Rizzo’s Rescue

I adopted Rizzo from the foster system in 2010. She crossed over the rainbow bridge last week, but I wanted to share her story as a perfect example of the tremendous difference that Feline Rescue makes in the lives of cats and the people who adopt them.

Rizzo

I adopted Rizzo from Feline Rescue’s foster system on Sept. 4, 2010. But our story actually started exactly two years before, when I pulled into my driveway and noticed a small, scruffy, emaciated grey kitty sitting on my front steps. Intrigued, I approached her slowly and she didn’t run. She wouldn’t let me pet her, swatting at my hand and backing away when I tried, but she gratefully ate up the food I offered. After filling her belly, she ran off across the street. I recall being in tears as I watched her scamper away, thinking that this sickly looking little kitty was not going to make it out there alone for long.

I had been volunteering for Feline Rescue for many years by that time, working at the shelter and doing foster care, so I immediately called Cathy Harrington, Feline Rescue’s longtime foster coordinator, and asked if the organization could accept the little grey stray in to the foster system. Cathy said there were no foster homes available, but if I was able to live trap her and was willing to foster her until she was adopted out to a permanent home, she could come in to the system. I already had two beautiful black foster cats in my “foster room” at the time, but I knew I had to find a way to make this work, so I agreed.

Rizzo

It took five days to lure the kitty into the live trap. Once in, she was on her way to the vet, where she weighed in at a measly five pounds and was diagnosed with dehydration and a uterine infection. She was not an easy patient, batting and swatting constantly at the staff at Larpenteur Animal Hospital, but they managed to get her spayed and give her all necessary medications and vaccinations; thankfully, she also tested disease free. After a week or so, I brought her home and got her snuggled up into a kennel away from the other foster cats. But it soon became apparent that she didn’t feel much like eating, so a few days later she was back at the vet’s office for another week. Again I brought her home, determined that this sickly grey girl was going to gain some weight and I was going to gain her trust!

It took six weeks, but the little grey kitty I came to know as Rizzo finally stopped swatting at me and felt comfortable enough to let me pet her. I’ll never forget that moment! And then, four weeks later, she did something else I will never forget — she crawled up on to my lap and curled up into a little ball. It was so significant that I even recall the movie I was watching at the time — “Six Days Seven Nights,” with Harrison Ford! At that point I knew she was ready for adoption. I prepared a profile, took a couple photos and got her posted on Feline Rescue’s website.
Over the next year and nine months, Rizzo and I got to know each other. Truthfully, that first year was a bit of a roller coaster, as she did not like to be around the other cats in the house and was particularly unkind to my oldest cat, a gorgeous dilute calico who was nearly 20 years old. And she wasn’t afraid to let me know when she had enough of me either!

Rizzo

In all that time, Feline Rescue got just two calls inquiring about Rizzo, and neither seemed like the right fit. Eventually, as time went on, it dawned on me that if an appropriate adopter really did show an interest in her I was not going to be able to let her go! Somehow, despite her dislike of the other cats, the occasional “love bite” or swat when I tried to pet her, and her not infrequent moodiness (her nickname was Crabby Pants), we had developed a very strong bond. So exactly two years from the date that little emaciated grey kitty showed up on my doorstep, I officially adopted her.

Over the next four years and eight months, our bond grew stronger and stronger. She slept snuggled up to me every night, laid in the crook of my arm when I watched TV, and even traveled up north with me to visit my family. (She didn’t much like the ride, but she loved being the only cat in the house once she got there!) And then, eight months ago, I found a small lump on Rizzo’s belly. I didn’t expect it would be anything serious – animals often get harmless lumps as they age – but I immediately had it looked at just to be sure. It turned out that it was serious, very serous — a malignant mammary tumor. Rizzo had mammary cancer. I was devastated.

Rizzo

I immediately had the tumor surgically removed, but it came back several months later, along with at least two others, and they slowly began to grow. She put up such a good fight, with her head up and her eyes bright all through her illness. Up until the last month when the tumors began to break open and bleed, no one could even tell she was ill. But eventually the tumors grew so large that it started getting hard for her walk. Soon she lost her appetite too. It was difficult to finally make the decision to let her go, but I knew it was the right thing to do.
Anyone who has lost a beloved pet knows how devastating it is. This loss has been particularly heartbreaking for me, perhaps because of the special bond Rizzo and I developed during the months-long socialization process. I so miss her presence in my home; even with the other cats who are still with me, it feels different. But at the same time, I feel blessed to have had her in my life for as long as I did — and it is all thanks to Feline Rescue. The people in this organization care so deeply for each and every cat and kitten that comes through the shelter door or into the foster system or outreach program. And not only does Feline Rescue save cats and kittens that otherwise may never have a chance at a happy, healthy life, it brings years of joy and love to the people who adopt the cats and kitties it rescues.

I simply cannot thank you enough, Feline Rescue, for the wonderful work you do and for giving me the years I had with Rizzo.

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11 comments on “Rizzo’s Rescue
  1. Margaret Owen Thorpe says:

    Good-bye, little Rizzo. All of my dear cats on the far side of the bridge – Toby, who looked like you, Big Willie, Sybylla, Hester, and, especially, Phaedra and Harriet, who also had mammary tumors – are welcoming you. All the Feline Rescue cats who’ve crossed the bridge are also greeting you. Rizzo, you have friends over there. May you like and enjoy them better than you may have your feline housemates on this side. Peace and purrs be with you, little girl. And hugs to your earthly person who is missing you.

  2. Jennifer Padelford says:

    Thank you so much for the tender love and care you gave to Rizzo. And thank you Rizzo for blessing us with your graciousness beauty courage love strength and willingness to trust when your world started out so hard. Say hi to my baby Boots for me. Safe travels true heart.

  3. Barb Nenn says:

    So sorry for your loss. As I read the story of Rizzo, tears ran down my cheeks. Oh, how strays or feral cats can make life complete or complicated ! The ones we’re able to “home” and those that can not be saved, all have a special place in our hearts. Their lives can parallel ours in ways only “cat” people/owners can identify with; understand, appreciate, or perceive. The one’s that are able to be adopted – get the “Forever Home” are fondly loved, and their love; like how Rizzo slept with you, and curled up in your lap, speaks volumes of their trust in you (us). May your memories of Rizzo keep you smiling, even though your heart at times is sadden with deep loss.

    • Deb says:

      God bless you and Rizzo! I am so glad you she met each other. It gives so much hope for our world. You took such good care of Rizzo. You both loved and trusted each other and made such a difference in one anothers lives. Our entire Animal World has been blessed by you and Rizzo! God bless you both!

  4. Krista says:

    Michelle, I’m so sorry for your loss. You trapped and saved another stray kitty back in 2011. Remember Diego (now called Little D)? He is the most loving, sweet-natured, darling kitty I’ve ever had. You must really be a cat whisperer for kitties in need, because the truly special ones somehow find you!

    • Michelle Lore says:

      Krista, I remember Diego well! He was very special to me, and very much a challenge because he was so terrified of nearly everything after he was live-trapped and taken inside after living outside under my neighbor’s garage. I remember him frantically trying to get out of his kennel and making a total mess of everything. But I knew he had it in him to be the special, sweet kitty that he has turned out to be! I am so happy that he found such a patient, loving home with you. You just made my day!

  5. Brenda Peterson says:

    I came across your story while searching for cat rescues in Minnesota. Sorry for your loss. What a great story! My Pele crossed over the Rainbow bridge yesterday. We adopted him from a shelter in NC and he too was hesitant at getting to know us. It took the shelter an hour to get him in the cage to go home. They asked my son many times “isn’t there another cat” he’s Autistic and wanted an orange cat. He told them No every time. He panted under our bed for 2 months and we couldn’t pick him up. We started with a towel and with great patience and many scratches we finally were able to hold him. He was a great fit for our family and became the friendliest cat ever to myself and three kids. We had 8 great years and then 4 days ago became ill. He spent two full days at the vet and I took him into the emergency vet. Nobody could figure out what was going on with him. In the end he was suffering and my three teenagers and I made the hardest decision ever to put him down. But now he’s not suffering.

  6. Michelle says:

    OMGoodness.. This is such a touching story. Thnk u for sharing it. I was lookin for my moo moo on internet. Came across your story. With tears running dwn face. Gd. Tears to knw hes in a better place and not suffering. God bless you and the foster hmes and safe plces such as this one to help helpless furry friends. Sorry for your loss. Always remembered in yours & my heart’s..

  7. Gail castellanos says:

    So sorry for your sweet Rizzo. You gave her love when you rescued her. She learned that from you and gave it back to you. Thank you for your dedication to rescue and save these little lost souls. May God bring you comfort.

  8. Steven Carr says:

    I lost my Jazzy almost 2yrs ago after 15 yrs of pure bliss, she died of kidney disease at the age of 18…I was devastated…I never thought I would get another kitty til I stopped into feline rescue and found Jeremiah …a 1.5 yr old gold & white dom. short hair male that had a rough in life…it seemed no one wanted him , I would see him in the window as I drove by sometimes, and I just knew somehow he & I would be buds. After 6 visits he warmed up to me and I adopted him & brought him home. He & I both get a 2nd chance to be happy, and he has taken over my apt. and we have become friends…Rizzo was lucky to have you, as you were to find her…feline rescue saves countless lives with their work, and not only feline lives…bless you & them

    • Krista says:

      This is a great story. I’m so glad you took a chance on another kitty. I totally agree that Feline Rescue saves lives and not just feline ones. I’ve gotten 5 kitties from them since the late 1990’s.

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