If at First you Fail Spectacularly

Fostering cats.  It’s the one thing in life that I can look back on and say, “Well, I sucked at that.”  Last year five tiny baby kittens were taken into my care and four died three different ways.  I broke when the fourth one had to be euthanized and kept the last one to heal my heart.  She has since become a beloved member of our household.

For the past year I’ve held onto this failure.  I have to admit that I have dubbed myself the Cat Grim Reaper.  I’ve lurked on the foster parent group on Facebook and watched litter after litter of healthy kittens grow and thrive under other foster parents care.  I’ve watched sick and hurt cats become sleek and healthy.  Quietly I’ve kept my training up to date in anticipation that I was going to try again.  Once and for all I was going to cement my definition of the kitten event:  bad luck or killer.

Our local shelter just had an influx of animals and needed foster parents to take sick, but not dying, animals home to make room for the new really sick animals.  With little input from my family or friends, I volunteered to take one of the cats.  He has an upper respiratory infection, his leg is bandaged hip to foot, he just got neutered, and he has a heart murmur that needs to be evaluated once he gets over the other ailments.  His name is Bart and he’s a beautiful long haired light grey cat.  He loves my daughter and has a purr that vibrates his whole body when she pets him.

As Bart snores away on the other side of the bathroom door – he is quarantined because of his infection – I’m not confident that he’ll make it.  He hasn’t gotten better in the five days in my care.  We’ve had to change antibiotics, and he’s not eating.  The plan was to take him back to the shelter Tuesday to have his heart murmur evaluated, but already they are saying I might have to keep him longer because he’s not improving.  He is living in a mist of water vapor as I try to keep his nasal tissues from bleeding each time he sneezes.  

Thursday I dreamed Bart was playing with my parent’s cats, and woke with one thought in my head, “This is too much.”  Fostering is just too much for me, for my family, and for my other cats.  I hate saying that.  I feel like some aristocrat looking down her nose at hard work and saying, “Oh no, I can’t do that.  It’s hard and messy and time consuming and inconvenient.”  No part of me doesn’t feel like a failure.  But I’ve had to put a litter box in my bedroom to stop our cats from peeing and pooping on my bed, because the presence of the foster cat near their normal boxes makes them nervous.  My daughter sits stroking his soft fur with tears running down her face. “I’m going to miss Bart,” she says.  I drive back and forth to the shelter to drop him off and pick him up so his bandage can be changed.  I wipe bloody snot off our walls, off of my daughter, and off his fur.  The truth of the situation is that this is not our path, and not our way to help.  Bart will be our last foster and if he dies I will take the mantle of Cat Grim Reaper and wear it, but I will not partake in a third foster experience.  I will find other ways to make the world a better place.

It isn’t all terrible, don’t let me mislead you.  There are moments like this. I hope that Bart recovers and some amazing family gets to enjoy this giant  purr for years to come.

For all those who care for shelter animals, either at the shelter or in their homes, I applaud you. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I wish you all the strength and courage to keep doing what you do.


No one cares that I’m sick

Oh man, I have been so sick.  I’ve had this nasty cough and cold for 10 days and haven’t been able to write or blog anything.  My mind, a haze of sleep deprivation and germiness, just couldn’t come up with anything anyone would want to read.

At 2:30 a.m. I’d lie awake in a stupor and think, “I’m going to blog about how much this cough syrup I bought sucks.  I’m going to tell my readers about how it’s left me stuck between sleep and awake and hasn’t even calmed my cough as it promised.”  Thankfully I had enough awareness to know that no one wants to read that.  Also the cough syrup had caused my fingers to become detached from my body floating lazily near my hands, but immovable.

Standing in the shower using the gross NeilMed sinus wash bottle to rinse out my nose – must avoid a sinus infection – I ponder how much money this peddler of squishy bottles and salt packets is worth.  Maybe he’s one of those people who makes $99,000 every two weeks.  My mind wanders to why so many salt packets come with each bottle I purchase, because I know I have an entire shoebox of salt packets in my linen closet: enough to rinse my nose out every day for years.  I’m distracted from my revery by the green snot crab that has just landed in the bathtub and squiggles down the drain.  After I dry off I realize that I should not blog about rinsing out my nose, because no one wants to read that.

This morning I woke up and knew I was feeling better because the words and stories returned to my brain.  Soap day, my pretty fingernails, the flat-aloes I saw yesterday and the beautiful weather all poured into my head as likely blog topics I needed to write.  Then my mind jumped to the critique I received on my novel from an agent and I longed to go downstairs and start removing the piles of “He smiled, he walked, he looked” worthless phrases from my novel.  She said it made my story plod, and I don’t want to plod, I want to fly.

It’s such a relief to have the story gates open again and be able to step away from the sickness induced drivel that was drifting through my head the past ten days.  I can’t wait to get started, but first I’m going to post publish on this post.  I hope it doesn’t go viral.

Ba dum bum, ching!