An Adoption-Challenged Success Story

Original Names: Egg Roll
Birthday: February 28, 2015
Came to FieldHaven: March 9, 2015
Adopted: July 9, 2015

Submitted by John

Who amongst us hasn’t done some serious reflection in 2020? Our lives have been indelibly changed, shaped and redirected by the rapidly unfolding events of this age. As someone who has a parent living in assisted living facility, my family’s biggest concern wasn’t the threat of the COVID-19 virus, rather our concerns were on the potentially devastating effects social isolation would have on my extremely socially active parent. Many health care and assisted care professionals will readily share that having daily social dynamic removed from a person’s life can be just as – if not more – lethal than any pandemic. The cause of death under these circumstances is called, “A failure to thrive.” Talk with any veterinarian and they can tell countless stories of how this condition also exists throughout the animal kingdom, which brings me to the story of a tiny kitten that was not expected to survive. It’s the story of how Egg Roll’s indomitable spirit transformed her to the cat we affectionately know as Kimmy.

FieldHaven Feline Center is located in the rustic rural Northern California community of Lincoln. Their mission is “For every cat in need, there is a solution.” The dedicated team at FieldHaven is unequaled and unwavering in their dedication and commitment to that core principal, which is how Egg Roll along with her mother and siblings came from Los Angeles – a journey of over 400 miles! Egg Roll was soon adopted which is usually the start of a animals happily ever after, but soon afterwards the couple who adopted her noticed that she had lost her energy and was rapidly losing weight. Here once again, FieldHaven exemplified doing the right thing for the right reasons. They have a no questions asked, no judgment surrender policy, where someone can return the animal back to the center. Remember their goal is always, “For every cat in need, there is a solution.” After the vets at FieldHaven performed a series of tests, they simply couldn’t find a clinical reason for what was wrong with Egg Roll – she simply was failing to thrive.

My wife, Carrie, who works and volunteers for FieldHaven, approached me about Egg Roll’s situation and she asked if it would be Ok if we fostered her, but she was extremely clear that this was more than likely to be a hospice scenario. Now I have grown up with and around a menagerie of animals my entire life, and as all animal lovers know the hardest part and responsibility that comes with having animals is dealing with their inevitable demise. I still get heartbroken when I think about when I was 15 years old, holding onto my magnificent thoroughbred Duke’s reins as I spoke gently into his ears knowing this would be the last words this gentle giant would hear as he the vet euthanized Duke for a painful and incurable stomach condition. Watching an animal pass isn’t an easy emotional thing to do, whether it is a three pound kitten or a 1,000 horse, but as Carrie has proven time and time again with her patience, compassion, and care miracles do happen. With her motto of “never giving up on an animal” proven right so many times, the only answer I could give to bring Egg Roll home was yes.

I was prepared to see a struggling kitten enter our home, but when I first saw Egg Roll’s emaciated condition I was astonished that she hadn’t already succumbed. Our home already had three felines, two FieldHaven alums Tiki and Calypso, and the only cat ever to be adopted from a local dog’s only shelter Joey. What can I say, with Joey, it was love at first sight. Joey’s life journey is an amazing story in itself. He had Tangled’s Flynn Rider’s smolder with a Looney Toons alley cat’s disheveled looks, but what defined Joey was his character. He embodied gentleness, kindness, and a presence in the moment that our family had never seen before in an animal. He was a cat that could immediately read the room. While it’s true that we project through our human lenses what we interpret an animal’s behavior might mean, it’s impossible not to think about Joey as anything less than a benevolent example of the power and positive influence of patience and love.

To acclimate Egg Roll to a home with three cats, it was decided that we should could keep her in the large cage in which she had known as her home at FieldHaven. We set it up in the family room where she could have the greatest interaction with both human and animals alike. Now the day that Egg Roll came into our home Carrie and my two teenage daughters were leaving to have a fun filled day at a Bay Area amusement park, which left the responsibility of caregiver of Egg Roll in my hands. After saying my goodbyes to the girls, I went to check on Egg Roll and there like a palace guard was Joey, quietly observing the frail Japanese bobtail mix. It was clear that both enjoyed each other’s company. So I sat and spent most of the morning talking to both as softly and reassuringly as I could.

Early in my career I was a traffic safety consultant and spokesperson for a major auto club, one safety lesson taught to me by professional NASCAR drivers was if you find yourself surrounded by chaos and collisions happening all around you, rather on focusing on the impending danger and crashes try to find the opening and put all your efforts on making it through. It’s a lesson that I have attempted to apply in all aspects of my life. So with Egg Roll, I decided not to focus on her wasted condition and poor prospects, rather all my communication and focus was on how she was now getting stronger, healthier, and how she would ultimately become the largest cat in this house. If you have nothing to lose, don’t just lose it, really go all in on the best possible outcome. I would gently take her out of the cage; gently pet her, looking for any sign of interest and life. It’s hard to describe the condition she was in, hardly able to lift her head or stand. Yet, what I did notice was a spark like the last ember of a dying fire in her large eyes, and how that ember would glow and grow when I would take out a cat toy and have it dance in front of her. She was too weak and timid at first, but after about an hour she reached out for it. That moment appeared to be the accelerant, where Eggroll herself said “Okay, I am in for the ride, let’s see where we can go together!” It was when hope entered the room.

It was as if a haze was slowly lifting and one swat would become two and to my amazement she found the reserve energy to move a few steps to lunge at the toy. I immediately texted Carrie and the girls, and for the rest of the day Joey and I stayed to let her know that she wasn’t alone and that she was important and loved. Progress was slow, like booting up your first computer slow, but it was always moving in the right direction. I would shower Egg Roll with every cat positive affirmation I could imagine, but the most common theme I had was that she was going to be healthy and large, which seemed impossible given her condition. However, after a few days we would get together and ask “Is it my imagination or does Egg Roll seem to be gaining weight?” Whatever we were doing was working, Eggroll seemed to find the opening amongst the chaos and collisions and was now beginning to thrive!

By this time, we had given up all thoughts of simply fostering this kitten, she was now a member of the family. Eggroll was a name associated with her challenging past, my family wanted to give her a name that celebrated the indomitable spirit of kitten who refused to fade out of existence. At this same time a NETFLIX show called, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was streaming and it was about as bizarre a comedy premise as could ever be conceived, essentially about a young lady rescued from a doomsday cult and who refuses to let that negative life experience limit the trajectory of her life. And just like that our little kitten, became Kimmy. Now, as for those positive affirmations, they should come with a warning that perhaps they work a little too good, because that little kitten who barely weighed three pounds has blossomed into a sixteen pound beanbag of orange, black, tan and white feline fun.

We still on occasion foster cats and one of the greatest joys is to see Kimmy carry the torch set by Joey as the kind and patient ambassador for our new house guests. The animals that bless and enrich our lives teach us not only about themselves, but they help to inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. So to the great team at FieldHaven, thank you for making us the right solution for Egg Roll/Kimmy’s need.

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