The noose of our coronavirus-imposed isolation was tightening and I skipped my usual errands this past Saturday. Yet, a pleasant tranquility had settled into our home, as I went about chores and meal preparation for the week. Our cats were watching the birds at the feeder and friends were calling to check in, when I was jolted by a message from an animal rescuer.
“So I have some sad news,” wrote Christine Myers, an AARF volunteer. “The tripod died last night.” Christine had reached out the previous Sunday regarding an injured cat, who had been suffering from an infected leg near the local Mom’s grocery store. Our Medical Fund covered an emergency visit to Pet+ER, where the treating veterinarian graciously reduced her examination fee, as well as surgery at Metro Ferals the following morning. As it turned out, the poor cat’s leg had to be amputated, as the infection was so severe and of such long-standing duration that maggots had set in. The receptionist remarked it may have been the worst leg she had ever seen and that the cat would likely feel much better after he healed at Christine’s home.
Sadly, things did not turn out as planned. When Christine went to feed dinner to the little tripod five days later, she discovered he had passed away in his sleep. In her grief, she went to the home of Linda McKenna, a fellow AARF volunteer, where they buried him in a memorial garden. In the stoic understatement of the year Christine wrote, “Well I can’t buy a win these days. This work definitely has some dips.”
I tried not to cry, but failed.
Tragically, Christine had endured two traumas in as many weeks. She had contacted us earlier in March for help with a nursing cat who had an injured jaw and ruptured eye. Dr. Lewis of Academy Hospital opined that Ava, as she had been named, had likely been hit with a blunt object and had suffered such severe damage that she was humanely euthanized. In addition to the hardship of raising her kittens on the street in late winter, Ava was likely the victim of intentional animal cruelty. As Christine has done many times before, she eased Ava’s suffering and took her orphaned kittens into AARF’s adoption program.
It was a silver lining to an otherwise tragic story, but this is trauma, plain and simple.
People often tell us, “I don’t know how you do it.” In all candor, it’s relatively easy, compared to what friends in the animal rescue world endure, for we work primarily from our desks. We are not foot soldiers, but rather, the first assistants, the supporting actors. Yes, we see horrific photos, but we do not pick up the battered bodies of injured animals from the street. Rather, we pay the vet bills when we are able and lend a sympathetic ear.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has destroyed sectors of our economy, we recently announced that we would temporarily suspend our anti-cruelty campaign to devote our resources, which have been decimated by the cancellation of Pawject Runway, to our Medical Fund. In the coming months, we will not be teasing out new Softies and clever tag lines. It is an abrupt reversal for us, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
As is well-known, rescue organizations and shelters are in crisis mode. Programs that support caretakers, such as TNR, have already been cut. Yet, volunteers in the rescue community will continue to feed their colonies and scramble for help when cats are sick and injured. And while the recent stay-at-home order may force a temporary delay in obtaining some veterinary care, we must be a continued resource today and for when additional treatment is available.
Now, more than ever, we need your support. Please consider a donation — of any amount — to our Medical Fund. If you are unable to give at this time, please consider hosting a Facebook fundraiser, which can bring much-needed awareness to people outside our close-knit animal world. We hope that this contagion will soon crest and subside in the coming months. Until then, please help us provide a safety net to these heroic caretakers during this time of crisis.
To help sick and injured street cats, please go to https://showyoursoftside.org/donate/ and specify “Medical Fund.”