I don't know about y'all but in my world, life has a way of going sideways with little warning. Not that sideways = bad, but more like, sideways = different. This was the case for Charlie and I last week.
Since the time we chatted (aka blog post which you are welcome to comment and chat with me on!), I have wrapped up canceling the remainder of my meetings in 2020*, been on way more webinars and zoom calls than I ever imagined I would be on (I know you all feel me here!) and in my free time, I began to make masks.
I made one each for Charlie and I, then one for my mother-in-law, and then I posted on Facebook that I would like to help others out by making and donating masks. The response was terrific both in people requesting masks to people donating money to help offset the costs for shipping and fabric. Before I could say, "Bob's your uncle," I was in mass production, sewing for 8+ hours a day. Within a couple of weeks, I had sewn and shipped over 300 masks. Every time I thought I was done, I had requests for more. I am pleased to announce that I am sending out another eight today and am happy to make more. If you, your friends, family, colleagues, or community are in need of masks, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will get them out to you.
Now we get to the part where I put out into the universe that I had a little bit of free time. I posted on my personal timeline a picture of our feet stretched out in front of us, next to the pool and I said something sappy like, "I am grateful for wonderful friends, family, my husband and the ability to laze by the pool." I would like to draw your attention back to the last part of that statement, "...laze by the pool." Upstairs, maniacal laughter could be heard. Fast forward to the next morning.
Charlie and I were walking along one of the trails in the woods here at Fort Clark Springs, just chatting away. Now those who know me well, know that I can get caught up in what I am doing and become a bit, "Captain Oblivious", Well not this time. I heard a tiny meow and literally froze in my tracks. Charlie started to say something, and I shushed him and said, "Listen, did you hear that?" and we heard another little meow. Perched on a log, about three feet off the trail, was an itty, bitty kitten. White with gray ears and a tail. He was dirty and had ants crawling on him. Normally, if you see "abandoned" kittens, you should leave them for a few hours to ensure that they are truly abandoned because honestly, their moms will give them the best chance at life. Typically when they are this little, you will find them curled up in a pile together, clean and plump. I grew up with kittens (a lot of them and yes, if my parents had simply spayed their cat, we wouldn't have contributed to the overpopulation of cats, etc., etc., etc.) and knew this was weird. Little guys like him are usually curled up with their litter mates, and quiet. I heard another meow, this one didn't come from him. I looked at Charlie and was like, "There's another one." This is where I fell in love with my husband all over again. He got down and crawled into the brush and handed back to me the first kitten. Then the second. And then he saw two more and handed them back to me as well. These guys were soooo tiny, around 2 weeks old. And covered in fleas. And what looked like insect eggs were in their fur. They were also incredibly bony - their ribs, spines, and shoulder blades were apparent. What was most alarming (and was the determining factor in taking them immediately) was the first kitten had a wound on his backside and ants were crawling all over it. We took them home.
Now, this is where I wish I had made a different call. I wish I had gone to the vet immediately versus waiting for the next morning. Ugh! I hate that hindsight is 20/20 and that I don't have a "do-over" button.
When we got home with them, we mixed up some gruel, fed them, bathed them (except the one with the open wound, we cleaned him and his wound up as best we could, and put antibiotic ointment on it), and placed them in a kennel with a heating pad and a towel. I felt that these little guys just needed some TLC, food and warmth and they would be fine.
I had a virtual conference that day and participated while also caring for the little ones. I hopped in an out of the conference all day and didn't even have a chance to get ready before the video calls started - fortunately I wasn't in full hag mode but I was far from "pr
ofessional" standards with my hair in a bun and wearing a t-shirt (that's me in the red, second row down, far right). Luckily, everyone was very generous and understanding - and by the end of the chats, a bit in love with the kittens that kept popping up in the videos as I cared for them.
As the day progressed, the first kitty got a little bit weaker and it looked like his wound had gotten a bit, hold on a sec, larger? That cannot be right. How would that happen? Several hours later the wound opened up on the other side of his backside and at that point we knew he wouldn't make it and we provided palliative care. Honestly, I am cringing as I write this because I now know what was wrong. He had been infested with maggots. When I first realized this I thought, "Maggots only eat dead flesh, so there isn't anything more to do for him because the flesh is already dead, right?." Charlie held little Grayling (by this point, he had a name) until he passed and then buried him out in the back. I sincerely hope you all are gentle here towards us - we are devastated that our ignorance cost this little guy his life and if we had to do it all over again, we would have immediately gotten in the truck, driven the 35 miles to the nearest vet, and gotten all of them the care they needed immediately. But we thought we had time and thought they would all be okay.
Later that night, Charlie noticed that Gandalf the Gray... and White (that's how you say his name since like his name sake he is gray, and white), had a wound that hadn't been there before. And there were maggots. Charlie irrigated the wound and flushed out several maggots. We repeated this again a couple of hours later. We continued to care and feed the three remaining kittens, Gandalf, Rum Tum Tugger (RT) the little calico and Jinx, the gray tabby, through the night. I called the vet first thing and arranged to be a walk in. By this time, RT and Gandalf both had wounds, and were very tired. Jinx was doing the best but all three of them needed help ASAP and honestly, I thought we were going to have to put two, if not all three, of them to sleep. We got to the vet and called in (with the pandemic thing happening, your car is the new waiting room). They told me that as soon as there was an opening they would be out to get them. I waited a half hour before calling in again to say, "I don't know how much longer these little guys can wait, their need is truly urgent." They heard me and in two minutes were at my car door and taking my babies inside.
The three of them were treated for maggots, which included injecting medicine to kill the maggots, and using tweezers to remove about twenty from the wounds of Gandalf and RT. We were sent on our way with solution to irrigate the wounds, silver sulfadiazine cream to apply to the wounds (the solution is an anti-bacterial and the silver cream is an antibiotic) and an oral antibiotic for all three. All of this is administered two times a day, 12 hours apart. So, between the treatments, we also have feedings of every 2-3 hours. Charlie and I did our Google research, read about how much KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement) formula they should eat based on size, how big they should be, etc. The reality is, these guys should have been quite a bit bigger than they were and it was/is up to us to ensure that they heal and grow.
Charlie and I quickly fell into a routine, at 8 pm they are given their medicine and the wounds are cleaned, They are fed, either via bottle or if too weak for that, a syringe or eyedropper. Our goal, to get at least 3 ML of KMR into each of them but preferably more, at each feeding. Then I head to bed and Charlie takes that 10:30 pm feeding. Each feeding can last anywhere from 20 minutes (if everyone is eager) to an hour (if they aren't interested and you are having to coax them to eat). I then wake up around 1:30 am and take the next feeding. Charlie then takes the 4:30 am feeding and then I wake around 7 ish to take care of them at 8 am with food, meds and wound care. Charlie is sometimes still awake and helps me with them and then he typically goes down for a nap. These are our nights and during the day, it's every 2-3 hours for a feeding but are sometimes more frequent if they wake up and cry. For the first several days, RT was so tiny and weak that she slept most of the time and would shake like she had palsy. Charlie and I both would see her lying on her side and worry that she had died. She loves to snuggle and to keep her warm, I began tucking her down the front of my sports bra. This way I can work, she gets her snuggles, and she stays nice and warm. I prefer not to talk about the time she peed and pooped in there...
Today, I had all three kittens tucked down into my bra (seriously, it's like a baby carrier for kittens). They were all snuggly and warm and I got the chance to write this blog post. I am happy to report out that as of this morning, Jinx ("Hi! Jinx!" - it gets us every time, lol) has grown 39% since he first went to the vet, Gandalf the Gray...and White has grown 22% and Rum Tum Tugger has grown 26%. Both Gandalf and RT have spent a lot of their energy in healing vs. growing while Jinx (Hi! Jinx! - see, you smiled! That's a dad joke for ya!) has been able to pack on the ounces! They have been back to the vet and got a standing ovation (to be fair, the vet and vet tech were already standing but they did say how surprised and pleased they were with how well they were healing and growing), they got their first de-worming and are scheduled for a follow up in two weeks and their second de-worming.
The kittens are becoming a bit more playful and alert, have begun grooming themselves and I anticipate that while they may need a couple extra weeks of care** before they are placed for adoption, they will all make it and have fabulous kitty-cat lives. I have to be honest, it's gonna be a bit of a tear-jerker when they leave me.
In between all of this, I have had calls with clients and potential clients, sent out proposals for work, completed another LEO story (check out Officer Reed's story here), sewn more masks, and taken at least one shower (I am pretty positive that there were more showers than one but I am pretty tired and can't recall, lol). The one thing I have NOT done since these guys came into our lives is lazed by the pool. You know what, I kind of like how life took us sideways.
p.s. If you are ever in Del Rio and need vet help, I highly encourage you to see Dr. Erin Alexander at Del Rio Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital and her crew. They have been amazing with these little guys and managed me quite well!
p.s.s. I want to thank the Kitten Lady for the wealth of knowledge she has put out there for people caring for kittens. Not only did she help save the lives of these kittens with her site, she has saved the lives of thousands of others because I know that Charlie and I are not alone in rescuing kittens that need to be bottle fed.
p.s.s.s. Look, if you ever find yourself with unwanted kittens and are contemplating dropping them off on the side of the trail, just give me a call. I will figure out something to do with them - if not take them in myself, Seriously - these guys would be so much further along if they were not having to heal from the maggots.
*for those new to the blog, when I am not rescuing kittens, I am a meeting and event planner with ConferenceDirect which allows me to continue in my career and keep Charlie, the cats (Lord Buttersworth and Wonkers - and right now, the L'il Bits) and I in kibble while we pursue the mission for Badges Across America. If you ever have a meeting or event that you need hotel, venue or vendor sourcing or conference management for, or even have questions (I love to give advice in my areas of expertise!), reach out to me at email@example.com.
**normally you adopt out at 8 weeks of age, which for these three would be June 16(ish) but it may be closer to the end of June before they have hit all the needed developmental milestones. I would rather they be super healthy and fat before they leave our care.