Wednesday, May 1, 2013
What Happened and What's to Come
When the Stouts moved in, they were perky and round but days later, things started to change for Filbert. His little body was always cold, he had trouble keeping food down, and what managed stay in long enough to pass, came out in drips. His energy was low and he looked dehydrated, so on a Saturday morning, I took him into the shelter so he could get fluids. There's no doctor on staff over the weekend, so he couldn't get a full examine on this day. I was hoping the fluids could suspend him until we could see the doctor on Monday morning.
We returned home and all afternoon the vomiting and diarrhea continued, so we paid a visit to the emergency vet. Flibert was examined and diagnosed with intussusception of the intestines. We discussed the option of surgery, and decided we would get him fully hydrated and stable first, run a few tests, and then figure out what to do next. I left the frail boy at the clinic, and headed back to the house to tend to the girls.
Shortly after I arrived, the phone rang and the doctor on the other end delivered the horrible news - Filbert tested positive for Panleukopenia.
If you are a foster parent or if you work or volunteer at a shelter, this news is as bad as it gets. It's a horrible virus, highly contagious, and a killer of kittens. There are treatment options for older and stronger cats, but not for a wee one-pound kitten like Filbert. For him, euthanasia was the only option.
I don't think I've ever worried and panicked like I did in those moments after I received this news. Because in those moments, it just felt like this whole itty bitty empire was going away.
We were losing Filbert, for sure, and because he had Panleuk, there was very strong chance the girls had it too, and we could lose them as well. And then I panicked about our future - once this virus enters your home, because it's so contagious and hard to kill, you have to wait a year to foster again.
And if I couldn't foster, how could I blog? And if I couldn't blog, what would I do? And how could we have our fundraiser, if there are no kittens to staff the phonebank? And would my book deal fade away? And then I worried about all of you and then everything else under the sun because that's what I do in moments like this.
Fortunately, I married a man who doesn't panic or rattle easily, and together we returned to the emergency clinic with Wylla and Audrey so they could be tested too.
It was a long afternoon and evening at the clinic. They tested the girls, and while we awaited the results, we had a chance to suit-up in gowns and gloves and say our goodbyes to dear Filbert.
He was in a cubby in the isolation area, curled into a ball. It had barely been an hour since I left him there, and in that time, it was clear the virus had tightened its grip on that tiny kitten. Normally, when Filbert received any amount of affection, he would respond with loud, rumbling purrs, but in this weakened state, he couldn't. His eyes were dull, he was fading, and shortly afterwards he was put down.
We returned to the examination room and received the good news that the girls tested negative. Thank goodness. They wanted to do some more testing and blood work, so we waited while they squeezed us in between other appointments and emergencies and finally, just before midnight, we left the clinic.
We had to do all that we could to prevent exposing the girls further to this virus, so on the way home we stopped at the store to pick up a gallon of bleach, a few cleaning supplies, and a new litter box and scoop.
The girls waited patiently in their carrier while we quickly but carefully scrubbed every square inch of their wire kennel with bleach and hot water. We set them up in their new basement quarters with fresh blankets and a bed, a new litter box, and new toys. They were happy to be home and ready for a good meal and a long nap.
We were too - the day was exhausting.
The weeks ahead were still worry-filled. The girls had to be tested several times before we knew for sure they were virus-free, and of course we had Wylla's other health issues to deal with too.
These days were work-filled as well - we had to begin cleaning the kitten room, which was no small task. Transmission of the virus occurs either through direct contact between cats or through contact with common surfaces, so every surface in the room - floors, walls, furniture, objects - had to be cleaned with bleach. If it couldn't be cleaned with bleach, we had to dispose of it, so we took a station wagon filled with an upholstered chair, lamp shades, pillows, bedding, books, kitty toys and towers to the landfill.
Just last week we finally finished up with the former kitten room. We've deep-cleaned, repainted, redecorated and it's now a guest bedroom - for humans only.
But don't worry. That doesn't mean we're done with fostering. We've figured out a plan.
Even though I feel we were very thorough in our cleaning, we don't want to risk exposing any other kittens to lingering bits of the virus, so we are building a kitten nursery in our basement. It will be a lovely and serene space that's easy to care for kittens in and easy to clean and sanitize between batches.
It's not going to happen over night - but now that we've dealt with the former kitten room, we can move ahead with the project full-steam. I'm very excited, and we'll work as quickly as we can to get it up and running soon.
With fostering, there are risks involved, and I've always known we may have to go through something like this one day. It happened, we survived this foster mom's worst nightmare, Wylla and Audrey made it through, and a bright kitten-filled future lies ahead.
Thanks for being so supportive through this whole ordeal. We sure do appreciate all of your good thoughts, prayers, sweet comments and kind gestures. Your positive ways helped us get through these hard months. Thank you for being there for us each day.