devastating doesn’t even begin to describe it

devastating doesn’t even begin to describe it

One of the most horrifying things imaginable, at least for me, is the tragic and/or sudden passing of a pet. My 13 year old pup has been in declining health for the better part of 3 years – so I’ve had time to “prepare” for her sooner rather than later passing. When it’s finally her time, my sadness won’t be diminished by any degree simply because I have been preparing myself for it for a good while – but there won’t be that feeling of terror mixed with shock mixed with gut-wrenching devastation that comes with, well, any “other kind” of pet death. Most unfortunately, one of my recent experiences has to do with that other kind of death – the terribly tragic and shockingly sudden passing of a friend’s dog. A dog that was young, sweet, friendly, gentle, affectionate and….rescued.

It was a Thursday afternoon, and I was in my usual spot in front of my laptop. The semi-silence was broken by blood curdling screams, sounds that made my heart skip 100 beats while my legs raced me to the front window so that I could see what the hell was going on. I could only see a partial view of my neighbor, Laura, running across the street while yelling something I couldn’t quite make out. By this time, several neighbors had also come outside to see what was happening. I stood in the middle of street trying to make sense of what Laura was saying, when it hit me. MAX. Something had happened to Max – she was screaming that Max was dead. But how? Where was he? Why was she saying he got stuck somewhere? What did that mean? I ran into her house to find Max on the floor, surrounded by potato chip pieces and a bag. I kneeled over Max, panicked and crying, trying to figure out what I was seeing. Did he actually suffocate in a potato chip bag??!! In a house that is puppy proofed to the extreme and kept spotless??

It seemed like an eternity passed as I stared into his eyes, while I pushed on his chest and yelled at him to get up . This CANNOT be happening. My brain now knew what I was seeing but the rest of me absolutely refused to believe it. I screamed inside while Laura screamed outside, collapsed on the sidewalk. I knew he was gone, but still thought for a split second that maybe he could be revived. Maybe he hadn’t been gone for that long… maybe there was a chance this sweet boy wasn’t really gone forever.

A neighbor called the nearest Vet Clinic (Ansley) to tell them what happened and that I was on my way with Max. She helped me wrap him in a blanket and get him into my car and I sped – while I wailed – all the way there. I walked into Ansley Animal Hospital and one look at me told them exactly who I was and why I was there. I was still holding onto one droplet of hope that Max could be revived, because how was Laura going to get through this? Max is her life! This is a girl who puts her beloved pet above anything else. This is a girl who has neighbors check in on Max if she is going to be gone from the house for more than a few hours. This is a girl who would sell her house to care for Max, if need be. This is a girl who didn’t deserve to have her pup taken from her at all – much less in such a tragic, freak way. While I stood around crying in between mutters of “no no no no no…,” the compassionate staff of Ansley knew just what to do with Max, and my hysterical self. Sadly, I drove home with an empty blanket and a grieving heart.

For the next week, Laura and I would sit in her house together and just cry. No words were needed, or even wanted, just the company of someone else who could understand the devastation and profound sadness of the situation. Every once in awhile while we sat together crying, Laura would think out loud, “why, why, why…” and the only thing I could think of, was that God needed another angel in Heaven.

in loving memory of Max, 12/2008 – 11/2010

great success!!

great success!!

Our first official social fundraiser for my group, Southern Animal Rescue, was at The Nook last week. And it was a great success, at least by our standards. For a small group with 6 members – 2 of which just moved to another state – an $8,000 (and climbing) vet bill is fairly overwhelming. So we partnered up with my friend and owner of The Nook, Adam Gajadharsingh, to plan a really fun evening for our guests. We had delicious appetizers, cocktails and some really awesome raffle prizes. We had some very generous Atlanta establishments donate gift cards, which our guests loved and were truly impressed with. I would like to “publicly” thank The Nook, Dogwood Restaurant, 5th Street Cafe, Engine 11, Grindhouse, Sweetgrass Salon, Slice, Fritti Fritti and USA Entertainment for their incredible generosity. Of course a huge thanks goes out to our guests that came out to support us.

Between cash/checks in hand and pledges made to make a credit card donation at a later date, we raised almost $3,000. YEA!!!! We are all so insanely excited  – we needed the uplift in spirit after just having 2 foster kittens die from Feline Leukemia and FIP – Feline Infectious Peritonitis – and of course the terrifying realization that lots of other foster kitties were exposed to these diseases.  So it was wonderful to take a “mental break” and enjoy a nice evening with friends and other animal lovers and rescue supporters.

SAR Fundraiser

SAR Fundraiser

Liz (me) and good friend Alex at SAR Fundraiser

Friends and Supporters of SAR

SAR Sponsors

SAR Sponsors

Raffle Prize Time!

Raffle Prize Time!

Rescuers! Lauren, Liz, Leslie, Kristin

Rescuers! Lauren, Liz, Leslie, Kristin

We are thrilled to be able to chip a nice chunk off of our vet bill, so that we can continue to save more animals – because Lord knows He will keep sending them to us whether our bill is $10 or $10,000!

sometimes, prayers really are answered and rescuers are the angels

sometimes, prayers really are answered and rescuers are the angels

My group, Southern Animal Rescue, is regularly, no – constantly – overwhelmed with too many animals in our own homes, because we cannot find enough people willing to foster. On top of that, we get pleas from other rescuers and individuals in dire situations pleading for us to help them, and usually the help they need is for immediate animal placement. Sometimes we can “make” room, sometimes we cannot.
We got wind of a particularly heartbreaking situation, where a rescuer in Dallas, GA is in failing health – as in, stage 3 ovarian cancer – and does not know what will happen to her foster cats once she passes. The hard part in this particular situation is not that we need to find placement for 15 cats (which, don’t get me wrong, is VERY hard) the hard part is that 4 of these cats have FIV, which makes placement for them next to impossible. Believe me I know, I have an FIV+ kitty living in my bedroom. My rescue partner in crime, Leslie, got to work immediately making flyers to post and emails to send – reaching out to rescue contacts all over the US, including FIV Sanctuaries, hoping someone, somewhere, would be able to help. No response from anyone for weeks, and then suddenly a miracle hit her inbox.

“Dear Jen and David,

I’ve learned of your organization through my friend Liz K, who contacted you about her FIV rescue Tink. She was elated when she heard that you had a spot for him!

I just received an appeal yesterday for Bonnie, local cat rescuer who is failing her treatment for Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She has rescued cats for years now in the Dallas, GA area, which has a high kill rate in the local shelters. Word got to me that her battle with cancer is waning. The issue is that she has ~15 cats that will have nowhere to go, as she doesn’t have family here. I’m taking some, am trying to get local groups I know to take some, and have created a flyer (attached and below) that I sent to local cancer survivor groups, hoping that her story would resonate with area adopters.

The big problem is that 4 of her kitties are FIV+. I know you know how ridiculously hard it is to get FIV kitties adopted, and that’s when they’re already in rescue. Bonnie’s time is severely limited, and finding placement for these 4 is going to be really tough and perhaps not possible. If they hit animal control in Dallas, they’ll just be euthanized immediately because of their condition.

You know where I’m headed…I’m writing in somewhat desperation to see if you all have any room in your sanctuary for these 4 kitties. I will personally guarantee a minimum $200 donation for each one, with hopefully more if I can raise more. All 4 are healthy, fixed, vaccinated, etc. 2 of the 4 are best friends with a non-FIV kitty (Sugar) that Bonnie would love to accompany them, but I’m unsure how feasible that is.

I totally understand if you cannot take them – you are already going way above and beyond by running an FIV sanctuary. I would like to do this one day when I have the resources. My heart particularly bleeds for this case because not only is Bonnie going to pass away soon, there is a high chance that her rescue kitties might as well. I know she’s agonizing over their futures, and any peace that I can help bring her regarding their safety and comfort is the least I can do to honor her rescue efforts. Any help that you all can offer, or help us get, would be so immensely appreciated.

Thanks so much for reading, and hope to speak with you soon –

Leslie C”

****

“Leslie,

We are willing to take the kitties that you are trying to place. It is very hard to place FIV cats and we would like to ease Bonnie’s mind during this most difficult time in her life by accepting all five cats.

I will contact you this weekend to discuss the details.

Thanks,

Jen”


Prayers and angels, have created a miracle for a dying rescuer and her rescues. It’s a good day.

the lucky, and the not so lucky

the lucky, and the not so lucky

So yesterday was a reminder of how well things can work in rescue if people collaborate and communicate. The emails go out – usually with a subject line like “FINAL CHANCE! PTS deadline tomorrow, 9/23 in GA! ADOPTABLE DOGS AND PUPPIES” or “LAST CALL FOR HELP: PUREBRED CRUELTY CASE NEEDS RESCUE BY THIS THURSDAY OR SHE WILL DIE” and the forwarding and crossposting like crazy begins.

Usually working against the clock with just mere hours left before the dreaded and all too familiar “deadline” – one or more rescue groups from somewhere in the US says YES we can take that animal. Then the planning and behind the scenes legwork begins.However the most difficult part is over – finding a group or individual rescue person to step up and save a life.

The next step is lining up legs of transportation by volunteers, to get these animals to safety. My leg is usually from the Murray County Shelter (HIGH-kill shelter in Chattsworth, GA) back to Atlanta, or perhaps a little beyond. It’s around 3 hours round trip (not including the time getting paperwork and rounding up the animals at the shelter), and the hand off is usually done in the parking lot of a fast food place or gas station.

It’s one of the most rewarding 3 hours, thinking about how I am saving some lucky furbaby or furbabies from the jaws of death – literally.

lucky pup

lucky pup

lucky pup

lucky pup

But these trips up to a high-kill shelter are also a reminder about what we, as rescuers and animal advocates, are up against – the monumental obstacles of the physical, financial and bureaucratic kind that only allows a few animals – if any at all – out of hundreds, to be saved that week. The physical and financial obstacles are incredibly difficult to navigate through, but the bureaucratic obstacles, such as county and shelter “official” politics are downright impassible. Some counties and areas are worse than others, and some even get significant press for their misdoings and downright criminal behavior. Just a few weeks ago some pups pulled from Murray were transported down to a rescue in Alabama, because that group’s local shelter refuses to work with them. Instead, they would rather kill animals that would otherwise be rescued. How sick is that? Here is a perfect example of the atrocities that are all too common in the rescue world, written by Valerie Hayes of the Atlanta Animal Welfare Examiner. The article is painful to read but incredibly crucial that this experience be exposed, so I am glad my rescuer
friend, Kristin Butler, had the strength to tell it – in order to give a voice to the voiceless.

“The emails go out late at night, with subject headings that describe lives caught in a broken system: “Urgent, these puppies scheduled to die tomorrow”, “Beautiful Maine Coon cat with kittens, last day”, “frightened collie, abuse case, needs you or she dies Wednesday”. They go out relentlessly—day after day, week after week, describing puppies, kittens, senior dogs, cats with colds, purebreds, mixed breeds, abused animals who need a hero, and once-loved family pets who, one way or another, have fallen on hard times and are now coming to the end of their time in a kill shelter. They hint at the stories of lives that will be cut short if not for the network of rescuers who use the internet to conjure up one miracle after another. They pull all-nighters getting the word out through email and Facebook. They ‘crosspost’ pictures and descriptions of the animals in need, and they coordinate the rescue offers that come through, some of which involve transport to another state. It’s a team effort and includes people around the state, the country, even the world. They’re all racing against the clock because they know that a deadline is just that.

The stories hinted at in those emails are those of the rescuers, too—they tell of triumphs—those days when no animal in a particular shelter dies, those stories that turn out right, and end with a successful “pull” when an animal is taken to the safety of a rescue group and can start a new life, but they also tell of relentless stress and a whole lot of heartache—heartache from seeing how the sheltering system treats animals as if they are disposable, heartache from not being to save them all. And it starts all over again tomorrow.

In some places, they know them by numbers, not names. Such is the case in Floyd County Animal Control in Rome, GA, where last week, the stories of 2090, 2070, and his brother 2071 should have been among those with happy endings. They had rescue lined up. Instead, by the time the morning of Wednesday August 25, 2010 was over, they lay dead, along with ten other dogs and a number of cats, including ten six-week-old kittens who also had rescue lined up. Floyd County Animal Control is closed to the public on Wednesdays. That’s when they ‘clean house’—kill all of the animals still in the shelter, and hose it down. To save the lives that could be saved, the official rescue list had to hit shelter manager Jason Broome’s email inbox before the killing started. It was time stamped 4:16 am. The killing starts at 7 am.

When rescuer Kristen Butler arrived between 9:30 and 10 am, the dog she had come to pick up, 2090, was already dead. “He said he never got anything about her having rescue. I stood in front of him and almost threw up! He got the email before he starting putting dogs down.” And he got more than one email stating that those dogs had rescue. “He either read it and didn’t care, or he didn’t care to read it. They are both just as bad. Why would you start killing animals if there was a chance that they got a last minute rescue? It is just wrong! It’s not like he does not know that every Tuesday we pull all-nighters because of his ‘I won’t wait one more minute’ Wednesday rule.”

Of 2090, she says, “She was 8 months old. She was beautiful. She was adopted. The lady had already made a vet appointment. She had a home.” She adds, “It’s even worse for cats. It’s horrible.”

The killing of animals they thought they’d saved was too much for some:

“I am leaving rescue effective this evening!”

“I will never again post for FCAC.”

“My life is utterly devastated and I cannot continue this level of involvement.”

“If everyone stops helping Floyd it will be a blood bath.”

Word of the killing of 2090, 2170 and 2171 spread like wildfire on Facebook. The world is watching this shelter. One person summed up the situation, “It’s so easy to become complacent and discouraged. We need to harness the anger and disgust we feel and turn that into energy that can be used to promote a No Kill Nation. It’s the only way that this is ever going to stop. Nothing else changes – it’s the same cycle of panic, desperate pleas for saving, tears when the ones left behind die and then it starts all over again the next day.”

Again, as always, there are more animals needing adoption or rescue at this shelter. You can see them on Petfinder or in the slideshow below. The adoption fee is $40 for puppies and dogs and $35 for cats and kittens. Wednesday will be too late.

Some rescuers are unwilling to report abuses or to publicly criticize the shelters they pull from, justifiably afraid of losing the ability to save any more animals from death. Delaware recently passed the Companion Animal Protection Act and Georgia, its cities and counties, need to follow suit. CAPA guarantees rescuers the right to rescue, and shelter pets the right to be rescued, rather than killed. The animals, animal rescuers, and animal lovers deserve that much.

Says Butler, “I refuse to look the other way. The madness over there needs to stop. I feel like if I don’t speak out, I will have participated in the deaths of those dogs.”

Broome has issued new rules, more draconian than before—animals must be off the shelter’s premises by 5 pm Tuesday or they will be killed Wednesday morning. No more ‘hold-overs’. The rules and contact information for rescuers wishing to pull from FCAC are available at the volunteer website.

puppy 2090 killed at floyd county animal control

Is this any way to live?

Floyd County Animal Control

431 Mathis Rd.

Rome, GA 30162-0946

Phone: 706-236-4545″

Beyond heartbreaking. Beyond shocking. Beyond disgusting. Beyond terrifying. And not the first time this has happened – and worse, not the last.

i’m a bit of a local celeb now

i’m a bit of a local celeb now

Well, sort of. I didn’t win the lottery or get a job as a radio DJ, I was interviewed by two TV stations because I found dog food mixed with tylenol, advil and metronidazole this past week. Nice, huh. About 75 tablets sprinkled with dog food, found in the parking lot of the apartments behind my condo building. Can I just say, WHAT? What sadistic person would do this? Unfortunately, lots of people would do this. The sadder part is, he or she is probably a close neighbor. See videos and articles here for 11Alive and here for CBS Atlanta.

We don’t have a huge stray animal problem in my hood, mainly because I pick up the stray dogs (have only seen and rescued 2 in the 3 years I have lived in Atlanta) and I have all the feral cats spayed and neutered to keep the stray population down. So I don’t believe it’s an issue of someone “fed up with the strays.” However, with that being said, I do believe someone has been inhumanely trapping animals in my hood over the last 6 or 8 months.

I started to suspect something when a couple of faithful ferals disappeared. Feral cats, especially when spayed and neutered, don’t typically travel far from their food source. And I am their food source. Sure there is a possibility of something else happening to them, like a car or another animal attack, but when they started to disappear one by one, it was just too coincidental. Then I started to see a significant increase in “lost pet” flyers around my hood, mostly cats, but a few small dogs. My ferals continued to disappear. I went from 7, down to 3 in a matter of a few short months. Then my “favorite” feral disappeared. Rima, who, for the last 3 years, would nap on my porch and sniff my hand when I would go out to give her some wet food, also disappeared. I was heartbroken.

Thankfully, Rima appeared about a month later – but with a leg injury indicative of being inhumanely trapped. It was then that I knew for sure that my ferals weren’t randomly disappearing, there was a reason – a person – behind their disappearance. A leg amputation and $1,000 later for a feral named Rima, she has a happy ending. But most ferals and strays don’t. (Read Rima’s full story here).

So when I discovered the pile of pills sprinkled with dog food while I was walking my oldest pup, I knew it was time to warn the community.

Pills and dog food found in apartment parking lot

Who would do something like this – and even more disturbing, who in my NEIGHBORHOOD would do this?? Within hours of sending an email out to different rescue folks and the Virginia Highland Safety Team, I had been contacted not only by dozens of concerned neighbors wanting more information, but I was also contacted by 2 different local television stations for an interview. What I discovered in the parking lot of a crappy apartment complex had evoked alarm and horror from people throughout my entire neighborhood – and beyond.

Is this sick-o the same sick-o that has been trapping my ferals?? Or is there more than 1 sick-o in my hood? Both possibilities make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

rima’s story

rima’s story

Rima is a beautiful black cat with giant yellow eyes, who I have been feeding for about 3 years. As I do all the neighborhood ferals, I trap them then spay and neuter them. Rima has always been my favorite, and I even named her after my rescue mentor’s first rescue kitty.

About 6 to 8 months ago, my ferals started to disappear, one by one. Ferals don’t typically travel far from their food source, so this was fairly alarming to me. I had about 6 disappear within just a couple months, and that is too many for it to be a coincidence that they all got hit by a car or killed in an attack my another animal in that period of time. Then Rima disappeared.

Even though I had never been able to pet her, we definitely had a connection that was established through me talking to her as I fed her, and her getting used to me and my smell by sniffing my hand. So, you could say I was pretty upset when days turned into weeks without any sign of her.

About a month after Rima disappeared, I was socializing with a neighbor across the street when I saw a cat that looked just like her, feebly hopping across another neighbor’s yard headed toward my porch. Not wanting to get my hopes up because solid black cats can obviously look very similar, I ran home to peer out my patio door, to see a skinnier version of Rima, using only 3 legs, scarfing down food like she hadn’t eaten in a month. Well, she probably hadn’t.

Rima where have you BEEN?!?! Her dangling back leg was covered in what looked like dirt and puss, and I knew I had to catch her to get her to the vet.

Petwriter - Rima

Rima's mangled leg

Petwriter - Rima

Rima coming in for a close up

With the trap set, I sat in my living room in silence for hours, waiting to hear the snap of the door. I was gleeful when I heard that familiar noise that rescuers love to hear when trying to trap, and ran out to see who I had gotten. Yep, it was my girl. Staring back at me with those HUGE yellow eyes of hers.

Off to the vet we went, and I went home to wait for the phone call about her prognosis. Sadly but not unexpectedly, her leg was mangled, broken in several areas, and, degloved. Degloved means the skin was peeled back like a glove or a banana, and you should not google that term if you do not want your stomach to flip inside out.

The nature of Rima’s injury was indicative of an “inhumane” trap injury – one in which she very luckily escaped from.

The prognosis was not good, her leg was badly infected and even with skin grafts, it was very unlikely they would be able to save it. Ok, well we just amputate her leg, right? Wrong. You cannot just release a 3-legged cat back out onto the streets. It’s dangerous enough for them out there, but with only 3 legs, the more humane thing for her would be euthanasia. This is what the vet recommended, and I needed some time to think about it. What were my options? What was I going to do?? I just couldn’t put Rima to SLEEP! This is when your heart takes over your head – a common occurrence which plagues rescuers. So I asked for an estimate on the cost, and turns out it’s a $1,000 surgery. For a feral cat. Who I have never touched before – but I have always felt a connection with. (After all, she was named after my mentor’s first rescue cat for a reason).

I thought about it for maybe an hour (try 5 minutes), and decided that even against the advice of my rescue mentor AND veterinarian, I should amputate her leg, and I will domesticate her and keep her myself. Did I just say that out loud? I have a 600 square foot condo, with 2 dogs (one 13 year old special needs) a 17 lb tabby cat that is aggressive towards other cats, and a litter of kittens I am fostering in my bathroom. Brilliant idea, right?

Petwriter - Kittens

Litter of kittens in my bathroom

I call the vet with my decision (however insane it might be) and tell her to go ahead with the surgery. Ok, it’s scheduled for the next day. Great. In the meantime, I am going to freak out about how – and where – I am going to integrate this feral into my small condo. That is, until I get the phone call that her blood work is terrible, due to suffering with a bad infection for so long, and she would not survive the surgery. The vet recommends euthanasia, again. I just can’t – are there ANY other options? Well… she says… one other option, but it’s a shot in the dark. They treat Rima with antibiotics for a week, give her lots of food for good nutrition, and cross fingers it improves her physical state enough to go through with the surgery. Let’s do it.

Longest week of my life. 7 days of pure anxiousness, calling the vet every day to see how she is doing, and visiting her so that she sees a familiar face. I don’t attempt to pet her in her cage, even though the staff has said she doesn’t give them any trouble during treatments or feedings. Luckily Rima is not an aggressive feral, which the only reason why I considered all of this anyway. Oh, that and she is an awesome cat.

Day 7, and Rima’s blood work is perfect. Literally perfect. The vet is amazed. See, I told you she is an awesome cat. Surgery scheduled for next day.

Again, on pins and needles waiting to hear about how the surgery went – regardless of how good the health of an animal might be, surgery is ALWAYS risky. Nervous, nervous, nervous.

Long story short (haha TOO late for that…) Rima’s surgery went exceptionally well, and she will be ready to go “home” in a few days. Home. Wow – MY home. Crap, how is this going to work?
I go to pick my girl up, once again gleeful and proud of her for being such an awesome cat. Is she not adorable in her little e-collar??
Petwriter - Rima

Rima’s new home is my bathroom, which no longer has Percy, Pacey, Tater or Tilly in it because my friend and rescue partner in crime, Leslie, now has them at her house.

Petwriter - Rima
Rima is scared, but grateful. I am able to pet her, and it doesn’t take but a few days before she is purring and making biscuits.
It also doesn’t take but a few more days, for Rima to decide she is not interested in the bathroom, and she wants to be a part of the family. Into the living room she goes, and up goes the barricade so Reese, my tabby, doesn’t cause problems with her.
She is healing up nicely, isn’t she??
Petwriter - Rima

I think she is quite enjoying life off the mean city streets.

Petwriter - Rima

the beginning

the beginning

This is the beginning. Not the beginning of my personal journey and quest to living in a no more homeless pets world, as that began long ago. This is the beginning of the documentation and reflection of my rescue efforts and those of my fellow fur-loving friends. This will be an “in the trenches,” if you will, look into the day-to-day lives of animal rescuers, and the sweet souls of the helpless, deserving animals we are trying to rescue.

….We live in a world where it’s “OK” to discard a pet at a kill shelter because a puppy is too much work, or you are moving to an apartment that doesn’t take pets, or you’re suddenly allergic to your 8 year old cat.
….We live in a world where dog fighting exists in the basement of a million dollar mansion in the burbs, not just in the back alley of a poor, inner-city neighborhood.
….We live in a world where people purposely breed their pet so their children can “witness the miracle of birth” – but then discard the babies like they were yesterday’s garbage.
….We live in a world where a majority of people buy animals from breeders and pet stores because they have no idea 4 million cats and dogs are killed in shelters each year – because there simply aren’t enough homes for them. And those that do know and still buy from breeders and pet stores, well, shame on them.

Animal cruelty, neglect and homelessness exist in many forms – some forms which seem utterly heinous to most people made aware of them, yet typically the only response revoked is a turn of their head. If you look the other way, it doesn’t exist, right? If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Whether it be signing an online petition to ban kill shelter gas chambers in exchange for a more humane method of euthanization, or personally pledging to always adopt a pet and never “buy” a pet – every single little bit matters. And the little bits add up to bigger bits, and before you know it we are on our way to living in a no more homeless pets world. Saving one by one, until there are none.