Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tator’s Transport

As promised, here’s a much happier post. Nothing helps the loss of a beloved pet hurt a little less than helping another animal in need.

If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that I used to be involved in rescue transports. We have a much higher euthanasia rate here in the south than in other parts of the country, particularly in more rural areas. To help combat that, many shelters and rescues in other areas partner with shelters and rescues in the south. The animals are pulled from the southern shelters and rescues and then transported to other parts of the country, to shelters and rescues that aren’t faced with as much overcrowding. In some cases they even go straight to their new homes.

The transports are how they get there. Usually the trip is broken down into legs of about an hour or so, and people sign up to drive a certain leg. You meet someone, usually right off the Interstate, and get the animal(s), drive your leg, meet someone else and deliver the animal(s) to them to continue the trip. There’s a coordinator who sets times, makes sure all the slots are filled, monitors the trip, and basically makes sure everything runs smoothly.

The transports are pretty amazing. Because it’s all volunteer, it doesn’t cost the rescue or shelter anything, and sometimes dozens of people (depending on how far the trip is), most of whom will never meet, work together to get animals to safety. It’s a pretty incredible thing to be part of.
We took a long break from driving the transports while Emma’s health was so bad. We felt like we needed to be with her, to give her the best quality of life possible. But within two weeks of losing Emma we both really wanted to help with a transport. I emailed some of the coordinators and asked to be put back on the lists for volunteering. One responded almost immediately to ask more about availability. We live kind of between two of the usual legs, so can easily drive either of them. If it’s a hard one to fill, we’ve driven both. 

This particular transport was for a boxer named Tator (no, that’s not a misspelling on my part; it’s how his name is listed on the rescue’s website). Tator was in the Greenwood County Shelter, and was heart worm positive. Across America Boxer Rescue was willing and able to take him. They had a foster family lined up, ready to get him through his heart worm treatment. He just needed a ride, and he needed it in a hurry because the shelter was full.

 Because Tator’s circumstances were pretty dire, Nick and I decided to volunteer to pick him up from the shelter and drive him to meet his foster dad. It was about a five hour round trip for us, but we reasoned that it all balanced out after taking such a long break from transports, and we knew it would make us feel better. Nick was off, and I’m allowed a certain amount of paid time off every year for community service work, so it worked out well.

Tator was incredibly sweet. He was scared and nervous, but still sweet, and clearly wanted to trust people. He was a great passenger; very well-mannered in the car.

It felt so good to do a transport again and have a small part in getting Tator on his way to a better life.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Emma & Cookie

I’m back from a very long blogging hiatus, with a post I’m not happy to write. We had to say goodbye to Emma and Cookie in April.

Emma was expected. She was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease almost a year ago, then it got much worse in October, and we were told that hard decisions were coming soon. As the Cushing’s progressed it interfered with the appetite center of her brain and caused some neurological problems. Basically a steady decline that really picked up speed at the end.

We made the decision to have Emma put to sleep. She wasn’t eating much, and she was starting to get lost in the house, and very confused in general.

It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. A lot of people told me there would be a sense of relief and peace once the decision was made. I haven’t had that. I know it was the right thing to do. I know she wouldn’t have wanted to go on the way she was, I know Nick would never have agreed to it if it wasn’t the right thing, and I trust our vet enough to believe he wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been the right thing. I still didn’t get the sense of relief.

As far as last days go, I think Emma’s (April 16th) was really good. She seemed to feel pretty good that day. Nick and I took her together; I rode in the backseat and held her. I had managed to convince myself the vet was going to find something easily fixable was wrong with her, take care of it, and send us on our merry way. So I was actually halfway cheerful on the drive. I think it might have been a coping mechanism.

We stopped and got her a McDonald’s cheeseburger on the way, which she seemed to enjoy. My mom met us at the vet’s office, and Emma’s favorite vet tech was there. We had a long talk with the vet, and agreed that letting her go was the right thing to do, and definitely the best thing for her.

Nick and I both stayed with her the entire time. The whole process was very, very peaceful. She basically just drifted off to sleep with the people she loved most petting her and telling how good and sweet she was, and how very much she was loved.

A week later (April 22nd), Cookie went in for a biopsy of a mass in her mouth. She’d had trouble with her mouth the entire time we’d had her. Most of her teeth had been pulled when she was at the shelter, and there were periods of time when her mouth became really inflamed, but treating it with antibiotics and steroids had been working.

Then the usual treatments just didn’t seem to help. The vet put her on different medications, even antibiotic shots (so as not to hurt her mouth trying to give her a pill) that we gave her at home. Nothing seemed to help, and the inflamed area started to get bigger.

Our vet suggested a biopsy, so we scheduled it. I wasn’t truly expecting bad results, and I thought even it was bad, they would be able to remove it, (I’m really beginning to think denial may be my preferred coping mechanism), so I was surprised when the vet called and said we needed to come in and talk before she proceeded with the biopsy.

They had taken x-rays before the biopsy to make sure there weren’t any bone/root fragments left from when her teeth had been pulled, and the x-rays showed a very large mass pressing on her eye and basically beginning to distort the entire side of her face.

After a very long talk with the vet, and determining that there was just no good way of treating it, we made the decision to say goodbye to Cookie. Again, the process was very, very peaceful. We were both able to be with her, and pet her, and tell her how much she was loved right up to the very end.

Losing two of our fur babies in a week was really, really hard. Feeding time still seems way too fast and easy since we aren’t coming up with special food to entice Emma and Cookie to eat. I had Emma for almost 13 years, and Nick had her for almost nine. We only had Cookie for about a year, but she just fit in perfectly from the very beginning. We’re still finding our new normal without them.

Fortunately, we still have six other fur babies; our dog Duke, and the five cats, Howard, Milo, Frankie, Tara, and Joey. There’s still lots of petting and cuddling going on. It helps.

I promise my next post will be a much happier one, and I’m looking forward to catching up on all of your blogs.