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.
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.
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!
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.
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.