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In September of 2013, my world was turned upside down in a way that few could even comprehend. During these months, which turned into years of waiting for solutions and resolution, I experienced chronic anxiety and depression that people before the pandemic could not understand, appreciate, or frankly tolerate. I was isolated, lonely, and to be blunt, by the spring of 2018, suicidal. I was ready to die because I felt like I no longer made a difference in the world. My husband, always supportive…. and looking for a way to get me out of the house, as well as out of my funk, had found that the local animal shelter allowed people to walk dogs on the property during business hours. This quickly became our Saturday routine, with the essential necessary stop to see the cats in need of forever homes. During one of my visits, I realized that people were also allowed to work with the cats and provide enrichment, clean the cat area, and interact with potential adopters. Still depressed and extremely anxious at this time, I did not think the shelter would consider me a proper volunteer. Oh, how little I knew!
When I inquired, I was assured that I would be most welcome to be there in any capacity, and they would provide training in whatever I was interested in. It was certainly my fear of failure that kept me in the shadow of the staff, while other volunteers grew and flourished in their roles and did as they pleased. However, for me, just as God always does, He placed me in the right place and the right time, with the RIGHT people! My angels are named Karrie and Rachel, and this is how I was saved from my crippling depression and anxiety.
One day, while doing regular volunteer duties, I went to alert staff of a cat who was not acting right and having GI Issues. My angels were talking about a class where “The Kitten Mom” (aka Susan Spaulding, co-founder of NKC) would be teaching a class on feeding NEONATAL kittens. Did I hear them correctly?! They were going to get to bottle feed kittens? Well, I, too, wanted to bottle feed kittens! I found myself inquiring about the class and saying that I would love to do something like that and how lucky they were to have their jobs. No one will ever understand the sheer joy of being told that I could be included, and at no cost I could learn to care for newborn kittens who needed fostering until they reached their adoption weight. Needless to say, I was ready, and everyone in my life knew all about it too! You would have thought I had won the lottery. In a way, I guess I did.
That day in class, Susan brought handouts. She was speaking to trained professionals, and so much of what she said, I had to write down and Google later, but it was such a wonderful experience.
Those were the most magical hours! When we were done, the staff informed me that I now would be able to foster. I left that day and purchased every single item Kitten Mom/Susan had shown in the class. I had the open top carrier, the microwavable heating pad, the Miracle Nipples, the baby blankets; I even searched out Karo syrup! I was READY!
My first foster call came for a set of 3, and they were not pretty when they came in. They were covered in fleas, dehydrated, and frightened little creatures. I was nervous and needy during those first few batches, and the first kitten I lost, of course made me question if I was good enough. That is where my angels, now numbering 3, come in.
With their love for animals, Rachel, Karrie, and Susan gave me the encouragement, the tools, and the knowledge to give back in a way I would never have imagined. To date, I have fostered over 75 little souls, and I’ve loved each and every one of them. Maybe one a little more than the others because we did end up as a foster failure with Billy Goat, or Big Goat, or a host of other nick names. I have loved her since she was 5 days old, and she provides me with the calm that no other animal ever has.
I would not have been motivated to begin this journey without the inspiration of Kitten Mom, Susan Spaulding. I have learned so much by participating in the National Kitten Coalition (NKC) webinars. More than 75 kittens later, I have found something that truly is worthwhile.
Thanks to Susan Spaulding training people like me to help our shelters, which I hope to do someday, we’re giving these vulnerable kittens a chance. Not only are we saving animals, but at least in my case, we’re saving people too.
I sincerely hope that my story will be the one that encourages others, first, to hang on because brighter days are coming and, secondly, to know there is so much good that can be done, especially in kitten care! You truly feel like you are saving the world when you save kittens, and when we all work together it makes the load easier for everyone.
Thank you to the NKC for letting me write my story! I love what you do and want to be a part in any way I can.