Rescue isn’t just about Playing with Kittens

Note: After a night’s sleep and some conversations with friends, I realized that the original version of this blog didn’t quite convey what I meant for it to say. This blog was inspired when I found myself cleaning up a kitty mess for the 5th time that day and having to remind myself “Lisa, you didn’t just get into rescue to play with kittens! This is worth it!”

The message here is not in any way meant to say “don’t volunteer with kittens” — it’s kitten season, folks — PLEASE volunteer to play with kittens ;) …or to set up adoption events, pass out fliers, do adoption interviews, or whatever you can do! We love and appreciate the people who do these things!

The message here is simply a reminder to myself during those tough fostering times when I find myself dealing with a sick or difficult cat. Kittens are the perks of rescue ;) There’s just an awful lot more going on at the same time!. So, here’s the updated post:

 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new entry — life has been chaotic! But, tonight, I feel compelled to write.

Graham is still with me, but he’s a different cat than when he arrived.

His diabetes went into remission, and his neuropathy went away… he began grooming again, and his coat returned to a normal cat coat… it took us over a month, but we got rid of his urinary tract infection… then, we discovered that he had a blood pressure issue, but we got that under control with meds.

It’s been a crazy 5 months complete with late-night emergency vet visits, being up to my elbows in cat vomit, lots of shoving pills in cat mouths… seemingly endless vet visits.

But, it’s been worth it.

This is worth it:

Pet Graham

The truth is, while I adored my baby fosters, Milton and Diego, sometimes I need a reminder that I didn’t get into fostering and rescue work just to play with kittens.

I also got into rescue to spend hours laying on the floor beside a sick cat at 10:00 at night — debating whether or not to make the trip to the emergency vet.

I got into rescue to drive to that emergency vet at 11:00 at night because getting my foster cat help was more important than sleep that night.

I got into rescue to scrub cat puke out of impossibly stained carpets and to comfort the sick cat who can’t help himself.

I got into rescue to find out that my foster may have a fungus that I, myself, could catch…and to walk around smelling like cat ear drops, medicated ear wash, and prescription shampoo seemingly forever because I have to clean his ears out twice a day and bathe him twice a week. (OK — truth be told, I really didn’t intend to get into rescue for this particular one. But it was worth it.)

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This is Rhett, who I fostered for a little more than a month – he left for his new home yesterday!

I got into rescue to have to be home exactly every 12 hours to give a diabetic cat insulin.

I got into rescue to author the book “101 ways to give a cat a pill.” (No, seriously, I should write this book.)

And, I absolutely, 100%, without a doubt got into rescue to help a senior cat who can’t even walk straight learn to climb again.

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Of course, I got into rescue for this:

Happy Graham

 

And for days like this…

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And moments like this…

Silly Graham

 

But, one thing’s for sure… there’s more to rescue than playing with kittens, and even though the hard parts can completely sucks sometimes — I’m glad I got into rescue.

Tonight’s been a hard night.

Graham is sick again, and we’re headed back to the vet tomorrow. All this after over a month of dealing with a second foster (named Rhett — pictured above in the cone) who had to be at the vet every 2 weeks, needed medicated baths, had a major ear infection, and is even still being treated for potential ringworm. Never a break! Never a boring day in this house!

But, it’s worth it.

Rhett is worth it. Graham is worth it.

That’s why I got into rescue — because every animal — young or old, sick or well — is worth my time, energy, and a little piece of my heart.

That’s what rescue is all about, isn’t it?

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Meet Graham!

The wedding is over, my life is returning to some semblance of normal, and I’ve finally returned to fostering! I recently began a new job that allows me to work from home 100%, so I decided that I was up for a slightly more challenging kitty case this time around (although, if I’m honest, Graham has proven thus far to be the easiest foster I’ve ever had).

Meet Graham!

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Graham was a HART kitten 10 years ago. He was adopted by a family who kept him all his life until now, when they decided to return him. If that type of transition isn’t hard enough on a senior cat, Graham also came to us with diabetes, which has caused diabetic neuropathy. This causes Graham to walk a little oddly; his legs shake and hunch a bit, but he mostly takes it in stride.

The diabetic neuropathy should hopefully resolve itself as his diabetes comes under control. We hope to get his diabetes under control through diet change and by giving him insulin injections twice per day.

Graham also came to us with a really gross coat; it was (is) rather greasy, and he has a ton of dandruff. This doesn’t prevent him from looking stunning in his pictures though.

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We were told that Graham was a “one-person cat” who liked to hide. While he does like to hang out in his fort (a propped up painting that he’s turned into a kitty tent), he readily greets both Kevin and me whenever we come into the room! He’s a pretty chill cat :) (And he constantly “makes biscuits” with his paws!)

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I tried letting Graham out of his foster room, but he mostly prefers to stay in there even if the door is open. However, if you pull out a dangly string, he will chase it like the hunter he really is! Play helps him to become more confident. After a play session, he’ll venture downstairs and explore!

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Graham’s absolute favorite thing is getting brushed and wiped down with cleansing wipes (a daily regime currently until his coat is a bit better off; he does not appear to be grooming himself probably due to being sick and stressed). When you brush Graham, he begins to love on EVERYTHING!

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Ohai gate…I love you!

That’s Graham! :) Stay tuned for many Graham-y adventures to come!

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An Open Letter to Those Who Surrender or Re-Home their Pets and a Note to My Fellow Rescue Volunteers

This letter is not easy for me to write for a number of reasons: first, because there are so many of you with so many stories; second, because I feel a multitude of emotions about each re-homing/surrender situation that I’ve encountered; and third, because I must include myself in the list of audience members for whom this letter is intended.

That’s right; I have re-homed a pet. A dog…a puppy named Brady.

I think it’s important that you know this up front, because I want you to know that everything I say, I am also saying to myself. I have been where some of you are right now; I have felt what some of you might be feeling right now.

I began this blog by telling you how intrigued I am with the stories of those animals who I meet through the rescue for which I volunteer. Just as with those animals’ stories, I recognize that each of the stories of those who must let go of their pets is also different; no two sets of circumstances are exactly the same.

For the most part in the rescue world, the moment you bring up that you have re-homed or surrendered a pet, you will feel immediately judged. Most rescues will not adopt to you if you have ever re-homed or surrendered a pet, and I recognize that this policy is in place for a good reason. I know that many people DO surrender or re-home their pets because they feel that these pets are “just animals” who are replaceable and expendable; I have certainly encountered these people. And, those who do view animals in that way deserve the judgment that they receive upon confessing their past pet history.

But, I am also aware that there are others out there who, like me, have re-homed or surrendered a pet because it was truly the right thing to do. (And, to be clear, by “the right thing to do,” I mean the right thing to do for that animal.) Because, sometimes, I truly believe that it can be the right thing to do.

To those who fall into this latter category with me, I want to extend a hand of empathy and a listening ear without judgment or stigma attached. I want you to know that some of us who volunteer in rescue have been where you are right now, and that we (well, I can truly only speak for myself) understand that this might not be the “easy way out” for you in any way, shape, or form. I also want to let you know that there is a right way and a wrong way to re-home a pet, and I’ll get more into that later.

I’d like to share my story, if I may. Some of you reading this story may relate to it; some of you may judge me (and harshly) for it. That is ok by me; I have spent the last 2 years coming to terms with my decision to re-home Brady, and I have concluded repeatedly that it was absolutely the right thing for me to do.

I “adopted” Brady when he was 2 months old from a “rescue” that a boyfriend and I found online. I put these words in quotation marks because I know now (after working with a legitimate rescue) that this rescue was clearly NOT a legitimate rescue (or at least not a good and moral one). They did no background screening, and their policy was “once you adopt the dog, it’s yours. You cannot ever bring it back. Period.”

My boyfriend at the time and I picked out and brought Brady home after doing next to no research on breed, dog care, or puppy proofing. Stellar; we really started out on the right foot! (end sarcasm.) Brady was a german shepherd, lab, husky mix of some sort; he was adorable, intelligent, and rambunctious (as puppies are apt to be).

My first thoughts upon bringing Brady home were “oh my gosh, he’s so adorable; I’m so excited!” followed immediately by “what the hell have I done?” I cried a lot that first week.

Brady was a near-perfect dog; truly, he was. He was incredibly intelligent and took maybe a month to house break. At the age of 3 months old, I could put him in a sit-stay and leave the room; he’d remain where he was until being released even without my being there. He would down-stay and not move to chase a treat that I’d throw across the room…even when the cat chased it. He would let me put treats on each of his paws and would look at me, never touching the treats unless I released him to do so. And this was as a baby! I knew immediately that this dog had some incredible obedience potential.

I started Brady in puppy classes immediately upon bringing him home. During the time that I had him, we did about 3 or 4 different formal puppy and obedience classes. We practiced a lot at home; he always needed to be doing something. I also got Brady a mid-day dog walker to come by each day and let him out. When he was old enough, we began bringing him to doggie daycare so that he could run and play more frequently.

As Brady got older, his energy level changed. He loved to be moving or doing obedience lessons; he needed near-constant stimulation. Our hour-long walks were not enough; I began bringing him to the dog park, where he absolutely loved playing with the other dogs. Aside from dealing with Brady’s near-constant car sickness, I enjoyed all of these things: obedience lessons, doggie day care, the dog park, walks…

In June of 2011, my boyfriend and I broke up. It had always been the deal between us that if we broke up, he would take Brady. However, he decided to move across the country and told me that he could not take Brady with him. I let him go; I was glad Brady stayed with me anyway because I didn’t really trust my ex to find Brady a good home if he wound up unable to care for him. When my ex left, Brady was very sad. He had been quite bonded to my ex; they slept together every night.

And so I found myself with twice the expenses as I’d previously had and half the manpower to get things done. From June – August of 2011, I did my best to make it work.

I could no longer afford the obedience classes or dog walker; though, I did manage to afford one day a week of doggie daycare. I would come home every evening, take Brady on a long walk, and then take him to the dog park for 2 hours.

Every spare penny that I had went into buying him chews (he loved to chew), paying for his vet care (I got him neutered & microchipped, had him on heartworm preventatives and flea/tick prevention, and, of course, I ensured that all of his vaccinations were on schedule), buying his Wellness dog food (he threw everything else up), and just trying to give him the best life that I could.

Meanwhile, Brady was suffering. He was constantly restless – despite the 3 hours of exercise each day. He was not bonding with me whatsoever; he would sit in the corner and just whine and whimper. His anxiety made me anxious; I felt that I was failing him. My anxiety made him anxious; he was very sensitive.

And then, I reached a point where I found myself having to choose between groceries and feeding my dog.

I have to pause here because I want to share the thoughts I was having during this time, but there is truly no other way for me to share them than through some sort of quasi-stream-of-consciousness thing… so, without further explanation… these were my thoughts and feelings during this time:

I can’t do this. I have to do this. I would never re-home an animal. Ever. I always say to everyone how once you adopt a pet, you are responsible for it for the rest of its life. He’s my responsibility; he’s mine. I can’t abandon him. I’m failing him. If I re-home him, I will fail him. But, I can’t do this anymore; I can’t afford groceries. I’m miserable; he’s miserable. I don’t ever spend time with anyone or anything other than him and it’s still not enough. I can’t give him what he needs; abandoning him and re-homing him can’t be an option. If I re-home him, I will have failed him; I will be a terrible pet owner – I will never ever be able to own a pet again.

In short, I felt that re-homing him would make me the scum of the earth.

I didn’t know what to do.

I decided to “test the waters” so to speak by posting an ad on Craigslist …and here is where everyone can get all up in arms and judge me because, yes, I am going to confess it right now…

I re-homed Brady using Craigslist.

I am pretty sure that makes me destined for the 6th or 7th level of Hell in some peoples’ books.

So, I posted an ad on Craigslist. Here is what my ad said:

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I received a number of responses to that initial ad. Some of them were clearly from people who were not good enough for Brady; I ignored those. I also got a couple of good responses from people who seemed like truly good people looking for a dog. I responded to a few, weeded a few people out, and found one person who I actually really liked. We’ll call her “A” (as in angel; because she’s been an angel to me – but anyway…).

After finding A, I immediately freaked out, melted down, and told her that I couldn’t re-home my dog. I wanted to try to make this work; I couldn’t be that failure… I was terrified that A was going to respond and yell at me for wasting her time.

She did not; she told me that she understood, and she listened to my ramblings. She said that I could contact her in the future if I changed my mind but that she hoped things would work out for me.

For a few weeks, I put this whole fiasco behind me… I was not going to re-home Brady; I was going to make things work. I was determined. Even if we were both miserable, I was going to make this work. The thought of re-homing Brady made me physically ill. It felt like an ultimate act of betrayal.

And then, one morning about 3 weeks later, I woke up to find that Brady had, for the first time in his entire life, become destructive; he had eaten 3 window sills beyond repair.

I want to make this clear: I was not mad at Brady for his destruction. I was angry at myself. Brady had never ever before been destructive, and I knew that his destruction was because the 3 hours of exercise a day was not enough for him… he needed more, and I had nothing else that I could give. I had nothing.

I reached back out to A – I was CERTAIN that she would have adopted another dog somewhere already. I was wrong; she had not. She had been patiently waiting to find the right dog for her.

“A” came to my house to meet Brady, and I liked her immediately. I began showing her what Brady knew obedience-wise, and she was clearly surprised at his level of skill. She asked me if I was sure that I wanted to re-home him and said that he was so much more well-trained than she’d anticipated. I broke down… and told her, in tears, my story about how I’d wound up in this situation. She hugged me, let me cry on her, listened to my story… she did not judge me, and she was so patient with my indecision. She loved Brady, and he liked her a lot.

The next day, I brought Brady to her home, where I met her children and was able to do a home check and observe how Brady and her kids interacted. They were (and are) a wonderful family. The kicker is… I knew that Brady was their dog nearly immediately. Brady, who was never really excited to see me…who sat and whined in the corner of my home out of boredom and anxiety… was instantly and completely in love with her two children.

I stayed for about an hour…showing them his obedience skills, teaching the kids how to give him commands, etc. I also made an agreement with them that if for any reason and at any time, they could not keep Brady, he was to be returned to me — No Questions Asked. I don’t care if he’s 20 years old, has cancer, has become aggressive… whatever happens. No Questions Asked, he must come back to me.

And then, I left.

And I cried…a lot.

But, I cried only for me. Because Brady was one happy dog.

I have been blessed in that “A” and I stay in touch. That first 6 months, we talked a lot. She invited me to Brady’s “first birthday party,” complete with watching Finding Nemo and celebrating with cake, haha. I couldn’t bear to go, but I did send a gift.

It’s been 2 years now, and we’re still in touch. I saw a picture of Brady the other day and barely recognized him; he’s an adult dog now…no longer the baby puppy I had for 5 months.

And that is my story. It took me 1 full year to stop hating myself for what I’d done (and to stop crying nearly once a week because of that self-hatred); it took me another year to fully recognize that I’d done the right thing by Brady.

And that is when I became involved in my current rescue. And this is why I wanted to share my story and write this “letter.”

Despite the pain that came with my Brady experience, I am extremely grateful for it…because it allows me to look at you, person who is surrendering your pet to our rescue, and not judge you before hearing your full story.

Some of you are doing the right thing, but I don’t think that I would be able to really understand that without experiencing what I have experienced. More often than not, rescue volunteers seem to see only the animal…and not the person with that animal. I want you to know that I see you, and I am here to listen.

I know that when I was contemplating re-homing Brady, I was made to feel like the scum of the earth by some people. And, I imagine that that has happened to you as well. But, I am here to tell you that despite what you might have heard, sometimes re-homing is absolutely the right thing to do.

And you, person seeking help from our rescue, are doing it the right way by reaching out to a no-kill rescue for help.

And you, other person who is fostering your own pet in your own home while we help you find him a new home, you are doing this the right way.

I didn’t know that I had those options, which is why I used Craigslist – a far more dangerous option that I DO NOT RECOMMEND TO ANYONE. (I wanted to make that clear.)

And, lastly, my note to fellow rescue volunteers…

As I work side-by-side with you and see the abuse that some of our animals encounter, I understand why it is that you might immediately judge someone asking us to take their animal. I understand your anger; I feel it as well – each time another animal is abandoned in front of Petsmart or at one of our rescue volunteer’s doors. I feel that anger, judgment, and injustice for those animals. I get angry with you; I think and sometimes say insulting things about these people.

But, fellow volunteer, I also wanted you to know my story so that you could be reminded that sometimes…people end up in situations where re-homing is the right thing for the animal. And, I wanted to remind you that some people who re-home or surrender their animals DO NOT view those animals as objects to easily discard.

I was one of those people, and I promise you that I have not ever viewed any animal as replaceable. My pets and even my fosters are everything to me…and that is exactly WHY I re-homed my dog. Because he deserved more than I could give, and because it was what was best for him. It was terribly hard on me; it was far more easy for him.

Behind every surrendered or re-homed pet is a person. And while the animal is absolutely our first priority in rescue, sometimes I think we are too quick to forget (or judge) the person. Yes, people can be terrible to animals… beyond belief terrible.

People can also be good to their animals… and sometimes doing right by an animal involves giving that animal up. Not everyone who surrenders or re-homes a pet is one of the abusers.

You Have an Opportunity to be Amazing

Whenever someone finds out that I foster for a local rescue, the reaction is almost always the same: “Oh, that’s amazing what you do! I could never do that! I’d want to keep every one of them.”

Now, I’m new to this, and so I know that I don’t have a ton of advice or wisdom to give, but this reaction has always confused me a bit.

First of all, I have never considered my fostering to be amazing. I didn’t start fostering because it was an amazing thing to do; I started fostering because I literally came face-to-face with a cat that, if I didn’t foster him, may die.

Secondly, so many others absolutely could do this! They could! Did you know that some rescues furnish everything you need (including litter, food, etc.)? Did you know that the rescues pay for your foster animals’ vet care? That anything you do buy for them is tax-deductible?

 

What does fostering really take?

Time… patience… and a love for animals. A spare bedroom helps too, but it’s not a requirement.

I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time; it’s what I think whenever someone says to me “Oh, that’s amazing!” … I want to tell them “Don’t you see… YOU have an opportunity to do something amazing too!”

 

But, maybe you think that you’d never be able to let them go… maybe you don’t want to deal with the emotional turmoil of having to say goodbye to an animal. It is hard; sometimes you do want to keep them.

 

I have said two goodbyes since my last blog. Milton left me first, and it was hard. However, the harder part for me was separating Milton and Diego; I worried so much about Diego being lonely and sad to see his buddy go.

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Yeah, Diego didn’t care.

Diego became best friends with my 2 cats, and he cuddled up on me extra often. That was it.

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But, I confess it: I wanted to keep Diego.

 

I fell in love with Diego… even more so than with Chance. Guys… it was hard saying goodbye to Diego.

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I had Diego from June 1 – September 16. From 6 weeks old til he was 5 months old. And, then I said goodbye. So, you see, I understand that feeling and worry of wanting to keep your fosters. I’ve been there.

 

But, here’s the thing…

I didn’t have to say goodbye because Diego was off to a shelter to suffer.

I said goodbye because Diego was off to live an incredible life with a family who literally wrote me an essay about why they specifically wanted Diego above any other cat. I said goodbye to Diego as he left for a new and amazing life…

And the only reason Diego, Milton, Chance, and the hundreds of other cats adopted through rescues have lives at all is because people have chosen to do something amazing and foster for their local rescues.

 

You see, I would much rather cry a few emotional tears as Diego leaves for an incredible new life than cry in sadness when I find out that a kitty like Diego didn’t get a chance at life because there was nobody there to be his foster family.

 

If you think that those who foster are amazing, well here is your chance to be amazing too.

You don’t need to quit your job, sell all you own, and donate it to charity. You don’t need to sacrifice your life. All you need to do is reach out to your local rescue and ask how you can help.

If you’re worried about the money and time commitments, don’t dismiss this opportunity quite yet; talk with your local rescue and see how their foster program works. See if they can work with you to find the right placement for you. See if they need temporary fosters, transportation help, people to do adoption interviews, people to volunteer to set up and tear down events…

 

You can help.

You have an opportunity to be amazing. What will you do with that opportunity?

When One is Overlooked

I was going to do another light-hearted video post showing how adorable Milton & Diego are playing together, but instead I am feeling led to talk more about something that’s been more and more on my mind lately as Milton & Diego have met people along the way to finding their forever homes.

When a potential adopter visits my house or comes up to Milton & Diego’s cage at an adoption event, Milton’s is the first face everyone sees.

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Milton has everything going for him. He’s a big boy with a wonderful personality! He will approach strangers for petting and playtime; he’s quick to trust and makes everyone coo at his adorable little face.

But with a brother with so much personality and adorableness to compete with, little Diego is often completely overlooked…

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Diego is more shy and reserved around strangers. That’s not to say that he’s terrified of people; he’s not! He’s just a typical cat…

He will not approach people to greet them as soon as they enter, but he also doesn’t run and hide.

He does not solicit attention from people he doesn’t know, but he will play with them if they pick up a toy.

He is smaller, darker, faster, and harder to spot. He doesn’t call attention to himself, and so he is overlooked while people coo and coddle the more dominant personality of Milton.

And Diego doesn’t mind this; he doesn’t know that he’s being overshadowed.

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But I mind…

Because I know Diego, and I know who he really is.

DiegoLapI know that Diego will weave around my legs, purring uncontrollably.

I know that if I bend over to pet Milton, Diego will walk straight off the cat tree and onto my back.

I know that he will climb the greatest heights to get to my face so that he can rub it with his.

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So, I mind when people don’t look twice at him. I am sad when he is overlooked.

I love and adore Milton; know that I do!

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Milton makes me laugh! And I love to pick him up and cuddle and kiss him!

But, Diego is special to me…especially because he’s not special to anyone else.

So, how do you handle it when one of your fosters is overlooked?

Do you tell everyone how amazing he is? Hope that your stories will be convincing enough? Try to capture the moments on video or in photos to “prove” to people that this cat is awesome?!

Or do you just wait… and know that when the right person sees him, they’ll see what you’ve known all along… that this cat is special and worthy of being FIRST pick?

That’s where I’m at right now. I’m doing a little of both, but mostly, I think I need to just wait. Because I don’t want Diego to go to a home that adopts him because I convinced them that he was worth the risk…

I want Diego to go to a home where Diego is wanted for who he is… and as he is: a special cat with a special purpose. I want him to go to a home where he will never ever be overlooked again.

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Introducing Diego & Milton!

Well, Chance left on Saturday, June 1, to go and be with his new forever family. I have good news! Chance is doing fantastically! His new family was kind enough to send me an update along with some pictures. Here’s what they had to say:

Hi Lisa,

I thought you might enjoy some picture of Chance’s first week with us….

He’s settling in really well….over the course of the week, he’s been able to explore the entire house (except for the sun room with the guinea pigs). He told us all his thoughts as he explored the house! He loves all the rugs in the house, the cat tree, and all the big windows. He especially loves his new brother…

…Since [day 3 of being together], they have been good buddies…never out of sight of each other, sleeping in the tree together, following each other around, etc. It’s very cute.

Things we’ve learned about Chance:

*He loves to be pet and kissed at any time.
*He likes to tell us about his every thought and move…in a combination of bird, owl, and meow sounds.
*He’s an excellent bug finder.
*He loves cereal – he almost took the bowl from my hands two times this week!
*He loves running up the stairs as fast as possible.
*He’s a gentle soul, yet has a big personality.
*He’s very loveable and a really special boy.

We feel so lucky to have him and for Chance and Simon to find each other. I work from home and my days certainly are more rewarding with these two guys around!

Here are some of the wonderful pictures they sent me of Chance enjoying his amazing new home!

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And now, without further ado, allow me to introduce my newest foster kitties: Diego and Milton!

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These two kittens did not come in as a pair. Little Diego was found all by himself at only about 6 weeks old and with a rather nasty injury. Fortunately for him, the person who found him knew just who to call! HART got little Diego all set up with a vet to repair his injuries. (A little graphic warning: he needed to have his lower lip re-attached to his jaw!)

Unfortunately, my two cats, Buzzy & Luna, were not ready to be Diego’s buddies. (Chance, however, was very good with Diego in the short 2 days that he got to see him!)

So, I asked the folks at HART if I could bring home a second foster kitten to be Diego’s friend. Milton volunteered ;) and he and Diego became very fast friends! Milton has been a fantastic big brother for Diego! He has taught him all the important cat things, like pouncing, hissing when you want some space, and how to climb to new heights!

I thought the best way to show you Diego and Milton would be with some fun video. The below video was shot at the very beginning of our adventures together. I will have to take some new video soon as they are growing and changing so quickly!

Take a peek at these 2 fun kittens (and keep an eye out for Mr. Chance; he’s in this video a little bit as well…I just had to show you how adorable it was to watch Diego try to be his best friend lol).

Farewell is Not The End

Tomorrow afternoon, Chance will leave us to head to his forever home. I’ve been told that your first foster always holds a special place in your heart, and that your first goodbye is the hardest one. I have been prepared for this day, but it is still difficult. Fostering Chance has taught me so much; this experience has truly changed me for forever.

Chance came to us a skinny, stinky, frightened, and lost little kitty. That first night, he truly seemed to look up at me with big, questioning eyes as if he wasn’t sure if this was real life. It was easy to fall in love with Chance; he loved my fiancé and me instantaneously.

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If I’m honest, that first week was the easiest week; it left me overly confident and enamored with fostering. I’ve tried very hard to keep this blog super positive because it is meant to show Chance’s best side, but I feel that now is an appropriate time to tell the full story. As his new family may be reading this blog, I want to preface this by saying that I am 100% confident that Chance will move forward now to be an amazing pet; please understand that the difficulties I talk about here were temporary. Chance is a very different cat now than he was when he arrived.

I’ll start by saying this: Chance was not an easy cat for me to foster.

Fostering Chance led to more emotional meltdowns on my part than I care to admit.

Not because he was a bad cat (though, at one point, I lovingly told Chance he was “the worst cat; the Marley and Me of cats,” and it’s pretty well true), but rather it was because he challenged me in difficult ways. First came the yowling… the constant vocalization. A cat’s meow is adorable for about 10 seconds; after a few hours, it’s like listening to someone constantly running their fingernails over a chalkboard. I would’ve given anything to make this cat stop crying, and I tried everything I could think of. I tried ignoring it, I tried distracting him, feeding him, playing with him, introducing him to my own cats, leaving him alone… I tried everything I could possibly think of. I watched a “My Cat From Hell” marathon trying to find some piece of advice I may have missed that might help this cat. I combed cat forums, Bengal forums, advice columns, I Googled the crap outta that question: “Why will this cat not shut up?!?” And finally, we tried medication… and medication helped.

Please understand – I was never angry at Chance for his meowing. I just wanted to understand it…to fix it! And therein lies my first VERY important lesson: working through issues with a cat requires an abundance of patience…and I really struggle with patience.

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And then came the medical scares. It began with an abscess that led to the discovery of a heart murmur and the vet telling me (and I quote) “usually these cats just die suddenly one day without any notice.” I left that appointment and just sobbed the whole way home; I was convinced Chance was going to drop dead sometime in the next few days. I held my breath every morning…waiting to hear him meow to let me know he was still alive before entering his room. My friend Katie, from Of Barks and Bones, really helped me so much during this particular time. She’s been volunteering with rescues a lot longer than I have, and she was just so great about listening to all my thoughts and giving me valuable information (thank you, Katie!).

After talking with Katie, I discussed possibilities with my fiancé – we decided that if Chance’s condition was indeed terminal, we would adopt him. I didn’t want him to die homeless. Fortunately, the first vet’s outlook was completely wrong! Lesson number 2: do not blindly trust your vet.

Dealing with Chance’s medical issues was heartbreaking; this little cat that ran around so fast (and so loudly) at home would go completely silent and hide in my lap at the vet’s office. Probably the appointment that sticks with me most came immediately after Chance’s first adoption (and nearly immediate return).

Chance was adopted (or rather placed in a “foster-to-adopt” situation) on a Saturday; by Monday, he was being returned. I left work to pick him up, and I needed to take him to a vet appointment that same day. I picked Chance up from the house, but we had no time to really greet one another; he’d been with me for about a month before going to this house for the weekend, and this was his first time being separated from me.

At the vet’s office, I finally got to greet Chance again. We sat in the little exam room, and Chance, who usually just hides at the vet’s office, stretched out in my arms and lay his whole body back on my chest…he reached up and pawed at my face and just CLUNG to me. They had to take his blood pressure at that appointment, and he was terrified… They had to restrain him, and the only thing I could do was reach up and stroke his head. It was  heart-wrenching.

Countless vet appointments later, we did find out that Chance’s heart murmur was benign and needed no treatment! That was the best day. That was the highest of the high days (and this journey has been filled with both lows AND highs. It’s important to remember that). The day we found out that Chance was healthy was the day I took all those pictures of him rolling around in a box (See Chance and the Box). It was the lightest I’d felt since bringing Chance home.

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With his medical issues behind us, we could finally bring Chance to adoption events and NOT have to warn people that he may be sick. Ahh yes…adoption events: talk about a roller coaster! I swear, this cat had more adoption applications than probably even I know about. But, my fiance and I learned VERY quickly (ahh, another lesson) not to trust that an application would mean Chance would actually be adopted. We had countless people just disappear on us after applying for him. It was SO frustrating! In the beginning, I would get very excited whenever Chance had a new adoption application; after 2 months, our foster coordinator, Kim, had to pass along applications to other people because I had become a pessimistic skeptic who was struggling to give people a clean slate and fair chance. I was able to let that go by the end, but not without difficulty. I have to say – I thought I knew a lot about people, and it really doesn’t surprise me anymore when I hear about blatant acts of cruelty towards animals. However, until Chance, I never really realized some of the more subtle frustrations when it comes to rescue: specifically, uncooperative people or people who view animals as items for easy purchase and return. But that’s a whole different blog. Back to Chance!

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Once we could stop worrying about Chance’s medical future, we began to focus a lot more on his forever future. We focused much more on dealing with Chance’s behavior at this point. To be honest, most of Chance’s behavioral issues were absolutely normal “young male cat” issues; but, I had forgotten how absolutely obnoxious a young male cat can be! Buzzy was obnoxious when he was younger (actually, he can still be pretty obnoxious), but it’s been a long time since I had to deal with young male antics!

For the most part, I tried to laugh at Chance’s craziness. Remember this picture?

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This picture perfectly embodies “Chance.” He was off the walls. Ha!

We learned to “Chance-proof” the house: put away all edible items…even that package of rolls -  he will eat through the package; hide any plastic utensils – he will eat those too; remove spice rack from wall – he will climb it; remove the nail in the wall that held the spice rack – he will pull it out and maybe eat it; hide pill pocket bag because even though he absolutely refuses to eat them when his pill is inside of them, he will devour the entire bag when you’re not looking!

Pill Pockets Destroyed

It became a routine – Chance was given free reign of the house on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and on weekends (my cats were given free reign of the house on M/W/F). While it was annoying at first, after 3 months of hiding the bowl of bananas, removing decorations from walls, and tucking away any toy that had feathers, I got used to it. I even got used to his counter surfing, which he would do blatantly in front of me despite my repeatedly removing him, clapping, going “ah ah!” loudly, etc.

Chance even began to integrate himself with my own two cats, Buzzy and Luna. We had some struggles there as well – when Chance first came to us, it was like he didn’t speak cat. Cats do most of their communicating with one another using their eyes and body language. Chance meowed at Buzzy and Luna, and he didn’t seem to know how to communicate with his body at all!

Chance Pounces Buzzy

It turns out that Buzzy is actually a very good teacher when it comes to body language. Chance would be obnoxious, and Buzzy would correct him – fairly but firmly. We never had a fight, but Buzzy did have his work cut out for him. I knew it was best to let Buzzy communicate with Chance the way cats do (and only intervene if it became a fight) even though it can look scary at times (hissing, growling, back arching, pouncing). You can tell when cats start actually fighting – fortunately, that never happened.

Chance Playing Crazy

As dumb as this might sound, I also communicated with Chance using what limited “cat speak” I knew (i.e., blinking slowly at him to tell him I loved him lol). After about 1.5 months, he began blinking back, and I noticed him blinking more at Buzzy and Luna…and listening more to Buzzy’s body language.

Chance Looking Down

The changes in Chance have come slowly (well, quickly if you really think about it – but gradually to my eyes since I see him every day). I have slowly begun to see him change and blossom. He sits with Buzzy and Luna waiting for his food to come to him now (well, most of the time) instead of leaping up on the counter in impatience. He grooms Buzzy and Luna instead of just pouncing on them, and they let him do so. He purrs, makes biscuits, blinks to communicate, and meows a lot less now. He cooperatively takes his pill every evening…even though I still have to give it to him using a pill gun lol.

Chance In My Lap

This past weekend, it finally became extremely obvious to me that Chance is ready for his forever home. We had a party at our house, and 5 new people who Chance has never met attended; they even brought the same small dog who visited with us during Chance’s first week at our house (Chance did NOT like the dog that first week). Chance did not hide or skitter away as he once did when a new person entered the house. Instead, he solicited attention. He did not growl at or hide from the dog; he hissed a couple of times and kept his distance, but he didn’t let the dog keep him away from people. By the end of the night, Chance curled up at the top of a cat tower and watched us all playing games. The next day, he napped in my bed with me and Luna for a full hour (and there was a time when I never saw this cat even lay down for more than 10 seconds!).

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I had never seen Chance so at home…so “normal.” And I knew he was ready. And he is.

This brings me to probably the toughest lesson of all: in rescue, your work is never done. Chance will move on, and I will bring in a new foster cat with new issues, and we will start all over again. There may be more tears, there will be more smiles, and there will be more goodbyes. Chances are that Chance isn’t even the toughest cat I’ll work with. This is the hardest lesson for me to learn.

Chance Looking Back

Tomorrow, Chance will go on to finally find his forever. I will never get to know his whole story; if I’m lucky, I may get an update or two. But, I will never know what came before us – what may have contributed to his issues and lack of cat knowledge. And that’s ok. Cats don’t live in the past or worry about the future; they live in the moment. In this moment and in all the moments to come, Chance will be loved and well cared for. That is all that matters to Chance, and that is all that matters to me.

Chance Gazes Out Window

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