In Memory of Tay

When I first met Heath in 2004, he had an indoor/outdoor cat named Taylor. He was a tough old cat, but he’d gotten into some sort of field fight with an animal whose tooth got lodged into his side and caused an infection that just wouldn’t heal. About a year into our relationship, Taylor showed up one night for a visit, looking worse for wear, with a kitten in tow. She was younger than a kitten should be separated from their momma, which led us to believe she’d been the only survivor or maybe the outcast. It seemed weird for a male cat to take a kitten under his wing and while we couldn’t be positive of their relation, she shared too many of his features to just be a stranger kitten. He taught her to come to the window well, like he did (we lived in the basement of his parents’ house at the time) and they’d come hang out every other day or so until she was brave enough to come to the window alone and then we never saw Taylor again. We suspect the infection had finally gotten the best of him and it seemed like he wanted to make sure his baby had a safe home before he wandered off to die. We named her Tay, since she looked so much like her father and for the first few months of her life with us, we let her be an indoor/outdoor cat like Taylor.




Then, one night, as I lay asleep in bed below the window well, I was jarred awake by an obvious scuffle outside the window and the screeching of a cats cry. Tiny little Tay was being harassed by the other field cats and was so terrified by the time she’d reached the window well, she literally pooped herself in fear. I refused to let her outside again after that. I couldn’t stand the idea of her being bullied.


Before that day, I was strictly a dog person, with zero interest in owning a cat. Even in the first few years of having Tay around, while I obviously had started to love her, I would joke about how she was Heath’s cat and one day I’d have a Great Dane that would be mine. But time passes and Tay became just as much my cat as she was Heath’s. She was such a sweet and gentle cat, with a purr that just exuded comfort. She became my reading buddy, my cookie-thon companion, my fur-baby. And she showed me that cats were just as easy to love as dogs were, to the point that this once dog-person is rightfully considered a Cat Lady by most now. The love I had for Tay encouraged me to care for strays and even rescue another cat. Still, none of them are even close to as perfect a cat as Tay.


In the fall of 2017, we noticed two little nodules on her belly. We wrote them off as fatty tumors since they were tiny and didn’t seem to bother her. But by the time Christmas rolled around, the nodules had double in size and branched off into new nodules. We took her to the doctor in January and they diagnosed her with Breast Cancer. That wasn’t even something I would have considered a potential cause. They told us that as long as it hadn’t spread, they could remove the whole right side’s mammary glands and we’d likely get at least another 3 to 5 years out of her. But when we went for surgery, an x-ray revealed that the cancer had already spread to her lungs. They were honestly surprised she wasn’t in worse shape already. Because that was the first hardest part. She was more playful than ever. She’d finally started chasing Callie around playfully, and she was still eating and using the bathroom like normal. None of the typical red flags for her impending death were present. They told us to just keep an eye on her. Make her comfortable as her body broke down. And to bring her back when we thought it was time.




Deciding when it’s time was the second hardest part. No one wants to make that decision for their loved one, especially when their eyes tell you they’re not ready to give up the fight. Up until her last day, she fought the cancer – still trying to be her usual self even as her lungs made it increasingly harder for her to breathe. She’d try to use her scratching post only to be winded by the effort and look at us with so much confusion, as if to say, “Why can’t I do this anymore? What’s happening to me?” It was heartbreaking.


Her decline seemed to happen all at once, those few weeks that followed her diagnosis passing slow and fast all at the same time. On the morning of February 26th, she wouldn’t get out of bed. And when she was forced to, she took 2 steps before collapsing for air. Finally, she seemed to say, “It’s time.” She didn’t fight us when going into her crate. She didn’t meow in protest on the ride to the vet. If anything, it was like she was trying to tell us it’d be okay.


Her lungs were so weak, she probably could have completely passed away with the first dose of sedative. It didn’t take long for them to lose their fight. The ache in our hearts leaked from our nose and eyes and I don’t know how long it will take for us to stop crying over this. Every time we think we’re doing better, we accidentally call Callie Tay or say “the girls” when really it’s just one girl now. As someone who works from home, Heath, especially, has struggled really hard with the fact that he’s spent nearly ever minute of every day for the last 13 years with her, which is more time than he’s spent with practically anyone else in his life. The loneliness her absence has brought is hard to swallow.


And while all of this is miserable, we are grateful to have Callie. Lord only knows how much more this might have destroyed our spirit if we didn’t have another fur-baby to love on and care for. Still, I wish we’d been more proactive, that we’d taken those nodules more seriously when they first showed up. Maybe we would have gotten more time with her that way or maybe she wouldn’t have had to suffer as bad in her last days.


Nothing prepares you for the loss of someone you love, whether they’re human or animal. People who have kids, don’t seem to quite understand the impact of this for us, but the longer we fail to have children of our own, the more and more our cats feel like our kids. They may be the only kind we ever have after all, and losing one at only 13 years old, when they could have at least lived into their 20’s, hurts tremendously.





2017: The Year of Cats

Just before Christmas 2016, longtime porch queen QT Pie brought me her 2nd litter of kittens for the year (the previous bunch had shown up in late June). While I had let the 1st gang live the outdoor porch life and grow up together, when this 2nd group showed up, I started to panic. My little porch gang had grown from 6 cats to 11 overnight and 5 of those cats were teeny tiny fur babies, who definitely wouldn’t survive winter out in the cold with their little baby coats. So I reached out to a local TNR group, in hopes that they could find homes for the kittens and also help stop the growth of the existing porch gang. We started trapping over Christmas break and 3 weeks, a lot of tears, and close to $600 later, we’d trapped, neutered/spayed, and returned all the adult cats to my porch and found homes for 3 of 5 kittens, with the remaining 2 going into foster care. This is when Callie came into our world.


In a litter full of female orange tabbies (which is an oddity in itself as something like 90% of orange tabbies are boys), Callie was the only calico and her markings were so striking we just had to keep her. She was a sickly little baby, super underweight compared to her siblings, and took a lot more work than I anticipated to socialize and train into being a house cat. Tay, our then 12 year old cat, was virtually no help. In fact, she was so bothered by her new sister at first, she made it hard to even have Callie in the same room with her. They’re still not besties, because Callie has endless energy and always wants to play and Tay’s an old grumpy pants, but they’re growing on each other in our new house. And Callie is HUGE now, taller and longer than her big sister even.


Cats became a theme for 2017 after the first round of TNR and adoption, though. As spring neared, and the porch gang’s presence was more prominent, I’d notice my neighbor across the street filming us whenever we’d go out to feed. She’d complained once before to me that cats were pissing in her yard. I doubted it very much, but offered to buy deterrent and treat her yard for her. She never took me up on the offer. But she did proceed to agitate our other neighbors about the cats and file enough complaints to the apartment complex that they finally started threatening eviction to people who wouldn’t speak up about who’s cats they were. When they finally landed on us and I admitted I was the one feeding them, they told me I needed to stop immediately or face eviction myself. I explained how I’d just spent all this money having them fixed so that they were healthy. I tried to explain how much of a benefit a stable colony is to an apartment complex and that I’d already tried to find them homes, but there weren’t any. They didn’t want to hear any of it. So, after 9 years of apartment life, finding a house became more than just a desire, it became a necessity – so that we weren’t evicted and so that no one hurt the cats.


It was another couple months before we finally found the house that would become our home and the moving process was long and tiresome because we were relocating to another state. We got in the habit of packing the truck every time we went to the new house and even with that many single car trips it still took another 2 rounds with a moving truck to get all of our stuff to the new house. For the whole month we spent moving, I had to go to the apartment every night and starve the cats, in hopes that they’d fall for the traps so I could start the relocation process. When I tell you it’s an emotionally difficult thing for all parties involved, I’m not joking. There’s nothing worse than a cat who’s come to trust you as their food source, screaming at you, begging for food, but too afraid to walk into a cage they’ve been trapped in before. And then, once you’ve successfully trapped one, take it to a new location, completely foreign to them, and watch them hide in absolute fear.


Our new house has a 1 car garage and since we only have 1 car, we had no intention of using it for the car, so it seemed like a perfect place to house the strays for a few weeks while they got acclimated to the new environments smells before releasing them in the wild again. The garage is connected to the house via breezeway, so it makes for easy feeding without fear of them escaping. In those first couple of weeks as we’d catch a cat and bring it home, we almost never saw them. They were so scared, they lived in the garage’s rafters. And we knew that our only hopes of ever seeing the cats again was in catching their leader: Lion-O. Where I could successfully trap one of the others in a couple days, it took more than a week of starving Lion-O and some bigger, fancier trap to finally catch him. And it was down to the last few days of us even being allowed on the property anymore. The night before I actually caught him, I cried the entire ride home over the possibility of having to leave him behind and what that’d mean for both him and his siblings future. He was so mouthy in his protest of the cage and how unbelievably hungry he was. It was the absolute worst sort of torture for the both of us. There’s just no way to make a cat understand that if he just gets in the cage, he can be with his family again. Or is there?




I sound like a genuine crazy cat lady here, but I cried again when I caught him. Out of sheer joy. Even my mom, who doesn’t even care about cats, but was there to keep me company, couldn’t contain her own relief after witnessing the intensity of trapping for just one day. Once he was caged, he wasn’t nearly as mouthy as he’d been. In fact, when you trap cats you have to immediately cover them with blankets to keep them settled down, but for the whole ride home, I lifted his cover so he could watch the open road ahead of us and I told him all about how much happier he was going to be at our new house, with his brothers and sisters and he was completely calm. And again, I know I’m reaching crazy cat lady town when I say this, but when we released him into the garage, he casually walked out, unlike the other cats who darted for hiding and let out this long meow, deeper and louder than I’d ever heard him make. It sounded like he was saying, “Guys?” as if to see if I was really telling the truth. And the chorus of replies that erupted in that garage was enough to have me crying again. They literally meowed at each other from the rafters for an hour, like they were filling each other in on all that they’d missed. After weeks of them not making a peep, it was the greatest sound. The TNR program I worked with says this was some of the greatest evidence they’ve seen on how essential it is to relocate a colony as a whole and not separate them. I have a tiny clip of their joyous meows HERE if you’d like to listen. That night when we went to check on them again, the cats were everywhere, walking above us without a care in the world – no longer afraid of us even seeing them, now that Lion-O was there. And the progress that followed that night convinced us that there was no way we could release them into the wild again.


You might be doing the math about why only 4 of the 6 remaining cats came with us, so I’ll clear that up before closing. There was a large orange cat, no relation to the rest of the cats, that went completely MIA after the TNR program. He was a spotty visitor to begin with and perhaps it’s because he was someone’s inside/outside cat and they never let him out again after they saw his clipped ear. The last cat was QT Pie herself and there is a large part of me that still regrets leaving her behind. But she was even harder to catch than Lion-O the first time and her visits became less frequent and not consistent times once she was fixed. I suspect she was being fed elsewhere because she always looked well fed, but she just didn’t hang with her kids once they were separated and trying to force them into a colony in the new location could have been bad for all cats involved. I still send wet and dry food to my friendly old neighbor, who sees QT Pie on occasion and makes sure to feed her. I worry about her, especially now that winter has set in, but my old neighbor keeps me updated. And if QT Pie’s safety ever seems at risk, I know the TNR program would help us find a solution for her too.


I can’t rave enough about TNR and how much more important it is that I could have even imagined until I got involved. The group I worked with TNR’d over 1000 cats in 2016, probably even more than that in 2017 – all within the same county and they’re not the only group providing this service. Cats reproduce at such a rapid rate, multiple times throughout the year, that you can quickly find yourself with a hoard of them if you’re not careful. The organization I worked with is called Best Friends of Harford County and they’re always in need of volunteers and/or donations, so if that sounds like something you’d be into check them out!



(From Left to Right: Gandalf, Torri, Lion-O, and 2Face)


2017: A Life Update

Hey, Internet. Been a while, right?


For me, it feels like it has been even longer than it’s actually been. The last couple of months of 2016 I made posts in a zombie sort of fashion – posts because I felt like I needed to, not because I wanted to. Posts that made things look better than they actually felt. By mid-February, I couldn’t keep up the act anymore and so I just quit. I even removed the social media apps completely from my phone. Life got too busy for me anyway by the time March kicked off.


2017 has been…. Interesting. Some of the happiest moments of my life have occurred this past year, but I’ve also struggled immensely with anxiety and depression more than I have in over a decade. It’s weird to feel such extremes.


I lost some friends I loved (their choice, not mine); I hated myself for things that were out of my control; I questioned my heart and whether it was worth loving; I worried relentlessly over cats and put myself through weeks of trapping and rescuing a colony not once, but twice; I gained weight and hated myself some more; I failed to do a single creative thing outside of photography; and experienced anxiety attacks that felt like heart attacks over everything from possibly needing to use the bathroom when there wasn’t one around to being able to afford a suddenly more expensive life and whether that was a good decision or not.


Still, I’m walking away from 2017 feeling more blessed than not. The biggest blessing being: I’m a homeowner now! And I love, love, love my house. It’s a brick cape cod w/ a covered porch that sits up on a hill on a half acre of land, with a breezeway connecting the house to the garage, built-in bookcases surrounding the fireplace, hardwood floors throughout, 3 full bathrooms, an open floor plan between the kitchen and living room, and Heath and I even have our own giant office/toy rooms, with a spare room for any future child God might bless us with too. It still needs work – there’s still an entire, partially finished basement to tackle, and relocating from Maryland to Pennsylvania was a pain, but I finally feel proud of where I live and I’m excited for all the memories Heath and I will make here. While buying a house was a blessing in itself, there were blessings happening all around me, too, like a family who puts their creative abilities to use the second you have the keys in your hand and friends who gather together to celebrate your milestones. Twice since last December, my office has collected money to help with the burden of these changes in my life and I’ve cried every time over their unexpected kindness.


My Living Room, Christmas 2017

Our living room, Christmas 2017


We also have a new fur-baby! She’s just turned a year old (we rescued her from outside at just 10 weeks old in late January), and is as wild as ever. Tay’s still not sure she really wanted a sister, but the new house has at least given her plenty of opportunities to get away from hyper Callie when she just can’t be bothered with her. And I suppose you could say we have several new fur-babies if I’m honest, but that’s a story for a different post. 😉


Callie Girl, Year 1

Callie, Year 1


I’m leaving 2017 with a far better perspective than I left 2016 – I feel hopeful and excited for all the plans and work I have in mind. I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way, because that’s how life works, but I hope that starting the year with a better outlook puts me on a better path for happiness than last year. I can’t promise I’ll be online much, nearly a year away from it has definitely served as a lesson on just how toxic the internet can be and how easily it can affect you without you even realizing it, but I do hope to chime in more frequently than I did this year (which was not at all – lol). I have maintained activity on instagram (swhisted), so if you’re interested in seeing what I’m up to on a more regular basis, that’s the place to look.


I hope anyone reading this leaves 2017 behind with peace and hope in their hearts and minds. Life is what YOU make it, so choose to make it the best it can be!


Happy New Year!


Cat Gang



A couple months ago a white and black cat wandered onto our porch and bothered the crap out of our cat Tay, who watched from the window. No matter how much she hissed at him or how puffy the sight of him made her, he was just not afraid of her. Or us, for that matter. That first night he showed up, we went outside to see if the collar he wore had a tag on it and he came right up to us. Unfortunately, the collar was just a flee collar and this cat looked like it’d been a while since he’d eaten last so we fed him (further irritating our own cat all the while). We took his picture and spread it around on FB to all the local animal pages, but no one ever claimed him as theirs. He came back every night after that, seeking the safeness of our porch and the food he knew we offered.



After about a week of this, we put a water and food bowl out there permanently and just got in the habit of filling it in the afternoon so it’d be there whenever he showed up. In doing so though, we encouraged a whole gang of cats to seek food and shelter on our porch. And I’m not joking when I say, that black and white cat is the leader (we call him Boss now).


At first, they’d all come one after another, slowly creeping up our walkway, looking out for anything alarming, and then only eating what they needed before disappearing for the next cat to have a bite. But then Boss started coming to the porch with a kitten, with not much resemblance, but clearly Boss is looking out for him for some reason, as if it’s his kid. We call that kitten Boots, because he’s primarily black and gray, but has white feet. Once the pair of them started coming, the other cats started joining them, practically standing in a line together for their turn in the bowl. When they’re finished, they don’t even vanish right away, often times they get comfy in our porch chairs and hang out there all night.



So now we’re officially feeding four more cats than the one we own. There’s Boss & Boots, like I mentioned above and Derpy, who’s a Himalayan with crossed eyes, and a little scrawny guy we call Lone Ranger, because he’s still a bit afraid of the rest of the gang and us for that matter. He seems reluctant to hang out around anyone for very long.


Getting their pictures has been difficult because unless Boss is around to be brave for them, they keep their distance from us while we’re outside filling the bowls. Boss on the other hand will eat right out of my hand. He even comes up onto the window sill to let us know they’re ready for dinner if we haven’t already filled the bowl for the day. It drives Tay insane.




I know I’ve started a dangerous habit with this. Right now it’s okay that they’re outdoor cats because at least they’re eating and have each other, but I know once winter arrives it will kill me knowing they’re out there without warmth. I would take every last one of them in if were even allowed to have the cat we currently have, but it’s not an option in this apartment. I’m afraid to call any of the local agencies to help find them real homes because most of them aren’t no-kill shelters and so I’d basically just be handing them over to death and I can’t bear that now. They have names, they matter to me now.


I really don’t know what I should do with them at this point. They trust that we’ll feed them everyday so I can’t stop. They feel safe enough on our porch to sleep there and I’m glad for that, but what do I do when winter gets here and they’re freezing? My porch and food aren’t enough to keep them safe and alive at that point, so how can I save these precious kitties come winter?


(Pictured in this post, top to bottom: Boss, Lone Ranger, & Derpy. To see more pictures or full size versions of these cats, click HERE!)


The Man Who Saves Unwanted Cats

I remember first seeing Craig on The Colbert Report. Granted, Stephen Colbert was sort of poking fun of this “Cat Man” but it’s hard to make jokes about a man who has dedicated his life to a greater cause the way Craig has. Under his care, some 600 plus cats have been given a second chance, a home with someone who truly loves them and devotes every minute of his life to them.

I’ve followed Craig and his Caboodle Ranch on LiveJournal since the moment I became aware of his mission and it has been such an enjoyable thing to witness: all the new cats that come in, all the donations he receives to keep the ranch alive, all the days and nights he stays awake to fight for his “babies,” the pictures, the stories… all of it is so rewarding knowing that a good thing like this exists in our sometimes very ugly world.

Last week, though, Craig was taken away from the ranch with a gun to his head for a “misdemeanor” charge. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of too many misdemeanor charges that require a gun to the head, especially for such a docile and non-violent man. 

Apparently a PETA spy has spent the last 5 months undercover in Craig’s ranch as a volunteer, collecting misinformation and shaping a false story to support their own agenda: shutting down Craig’s Caboodle Ranch for good. He’s been painted as a hoarder and animal abuser now, titles that I could never even imagine being given to such a humble and goodhearted man. And titles that hold no actual bearing. Craig has faced the law many times before, and he has conformed to make sure he was caring for these cats in every bit of the right way possible by law and by heart.

To say that Craig has somehow put these cats’ lives in danger is an absolute lie. How the people putting him through this can even sleep at night is beyond me. They have done everything in their power to break a truly selfless man. What kind of person or organization thrives on this sort of treatment?

When Craig was finally allowed back to his ranch two days after his removal, the cats were gone and the perfect home he’d built them (little private houses, memories of the ranches history, etc..) had been destroyed and for no other reason than to break his heart a little more. It is truly a tragedy to know that such injustice can take place. Who is this action against a good cause actually benefiting? As I see it, no one. It’s only hurting people and animal alike.

Awareness is crucial at the moment. Please click HERE to read more about what is happening on Caboodle Ranch and how you might be able to help Craig get his furry children back. 

My prayers will be with Craig as he endures yet another roadblock in his effort to do good in this world. I hope you'll at least keep him in your thoughts or prayers as well. 

– Sarah

Visit the actual Caboodle Ranch Site


A tale about Tay & the lesson learned

Cats don’t give up, they’re relentless. There’s a lesson we should learn from them.

Heath and I are sitting in our office – him working on the websites, me editing a chapter – and Tay (our cat) is driving us insane. Not me so much as him, but irritating regardless.

First she tries to get into his lap by reaching up slowly and pawing his right arm. She looks at him with those doughy eyes and waits. He pushes her down. She sits back down behind his chair and appears to be staring off into space, but what she’s really doing is giving him time. Waiting for a moment to see if she tries again he will be more willing the second time. On her second attempt he still rejects her.

Now she weights her options. First she tries to just get herself up there by creeping up under the chair arm, but he pushes her down before she can wedge herself through. So next she crosses behind the chair and attempts to sneak up unnoticed onto the left arm of his chair, but before she can complete the jump she is pushed back down. Heath grunts, “Tay, NO!”

She returns to her starting position and stares at him. I wonder what her next plan of attack is, because I know there is one. Then without any preparation she is suddenly in the air, leaping onto the top of the back of his chair. We’re amazed she can jump that high and chuckle about her resilience. He lets her stay there because she worked so hard for it and at least she’s not in his way.

She has no intention of staying there though, nor is she fit enough to balance on the thin back of the chair. As soon as she thinks Heath’s forgotten she’s there she walks down his chest and into his lap, but before she can get comfortable he pulls her up into his hands. Holding her like a rag doll, her arms bunched up around her cheeks – looking unbearably adorable, he says, “Tay, I’m working little girl,” and sits her on the ground.

She voices her discontent loudly, “Meow!”

We love how talkative she is and we smile imagining what curse word she might have just said to us. We return to our work and she paces behind his chair, plotting. She has no intentions of giving up.

She paws at my arm and I gullibly think she actually wants my attention. Being the sucker that I am I pick her up, but before I can tuck her into my arms she leaps onto my desk and darts across it onto Heath’s. As her paws hit his desk he looks at her annoyed, “Tay, are you serious? Get Down!”

She retreats, but only onto the small table between our desks. I don’t mind her there, but she’s really too big to sit there. She smells a few pieces of paper on Heath’s desk to make it look like she’s not trying to sneak up again and as soon as she thinks he’s not watching she flies onto the desk and lies down in front of the monitor. Her head shrinks back against it waiting for him to yell at her, still hoping he’ll let her stay though.

He doesn’t acknowledge her with words; he simply picks her up and puts her on the ground. He sighs with frustration. She waits again, thinking.

A couple of minutes pass and we think, good she gave up. But then suddenly in as few steps as possible she shoots up onto the small desk between ours and onto Heath’s desk. This time she lies down with arrogance like she’s staying there whether he wants her to or not. Because the obvious attitude in her expression is funny he folds and lets her stay there. He pushes her head down so it’s out of the way and returns to his work.

But the desk was never Tay’s ultimate objective, it was his lap. After a few minutes of her twisting into adorable poses with her paws over her eyes and her furry belly up to the ceiling she is irritated that she still couldn’t grasp his attention. She shoots up off the desk and slithers down into his lap.

Truth is he’d noticed all her little faces and poses on the desk and was weakened by her cuteness so this time he let her stay. He coos at her, “You are too cute Tay,” and she winks her eyes and purrs loud enough for me to hear on the other side of the room.

Completely content for achieving her goal she curls up into a ball in the bend of his knees and drifts to sleep.

Her unwillingness to give up on her goal got me thinking about how easily people give up in life, how people throw themselves pity parties when things aren’t easy for them instead of trudging forward. I hate this.

Nothing that we know today was accomplished by people who didn’t have ambition, who didn’t fight every step of the way to achieve their goal. It seems like there’s not enough people like this anymore. That too much of our society would rather find an excuse for quitting than to persevere. And I think the fact that our country in particular has been on a steady spiral to nowhere it’s time for people to wake up a bit and stop crying about their troubles so much and start doing something about them.

We are capable of achieving far more then we give ourselves credit for. It’s never easy, but it’s always more rewarding that way – when you have to work hard for it. And it’s far more respectable to be headstrong rather than a crybaby.

Just a thought. Time to return to revising my book.

Peace – Sarah


“Hates echo will always find its way back to the ears of those who delivered it. Don’t be hates conduit. Be the wind of love and understanding – each breeze could warm a heart.” – Heath Harris (Epic Savier)