Candy-coated, or third time’s a charm

January 15, 2015

Guest blog.  No intro needed, but please share especially if you’re in the DC area.

Sometimes forever does not mean forever.  That’s a hard lesson to learn in life in general and even harder, for me, when it relates to animal rescue.

Back in the late summer/early fall, I fostered two adorable kittens through the Washington Humane Society (WHS)-  Almond Joy and Reese. They were five weeks old and sick when I brought them home, weighing 1.2 and 1.3 lbs. So very tiny. And I was so very scared. I’d never been responsible for living creatures that small and fragile.  Something I learned about tiny kittens – they are not all that fragile and are pretty darn resilient!  Once they got healthy, the little ladies were perfect and everything you’d want in mini-cats: curious, affectionate, playful with bursts of rambunctiousness, slightly mischievous, and super friendly.
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I was going through a bit of a rough patch and having these two mini furmonsters in my care made all the difference in the world. They needed me to take care of them; I needed the joy, entertainment, and snuggles they provided. I would often end my evenings sitting on the floor of my bathroom – aka the Kitten Suite – with one of them in my lap and the other falling asleep while perched on my shoulders. And I fell in love.

Kari, with a shoulder-climbing furmonster, aged VeryTiny

The one not-so-perfect part of this situation was that my main kittenlady – a 4 year old demon feLion (whom I dearly love despite her antics) – was not having it with the kittens. So there was no option to foster fail. These little girls could not be mine and I would have to find them a forever home. And quickly.
Starting the interview process for forever homes, I made it clear the kittens needed to go together since they are a bonded pair; that weeded out most people who e-mailed WHS expressing interest. Eventually I found a young couple who was eager to adopt both sisters. The couple hung out in my apartment with me and the girls for several hours asking all the right questions and seeming generally like they would provide the perfect home. The kittens even fell asleep on one of the potential adopters, one in her lap and the other on her shoulders. It just felt right.
The kittens went home with the couple two weeks later after being spayed. There were tears and one last fantastic kitten sleepover snuggle-fest. I was sad to let them go but I knew they would be very happy.  With Instagram and Twitter, I knew I would get to see pictures of the fuzznuggets growing and settling into their new home. My work here was done.
But then my girls showed back up at the shelter two weeks later.
The couple encountered a surprise life event and decided they could no longer care for two kittens so brought them back. I was notified by shelter staff immediately and went over to hang out the day they came in. Unfortunately I could not foster again because my resident cat had made herself physically ill from the stress of having the kittens in the house. But I wanted my girls to have someone familiar to help them settle in and I needed to hold them and make sure they were OK. It was so good to see them but I was so mad and my heart was heavy.  They were still tiny kittens, though, and I knew they would probably be re-homed in a short amount of time.
Sure enough, the girls being as perfect as they are, they were adopted back out within a week. I was thrilled. NOW my work was done!
Fast forward 3 months: Almond Joy and Reese have been returned again. What’s wrong with them?  NOTHING. They are healthy, sweet, smart, well-mannered beauties. But their adopter decided to move in with her allergic boyfriend – so back to the shelter they come. Again I was notified by shelter staff immediately and so again I went into the shelter on my lunchbreak.  These 6 month old girls are now gorgeous, mostly-grown cats with luxurious fluff. They recognized me on the spot and started giving out affection without hesitation. They are purr-factories and snugglebugs and my heart fights between being so full of love for them and shattering into a bazillion pieces because they have been failed by humans three times – once at birth and twice by people who promised false-forevers.
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Through Facebook, I immediately started spreading information about the girls along with pictures. My network jumped into action and images of Almond Joy and Reese flooded my newsfeed in posts and re-posts urging potential adopters to check them out. I was bowled over and am positive that a happy ending is just around the corner for my girls, but because you can never be too sure…
If you are in the DC/MD/VA area and considering bringing cats into your home please take a look at Almond Joy and Reese.  And if they are no longer available, check out the other wonderful animals that we have up for adoption at the shelter. But before you adopt, please, please, PLEASE realize that you are making a forever promise to a living, breathing creature who will rely on you for care. Feel the weight of that promise and make sure that you are adopting responsibly. Even the best shelters can be harsh environments and being returned to one doesn’t always allow for a happy ending.
Through the feedback and comments I’ve seen so far on social media, I am hopeful that today the kittenladies will be visited by at least one potential adopter if not several. And that is good and reassuring news. It is also good for the other shelter cats because if potential adopters visit after my ladies have been claimed, maybe they’ll consider the other lovely cats currently waiting to find forever homes. Emphasis on the FOREVER.
And remember – adopt don’t shop.

Wordless Wednesday: The Eyes of TJ Eckelkitty



Things I Never Expected to Say

Furparenthood can be challenging.  You work on manners and good behavior.  You reinforce.  You spend a small fortune on treats and toys (which you know will be destroyed in minutes).  You adjust routines and plans and coordinate a fleet of people who can serve as willing back-ups when things get crazy.  You read and you listen and you attend training classes and vet appointments.  You go to play groups.  You make play dates. You think you’re prepared.

And then one evening over a very grown-up dinner of a brie wedge and leftover birthday cake, you hear yourself utter the following words:

“Stop licking your brother’s butt.”

And it’s all over.  In those five little words, you have humbled away years of acquired dignity in rescue-dog companionship.

You’re an educated person.  You like to learn from your mis-steps.  Perhaps you and your spouse can use this as an opportunity to reflect on some of the more outlandish things that have escaped your lips.  And so, we proudly bring you,

Stuff we say to our pups, or where have we gone wrong?

  • Stop humping your sister’s head.
  • Don’t eat his ear.
  • That’s not your food.  I’m not even sure what that is.
  • Thank you for burping in my face.  Twice.
  • The cat is not a chew toy.
  • Why are you green?
  • Stay.  Please, sit still for 15 seconds.
  • Your impression of a Dinosaur screaming is charming. 
  • I cannot feed you faster if you step on my feet.
  • Is that snot on your face, or were you licking your nose?
  • How in the world is that comfortable?


  • Why does your breath smell like poop?
  • Why do you smell like skunk?
  • Drop it. Dropitdropitdropit.
  • Don’t step on Dad’s squishy bits.
  • Don’t kick Mommy’s boob.
  • Armpits are not gourmet treats.
  • Must you race me up the stairs?
  • Must you race me down the stairs?
  • You’re barking at your own reflection.
  • You wouldn’t like it if I sneezed in your open mouth.
  • May I have some room on the couch, please?


Have you caught yourself saying anything “strange” to your furbabies?



January- April 2011

One cat. Two humans.  One dog.  We’re sort of back to where we started, aren’t we?

Athena has gotten over her litter box misfires and is back to judging people from the tops of furniture.  Zozo is completely on-program and in a good routine.  They’re both cool when things get out of hand and we’re late in serving them dinner, or when we drop them at camp for a last-minute weekend getaway, or if we over-sleep on a rare nothing-to-do Saturday.

Things are good.What? Am I drooling?

…But we’ve got this big yard.  And Doodle prefers when there are other pups from which he can take his cues.  We’ve got plenty of love and space on the couch.

Thus the conversations begin.  A joke at first, the musings become more serious:

Where would we put the crate?

Are we ready to introduce chaos into what’s now an easy pattern?

But then we’ll have more furbabies than humans.  Won’t we be outnumbered?

Answers slowly followed:

Probably beside the other one.  But maybe we don’t need two?

A little chaos never hurt anyone.

Yes.  Yes, we will always be outnumbered.

We started casually visiting rescue websites.  Maybe a Frenchie?  What about a lab?  Should we find an entirely white dog to be Ivory to Zo’s ebony?  Let’s get a Shetland Pony.  Pigs are pretty popular right now.

Maybe we weren’t ready.  Maybe we shouldn’t ruin our “good thing.”

Turns out, a little ruin was exactly what we needed.

Cut a Rug (pardon the gross)

Fall 2010

Zozo loves his new food.  He scarfs it down and burps his approval.  In fact, burping in our faces has become his favorite morning party trick.  To be clear, nothing is less “rise-and shine-y” than a border collie gracing you with warm kibble breath belched up your nose.

He’s making pals with the dogs on the other side of the fence and getting accustomed to the flow of the new neighborhood.  He’s calming down.  We’re relieved.

But pet ownership, like home ownership, means that once one issue is resolved another creeps up.  Or maybe that’s just my luck.


Athena has always been fond of lurking in the basement.  From her perch on the bookshelves, she can scoot upstairs for food, hunt spider crickets as they spring out of thin air, or hop on over for a leisurely visit to her litter box.  Her box is stationed in a guest bathroom.  She knows where to find it.  She’s awesome like that.

Except for some reason, our 7 year old fuzzybutt doesn’t want to use her litter box anymore.  Poops still end up where they should (hooray!).  For everything else, she’s chosen the corner of the basement just outside the litter box bathroom door.  On carpet.  We go through baking soda, vinegar and Anti-Icky Poo to kill the enzymes and the smell, but she gingerly picks a spot beside a recently cleaned area and reclaims her territory.  Medically, there’s nothing wrong with her.  We throw down towels and tin foil, and move her litter box out.  We buy a new litter box.

That seems to do the trick.  For a week, my sniffer’s not picking up ammonia.  I happen to breathe a sigh of relief and mention to James that we might be out of the woods.

Oh, silly woman, have you learned nothing?

I’m taking down some laundry and I step in a puddle.  I’m so grossed out/surprised, I drop the clothes.  Because this girl just can’t win.

Not long after, we happen to be outside playing ball with Zozo when Neighbor leans across the fence to chat. (PS, does anyone else have a neighbor who stops to chat and sucks up 45 minutes of your life?  Vampires.  Suburban Vampires.)  In a moment of weakness, I confess Athena’s urinary misbehavings, and Neighbor scratches his chin, flicks his ciggie, and ruminates that maybe it has something to do with the previous owner’s Saint Bernard who may or may not have passed away in “that very corner you’re describing.”  I can’t even begin to unpack everything in that sentence, but I know what I have to do.

On the way back into the house, I stop in the garage and pick up an industrial trash bag, gloves, a hammer and a utility knife.  I close Athena in the powder room with some catnip and I crate Zozo. I relocate her litter box.  I pull on long sleeves and solid shoes.

And I proceed to tear up the basement carpet.  I start on the marking corner.  Up comes the carpet.  Out goes the carpet padding.  I pry away the carpet tacks and tack boards.  I wipe everything down with vinegar.  All of the evidence of my handiwork (except the big, naked corner that’s now half the length of the basement) is bundled into the bags and hauled out to the curb.

One week later, I wipe down the corner again with a natural enzyme cleaner and we put the litter box back.

And then we wait.

Weeks pass.  Months.  No kitty “accidents”, intentional or otherwise.  Occassionally we’ll catch Athena sniffing around the site, but she hussy-walks over to her box and makes herself comfy there.

Athena: an origin story (by request)

September 2004

I had recently moved out of my parents house, leaving behind what had become The Family Cat.  I was a little lonely, and knew that I would do better keeping a critter alive than a house plant.  I know you’re supposed to work things the other way, but that’s not my style.

Step one: you put a cat in a box...

Step one: you put a cat in a box…

I was weighing my options at the cat rescue adoption fair, when I stumbled upon this skinny thing with too many toes on her front paws, looking at me with judgement and disdain.  I approached the kennel door, and she promptly looked away and uttered a sigh brimming with ennui.  I wasn’t her type.

Match made in heaven.  I had to have her.

She had been born on April 30, 2004.  She was pitch black with mite-infected ears, and her eyes and snout were running.  She walked gingerly around the kennel as though her crowded feet hurt.  She was, frankly, a mess.  I signed her paperwork, filled up a cart with basic cat supplies, and drove her straight to the vet.

The vet at Petvax took one look at her, and said it would be a while.  I got comfortable with CatLady Weekly in the lobby.  They gave her a much-needed bath and treated her ears.  They ran some tests on her eye and snout goo, and wrote out prescriptions.  They trimmed her nails and treated what had started to fester in her thumbs.  Hours later, I was the proud owner of a gorgeous, Polydactyl Tortie (of the Hemingway Polydactyls) with double-clawed thumbs.  She was underweight, infected and diagnosed with Feline Herpes.  She’d need love, attention and patience, as well as medication every four hours for at least ten days.  No problem.

Walking out of the vet’s office, I was in shock at her coloring.  She had been so dirty in the kennel, I never expected her to have orange and brown smatterings on her back with rings on her tail.  Her kohl-lined eyes smudged down her cheeks a la Tammy Faye Baker.  She was the strangest-looking thing I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t have been more smitten.

We settled in at home, finding a good place for her bowls, her toys and litter box.  She stuck close to me, and if she lost sight of me she’d quack until I called to her.  “Where’s my big girl?”  “Here, critter.”  “Hello face.”  If I sat on the couch, I’d place her on the pillow beside me.  Time for bed and she’d cry from the floor until I lifted her onto the comforter where she’d knead muffins and purr herself to sleep.  This nameless creature came to work with me for three weeks and made a home in the space between my keyboard and monitor, where it was warm.

It was a full week before I was inspired to name her, not that she seemed to care.  After a few days of getting the lay of the land, she had resumed her airs of superiority.  She wanted to sit beside me or on me or curl up around my neck, but she didn’t want to be touched.  She hockeyed her food pellets around the kitchen floor at 2am and refuse to eat what she’d played with.  She drank her water bowl dry four times a day.  She liked the pink mouse and the metallic green catnip puff, but the jingle balls were too pedestrian. She would stretch very close to your face, sniff your nose, sneeze and hop away.  Every raised surface she could get to was promptly feng shui-ed to her satisfaction.

She was still very tiny– a full three pounds– and her ears and eyes were still healing.  The antibiotics had begun to calm her respiratory distress into remission.  She deserved a strong name to reflect the fight and flint in her gaze.  Tawanda felt a little too Flaggish and Lilith more kabbalic than I wanted to venture.  Still, I thought classically.  This little girl was smart and mischevious.  She could slay a spider cricket without rattling her catbell.  Her looks did more than border on exotic.  We’d give Athena a try.  If everything went according to plan, she’d grow into it.

And did she ever.      206449_1015607503383_865_n



(This post was written in response to a reader’s request.  There will be more Athena “specials” later.  If there’s something specific you’d like to learn about us, drop me a comment!)