Exactly one week ago, I arrived home one night to find my three kids buzzing and awake way past bedtime and my husband busying himself in and around the bathroom. I immediately looked inside the clawfoot tub for the prize: three tiny kittens in a furry heap. Ooo, they were cute! Instinctively I turned to get my camera: what a photo opp!
My husband gently took my arm before I left the bathroom. “Carol,” he said quietly, “they warned us that the kittens may not survive.”
I didn’t get the camera. Instead, I returned to the tub and took closer look. The orphaned kittens were only 3 or 4 weeks old, far too young to be on their own. With no mother to care for and teach them, they were thin and vulnerable. They were also sick – my husband had discovered worms in their diarrhea. This was our first inkling that as newbie foster parents, perhaps we were unprepared.
Six days later, I had been to veterinary hospitals across the city as many times. The rescue organization has relationships with certain clinics and to keep costs down, these are the ones I was asked to go to. The three kittens had: roundworm, upper respiratory infections, Calicivirus, and Giardia. At different times, two became hypoglycemic to the point of collapse and required emergency runs to the vet hospital.
In the meantime, I could not great a straight or consistent answer about the risk of contagion of the parasitic worms to my children, and continue to worry about it. I also had to explain to them that the kittens may not make it. In an attempt to contextualize the situation, I explained that sometimes orphaned animals are so sick or their lives so difficult that they can be put down. This was,how shall I say, not as helpful as I hoped it would be.
I did not decide to foster kittens on a whim. My husband and I discussed it at length, and we thought for various reasons it was a good idea. It’s humbling, I find, to make missteps even when trying to tread carefully.
I was trying my best for these little kittens, but it’s no exaggeration that yesterday when I was told to take all three to a clinic where they would stay for treatment until Saturday, I felt pretty much nothing but relief. I had devoted every moment of spare time and many moments of stolen time to these kittens for a week, and I both wanted and needed the time back. I hope when they return to us that they will be reasonably healthy.
I’ll follow this project to the end, but I don’t want to foster rescued kittens again, not now anyway. I’m not sure I even want to have a pet now, although I’ve certainly gone and put the idea more concretely than ever in my children’s minds. And I’m sure it will be a barrel of laughs when my boys watch me hand over the kittens to their permanent adoptive parents in a few weeks.
I like my camera. I love a beautiful photo. But at the moment I have no shots of the kittens, because they’d look adorable in the snap, and that’s not what this experience has been. The little things are struggling to get off death’s doorstep, and I’ve been struggling to help them, my kids are struggling to understand, and the rescue organization is overwhelmed. Sometimes life isn’t a photo opp.
Maybe later, when the happen ending comes. Fingers crossed.