Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pawsitively Purrfect

Ember and her adoption papers
Those of you who follow my blog know that I have been a loving foster mom to a rescue kitty, whom I named Ember, for many months now. Ember came to me from friends at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) in 2012, a burn victim who had been set on fire by a juvenile in Baltimore City in 2011 when she was only eight weeks old. The tiny black kitten barely survived. It took numerous surgeries to close the gaping burn wounds along her spine where she was doused with lighter fluid. The cartilage on her ears was burned away.

Ember underwent two additional surgeries after coming into my custody last year. She eventually healed from her wounds, but compulsive licking on her back and at the base of her tail where the injuries were most severe caused open sores to redevelop. The surgeon cautioned that Ember would have to wear a surgical collar indefinitely or become a lifelong consumer of "kitty Prozac".

The e-collar kept Ember from licking
her wounds but drastically reduced
her quality of life
Neither of those options appealed. My foster kitten was full of energy, wanting to run and jump and play. With a stiff Elizabethan collar fastened firmly around her neck, Ember could not reach her spine or her tail to lick, but neither could she jump or climb, and she certainly couldn’t play with my other two kitties, Underfoot and Elfie. To forever dampen her kinetic spirit with tranquilizers wasn’t desirable, either. I had relished the idea of all three kitties engaging in lively play throughout my house!

I paid for a series of cold laser treatments for Ember at the suggestion of her surgeon, designed to speed subdermal healing along the old burn site in an effort to tamp the itching or whatever was causing her to lick so obsessively (Cold Laser Therapy). I found a specialist who could provide the treatments, and even paid for a course of long-acting cortisone injections when the licking continued. At a charity ball for the Humane Society (see "The Buzz"), I made the winning bid at a silent auction on a consultation with an animal therapist. That behaviorist, Debbie Winkler (, came to my house, evaluated Ember and made some recommendations based on the now-prevailing theory that post-traumatic stress is responsible for her compulsive licking.

Through trial and error, I designed a
soft fabric cover from an infant's onesie
to replace the uncomfortable surgical
collar pets must wear after surgery
As an alternative to the stiff collar, l searched the internet for protective feline "sweaters", but none covered the top of the tail area, a particularly vulnerable spot on my little patient. Meanwhile, I amassed a collection of conical e-collars as I tested various degrees of stiffness and length. Ember tolerated them all.  But she didn’t thrive. There could be no joie-de-vivre with every movement so awkwardly restricted. There had to be a better way.

Wearing an early prototype, Ember
watches the "bird channel" with my
other two cats, Underfoot, left, and Elfie 

There was. A few months ago, on a whim, I bought an infant’s onesie and cut off the sleeves. I cut out the front of the garment clear up to the neck and sewed an extra snap at the crotch. I slipped the soft cotton fabric over Ember’s head backward, and snapped the crotch around her tiny neck. Pulling her hind legs through each of the onesie’s armholes, I took stock. Hmmmm. All the tender burn sites were well protected by the garment and her underside and private parts remained unencumbered, allowing Ember to groom herself and use the litter box without impairment. Now she could run and jump and play! For weeks I fussed with the prototype, refining the design. If this could work for Ember, perhaps other injured animals could benefit. And thus, my idea for "Kritter Kovers" was born.

Once I could readily replicate my design, I began to seek out onesies with cheerful, cat-themed fabric. Ember became accustomed to her "costume changes". Soon I could remove a soiled Kritter Kover from Ember’s tiny body and replace it with a clean one in less than two minutes. Meanwhile, Ember thrived with her newfound freedom of movement. She began to regularly engage my other two cats in play. I was ecstatic.

This placemat is a stencil created from
a photograph of Ember’s face
This month I realized that little Ember had been in my custody for an entire year. I decided that a festive dinner party was in order. I picked a date and created cheerful invitations. Elegant rack of lamb seemed appropriate for an early spring menu. Blood oranges were just about out of season, but there was a fabulous-sounding salad I was dying to try from family lifestyle blogger Carrian at, which called for a special vinegar from Slide Ridge Honey Farm in Mendon, Utah ( I ordered a bottle and gathered the last of the season’s blood oranges from the supermarket.

I used a smaller stencil to decorate this cake 
I contacted officials at BARCS, still the legal owners of my diminutive charge. Would it be possible to formalize her adoption at my party? Arrangements to finalize the paperwork were put into motion.
Since my cousin, Ian, and his girlfriend
have dogs and not cats, their placecards
held doggy "greenies" and balls to chase

I made nametags for the plush cats with
Ember's name and the date of my party  
In the days leading up to my dinner, I created imaginative place cards by filling polka-dotted paper bags with kitty treats and a catnip toy and adorned them with the name of each guest. I asked display and exhibit designer Jesse Turner ( to create a stencil of Ember’s likeness on his laser machine that I could transfer to the icing on a decadent chocolate cake. My stencil idea worked out so beautifully that I bought heavy black Kraft paper and asked Jesse to make placemats, too. I found adorable plush toys at Jo-Ann Fabrics that looked just like Ember and embellished each one with a jeweled collar and name tag as a memento for my guests.
My table, set for ten, featured my grandmother's china
and stenciled placemats with Ember's portrait beneath
each place setting 
The day before the party, I stopped alongside a winding country road, part of my commute home from work, and clipped bucketsful of branches from blooming cherry, crabapple, redbud and apple trees to form, along with forsythia, dogwood, hyacinth and flowering quince from my own yard, expansive floral arrangements and tiny nosegays which I dispersed throughout my ancient farmhouse. I gathered ingredients for an effervescent punch made from champagne, the juices of black currants and lemons and elderflower liqueur, and stuffed plump dates with tidbits of Collier cheddar, wrapping each one in bacon for an appetizer.  

On Saturday I set my table with my grandmother’s china, eager to show it to my second cousin, Ian, and his girlfriend, Sharon, who were driving all the way from Virginia to help celebrate Ember’s special day (my maternal grandmother, Hester Angeline Myers, was Ian’s great grandmother). Early in the day I folded strips of puff pastry around slices of Andouille sausage and, once they emerged from the oven all plumped, topped the bites with a zesty sauce made from stoneground mustard and mango chutney. I sliced crudités of fennel, celery, baby carrots and cauliflower to plunge into a heady dip of sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers and vinegar.

Once the lamb racks were dressed and ready for the oven, the appetizers were plated and the side dishes were largely complete, I ascended to my dressing room, for once knowing exactly what I wanted to wear. A few days beforehand I had ordered a tank top covered in rich, coffee-colored sequins by Ann Klein, having searched in vain the previous weekend for a pretty top that would coordinate with the unusual color of my gorgeous BrazilRoxx Luxury Couture jeans. The chocolaty sequins worked well with the pants. Adding some sparkly copper jewelry from Chico’s and comfortable vintage booties from Cami for, I ran a brush through my hair, donned an apron and returned to my preparations in the kitchen.

From left to right, Bosley and his wife,
Cindy, Jesse, Klaus and his wife, Mary,
Sharon and my cousin, Ian, and Jan and
her husband, Robert
Unlike most of the parties I throw or attend where the guests are old friends who’ve known each other for decades, I was the only common denominator among the attendees Saturday night. So it was my good fortune that my guests all seemed to like each other. Conversation flowed easily as everyone got to know one another. With world travel and high adventure a recurring topic, we talked of visits to foreign countries and the far reaches of the planet, comparing notes about Scuba diving, sky-diving, hang-gliding, snorkeling and hiking along the way.

Ember climbs into a basket
on my china hutch every

Pesto-encrusted rack of lamb
was a big hit with my guests
Of course, at our core, it was a deep and abiding love of animals which suffused the evening in warmth and light. Ember made her fashion debut in a hot pink, custom-made Kritter Kover adorned with a trio of embroidered cats on her back. She was the star of the evening, clambering onto the laps of my guests, warming herself in front of the fireplace in the dining room as we ate, and then climbing into a basket on top of my china hutch from where she could observe my guests indulging in cake and ice cream after dinner.

When Ember was retrieved from her lofty perch for the makeshift adoption ceremony, flashbulbs popped like so many paparazzi as Cindy Wright of BARCS handed me the documents that made Ember officially mine and this cozy house her forever home. To see a short video of the ceremony, click on the arrow above.

After presenting me with adoption
papers, Cindy Wright, of BARCS,
received a monetary donation from
Ember's godparents, Mary and Klaus
I knew my party was a happy success when I glanced at the clock and was stunned to see that it was after 11:00 p.m.  My guests were still engrossed in animated conversation about worldly adventures and beloved pets. Emailed notes of thanks I received the following day gushed with sentiments about what a wonderful time everyone had and how much they enjoyed conversing with the other people present.

As I sat in front of a slowly dying fire the night of the party, sipping a cup of tea long after the last guest had departed and the final dish had found its way into the dishwasher, I realized that I could not recall a happier occasion. Everything about the evening was perfect. Ember was now officially mine. All was right with the world.


  1. Your love of 4 legged and 2 legged friends warms my heart. Kritter Kovers are cute and comfy for the fashionista who gets to wear them. This is an adorable yet practical garment & you're gonna make millions! As always, your hostessing skills are beautifully apparent, your threads are glamorous and you've inspired me to do something noble, like you!!

  2. You did yourself proud, sis! Very well done. I love the Kritter Kovers!!

  3. Your patience, commitment, and creativity for the healing of your injured feline friend are inspiring. Thank you for sharing.