With rescue work you have really busy days – like helping to unload 100 dogs from a mass rescue, document them, get them settled, fed, warm, up on pet finder, into your database, vetted and cared for – and then there are other days when you can sit in your office all day paying bills or answering the phone and emails.
Today was a busy rescue day for Pets Alive. Today is a day that I will always remember as the day we rescued Robert.
It all started when I was going through the kill lists for the CACC last night and I saw a cat that my heart just went out to. She was an 8 year old cat named Princess and she had been dumped at the very high kill CACC for reason stated “new husband and baby allergic”. The CACC tested her and gave her one of their highest temperament ratings meaning that this was one VERY sweet cat. I read her “thread” on Facebook and no one had stepped up to take her in. Older cats are more difficult to place and many of us are filled with older cats. I will tell you that Pets Alive has a population of about 90% of our cats that are considered senior and so adoptions can be slow…taking in another one wasn’t really in the cards. At this point we need to try to take in some “highly adoptables” to help fund all the seniors we care for that may NOT get adopted. That’s just the way it is.
So looking at this cat had me shake my head with sadness and move on to the next. But something about her, and the fact that her owner had her for eight years and dumped her in a place where she was almost sure to die because of her new husband’s allergies really had me pissed off. I mean didn’t she date this man before they got married? Couldn’t he have gone for allergy shots? Didn’t they have anyone that could care for the cat or take it in, or could they keep it in the guest room or SOMETHING other than just abandoning it to die amongst strangers? Ah, but I digress. Anyway, I decided to call and pull Princess. ”Pull” means put a commitment on her that our sanctuary would accept her in, so that she would not be killed the next morning. The CACC then notes that and holds her for us. So while I was there I saw Jose and pulled him too. What the heck. What’s one more? I have faith in our cat staff to place our cats (our cat manager Becky does a great job with this) and so I was happy. Two cats lives would be spared in the morning.
But then I started wondering, oh heck, what about the dogs – wonder if there are any there that might find a place with us. There was one real cutie. His name was Lincoln and he was adorable, but then, sigh, oh then I saw Tunechi. A little BLIND shitzu. Oh no. She was dying tomorrow? Ugh. No. Ok, let me pull the both of them.
Went to bed feeling good. John Sibley was going to go and pick them up in the morning for us. John is an amazing animal activist, animal lover, blogger and friend. He lives in the city, but it was still a lot to ask him to go first to the Manhattan shelter to get the cats and then to the Brooklyn shelter to get the dogs, but he didn’t even bat an eye – he was on it and out there early in the morning.
In the morning I checked online for confirmation that the cats and dogs were coming and I found out that Jose was pulled by another rescue. Yay! That’s great. But on the dog page I saw a dog that was dying that morning that was NOT THERE at 10:00 the night before! A dog named Robert. My eyes were immediately drawn to him. It was a terribly poignant picture. He was crippled and holding himself up by his front legs. His face had the most amazing expression on it that I had ever seen. I can’t really describe it. I put the picture here for your to see and determine what that expression is for yourself.
For ME it was an expression that I couldn’t turn my back on, but my staff is terribly over worked. Every single one of them works more hours than they are paid for, they are dedicated, they work HARD, I never see them hanging around or lounging – they are so committed to the animals here and taking this dog in would put a lot of extra burden on us all. I asked for Janet, our medical staff person, and Sue our adoption and intake coordinator, to come to my office.
When they got there they said “What’s wrong, your voice was terrible”. I said “Look” and turned the screen to then. Instantly their faces changed and they said “awww” and then “Are we taking him“? At that point I wanted to cry. I really did. This staff is just astonishing. We all know what taking in a serious medically difficult dog means to us all, and we all know how expensive it may be too, and we all know how much time it will take to help and handle a crippled dog. But thy didn’t hesitate. They thought we should reach out to help him.
And with that, I called and pulled Robert and sent follow up emails to the CACC staff asking for him. I worried it might be too late. Why would he have NOT been on the CACC death list the night before and yet put on it that morning? It was 9:45am and they usually kill earlier than that. Was it already too late? I called John and asked him to rush to the Brooklyn center and try to save him before it was too late. He was already on his way. A few moments later though I received a confirmation email that Robert was “held” for us. He was safe. He was coming.
I looked over the thread in his Facebook post and there were so many comments from so many people that cared and were pleading and begging someone to help Robert. There was even an offer of a wheelchair from Eddie’s Wheels – a great organization that makes and fits crippled dogs with a wheelchair to get around! Here is a sampling of some of the Facebook posts.
Of course while he was there, John texts me and says that there was only one cat on the death list the night before that was not pulled by rescue. His name was Sam and he had a fractured front leg. Did I want him too?
Sheesh. At this point I have a senior cat, a senior dog, a blind dog, a crippled dog – what the heck, throw in a broken legged cat!
And so Sam was saved too.
John gently put Robert in the back of his car, along with our two other dogs and two cats and headed up to Pets Alive. Over an hour and a half drive in a snowstorm. I told you he was dedicated, didn’t I? GREAT guy (hey girls, he is single too – just sayin!)
After speaking to him, and to Janet we decided that the best thing to do would be for John to go directly to our vets office. Dr. Furman is a great guy and his staff is fabulous and they made room for us to come right in with the broken legged cat and our crippled dog.
I met John there and after examination Dr. Furman said that Robert needed immediate care. His bladder was full and he was unable to express it himself. (Dr. Furman did that for Robert to make him more comfortable) and he also felt he was in considerable pain. It was undetermined from the X-rays and medical reports from the CACC if Robert was hit by a car, or if this was an old injury of some sort, but Robert also had lacerations on his face and legs. Dr. Furman felt that he might have had a very serious condition to begin with and then being hit by the car exacerbated it and made him a complete paraplegic. He did note that Robert DID have some feeling in his back paws so if we were to have ANY chance of operating on him, he could not lose that feeling entirely. So he wanted him to go immediately for an MRI, and surgery, as it would be Robert’s best chance of survival and recovery. He also said that his bladder was very full and if we did not have someone round the clock to help him express it then there was a chance of it bursting or causing him a lot of discomfort and pain. He needed critical care and he needed it asap!
Ouch. A snowstorm. Hazardous road conditions and it was 4:30 pm now. How were we going to get him over an hour away to Oradell?
I called Janet to try to figure out what we should do. Many people think Pets Alive is this huge organization, with this immense budget, but the truth is that we are about 10-12 people strong (and some of those are part time) and our budgets is such that we run in a deficit every month until our annual Furball fundraiser and our smaller fundraisers all year that help to fill in the holes.
So looking at $8,000 to $10,000 worth of costs for Robert, a dog we didn’t even KNOW and the care he would need did stop my heart for a moment. How the heck were we going to manage this? Then I looked into his face, and I smiled at him, and he thumped his tail at me. Thump. Thump. Thump.
My heart melted and I called Janet – “What are we going to do?”. She said that she was going to call her fiancé and that she and he were going to leave right then, come and pick up Robert and head to Oradell with him. Right then. At night. In a snowstorm. For a dog she hadn’t even met yet.
She is one of the more astonishing and amazing people I know. Janet is everything you would hope for in a person that works for you, but more than that she is so amazingly caring and giving and loving to the animals of Pets Alive. She is irreplaceable. I admire her so much, and more than that I respect her, her work and the person that she is. I was so touched.
I left Robert in Dr. Furman’s care, while I took Sam back to Pets Alive. Oh, and Sam the cat with the broken leg? Yeah. No. Nothing wrong with the leg. Dr. Furman did an X-ray and it was completely clean. Sam has a little bite wound in his leg, and it is sore..that’s all. And his temperament is not hissy and aggressive as his sheet says. He is a total sweetie. A very nice cat. I handed him over to Becky for intake and came home to write this blog.
Robert is on his way with Janet to go to Oradell. I don’t know what his future holds. In the end if we can’t manage his pain and we can’t help him we may be forced to let him go, which would kill us all after all of this.
We have a connection to Robert, and a commitment now. We looked into his eyes and we made him a promise. I wish he had not lain at the CACC for days when immediate surgery could have maybe saved him, but that is the state of our city run shelter. We will do the best that we can by him because this dog after being treated horribly, after being not cared about, after being hit by a car, after laying in his own filth, after not being able to release his own bladder, after living in pain for days…this dog looked at us …. and thumped his tail.
Pets Alive asks you to please help us with costs for Robert. He is worth saving. He is worth having a life and having someone to love him and having a chance at walking again.
We’re all pulling for you Robert. Please keep fighting. We are all fighting for you.