Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

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Ducky
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Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Ducky » Thu Jan 23, 2020 10:49 pm

I wonder if any of you might have a bit of time to read about my dilemma and to let me have your opinions / some advice? It's a long post and a big ask but I would be really grateful to hear from anyone who can offer any guidance here.

Some of you might remember my posts from last summer about Lucy, the foster kitty that I brought home from the rescue that I had been volunteering at for a few years. Here's the post: viewtopic.php?t=7294&start=30 With your help and advice, I think we've almost cracked it. All but a couple of her scabby patches have dried up and the fur grown back. She will always have the scar tissue but it's well hidden and now she's a fluffy, glossy, chirpy little princess again (if slightly plump after the months on steroids, but we're working on that).

https://photos.app.goo.gl/PAXuMQ2eRDJu6R1MA & https://photos.app.goo.gl/v4ehEmjdSU2VVQCp7

For the first couple of months she was with me I was updating the rescue via messenger - both the woman in charge and the cat co-ordinator - with her progress. There wasn't a lot of progress to report to be honest. It soon became clear that it was going to be a long road for us and there was little change from one week to the next. I didn't feel that they were particularly interested either to be honest, from their short responses and lack of contact from them... they never actually asked me about her, and that's the truth. It was always me initiating contact. Around late August I sent a message asking for referral to their vet, and when I got no response I realised that I was going to have to deal with this on my own. I registered her with my usual vet and we had monthly visits for the first eight months or so, and a course of steroids, and then six-weekly visits for a while whilst we tapered her off, and as of October, she's been off the steroids completely and we've only needed a couple of check-ups since. The vet is very happy with her progress. She's been on Hills z/d for around a year or so too, with RC Anallergenic kibble for a change or as a treat. She still has a petulant bit of scabbage on her left neck, and a few tiny patches from where she's managed to get at someone else's food :roll: but we're facing the right direction and it shouldn't be long before we have it totally conquered.

Now here's the detail I didn't go into in my earlier posts: I took Lucy on to get her out of a desperate situation. Over the course of the six weeks that she was in that pen she was an abysmal state... she was just being ignored and her wounds were getting worse. She had an oversized, grubby e-collar tied on by a scrap of blood-stained bandage and it was cutting into her open neck wounds. She had dried faeces on her backside fur from not being able to wash herself. I'd find random food in her bowl and Dreamies on the floor even though she was supposed to be on an exclusion diet, and there was a scrappy note stuck to the pen door basically saying 'this is Lucy... she's around 4 years old, blah blah blah... and she's allergic to something but we don't know what'. One weekend I ordered and paid for a Comfy Collar to be sent to them by next-day delivery so that she could at least eat and sleep better. When I turned up the next weekend she still had the filthy e-collar on. I asked them why and they said she 'kept taking the other one off' (!!!). When I asked them for it back they said they'd lost it. There was absolutely no intention of getting a grip on her issues and potential adopters were avoiding her like the plague. She was just left to scratch and fester. They were just hoping someone crazy enough would come along and take her off their hands, and so I did. It broke my heart seeing her like this week after week and I promised her I would get her out of there somehow. I took her on because she was a genuine welfare concern. Since then, I've spent over a thousand pounds on vet bills, steroids, special food and medical treatment for her wounds. To look at her now, it was money well spent and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. I've also driven home at lunchtime every working day for the last 18 months to see her and give her some fuss because she's stuck in the house (she can't go out, since she's a foster cat). She sleeps on my bed every night and we have cuddles at breakfast because she loves to stomp and dribble on my fluffy bathrobe. She's an absolute darling and if I had even one cat less than I have, there'd be no question of giving her up. Since then, I've also taken in Sir Humphrey from this post: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=6964 and that makes five! But we're waving not drowning.

So. Fast forward to a month or so ago. I'd been meaning to send a message to the cat co-ordinator to update her, but it had been a year of taking two steps forward and one step back. With such slow progress there was little to report and I genuinely felt they were no longer interested in her anyway. A number of people warned me that they were just staying quiet in the hope that I would keep her. There was no rush for me however, I still had work to do on her. Come mid-December I'd finished work for the holidays and had time to sit down and send an email to the cat co-ordinator to let her know how well Lucy was doing and to see what she thought about the next steps. I said Lucy wasn't quite ready yet but maybe sometime in the New Year, it might be safe to look at finding her a nice new home where she didn't have to deal with other cats in the house; she's a bit of a princess, a bit possessive too, and I think she'd flourish much more being an only cat and having her own person all to herself. The response I received to that email was cold..."To be honest after all this time I thought she was with you permanently, I never considered she may need rehoming". Now this was either an epic memory fail on her part, or an outright lie and knowing what I know about her now, I'm going with the latter. She would have been at least consulted about my offer to take her out of rescue for some TLC, and definitely the one to give permission for it. There was never any intention to keep her permanently, they knew this and it is clear from messages between us. They even joked about giving me her adoption papers but they knew (and I made this clear) that with three other cats here, and living on my own/being the only income, I couldn't commit to another permanent resident. I reiterated that there was no hurry, because she’s not quite scratch-free yet, and that when she is ready, perhaps we can look at doing what they’ve done with a number of other foster-based cats and dogs and rehome directly from foster, similar to how CP and our local RSPCA work.

The next response I received told me to bring her in to the rescue that weekend and they'd put her in a pen. No matter that it was that very environment of filth and neglect that exacerbated her issues in the first place! I have since spent the last few weeks challenging her on this, but with no success. Apparently direct rehomings are too much hassle and Lucy won't benefit from walk-by exposure. I can tell you now that it'll be a matter of days before the stress and neglect takes its toll on that poor sweet cat and all our progress will very soon be undone. Our local RSPCA welfare officer has even offered to take Lucy onto their books so that I can sign up as an official fosterer and she can be rehomed direct without having to go back into a pen, with the benefit of website and Facebook marketing, and I said I would pay her adoption fee so that they didn't lose out on it, but they rejected this idea within minutes of me sending the email. It's gone from 'we thought you were keeping her' to 'she's our cat, you'll have to bring her back'. It's no secret that the cat co-ordinator has never liked me, and she doesn't try to hide it, but I never thought she would do something like this just to make a point. I've offered to adopt her myself rather than return her to a pen to fester, but she refused. Just before Christmas I sent a rather honest email. There'll be no coming back from what I said. It's no longer a matter of playing nice and trying persuade her that this is in Lucy's best interests, because that's not what this is about for her. It's clearly personal.

Where are we now? Lucy's here, and the cat co-ordinator is still insisting that Lucy goes back. I'm holding fast... not refusing, but not rushing into my next move. Lucy's happy and we're making progress and that's the important thing. Today I received an email from her again saying there are 3 or 4 potentially suitable families for Lucy so can I let her know what date she'll be returned so she can arrange viewings. I haven't replied. I don't trust her one iota and if Lucy goes back and these people never materialise it'll be devastating for her. I just can't let that happen.

I've even spoken with the owner of another rescue who has told me to send a cheque for her adoption fee and if it's cashed, she's mine and there's nothing they can do! But the fact remains, in the long-term, I don't think I can manage 5 cats. I'm probably going to moving house later this year and downsizing. Humphrey probably isn't going anywhere now with all his issues, so there's already going to be 4 in the house. And I don't want the trouble (and these people can cause trouble, from what I've heard since I stopped volunteering last spring, which in hindsight, may well be what has turned her against me). All I wanted was for them to do what they've done a number of times before... have potential adopters come to meet her here and see her in a home environment, happy and relaxed and playful, and for me to be able to talk to them about how to deal with her allergy if it flares up again.

Lucy is such a sweetheart but she's delicate and easily stressed. Even the vet said that managing her diet is all well and good but managing her environment and eliminating stress is just as important.

As far as I see it, I have a few options here:
  • to take her back and walk away and forget about her. This will break my heart in two.
  • to refuse to take her back and see where it goes, but if she's chipped to them or a previous owner, I won't be able to rehome her and keeping her isn't a long-term option.
  • to keep on insisting on a direct rehoming so that she doesn't have to go back into a pen and risk a relapse, although I don't think I'll get anywhere with that. After my frank and honest email, I think she's worried about what I might say.
As I type, she's skittering around on the laminate waiting for me to go and fetch her some biscuits (her dry food) and I can't bear the thought of sending her back there. What on earth will she think is happening?? It's not as if they haven't got a queue of cats waiting for a rehoming pen. They're always 'rammed'...or so they were when I asked them to take Humphrey in back in July. Again, it was the very same cat-co-ordinator who said no, they were too full, and that he was also 'too old', and within 24 hours was on Facebook offering to take in two 12-yr old siblings for rehoming. Make of that what you will.

If you've got this far, thank you so much, and I would really welcome some advice and wisdom from all angles.

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lilynmitz
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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by lilynmitz » Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:32 pm

To be honest, if she’s already integrated with your lot, and given what horrors you’ve already been through with her, I’d say you’re coping really well, and perhaps on that basis it wouldn’t be a huge leap to make her a permanent part of your household. All of the other options look tougher than simply adopting her yourself. This is probably the easiest way out, and the best outcome for all concerned. Thank you for all the effort you’ve put in for this little puss. You’re a star, and is sounds like she already loves you for it.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Mollycat » Fri Jan 24, 2020 8:49 am

I have only skimmed through your post, not read it in detail, but here's a general thought based on my own rescue girl.

It's been nearly 7 years and I am reminded almost daily how lucky she is to have been a home-to-home girl. She is extremely timid, is sharp and intelligent like a feral survivor, can't be handled, and yet very loving and wants to trust. She is a very complex little creature. If she had even gone into a pen or foster home, I dread to think of her outcome. A couple of examples - she watches fireworks and didn't flinch when the oven exploded, but bolts under the bed at the rustle of a bin bag. She lets me kiss her tummy but the slightest touch of my hand is rewarded with a firm kick. If she was a fight rather than flight kind of cat she would be very dangerous. We have to have reiki to get her in the carrier and yet once the appointment has been missed she settles in it to go to sleep.

You know your girl well, you have worked with her and made all this progress. Remember a year to us is just one seventieth of our life, to them one year is more like one fifteenth, more like 4 to 5 of ours. It's a much bigger upheaval. If you really can't keep her I would really dig my heels in and insist on a home to home, but after all this time and she is settled with you ... well I know I could never give up Molly just because of what it has taken for her to settle and trust as much as she does. And to see her when I collected her from the vet hospital last year after a two week stay, well she was just so overjoyed to be back with me and coming home, I could never put her through rehoming again.

I know a lady who fosters and rehomes dogs, or did. Her last foster was a blind 11 year old spaniel. We all - everyone who knows her including her husband - basically bullied her into keeping him. You can't rehome a settled 11 year old blind dog. Sometimes you just have to know that what an animal is going to go through before reaching health or feeling settled again is quite simply not worth the stress or pain to get there. Sometimes going through the trauma is not worth the outcome at the end.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by fjm » Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:03 am

I hope you have kept all the vet bills, and that your vet is prepared to state that they are for essential treatment, and evidence of severe anxiety suffered in the "rescue" environment. Are there other staff/trustees/etc you can talk to ? I would try to avoid any angry escalation - enough to tell them that your upset and anxiety about this little cat may have led to a breakdown in trust between you and the homing manager. Try to sound a bit apologetic, even if there is no reason for you to be so - it would give them the opportunity to climb down gracefully. Then, with the veterinary evidence that this cat will deteriorate rapidly if forced back into a stressful environment, start the negotiations as to how you can best rehome her direct.

Or simply keep her, of course, and if they try to reclaim her present them with the vet bills and claim them as essential expenses. There will no doubt be arguments about not getting treatment pre-approved, but you have a strong case.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by booktigger » Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:12 pm

I completely sympathise, I was in this position just over a year ago, I was fostering a pair of semi-feral cats (mother and daughter), the manager of the rescue had been ill, then they moved premises, so I was pretty much left to it for 6 months, not really an issue as I had enough experience. About June time I had a conversation about them not being homeable and wanting permission for them to be long term fosters before I spent a lot of money doing things to enrich their environment, 3 weeks later I was asked if they were homeable, and should we split them up! So the situation got ignored for a few more months, then in Sept one of the trustees said they needed to have a conversation with me about them, either adopt or start advertising. I was in despair as they are colourpoint and pretty stunning, and I knew a lot of people would just see their pic and contact us without reading enough about them, but I had decided Lucy would be an only cat when she gave me a black eye from seeing a cat outside! It was also complicated by the fact that adopting them meant I would no longer be able to foster, and I wasn't sure I was ready to give that up either. Luckily the charity forgot about that conversation, but I knew I needed to make a decision before it came up again. And like you, I wasn't sure my circumstances were ideal for taking them on, but I couldn't bear them going back in a pen and probably split up, as they still didn't even like being touched, I knew they would end up on a farm if that happened. So in my situation, and against my better judgement at the time, I decided to adopt them (although that also didn't go smoothly). I still doubt that decision at times, but they do seem content, even if they are still separated as I don't trust Lucy, or want her hissing and growling to turn them into nervous wrecks. Not much help I'm afraid, and sometimes we do end up with more cats than we would like, but it could work out well, and better for her than the alternative.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Sniper1 » Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:02 pm

Dare I say you have and are being very naive here any re homing connected to that rescue direct or whatever has a good chance of her ending up back in their care and they're obviously not competent at running a rescue with your knowledge I think handing her back to them would be nothing short of cruelty and you too should be held accountable if you were to do so although you have no fostering agreement in place you are entitled to reimbursement of all reasonable costs and this I think is the leverage you need to use to have her ownership transferred to you but this needs to be done before you can rehome her in any other way failing that you totally ignore them and keep her I know you say you can't but as I say you kind of made your own bed with your naive approach and may have to pay the price or lastly she could just vanish but you need a very trusted solution with this that needs to be a forever home and can depend on microchip or not .... Lastly thankyou so much for helping her more than you can ever imagine but if you let her down now what was the point she is your responsibility now and when you took her on with no fostering agreement in place you should have realized that to frank also microchips should be registers to the person who is in daily charge of an animal so if she was in your care she should have been registered to you but ownership would still remain with the rescue a point worth noting for anyone who fosters any animal they should all be microchiped to the legal keeper it it not as a proof of ownership as people often think

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Ducky » Sat Jan 25, 2020 9:02 pm

Thank you all for taking the time to read and respond. I am very grateful. I was starting to feel a bit adrift in all of this.

I'm actually prepared to adopt her, even though I'm often run ragged looking after five cats, working full time (which with travel, means being out of the house for 11 hours a day) and currently overseeing a house refurb. It can get a bit mad here! Humphrey is also a lot of work at the moment, extremely clingy and currently on six different supplements every day. Getting them all fed, their old bowls collected and washed, the litter trays scooped, etc in the mornings means a very early start and I have just a couple of hours every evening when I get home, to do it all again. I'm absolutely not complaining, but it's made me realise how much work it is for just one person doing everything. And that's when they're playing nice! The cost element I can just about afford. I hope to be downsizing later this year, but I'll be taking on a mortgage on my own. Long-term affordability is something I need to think about. Currently my three are insured. Humphrey is practically uninsurable. Lucy doesn't go out so is slightly less risk(ish). So whilst I didn't hesitate at taking her on to make her better, I didn't ever consider it to be a permanent thing.

The fact is, they won't let me adopt her. They've refused. Unfortunately the timing of my offer to adopt was wrong. I should have done it in the first place and stayed quiet about her being rehomed onwards, but I didn't know they were going to throw a hissy fit and insist on shoving her back in a pen. I thought they would see that a direct rehoming was absolutely in her best interests. I didn't think that this woman's inherent dislike of me would override her better judgement.

If I refuse to take her back, and they refuse to co-operate with a direct rehoming, then I may have no choice but to keep her here and accept responsibility for her, accept that she's chipped to someone else (unless I can find a way to change that...I'm open to ideas) and that she can't go outside in case she wanders off and gets returned to them. I am not ruling it out, although I don't know what they'll do next. Call the police? Would they even be interested given the facts? Cats are property, granted, but I haven't stolen her, and I certainly don't have the 'intention to permanently deprive' which would be necessary to prove theft.

I can evidence all the costs, etc, with receipts for vet treatment, and her food has all been purchased online. They know it's cost me into four figures. All she said was 'we appreciate what you've done', like they have even the first idea. It's not about the money though. I've even offered to pay their adoption fee. They're actually prepared to drag her back in there and have to fork out £40 a month on special food and inevitably vet treatment, steroids, etc. when she has a relapse, and all with money donated by the public. How crazy is that?

As far as being cordial and amicable with them, that ship has long sailed. Unfortunately the cat co-ordinator is also trustee of the 'charity', so there'll be no getting past her. She and the woman who co-runs it are as thick as thieves and they look after their own. I often used to hear them whinge and bitch about other people, visitors, their volunteers, etc. It could be a very nasty environment at times, which was one of my reasons for quitting last spring. They go through volunteers like consumables and I always knew my time would come to fall out of favour with them. And here it is. And poor Lucy's in the middle.

I agree that I was a bit naive, but she was in such a state that I was desperate to help her. There was no formal arrangement, but they knew what I was doing and why. Maybe they knowingly took advantage of me and the situation, I don't know and I wouldn't be at all surprised. I'm finding the situation very stressful but I'm not about to give up on her. She's asleep in her radiator perch right now, snoring like a piglet! The thought of bundling her into a carrier and leaving her at their reception desk and walking away makes me go cold. She'll be so confused and afraid. I can actually feel the horns poking out of the top of my head just thinking about it.

I've also been thinking about how to respond to the last email saying she has found 'three or four' potentially suitable families for Lucy and chasing for a return date. I really want to say "she's not leaving here until (a) she's 100% ready (she's currently not) and (b) she is going straight to a private home environment that is at least as good as she has here, if not better, with a view to staying there permanently". I also want to meet any potential adopters and talk to them about her food, her care, and what to do in the event of a relapse. I would want to be contacted if anything went wrong and given the chance to help. Ultimately, I would want her to come back here if she did relapse. What do you think? Shall I dig in and tell her to put these people in touch with me and I will be happy to accommodate viewings, where they can meet Lucy, see her happy and relaxed in a home environment, play with her, see what she can and can't eat, her medical history etc?

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by booktigger » Sat Jan 25, 2020 9:17 pm

I think the first thing would be to ask the person involved in the other rescue if she can come and check for a microchip, if she has one in her old owners name, you can apply to have it changed. If she doesn't have one it makes it a lot easier.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Ducky » Sat Jan 25, 2020 9:37 pm

Aye, hmmm... I did think about that but there's an added complication there. The folk running Lucy's 'rescue' have a long-running petty vendetta against the lady who advised me to just send off a cheque and hope. They even went as far as making anonymous complaints about her which resulted in her being raided by the RSPCA, DEFRA and the head vet of a local practice, who found nothing whatsoever of concern. They've been trying to get the place closed down for years. I'm not informed enough to understand why, but it's common knowledge in local rescue circles. Ergo, she probably won't want to take the chance of getting involved. If they've registered her as stolen (wouldn't put it past them) then it would flag up that she has scanned her and checked the database?

I do have a scanner myself that I could use to get her chip number and establish what database she's with. I suspect it's Petlog. Lucy was previously rehomed from this rescue in 2017 and she'd definitely have been chipped then, if not already. I don't know if they transferred the ownership to the new owners or not. They did when I took on Hugo and Dottie from them. Is there a way of them retaining ownership or being an additional party named on the registration?

I could take her back to her usual vet (just for a check-up...he'll be pleased to see how she's come along) and whilst I'm there, ask him to scan her and see if she's registered to the rescue? He knows her background, and that she's in foster, but asking him to check might look a bit suspicious?

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by booktigger » Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:02 am

I'm not sure it shows that someone has checked the database, but if you have your own scanner, then you can just do it yourself, although you may not have the log in details to check details. Going via the vet might be a good idea, if it does flag he can just say he was checking to make sure it hadn't moved, some recommend that anyway. Yes, they can be added as an additional party on the registration, I've done it with previous cats.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Ducky » Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:49 am

Ok. Going to give that some thought. I might say I've been told I can let her out into the garden (or am considering it) and just want to make sure she's chipped and registered in case. I might ask him to check that the rescue are named and if he says not, I'll know it's the old owners.

So, if the rescue are named, does that mean I need their permission to change it as well as the previous owners? Or are they just named as people to contact?

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by booktigger » Sun Jan 26, 2020 10:20 am

That's not a bad idea. I don't know if everyone named gets asked or not.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Ducky » Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:30 am

This sort of explains it: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_ ... RS4M5aoB5x

There is a footprint left by accessing the chip database. It might only be an issue if she's repored stolen. So before I go back to the vet, I'll have to decide whether I'm still going to insist on the direct rehoming route or going to refuse to give her up altogether. If the latter, as soon as I communicate this to the rescue, they'll probably act on the microchip and a stolen alert will come up upon scanning.

So much to think about... :|

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Mollycat » Sun Jan 26, 2020 2:22 pm

I'd be so sorely tempted to tell them you're keeping her and that the adoption fee is more than covered by the vet bills and food you have had to pay out, and add casually "but we can sort it out in court if you feel that's unfair" and maybe that the vet will testify that her health and psychological traumas mean that in his opinion returning her to a shelter environment would be detrimental to her health ... no rescue wants that kind of publicity or cost and they should back down.

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Re: Foster cat dilemma - your advice and opinions please

Post by Ducky » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:29 am

I am keeping all options open at the moment. Even after finding evidence of her scootybum trails on my landing carpet this morning :o (her hypoallergenic biscuits give her patty poops) I am not going to just hand her back and walk away.

I am going to look into the legal position just in case I need to fall back on it. I have found this: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/12968/1/Resea ... 202013.pdf It may not make for stimulating reading but it may come in useful for this occasion and any others who come to search this forum for help in an ownership dispute.

I think I will try and get her to the vet soon'ish and let the vet know what's been going on and ask him to confirm if she is chipped to the rescue or to private a individual(s) (I know he can't tell me who). Hopefully he'll be willing to help me with this one thing. If not, I may have no other way of knowing who owns the microchip (since ownership of the chip is not evidence of ownership of the animal). If she chirps up again in the meantime, I will invite her to send these potential families my way for a meet and greet and leave it at that. She'll let off steam, no doubt, but right now I need time so I cannot bite.

In the meantime, I'm going to be prepared for her to wave the law at me. If she tries that, she'll have picked on the wrong person for sure...I am a lawyer by trade (they do not know this) and interpreting various legislation and applying it to a set of facts in a dispute is what I do all day long. That's a game I'd rather not play, of course, but I will be prepared.

Thank you all again for listening and investing your time in helping me. I am still feeling a bit adrenaline-sick over the whole thing but also resolute and determined that I am doing the right thing.

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