Foster Kitten Survives an Illness, Inspires Woman to Help Cats in Need

When Diane volunteered to foster kittens, she wasn’t planning to adopt one of her own. Then she met CJ, a kitten whose love brought healing and renewed purpose.

Diane + Colby Jack

In her daughter’s memory, Diane decided to volunteer to foster kittens at her local SPCA. Against the odds, a kitten named CJ survived an illness and became Diane’s first “foster fail,” inspiring her to keep giving many more adoptable cats and kittens a safe place to call their foster home.

"He was the only survivor, he had gone through his own heartbreaking fight, but came through healthy and happy—giving me hope that in time I, too, could heal."

On June 1, 2018, my world as I knew it would cease to exist: my youngest daughter Jenny was killed in a car accident. It was devastating… how do you move on from that? 

That’s when Colby Jack, a.k.a. CJ, came into my life—and with him, the Dutchess County SPCA. Jenny and I had planned on fostering kittens and I thought that I would move forward with that plan as a way to honor her memory. Little did I know how much my simple life would change in the process. 

A litter of seven kittens had just come into the shelter. The kittens were dirty and very thin but still rambunctious. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to tell that they were in bad shape. The small ones all passed away within days despite our best efforts. We were hoping the other three could hold on long enough for the medication to work. One morning at 4:30 a.m. two passed away in my arms, leaving just one: CJ.

I was heartbroken that I couldn’t save them. I felt like I had failed them and somehow let Jenny down. I had to save the remaining kitten. He was fighting to get well and the vets at the shelter worked with him until he got a little better every day. He was the only survivor, he had gone through his own heartbreaking fight, but came through healthy and happy—giving me hope that in time I, too, could heal. After taking that journey with him there was no way I could let him go; that sweet little ginger boy held a place in my heart and my home. He became what is affectionately called a “foster fail.”

I considered no longer fostering after that, I didn’t know if my heart could take it, but then I would look at CJ and how much joy he brings to our lives. He’s a loving guy, our bright light, who now shows no signs of how frail he once was. I would think of Jenny and why I started fostering in the first place, and I decided to continue. There is such a tremendous need for people to foster animals; how could I just walk away from all the other CJs that still need help?

Since 2018, I have fostered more than 90 kittens and cats, and I have remodeled an entire room in my house to make it a “kitten room.” I volunteer at the shelter at least one day a week and more when I am able. When the shelter reached out for volunteers for a new TNR program, I was the first one to sign up.

CJ coming into my life has shown me not only love but the joy of helping animals in need. He has opened up my world and given me purpose. Just like how an animal can make a difference in a person’s life, one person can make a difference in the life of an animal; but can you imagine if we all stepped up… what a wonderful world it could be.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Diane won Dutchess County SPCA in Hyde Park, New York a 2021 Love Stories award.