goes over well with a cat versus a dog. They have the ability to “map” out flavor combinations and create charts that show what cats prefer versus dogs. Turns out cats love grassy scent, but not earthy. They like fish, but not if it’s too fishy. They have teams of people who just work on the science of taste. That was quite impressive, but is it really necessary?
They’re also very serious about food safety and have extremely strict protocols for each and every ingredient they purchase, strict guidelines their vendors must attain and everything is tested before it even ENTERS their manufacturing plants in the US and eastern Europe.
What we didn’t get to learn about was Hill’s nutrigenomics because their lead person had left the company recently. We saw a chart while walking in the hallway and a tech from that department told us how they take the DNA from a cat or dog and have ways of seeing how it reacts when specific nutrients are applied to it. From their web site it states: “For Hill's, nutrigenomics is promoting lifelong health through targeted nutrition. We strategically formulate our pet foods to address the genetic processes that help keep our pets healthy and promote longevity. Nutrigenomics is not to be confused with just making food targeted to a pet's breed…
©2012 Hill's. Christina Scott with Mauer and Jane Victoria(on shelf). (used with permission)
… One of our therapeutic weight control pet foods, Hill's® Prescription Diet® r/d® Canine, is another example of our use of nutrigenomics technology. The nutrition in Prescription Diet® r/d® Canine features targeted nutrients that support healthy metabolism, thereby helping dogs burn fat more efficiently.”
This is where my head started to spin. Wouldn't a wholesome diet help an animal burn fat appropriately? My concern here is that by affecting the metabolism so that it “burns fat more efficiently,” what does that do long-term to the animal? Is it as simple as helping dogs burn off fat? What if this changes the dog's metabolism permanently, even after this Prescription Diet® r/d® food is no longer fed? There may be a tipping point in the life of that dog where fat burning becomes a problem, not a solution.
I asked about the length of clinical food testing trials they do on the animals in their care. The trials last no more than 6 months and are done on a handful of animals, with one exception where they followed a group of dogs that lived as the single pet with a family for 5 years.
How can you know what a food will do to a cat’s teeth when they do dental cleanings on ALL animals EVERY year? No pet guardian does that in “real life.” How can you know your dry food doesn’t cause dental problems or cause obesity if they only get it for 6 months or, if they get so many other foods to test, how can you say what causes that animal to gain weight? Which food gave the cat diabetes if they’d been tested on 10 or more over the past number of years?
©2012 Hill's. Dr. Stone and HotBot with exercise pen in background. (used with permission)
We had a very interesting presentation by Dr. Bill Schoenherr, the Principal Nutritionist at Hill’s, who has a long background in the cattle feed industry and more recently in the pet food industry. He talked about how to read a pet food label and the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines for food ingredients that AAFCO approved manufacturers must follow. Each and every ingredient is listed as to what it can be and cannot be, what form it should take, from what part of the animal or plant and so on. You have to be a member of the Federation of Animal Science Societies to purchase a copy of the AAFCO guidelines that were last updated in 2008.
How to read a pet food label could easily be book in and of itself, but some of the big things you should know are that ingredients are listed by weight-heaviest weight is listed first. If the food lists “chicken” first, it’s no different than the AAFCO definition of “chicken meal” (which certainly sounds worse than just Chicken to consumers). “Meal” is the dry form of chicken. It’s nutritionally similar, it weighs less and is cheaper and easier to ship, but consumers see the word “chicken” and assume it’s the same as what they would eat. WRONG!
©2012 Hill's. Dr. Burris with Hug Me Jeff and Fraizer. (used with permission)
The chicken our pets get is not very appetizing. It’s no feathers, heads or feet (feet are in by-products), but it’s not organs or much muscle meat. It’s a lot of bones and the ash content can differ by supplier.
He spoke a lot about food descriptors like, “gravy, dinner, platter, entrée, formula.” What he didn’t talk about was what sort of goal Hill’s had regarding these ingredients or descriptors. It was said over and over again their only goal was “complete and balanced diet,” but they didn’t say how they made that happen for obligate carnivores using ingredients like corn, wheat, soy or cellulose in foods that were often over-cooked to the point of a breakdown in nutrients.
I was disappointed by the presentation by Dr. Julie Churchill who is a Vet Nutritionist at the University of Minnesota. Her presentation was about nutritional assessment of dogs. She started by saying to the effect that she was not being paid by Hill’s to say what was on her mind about nutrition, and that she hoped they would invite her back again, suggesting she was about to say something mind-blowing about animal nutrition. Silently, I was rooting her on, hoping she’d say the “R” (raw) word.
In fact, all she did was talk about scoring a cat or dog’s physical condition and that optimal nutrition was the cornerstone of good health—DUH. Her presentation featured images from the AAHA’s (The American Animal Hospital Association) web site regarding a study that was paid for by Hill’s. I kept waiting for her to say something about what makes up optimal nutrition, not just that an animal needs it, but what IS it?
I didn’t have the nerve to say something in public but as we began the tour of the facility, I asked her what makes up optimal nutrition and she wouldn’t answer me directly, only saying it was a good question.
Our tour included seeing the housing for Hill’s “Pet Partners” (research animals)—420 dogs and 500 cats. Their facility is 40,000 square feet. We saw about one half of it. They mostly house beagles from known breeders and domestic short-haired cats, again from breeders or they breed them in-house. They also take animals from other labs when their tests are completed. They’re too concerned about bringing illness into their facility by rescuing shelter cats or dogs to get animals from those places.
©2012 Hill's. One of the many group homes. (used with permission)
The animals are in group homes with spotless platforms to lie on, big windows and plenty of space to move around. We were not allowed to take photos of these areas, but were provided a few by Hill's.
The dogs have outdoor access and they have 2-hour breaks outside, then are rotated inside so another group can go outside.
Anyone who works at Hill’s can take a dog for a walk or work on their computer and hang out with certain cats. The cats get new toys weekly and have a few rather scant cat trees and soft places to rest.
As we walked near the glass walled enclosures for the cats, some of them ran over to rub up against the glass. Everyone cooed over their actions, but I felt sad. The cats and the dogs are supposed to get enrichment, which includes time with humans, but how can they ever give them enough? I saw a staff member enter a room and all the cats got up and ran over to her, desperate for attention. The cats would live there for lifetime, with an exceptional few who can be adopted into a home when they’re too old to be tested. I wanted to scoop them up and get them out of there. It’s hard to see animals who clearly need love, not be able to get enough of it. I understand that the people at Hill’s do their very best to provide for these animals, but in the end, it’s difficult to imagine how 65 people give 900 animals enough love and attention.
©2012 Hill's. Daphne. (used with permission)
I asked about what happens when a cat gets too old to be tested or develops health problems where they can no longer provide good test results...
…find out in my final post tomorrow.
We all had a very bad scare a month ago when Tater fell ill. The Vet felt it was the “wet” form of FIP, a fatal disease. We were all heartbroken and scared, but determined that if there was ANY chance Tater could survive, we would make that happen no matter what we had to do.
©2012 Maria S. Still got that belly, but we're not concerned that it's FIP.
Miraculously, through a twist of fate and our foster mom, Maria's careful observation, we were led down a path to a possible answer. It was NOT FIP, but a double-whammy parasitic infection along with a very nasty upper respiratory infection. We began treatment right away and sure enough, Tater's condition began to improve.
©2012 Maria S. Mugging for Maria.
Tater began to EAT again, then began to play; two big signs he might survive. The Vet finally took the FIP diagnosis off the table and we all breathed a sigh of relief for the remainder of July. Sadly, a few days ago Tater relapsed or is battling something new.
Tater was carefully examined. His lung sounds were not good. The Vet wanted to take x-rays and do blood work. We had that done and the Vet decided to put Tater on strong antibiotics for the next THREE weeks. This poor kitten can't catch a break. I asked if we had to consider the FIP diagnosis once again-terrified of the answer.
©2012 Maria S. and Robin A.F. Olson. Check in with Tater, ChiChi and Latte, too.
Due to the costs for care and to also provide care for Willow, who is still struggling with a URI,
The ChipIn for the fund is below and is also in the RIGHT sidebar on my blog. PLEASE do not feel badly if you can't donate at this time. That's why we're only asking that everyone chip in a small amount. That way it will add up to a great donation if everyone takes part!
©2012 Maria S. Tater getting some comfort from his new buddy, Sammy.
Your donation is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE as my rescue, Kitten Associates is a 501©3 Non-Profit Cat Rescue.
If you'd prefer to send a check, please make it out to: Kitten Associates and please note on the check the funds should go to "Tater Tot" mail it to:
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Any funds not used for the care of this family will go into our General Fund.
©2012 Maria S. Love that little curl in Tater's tail.