From 2013 until now, really, the years have been full of major transitions for myself and my children. To say our pets have helped us through it would be an understatement. I went from spending nearly every minute with both kids, as a stay-at-home and then work-at-home mom, to losing them every other weekend and sometimes for as much as nine days at a time in the summer. I always feel like a piece of me is gone with them. During these times, I admit, I rely heavily on my animals for comfort and companionship.
I left a horrible relationship in October 2013. If you remember, we had seven pets to deal with. Seven. I took them all with me and went to stay with family. This was not a sustainable situation, for obvious reasons. I was able to find us a rental house in December 2013, but we were only allowed two pets. I took three. Ella the dog and my two oldest cats, Miles and Benny.
My brother and his family took Ollie the dog, and my mother took Ikey the cat. My ex took back Fred and Ted. All of these were on the condition that we would get the animals back when we were in a home where we could have them. (Fred and Ted have never been returned, but what can you do?)
During our time in the rental house, in 2014, both Miles and Benny passed away, within a month or two of one another. So, we were down to just Ella. We got an apartment in December 2014, and after a while there, we got Ikey back from my mom. I did not tell the apartment complex, but got caught with him, so that was $50 extra a month, for a 6-pound cat.
In August 2016, I pulled off one of my proudest accomplishments… I bought a house. It had been a dream of mine for so long – a nice house for just the three of us, in a safe neighborhood, close to their school. What a wonderful feeling! As an added bonus, we could finally get Ollie back! We moved in, had a privacy fence built, and a week later, my brother and nephew brought Ollie to us. It was such a happy day!
Unfortunately, a benign cyst that Ollie had on his back leg for years began to grow and change shortly thereafter, and then his front leg began to swell for an unknown reason. Vets were baffled, and they tried a couple of different (very expensive) surgeries to try to help. This was a terrible time. Ollie was in pain and I was not sleeping, as I was up every night crying and caring for him, trying to make him comfortable. We were not willing to let go yet, as it seemed that he was getting better from whatever had caused it.
In November, he got to see my brother and his family again, at my son’s birthday party. He was happy and acted fine. We all thought he was on the mend. The next day, he had trouble getting onto my bed and seemed to be in pain again. I found that his inner leg was bruised and angry-looking. I took him to the emergency vet, and they said it appeared to be cancer. I was already thousands in debt at this point, and Ollie had suffered long enough.
He went with me to see everyone one last time on Thanksgiving. Then the next morning, I cooked him some eggs, one of his favorite treats, took him to the nature park for one last long walk together, bought him a burger at Steak n Shake, and then took him to the vet to say goodbye. After he passed, they took him from my arms and later told me that they found several tumors all over his body, so we had made the right decision to save him from more pain. So many tears were shed for him, by the entire family. He had won all our hearts, and now they were broken. I felt I could never bear to go through this type of loss again.
Now we only had Ella and Ikey left. Fred and Ted are still living, but not with me, so Ella and Ikey were all I had left of those seven animals that had been mine. And within a couple of months after Ollie’s death, our sweet little Ikey started to go downhill rapidly as well. He had been diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease many years earlier and was on medication for it, but it was getting to be impossible to keep his levels regulated. He kept losing weight despite treatment, and eventually had to be put down in March 2017. He was 17 years old. I counted up once that he had lived in around 11 different homes with me over the years! So now there was only our beloved Ella.
Again, I vowed that we would not get another pet. It was just too painful to lose them, and their lives are too short! Still, my love for animals drove me to want to continue helping, and we missed having cats. That is when I began considering the option of fostering, as it seemed a win-win. We get to love pets and help them find homes, but we don’t have to go through the deaths! I started looking into it, and that is when I found Misty Eyes Animal Center in Avon, Ind.
I had been to one of their events before, but I did not know a lot about the organization. I ended up contacting Misty Eyes in May or June of that year, and I believe it was one of the best decisions I have made for my kids and myself.
More about fostering to come soon… if you would like more info on it, please contact me at email@example.com!
I have always been an animal lover. Growing up, we were limited to one cat for most of my life (Taffy, a Siamese), but when I was a teenager, we ended up with two in the house... Tootie and Louie. Tootie was mine, and Louie, my brother’s, but they both ended up being my mom’s when I was out of the house.
Once I moved out on my own, I started collecting more cats. My first boy of my own, Miles, was my sidekick. He came from the Terre Haute Humane Shelter. He had been taken from his mommy too soon, and I would wake up to him “nursing” on my t-shirt or blanket. Other times, I would wake up to him attacking me to play. I was hooked. He would go places with me, riding on my lap in the car, and looking up at me lovingly the whole way. And he was such a beauty, silver and sleek, and I loved him deeply for all of his 16 years.
A year later, we decided he needed a friend. I adopted Benny from the Clay County Humane Shelter. He was a tuxedo cat. He was gorgeous, but always a tortured soul. We loved him so much, and he was a wonderful friend for Miles, as we had hoped, but he was temperamental and didn’t adjust well to change. And he went through a LOT of changes with me through his 15 years. He was always a challenge, and went through valium, kitty Prozac, and more, but he never really was a happy or well-adjusted cat, though very loving when he felt like it.
A few months after Benny was adopted, I came home from work one day to find a little orange ball of fur curled up on the back of my couch. He was a surprise from my boyfriend at the time, acquired from one of his friends whose cat had kittens. If you are keeping track, that’s three cats now, all close in age. We named him Ike, a.k.a. Ikey, a.k.a. Ike E. Pants. He went on to be a loving companion to me and eventually inspired my daughter’s first word, “kitty,” many years later when they became best friends.
My next pet was Greta, an apparent Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix, who showed up in the Terre Haute Days Inn parking lot when I was working there in my college years. She was about 4 months old and I loved her fiercely. I had never had my own dog, or a dog indoors, and she was extremely intelligent and loyal, crazy strong, and more than a little frightening at times. It was an interesting journey with Greta, and she lived to be 12. I felt bad about her later years, as we could not trust her around our children so much, though they remember and love her still.
Next was Ollie, an 8-week-old goofball of a dog, who we adopted from a friend’s cousin, who found him near the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana. He was crazy at times, but that was part of his charm. He was the sweetest dog a person could ever ask for, even though a bit wild and clumsy, a challenge to potty train, and he loved to get in the trash. Nevertheless, he was wonderful. I will miss him forever. During my divorce transition, he lived with my brother and his family. I am eternally grateful for the unconditional love they gave him during that time. We finally got him back when I bought my current house, but unfortunately, he wasn’t around long after that. We all went through a terribly rough time with losing him at age 11.
Next were Fred and Ted, who came along at four days old, along with their sister. My ex-husband brought them home from his work, where they had been born in a Caterpillar machine that had to be moved for rental. I bottle-fed them and nurtured them, planning to find homes for them when they were ready. The little girl, unfortunately, died at a few weeks old. She just wasn’t eating and there was nothing I could do to save her.
Fred quickly became my daughter’s first love (she was 3, almost 4) and Ted became my son’s (he was 1, almost 2). So, obviously, I had no choice but to keep them. Fred and Ted are now 8 years old and still flourishing, though I, sadly, no longer have them. Luckily for the kids, they still get to spend time with their precious kitties at their dad’s house.
Add all of these up… we now had seven pets. Seven. In a two-bedroom house, and if you noticed, I also had two children by this time. In 2011, Greta got lung cancer. She was filled with tumors when the vet discovered it. She had to be euthanized to save her from suffering any more, and I held her as she died. I will never forget it, and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, up to that point. She had been with me through some of the best and worst times of my life. I did not think I would have the heart to adopt another dog at that point, but Ollie convinced me otherwise.
Ollie had been with Greta since he was a baby. She wasn’t always the nicest to him, but he loved her so. After she was gone, his howling would wake me in the night, and I would cry again over our shared pain and loss. It was not long until we decided he needed a friend. That is where Ella came in, in 2012.
There are no words to describe how much Ella has meant to me and my children since she came into our lives. She is gentle, patient, kind, and a beautiful soul. She has been with us through a divorce, loss of our other pets, three new pets, 19 and counting foster pets, multiple moves, sickness, health, great times, low times, and everything in between. She has been a rock to our little family – a source of boundless love and joy – and the thought of losing her terrifies me. She is around 11 or 12 now (she was four or five when we got her), we think she’s going deaf, white hair has taken over most of her formerly black face. She is amazing, and she inspires me to continue in our journey of helping animals to have better lives.
This is already long, so I am going to stop for now… stay tuned for my next blog, when I will talk about how we got started fostering. If you have any interest in fostering or adopting animals, feel free to contact me for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org.