One Way to Shrink Our Problems

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

As many of you know, I had to put my sweet kitty to sleep this past summer. I didn't think I would take it quite as hard as I did. But for some reason, the loss really hit me when we came home from our family vacation to an empty home.

I walked through the door, waiting for the usual excited meows and leg-rubbings. But without my kitty to greet me, my heart felt as empty as my home.

Even though I was missing my kitty, I didn't want to rush out and try to replace the loving pet that I'd had for nine years. And I wasn't planning to . . . until, a few days later when I was listening to the radio as I took my youngest daughter to the dentist.

The radio announcers were sitting outside the local humane society. And they were discussing the towers and towers of kittens inside that desperately needed homes.

Of course, right then and there I wanted to step on the gas and steer the van directly to the front door of the humane society. Instead, I made myself be a good mommy, and I took my daughter to her dentist appointment first.

But the minute she was done, we zipped over to visit the kittens. "Just to look" I told my husband on the cell phone.

Okay, so you know the end of the story. I didn't just look. I ended up taking home a six week old calico that had been taken from her mother way too soon. She had worms and fleas and needed a bath. But she was just what I needed to warm my heart. I named her Petunia, sweet little Petunia.

But that's not quite the end of my kitten story. While we were looking at the cages and cages of cats, I discovered a five month old kitten that I knew my husband would fall in love with—a friendly, main-coon-mix, that had the makings of becoming a large cat (just the kind my husband likes).

So you guessed it. We adopted him too. Only he was incredibly sick at the time with a severe upper respiratory infection. The day we brought him home, he could hardly breathe, he wasn't eating or drinking, and he was coughing and sneezing. He too was dirty, skinny, and flea-infested.

I didn't think the poor kitty would make it through the first night. But the next morning, he was still alive . . . but barely. For three days, we worked hard to save his life, syringe-feeding him and coaxing every tiny sip of water we could into him.

Finally, he began to perk up. And when he ate a dish of watered-down canned cat food, we cheered.

Patriot, named after my husband's favorite football team!
It's been an uphill battle nursing him back to health. He's still coughing. But slowly he's adjusting to our home and his new family—who obviously loves him a LOT to go to such great lengths to care for him.

As I told my children on the day we adopted our new kittens, "They don't know how lucky they are to be coming to live with us."

So what have I learned through all this crazy kitten business?

One lesson is that we all need to have someone or something to think about outside ourselves, especially in such a "me first" culture. I'm the first to admit that I think about myself, my likes, dislikes, comfort, or lack of it quite a bit.

But when we give ourselves the opportunity to look beyond ourselves, to see the problems of others, we come away with fresh perspective, perhaps realizing our issues aren't quite as overwhelming as we once believed. We learn to be just a little more grateful for what we've been given, instead of focusing so much on what we don't have.

Adopting sick and homeless kittens may not be a big thing. But it's a step in the right direction. It's helping me and my family focus a little less upon ourselves.

So, next time your problems feel overwhelming, find someone or something worse off than you and help them. Reaching outside ourselves to the needs of others definitely puts life back into perspective. It helps shrink our problems.

(And by the way, if you'd like to learn more about how you can help someone worse off, check out my Reader Page for some of the sites I'm helping with proceeds from Unending Devotion in an effort to bring awareness to the continuing problem of sexual exploitation of women.)

 So what about you? Have you ever gone crazy over any of your pets? :-) And how are you working on shrinking your problems?


During the month of September, I'm sharing secrets about myself during my "Fun Secrets" Blog Tour. On each blog stop, I'll also be giving away a signed copy of my newest release, Unending Devotion:

Monday, Sept. 10: Secret #5: One huge way my husband supports me. Caroline Flory’s blog

Tuesday, Sept. 11: Secret #6: What I wanted to be when I grew up. Julie Musil’s blog

Wednesday, Sept. 12: Secret #7: Where I do most of my writing. Brooke M.’s blog

For a list of all my secrets, check out my Events Page!


  1. Well done Jody. Even though your cat is no more, it is lovely to spread out your love to some other animal in trouble.

  2. You can't see me, but I'm applauding and grinning from ear to ear! My two sassy kitties are adopted, as well - one from the SPCA and one from Petsmart. Both were sick when I got them and nurturing them back to health provided such a needed perspective. Isn't it a joy to come home to all those meows and leg rubs again? Joy!

  3. Ahhhhhhhh. I'm so glad you reached out to help those kitties, Jody.We are huge animal lovers at our home. One dog and four cats at the moment. My daughter, Katie, volunteers at a no kill shelter where our last two kitties came from. Animals have a way of taking us out of ourselves and can actually lower your blood pressure. We lost our oldest dog a couple years ago. I still miss him.

  4. Touching story and a great reminder. Thanks for sharing!

  5. When I was a senior in high school I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Africa. Talk about an experience! We have no idea how good we have it here in America. We are so blessed! Having that opportunity to help others with such a great need really puts things in perspective and changes how you view your life. It was a huge challenge as I'm such a homebody and don't like to leave my house much less my country, but it's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything!

  6. Since I pour all my love into my children and husband, I don't have much left over for our English Lab, Darby, who is the best dog in the world. She'll be the one we compare all other dogs to - but I often feel bad because she gets overlooked in our busy household. Sometimes I surprise her (and myself, quite frankly) when I stop what I'm doing and give her a good rub down. She rolls over onto her back and pops her legs in the air and if dogs could sigh, she'd do it. Thanks for the reminder that it's good for me to go out of my way for a pet. :)

  7. I started sneezing when I opened your blog page! Kidding. But I am allergic to cats. ANd not a cat person. But we've had two dogs who were rescues and two who we got as pups from a highly reputable breeder. We had to re-home one dog to a no-kill shelter because his separation anxiety could not be controlled with meds por behavioural therapy. I cried like a baby when they put his leash on him and took him away. He looked at me as if to say, "hey, this could be fun, aren't ya coming???"
    I cried for days. So did the 4 kids. Our little fuzzball mutt missed him for about an hour and then took off into Jay Leno territory and kept us going. That was two years ago. My husband SWORE he wasn't a pet person and ignored the fuzzball for two years. NOW?
    Um, now he hums "Oh Canada" to the dog and makes us all listen because the dog knows the first note. And he feeds the dog from his plate. And talks to him when no one's looking. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
    SHrinking my problems? #1, I leave for a mission trip to the Bolivian Andes in 5 weeks. We go DEEP into the mountains and bring short wave radios to the Quechua Indians. The radios are solar powered and fixed tuned to the Christian radio station that broadcasts only in Quechua. Each radio can reach 30 people. I have taken 320 radios in-country to reach 960 people with the Gospel. Our teams have taken 30,000 radios in 6 years. We have reached nearly 900,000 Quechua people. Only 4 million people left to go!!

    Shrinking #2-Through Rachelles blog, God has enabled me to connect with a writer and his wife. They run a dog rescue ranch in the Southwest. They have 26 dogs that they've saved and now care for. She is amazing and lovely. He is dying. What more can I say? He is dying. My heart breaks each time I hang up the phone.
    But God CAN heal him. I know this. I pray for this.
    Query problems? Beta readers who don't get my style? It's all good.
    I have both feet on Earth. My friend has one in Heaven.

  8. I wish people would neuter and spay their pets. All these homeless cats and dogs are so sad.

  9. Good morning, everyone! Loving learning a little bit more about you all and your pets! Thank you for sharing! :-)

  10. This post made me happy...and sad. We adopted my kitty nearly 5 years ago, and she had to become an outdoor/indoor cat when she started using the bathroom...inside on my carpet. She loved being outdoors, but back in May she didn't come home. :( I miss her so much! I love cats.

    But I love your point...when we look at helping someone else, we forget ourselves. I need to put this in practice...a lot more. Thanks for the encouragement.

  11. We always adopt at the Humane Society, but that was very good of you to adopt two high-needs babies! Our dog was a little that way (formerly abused and dumped off because he has a bit of an attitude) and we adore him. And it does feel rewarding to think we could provide the loving home where he is part of the family, instead of what we suspect was a home that treated him badly because his personality is distinctly 'un-dog'.

  12. Lovely story, Jody, and so true. We have four rescue kitties, three of them with health problems. I don't think I could live in a house with no cats!

  13. Three of my four dogs and eleven of my dozen cats (yes, I live in the country) are some else's discards. The latest—a young yellow tomcat—appeared a couple of weeks ago, and I have recently tamed him. Time to make a call to the vet. . . .

  14. What adorable cats! They're very lucky to have found you :-)Mine are rescue cats too. Luckily they'd been well cared for in the rescue centre where we adopted them from.

  15. Jody - love the pound pets. That's all we've ever had and somehow I think most of them do KNOW how lucky they are. Our Betsy-dog is a leaner...she leans into us when she greets us, almost as though to let us know that she REALLY is a part of us. I love it. She was so scared and worried when we brought her home, but in spite of her fears, she let us love her and loved us back unconditionally and immediately. There are still funny quirks that I know are there from her life on the streets (she'll graze for roots and greens before she eats her dog-food) but I learn from her every day. In fact, even the salad before the meat is a good lesson, huh? Maybe that would help "shrink" things a little for me, too! Ha!

    Great post,

    1. You totally had me laughing on that last line, Becky! :-) Too cute!

  16. I also love cats. I would have responded to the radio ad in the same way you did, so your story had me smiling from the start. Two years ago, I lost two cats within a month of each other. They just disappeared. I'm sure the coyotes around where we live got them (such is the natural order of things; kitties should hide at night), but it was tough not knowing for sure.

    I completely agree that helping others is the best way to get our minds off our own problems. I read a comment about an African mission trip that changed a person's perspective. We don't realize how easy we've got it in America until we see some of the real suffering in the world.

    That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people in our own neighborhood that could use a helping hand or a dose of Christian love. I mean, if Jesus is supposed to be our example, let's check out how much time he spent sitting around feeling sorry for himself. Oh...well, that was fast because he just didn't live that way.

  17. Kudos to you for rescuing these babies!! My mom has a Maine Coon also, and he is about 40 pounds of such hugeness that I always freak out a little when I visit. =)

  18. Oh, such a sweet story. I think "Patriot" will be a big help with all computer work.

  19. Aww, so sweet! Jody (and her fam) congratulations! God's blessings.

    And very true, friend. It reminds me once more that the good we do for- or to- others leaves a lasting impact.

    This is hitting deep right now. Thanks, Jody. :-)

  20. My eight year old cat came from the shelter as a kitty, flea infested, with an upper respiratory illness too. It broke my hear to hear her cough and sneeze. Glad your kitties found new homes and hope all is well with both of them soon.

  21. I'm amazed at how many cats have upper respiratory infections when adopting from an animal rescue shelter. I'm not sure if it's the passing of germs at the shelter or the fact that the animals haven't been well-cared for before they come in? Hmmm... :-)

  22. Good for you for adopting those two pets, especially that one who really needed you and survived because of the love that you and your family gave him.
    I'm allergic to cats, but I've always been a dog person. I had a dog when I was growing up, and I loved her because just hugging her made me feel better. And she was always happy to see me.
    I've found that one thing that helps me is to do what one of my grade school teachers told us to do: do at least one good deed a day for someone else. That's always helped brighten my day (and hopefully someone else's).

  23. I so identified with this post, Jody.
    We lost our lab, Midas, this past winter after he was diagnosed with cancer. To this day, the tears still sneak up on me. And my youngest daughter, who only knew life with Midas, has struggled too.
    And so ... we promised her a puppy after her sister's wedding.
    Which is how Jo, the alley dog, came to be the newest member of the family.
    Jo and her siblings were found in an alley when they were one week old -- no mama anywhere. They were bottle-fed by their foster family until they were ready for adoption. And named after the sisters in Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy -- and then the brother was named "Chubbs." Yeah, kinda veered off the literary angle there.
    OK ... I'm going on way-too long here.
    All this to say ... Jo has turned our lives upside down.
    But she has also helped my daughter laugh.
    Ah, I love that.
    And my daughter has learned what it means to be a dog's "person" -- so yes, she gets up at night with Jo. And scoops the yard. And takes her to puppy kindergarten.
    All good things.

  24. They're both gorgeous, Jody. I completely agree with you. Being able to take care of another person or animal gives you an incredible sense of purpose. Humans may be quite self-centered, but I think we always work that little bit harder when it's for somebody else.

  25. We lost our older daughter in 2008, each of us handling our grief in a different way. My husband bottled it up inside him. We had not had a pet in many years and had always been dog owners when we did have pets. In November 2009, we found ourselves at the Humane Society shelter with the plan to 'just look'. A 4-month old calico named June attached herself to my husband and melted his heart. He had never especially liked cats...until then. She came home with us that day. Two months later, we were back at the shelter adopting a blind cat (who turned out to actually see quite well, but with some impairment). She was 4 years old at the time. I can't believe the blessing those cats have been for my husband (and for me). I started seeing a difference in him right away. I'm sorry for the loss of your cat but thrilled that you have found two new blessings for your life.

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