This week, I’m facing a decision that every pet owner dreads. My gorgeous mama kitty Olive, our first foster kitty, started losing weight a few weeks ago, and now her kidneys are failing. The exact cause is unknown, but that doesn’t even really matter right now. She is dying, and I can choose to make her hold on for our sake or do the humane thing and choose euthanasia.
I have dealt with this type of decision before, but this time is so much different. With an 11- or 12-year-old dog, or a 16- or 17-year-old cat, the choice is still hard, and it still rips my heart out, but she is only 2 years old. When we brought her in, she was scrawny and still really a kitten herself, and had four sweet babies who we watched her raise. Misty Eyes found them homes (except for Hatter, who we also fell in love with and adopted).
And then Olive blossomed… up until a few months ago, when she was at her peak. She was a beautiful and majestic queen, with flowing fluffy fur, and a loving demeanor that is rare in a cat. She ran the house, and she regally watched over us all from atop her cat tower.
We were so proud of her progress, and we loved (and still love) her so much. And then suddenly, everything changed – she started to get skinny and her fur has lost its luster. She was still acting like herself up until only a few days ago. She has begun to lose her appetite, and she has continued to lose weight. She is not as social as usual, and she seems to be in a daze much of the time.
Since she is so young, the vet recommended hospitalizing her for 2-3 days, flushing her kidneys, and observing her for improvement. The cost for all of this was already up to about $1600 on the low end. If this would guarantee her survival and I could have her another 15 years, as I planned, then I would probably do my best to scrape up the funds.
On the other hand, we could put this poor cat, who doesn’t understand what is happening, through all that and she still may not survive much longer. She may not recover. Or, she may get better, and since we don’t really know the cause of her kidney failure, it could happen again.
I did end up bringing Olive home with me yesterday. I wanted the kids to see her again, and I have been trying to snap myself out of denial about the situation. She was so healthy and beautiful not too long ago. I keep trying to think back and pinpoint when she started showing signs of weight loss. With her long hair, it was not noticeable at first. And apparently by the time they start losing weight, the kidneys are already beginning to fail, so could I have caught it in time anyway?
These are questions I will never be able to answer. And many people, I am sure, will say she is just a cat. But, when you open your home and your heart to such a loving creature, how can your heart not break she is going through this kind of pain and struggle? In the end, I will have to make the best decision for her, so that when it is her time to go, she may go peacefully and with dignity, and I will be holding her in my arms.
Layla and I bonded during the birth of her puppies. I had never been through anything like that with an animal, and I was proud and excited to be a part of it. The miracle of life! And the puppies were beautiful. So much fun… and so much poop. It was a crazy summer. Thank goodness I had gotten my teaching job and we were off for the summer to dedicate more time to them!
The babies grew, and grew, and grew some more. I am pretty sure, as I am writing this, that all four of them outweigh their mother by now, and they aren’t even six months old yet. I love when the center gets an update on one of them. Abraham’s new family sent a photo of him yesterday, and he is HUGE and beautiful!
The puppies created quite a stir on social media. They were four handsome boys, and we think the father was Great Pyrenees, so they will probably all end up being more than 100-pounders. Poor Layla, at only around 50 pounds… no wonder she was acting so crazy when we first got her! And then when they kept trying to nurse while all four were around 20 pounds, it was a hard time for her. We were sad to see the pups go, but after they were all adopted and out of the house, anyone could see that Layla was relieved to have some time to herself.
While the puppies were still around, Layla had to go stay with two different families when I went on trips in July. She acted so happy when we got her back, and we missed her! We really wanted to keep her, but I was still not planning to adopt another dog, or at least not anytime soon. Also, in the middle of all of this, she tried to burn my house down. She apparently was trying to get some pizza off the stovetop and turned on a burner, which then melted and caught a plastic pitcher on fire. The kids and I came home to a house full of black smoke and the smoke alarms going off.
Long story short, I put out the fire and sent all eight animals we had at the time (Ella, Olive, Hatter, Layla, and the four puppies) out the front door for the kids to collect them. We chose to be grateful rather than sad about the fire, as we came home in time, and everyone was safe! And it really wasn’t Layla’s fault. She was starving due to nursing those giant puppies! Plus, we got to live in a hotel suite for two weeks while our house got painted and fixed up.
Anyway, we thought another family was going to adopt Layla, and although we were sad, we knew it was a wonderful home and were happy for her. The kids and I talked it over as a family many times, and agreed that we could let Layla go, as we knew she would be happy and well-cared-for. As luck would have it, she ended up coming back to us, and we are honored that we get to be her forever family. She had her leg surgery, and she is healing well. She is happy and SO much a different dog than when we first met her. We are thankful for her, and grateful to Misty Eyes for everything they have done for her, and for bringing her into our lives!
That brings us up to four pets of our own now – two dogs and two cats – but we started fostering cats again in July as well. We have had up to five at a time (three right now). The litter boxes aren’t so much fun, but otherwise, fostering brings us a whole lot of pleasure. Many people seem to think we are crazy, or they wonder what it is that we get out of it.
Some common questions we get…
We have also decided to spend more time volunteering with Misty Eyes Animal Center. I am the new “outreach program lead,” and feel fortunate to be a part of the great things this growing organization is doing. Everyone involved in the rescue is a volunteer, and there are plenty of people who put in a whole lot more hours than I do.
Questions or comments? Email me at email@example.com.
June 2017… this was a month that has changed our day-to-day lives forever. Number one, I completed a Transition to Teaching program, and got my teaching license! This was no easy task, with everything else we were going through at that time, but I did it! Number two, we began fostering cats.
That summer was rough. I had to quit my job as an instructional assistant in February that year to do my student teaching, so I had little to no income for months. We had a friend, his son, and his cat staying with us. I loved having them here, but let’s face it, five people in a three-bedroom house is kind of crowded, especially when everyone involved is fairly stressed … me with no money, him looking for a place to live, and the three kids having to share their space and toys all day every day.
I made one of my famously impulsive decisions to start fostering a mama cat and four kittens. My children and I went to pick them up, and my niece and nephew, in Terre Haute late one evening. Through some badgering from all four kids, I had agreed that we would adopt the mommy cat, but the four kittens must go, I said! We brought them home and we LOVED having so many little kitties to love! (By the way, the day after we got the cat and kittens home, I took all the kids back to Terre Haute to meet my newborn great-niece. What a beautiful and happy day for our family!)
If it has not become clear through these blogs, I seem to enjoy (positively charged) chaos. With the house full of people and animals for me to care for, my heart was also full. We named the mama cat Olive, after our sweet dog Ollie who had passed. She and my friend’s cat Jojo were not thrilled with each other’s existence, to say the least. It added to some of tenseness already in the air, but we dealt with it. As the kittens were weaned, they began being adopted out, one by one.
We took in another kitten, Agnes, and she too was adopted. Only one kitten was left, little Hatter. He had developed the most adorable friendship with our dog Ella. Convincing ourselves that Ella needed a buddy, and that she was missing our old pets as much as we were, we decided to keep Hatter as well. This is what those in the business call a “foster fail,” but whatever. My friend found a place of his own in August 2017, so we were settled in with myself, my kids, our dog, and our two cats.
This went on for a while. I needed a break from fostering. I was trying to find a “real” teaching job (which I did in October 2017, and I LOVE it!!). We were trying to get our house in order. But, eventually the fostering bug struck again. We decided to try out fostering a dog. In March of this year, we picked up a young, black German Shepherd mix named Araya. Sweet, but wild! We were used to laid-back Ella, and this was too much! We only had her a few weeks before she was adopted, but I wasn’t sure about the whole dog-fostering thing.
Then came Layla. For whatever reason, we decided to take a chance and foster her. The first week was HELL. She peed on my couch. We crated her, but she managed to chew up our couch through the small squares of the crate! She pulled trim off from around my front door. She chewed up my daughter’s winter coat. She totally freaked out every time we left. She had an injured leg, so she hadn’t been spayed yet. Misty Eyes was going to get her leg surgery and spay done at the same time, so we were waiting for the vet to decide the best course of action.
Layla eventually settled down some, and we grew to love her personality. But then she started getting fatter and acted hot and out of breath all the time. I didn’t know what was wrong with her. Then she started peeing on the floor frequently. Then she was pacing at night and couldn’t settle down. I wasn’t sure I could deal with it anymore, even though she was so sweet.
One weekend while the kids were at their dad’s, my mom came to spend the night and hang out with me. My mom put her hand on Layla’s belly, and said she felt movement… puppies? Layla continued to get worse with the panting and pacing so I texted Jennifer at Misty Eyes and said, “Is it possible she could be pregnant?” She said, “Yes, it’s possible!” Yikes!!! We were not prepared for this! Jennifer offered to try and find another foster, but we decided to stick it out, and I am so glad we did.
A couple days later, on Memorial Day, Layla was in labor. I spent the entire day shut in my son’s room with her while she struggled through the labor and birth. The kids were so excited, but I was trying to keep them from stressing her out, so they would pop in from time to time and I would tell them to be quiet. It ended up being an amazing experience for all of us. Layla had four beautiful (and huge) puppies, and we spent our entire summer caring for them.
Fostering is fun! Ask me about it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.