Jumping off the Cliff

When I quit my full time job and let go of my benefits to pursue running a non profit, I felt like I was diving off stable ground into who knows what that was lying below. Two years earlier, I had charged over a thousand dollars to my credit card to set up a 501c3 and it was time to give the rescue my full attention.
The kittens in need are plentiful , that part of the business is simple. In my dream world, they would arrive with a tiny suitcase full of cash, a veterinarian and a lifetime supply of food. In reality, they arrive with less than nothing and needing more than everything. Logic tells me that there is no way to provide all the care every kitten needs with the resources available. Each kitten’s tiny purr tells me that I don’t have a choice.
At any given time, I will have balances at up to three different veterinary hospitals, four veterinary supply companies, three credit cards, two food manufacturers and countless other small bills. Rent, utilities, basic supplies are whole separate set of expenses. When a kitten enters the rescue, what they need is ordered, veterinary care is administered and necessities are provided regardless of available finances.
It’s a recipe for disaster and yet here I am, almost four years later, with a fully functioning, non profit kitten rescue. I make little to no salary, my trusty subaru is 13 years old and has been used more than once as collateral for an emergency loan. I will never buy a house or become wealthy.
That said, I am happier than I have ever been. I get to work with kittens EVERY DAY. Amazing, wonderful, supportive people donate their time, money and skills and open up their homes, making it possible for kittens to be rescued. My family and friends have all pitched in making cards, creating auction items, building our website and volunteering at fundraisers. Facebook and WordPress provide a no cost way to spread our mission to people all over the world. With every heartbreaking case that shows up at the door, hundreds of people lift me up with their comments and generosity.
It may not be a glamorous life, but I wouldn’t choose to live any other way. Bring on the kittens!

Rescue Residents: Baby Amy and Kai

In the one month of quiet before kitten season returns, I would like to introduce our most important volunteers, the rescue residents. The residents help teach the kittens how to be cats. Social interaction including grooming, play, litter box use and the occasional smack, are important parts of kitten training. The kittens are often isolated during the first few weeks of life due to injury, age or simple quarantine. Interaction with resident cats teaches them what to embrace, what to fear, what to scratch and when to be gentle. Most importantly, the residents show the kittens that they are safe and loved no matter what happened before their arrival at Saving Grace Rescue.
Kai was one of hundreds of kittens pulled from Martinez animal shelter when I first joined forces with a rescue group. Kai went in for a routine spay and proceeded to become severely ill in the following week. After a month of diagnostics, it was revealed through bloodwork and color flow ultrasound that Kai had a portosystemic, or liver, shunt. The veins that carried blood through her liver had not formed correctly and her blood was not getting filtered through her liver fully. In this situation, toxins build up and poison the body. Kai was experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, seizures and extreme weight loss. Medications helped a bit but often made her sicker. The future was looking bleak when Baby Amy came howling into the rescue.
Baby Amy is possibly the loudest kitten in history. A desperate looking volunteer walked in with the tiny black and white fluff surrounded by a long, monosyllabic yowl that went on, and on and on. There was one nursing mom in the rescue at the time and we put Baby Amy with her. Baby Amy latched on to nurse and refused to let go for HOURS. The only time she didn’t yowl from then on was when she was actively nursing. As Baby Amy grew up, she yowled less, but every now and then, I get a stern, long, monosyllabic talking to from the resident matriarch. Baby Amy took food seriously from the start and it shows in her well padded physique. Tiny head, tiny paws…not so tiny Amy.
Baby Amy took to Kai immediately. Kai was nearing a point of no return and all treatments had been exhausted. Baby Amy was not put off by Kai’s emaciated appearance or toxic smell. Baby Amy curled right up to Kai and gave her thin body warmth. Sometimes, love does heal. Kai started to put on weight and her seizures nearly stopped. With Baby Amy’s constant companionship, Kai slowly healed to become the sweet beauty she is today. Kai will always have the shunt but her newfound friendship provided the emotional support her body needed to fight. Kai hasn’t had a seizure in four years.
Baby Amy and Kai pass that support and care on to many of the kittens that come through Saving Grace Rescue. They are two of the kindest and sweetest cats I have ever known

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Auggie plays

One week ago, an emaciated, flea dirt covered kitten was rescued by a previous adopter and brought to Saving Grace Rescue. Dubbed Auggie by her finders, the little girl could barely lift her head due to the wasting of her muscles. Her body was at the end of it’s resources and she was picked up just in time. She was frightened for the first day and basically just a pair of eyes peeking from behind a pile of fuzzy baby blankets.
By the next day Auggie started to realize that those itchy fleas were gone for good, human hands were warm and comforting, and chicken baby food tastes really good.
A week has gone by and with a few jars of baby food, several bowls of Royal Canin babycat and several warm blankets and heat discs, Auggie finally looks, and feels, like an eight week old kitten. Today she ventured out of her safe corner, found a toy and began to play.
Everybody knows that kittens play but few people see kittens that rediscover that joy. Auggie tentatively reached towards a feathered toy, pushed it gingerly a few inches, and then exploded into a running, bunny kicking, fur covered, ball of joy.
Watching Auggie regain her kitten nature and learn to enjoy life all over again reminded me why I am in the business of rescue. Auggie’s joy is a reminder of how amazing life moments can be. These kittens rescue ME.

Auggie’s first day:

Video of Auggie:   Auggie plays