Our 2014 Miracle

There are ten days left in 2014. How did that happen? It’s been a year full of beginnings, but among the most obvious, this marks the first full year John and I have been a foster home for SPCR–a purebred cat rescue based in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (www.purebredcatrescue.org) Just last week, cattie number 64 for the year checked into the Wolf Crossing Cattie B&B. It’s been fun and rewarding to help save so many catties. I have to say, tho, if not for John being retired, we would not be able to operate at this capacity. Still, I’ve kept decent records, and if I was good at Excel, I’d create endless pivot tables and analyze how many guests we’ve had at any given time to predict next year’s traffic flow based on history. But I’m not.

It makes sense that when you have more than sixty cats pass through your house, you risk falling for a sweet soul you’re unable to part with. Especially true given that you’re the kind of person willing to house sixty cats to begin with. Well, it happened to us this year. Meet Windsor.

Windsor

Windsor

He’s a classic silver shaded Persian with emerald eyes encased by black eyeliner and sports brick red nose leather; his wide-set rounded ears are breed standard. According to the shelter who delivered Windsor to rescue, he was a product of divorce. Three years old, Windsor was matted, filthy and flea infested when he arrived at Wolf Crossing. I took one look at him and those enormous sad green eyes melted my heart. Windsor also has a snaggle tooth, which endears him to people, but according to our vet it’s the result of previous trauma to his jaw. Hmmm. How does a cattie get a broken jaw?

When Windsor arrived, he wasn’t neutered, either. So, getting that remedied was top order of the day. But we soon learned that Windsor wasn’t healthy. After his neuter surgery, Windsor simply stopped eating to the point where his life was threatened. He was weak, lethargic and couldn’t even hold up his head. Of course we took him to the vet and followed directions incuding force feeding Windsor from a syringe three times a day. Ugh. If you’ve never force fed a cat, be advised it’s a messy affair designed to upset all involved. During this time, he weighed around five-ish pounds and lived in our bathroom.

And so Windsor progressed, but didn’t really thrive. Sometime in early summer, we officially adopted him and cemented Windsor’s future at Wolf Crossing forever, in spite of the fact he consistently vomited two or three times a day. I mean huge vomits where the entire contents of his stomach landed all over my house, carpet, clothes and furniture. And he was ravenous. So there was a lot.

Windsor featured in a photo for a Facebook post.

Windsor featured in a photo for a Facebook post.

During these months, we took Windsor to our vet for a series of tests, but the only conclusive determination was that Windsor was one sick boy. Our vet is very competent but he, like most vets in small clinics, simply does not have the resources for state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment. And so, he referred us to the University of Illnois Veteranary School of Medicine in Champagin, IL–a one and a half hour drive for us.

imageEarly one Wednesday morning in October, John took our sweet boy to Champaign with hopes of understanding and fixing whatever was wrong. Wow. Were we in for an astonishing ride. First of all, this vet school hospital is amazing. It’s just like a people hospital with surgeons, radiologists, cardiologists and you-name-it-ologists. Who knew there were so many kinds of specialized veteranarian doctors? We didn’t. But luckily for us there are, because within three hours of Windsor’s arrival at the hospital, the team had conclusively determined that Windsor had a sliding haital hernia caused by his severely restricted airway. In other words, Windsor had such difficulty breathing through his tiny nostrils, the negative pressured caused by the sheer force of his effort to breathe caused him to suck his stomach up into his chest cavity. This phenomenon is well-documented in brachycephalic breeds of dogs like bulldogs, but has not been formally studied in cats.

imageAnd so, Windsor’s surgery was scheduled for the next day. I drove to Champaign that evening with hopes that I would get to see him. They’d planned to open his nostrils by removing tissue, making it much easier for Windsor to breathe. In addition, they were to suture his stomach to his abdominal wall to prevent it from sliding in and out of his esophagus. And, in as much as possible, they’d planned to repair his stretched esophagus. In addition, they’d discovered bladder crystals and hoped to flush those out as well. His surgery went very long, but I finally got to see Windsor at around 10:00 pm that night He was so happy to see me. Even though he was very out of it, he reached out his paw to touch my hand, but it actually touched my heart.

Windsor reaching a paw to touch me just an hour or so after his surgery.

Windsor reaching a paw to touch me just an hour or so after his surgery.

See the amazing intensive-care accommodations for Windsor after his surgery? That bed is heated from the bottom. Every effort (including pain medication) was made to keep him comfortable, and it seemed like each breath was counted. Initially, the surgeon was very pleased with how his surgery had gone, but Windsor was far from out of the woods.

Day three after his surgery, Windsor had us worried. We took this photo on our visit.

Day three after his surgery, Windsor had us worried. We took this photo on our visit.

The next few days was an emotional roller-coster of good news mixed with concerning news. He ended up needing another emergency surgery for a blocked bladder, requiring a blood transfusion and contracting pneumonia. But through it all, we visited as often as we could and the doctors took exceptional care of our boy, keeping us informed every step of the way. Thankfully, after a week the good news started outweighing the bad, and we brought our baby home a week after his surgery. At his lowest, he weighed in at 4-1/2 pounds.

imageWindsor came home with a feeding tube, which while not as messy as traditional force feeding, was still challenging. We gave him his meds through the tube and fed him through it, too, if he didn’t eat enough on his own. At first it seemed overwhelming, but we soon got the hang of it. imageAnd within a few days, Windsor was eating enough so we didn’t have to push food through the tube; and within a week, the tube was out.

Fast forward two months later, Windsor has made a full recovery. Was it expensive? Yep. Would we do it again? You bet! Windsor eats like there’s no tomorrow and weighs nearly seven pounds–which according to our vet is exactly perfect! And while there is still an occasional puke, the bond that we’ve developed with him is unlike no other. It always amazes me that many of the catties who have been through the worst times are the sweetest and most loving. A lesson for us, maybe?

Windsor fully recovered!

Windsor fully recovered!

It was Never the Plan

John and I have been fostering homeless catties for nearly a year now. And during that time, we have hosted more than forty sweet souls at what I call the Wolf Crossing Cattie B&B. Our house is perfectly equipped for it with three vacant, fully-furnished bedroom/bathroom suites upstairs. It sure beats a cage in a shelter. Among this year’s guests were a pregnant Himalayan mom and dad who checked in on the first day of June. They were surrendered by a very nice lady who loved them, but circumstances had rendered her unable to care for them.

Mama Lola

Mama Lola

Thirty days later, two cats turned into seven! Born on the last day of June, we welcomed into this world three seal point males, a seal point female and a blue point female. Now, I did not expect to fall in love with these babies, which was just as well because they had been promised to furever homes since before they were born.

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Mama and babies

Sweet babies

Sweet babies

Knowing they needed to be socialized by humans, when they were six weeks old we moved mama and the kittens out of their solo accommodations upstairs and into our bathroom. Once they were acclimated, we let them have the run of the house except for mealtime and bedtime, which they spent in our bathroom. And even tho they were beyond cute, I quickly tired of bathroom chaos, litter sticking to the soles of my feet and tiny creatures attempting to climb my nightgown. I said, “I will be glad when these kittens are gone and I have my bathroom back to myself!” And I meant it.

Sweet catties at the gate in my bathroom

Sweet catties at the gate in my bathroom

Meanwhile, handsome dad, Gaspar, got adopted and the kittens went about the busy business of discovering their world.

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And at some point, when I wasn’t looking and least expected it, the kittens managed to wriggle into my heart. What fun we had with these babies! Dinner time was the best, when they would all race John from the kitchen to the bathroom where they were fed. He would say, “C’mon, Babies!” and they would roar through the house like a pack of tiny wild buffalo, crashing into each other and everything else along the way. Then in the quiet of the evening before bedtime, they would snuggle on the couch with us and purr their little heads off.

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All too soon came the day to say good-bye to these little angels. About a week before they were to be adopted, we took them to the vet for spaying/neutering and microchipping. Suddenly, it became important to know who was who. So I bought them each a different color kitten collar (try to say THAT), and they instantly became individuals with the sweetest personalities. There was Blue, Blackie, Pink, Purple and Red. I wish we had marked them weeks sooner.

Red

Red

And so it happened. Very loving, responsible people came to Wolf Crossing, rang the door bell and took away my sweethearts one by one. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they couldn’t stay. I knew I couldn’t keep them–it was never the plan. But neither was the way each of them took a piece of my heart when they left.

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Sweet baby angel

 

Rosie the Roomba Rocks!!!

Okay. So I like to think that I’m sort of “with it” when it comes to new things and technology. I mean, I manage the eCommunications group for a Fortune 50 company where I’m responsible for all the corporate electronic communications vehicles, including our corporate web and social media presences. Yes, it’s true that I have hired a team of amazing young people who tell me what to do everyday. But still, I rub shoulders with technology-savvy people constantly.

How is it possible, then, that I have missed the Roomba Revolution?!Roomba

John (my retired husband and live-in maid) and I were shopping in Costco yesterday when we came upon a pallet of Roombas billed as “Pet Series” models. Now, anything that cleans up after pets is high on my radar, especially since we recently adopted our third Persian cat. We studied the box and marveled at the claims of effortlessly clean floors listed thereon. But we were very skeptical that anything so small, cheesy and poorly named could effectively clean floors. Really?

Still, we were intrigued, so later, I read all the Roomba reviews on Amazon and decided that we had to give this thing a try. We drove to back Costco and procured one, naming her Rosie–because it seems much more maid-like and productive than Roomba.

We brought Rosie home and plugged her in. While Rosie was charging, John vacumed our floors–a combination of handscraped dark wood and wool area rugs with a few scatter rugs in the kitchen and mud room. I sat and enjoyed a glass of wine on the couch during this observation phase.wine

Once Rosie indicated she was fully charged, we set her off to clean our kitchen-great room-informal dining room-mud room area. Basically, everywhere we live downstairs minus our bedroom and bath. On Rosie’s inaugural run, she cleaned our floor for around two hours, easily gliding over the hardwood and making flawless transitions to the rugs. Ceramic tile in the mudroom/powder room? No problem for her! Rosie has this really cool “whisker” brush that she uses like a tenticle to get even fine crumbs (or cat hair) located in corners and along the baseboard. When Rosie was done, John emptied her “holding tank.” You would NOT believe how much dirt, ick and yuckiness she had managed to pick up.

In the past couple of days, we have run Rosie in this same area three times, each time disgusted by the amound of dirt she continually finds on our floors. Earlier today, we put Rosie to work in our master suite, a combo of carpet and ceramic tile with scatter rugs in the bathroom. The results? Unbelievable! She actually raises the nap on the carpet, so you can tell where she’s been. It is seriously like someone ran the vacum in there while I sat on the couch drinking a glass of wine. One of the coolest things? When Rosie gets low on energy, she goes back to her dock and recharges herself!

A couple of things: Rosie is not systematic and her pattern of cleaning might make you crazy if you’re deliberative and methodical. But I will say there’s a method to her madness, and by my non-scientific estimation gets about 80% of the floors each time she runs. Then she gets a different 80% the next go-round. It’s kinda like shaving your legs quickly every day–what you don’t get today, you’ll get tomorrow. And Rosie probably won’t replace vacuming altogether, especially when you need a deep clean or have particularly dirty floors for whatever reason.

I have to say, tho, after only two full days of Rosie cleaning our floors, we’re delighted with her and we’d purchase all over again. Apparently there is a wet washing version for wood and ceramic that I’m going to check into. I’d love for Rosie’s cousin to mop my ceramic tile while I’m at work. Or while I have a glass of wine on the couch!!

The Baby Cakes Says

The Baby Cakes just turned four last Wednesday. In four short years, she has said so many hilarious things that I could have written a book by now. I’m sorry that I’m just now taking time to write them down. Even so better late than never. I’ll be back from time to time to update.

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Baby Cakes at 3-1/2 years

Animal Doctors

We’re driving in the car a few months ago, and we pass our veterinarian’s place. “What’s that?” says the Cakes.

Me: It’s Mo and Alice’s doctor. They call animal doctors ‘vets.’

Cakes: Vets? A vet?! I’ve never heard of such a thing!

Me: Yeah, well, you’re three. There’s a lot you’ve never heard of.

At the Movies

We’re sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start. Baby Cakes looks at me and says, “I’ve been wanting to see this movie my whole life.” She just turned four.

In a Day’s Work

I work for the world’s largest premiere construction machinery company. When she and I are in the car and we see one of those famous yellow and black machines, the Cakes squeals at the top of her lungs, “Nana tractors!” With all of the construction on I-74 between Peoria and Morton, it can be non-stop. And the Cakes thinks I single-handedly built each and every one of them.

“Look there’s another one!! And it’s moving!” the Cakes squealed with delight after about the tenth machine. “Wow, Nana. You sure do have a lot of work!”

Stopping for Rainbows

We keep the Baby Cakes every Thursday and alternate Saturday mornings. The Cakes is,  in a word: Amazing. She teaches me something everyday. We pick her up at daycare and usually head out to Wolf Crossing for tea parties, pancakes and Peppa the Pig videos. Last Thursday was no different. And now that Grandpa built the coolest playhouse in the world out back at Wolf Crossing, the Cakes can hardly wait to get there. IMG_1904[1]IMG_1898[1] Now she has a set of pots and pans and lots of fake food to serve anyone who comes to visit her in the tiny house! The time flies when you have such cool stuff to play wiith. Last Thursday before we even knew it, it was time to go meet Mommy.

We loaded the car, buckled our seat belts and headed to Peoria Heights. But before we got out of our subdivision, I saw a rainbow high in the evening sky. I was certain Baby Cakes couldn’t see the rainbow, and even tho we were running late, I asked her if she had ever seen a rainbow. She said, “No.” So I pulled over and the two of us got out of the car so we could see it. “It’s full of beautiful colors!” the Cakes squeeled with delight while pointing at the sky and jumping up and down. She was so happy to have seen her first rainbow and I was blessed to share it with her. Afterwards, I was so glad that we had stopped and gotten out of the car.

I hope that someday, after I’m gone, whenever Cakes sees a rainbow, she will think of me and smile.rainbow

The Journey Home

This is a story I wrote to be entered in an animal shelter contest to help the great folks at Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue. They do amazing things. Check them out at http://www.purebredcatrescue.org/?gclid=CL7ptdCZ77MCFe5FMgodAAIAJg

Our kitty’s story begins in Cairo, a city whose people once revered and worshipped cats in ancient times.  Ironically, today millions of stray cats roam the troubled streets of Cairo—starving, neglected and abused. A true Egyptian Mau with bright green eyes, our kitty was born not only homeless, but with both back legs severely deformed and useless, void of joints. It would seem a hopeless situation to most. And for most, it would be.

We can only imagine how our kitty was able to survive his first few months. Dirty, scraggly, bone-thin and dragging his dangling legs behind, he must have been a pitiful sight. Through the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), our kitty was given a chance at life—a plane ride to Chicago, where he was met by ESMA partner, Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue (SPCR) of Kenosha, WI, USA and whisked to his foster home for love, nourishment and medical care.

When our kitty’s picture appeared on the SPCR website, Miki, a vet tech, instinctively knew she was meant to adopt him.

Our Kitty’s Picture on SPCR Website

But after meeting him for the first time, it was only then Miki understood how extraordinary he is. “He has such a huge personality. He’s very self-confident and always on top of things,” she said. Miki named our kitty Chenzira—Egyptian for “born on a journey.”

Chenzira now happily lives with Miki and her husband, two dogs and four kitties. But don’t tell him he’s handicapped. Chenzira doesn’t know it.  Miki says he’s the fastest of their cats and even faster than the dogs, racing up and down the stairs at will. From the streets of Cairo to the safety of his forever family—a journey indeed. And just one more happily-ever-after ending made possible by SPCR.