Monday, January 23, 2012

2011: Year in Review

The year 2011 is over, but not the memories of some of the wonderful things our volunteers accomplished this past year.

RVAS helped over 3,800 families keep their pets during the year 2011 through our Rehome and Rehabilitation programs. We are living proof that pet owners are capable of handling their pet situations with a little help and ingenuity!

We also helped reunite lost hundreds of pets with their owners by partnering with Iowa Pet Alert, a free web-based data network to assist pet owners reunite with their misplaced companions. While this website has really helped make connections, it doesn't replace pet owner responsibility. Microchipping is still very important should the unthinkable happen and you and your companion become separated. Keep an eye on our website for MC Clinics where you can have your pet chipped and registered for an affordable fee!

And through networking with other shelters and rescues, our social networks, website and events have helped Iowa's rural shelters and rescues adoptions increase as well. When someone contacts us for an animal that we don't have, we help them find an organization who has available what they want. Through networking, animals are finding homes, especially in rural Iowa towns that get little exposure, because RVAS has stepped outside of the box to partner with others.

We know the struggles that rural Iowa shelters and rescues have to save lives. Little support both physically and financially. There are some great people doing great things for animals, and they deserve the support of those animal lovers who want to make a difference. Visit our website for a few of our favorite partners!

And last but not least are those lives we saved. Our focus in 2011 seemed to lean towards the feline population. From trap-neuter-return projects, to rescuing kitties from a garage after their owner had passed away leaving over 20 cats homeless, we spent thousands of hours saving the lives of felines and educational seminars on the cat overpopulation problem.

Our "solution based" philosophy is working. We recognize there is no one organization that solve all the pet issues in our society, but by working together, we are making a difference!

Join us today! Either volunteer your time, your services or your money. Let's do it together, and make the world a better place for all living creatures!

Read our 2011: A Year in Review letter here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saying Goodbye....

It is always hard to say goodbye to a companion. When pet owners find themselves at that stage in their companion's life, most accept the responsibility to say their goodbyes, humanely and compassionately.

It's equally difficult to say goodbye for those who work in the animal welfare industry. Whether a rescuer or a foster, each animal that comes into their care, often times becomes a companion to those who care for them. And most of these sweet innocent victims just reach deep inside the heart's of those who saved them, and take a giant piece of it.


Fredo was no different. Despite his unstable past, he continued to show unconditional love to the human race.

Fredo, was a handsome gray tabby male who had a life that went unnoticed by most people. Until now.

Over 10 years ago, Fredo was adopted to a family who couldn't live without him, entering his new home as a young kitten, playful and fun. But once he entered adult hood, just a mere 1 1/2 years into his life, he was no longer cherished by his new family and they opted to give him away.

His new family gave him a second chance at life. They too professed their unended love for him. It wasn't until he started to bite a toddler that came into the family before Fredo was no longer "wanted". Instead of the family taking Fredo to the vet to see if there might be a medical reason for his biting they opted to approach his biting as a behavior issue and began punishing him with "time outs". Frequently locked in a room and isolated from family members, Fredo spent a good portion of his adult life, alone. He would get to snuggle at night with his owners and on occasion, was allowed to roam about the house when kids were not around. But that didn't prevent him from continuing to give unconditional love to his human owners.

Then the day came where Fredo bit "for the last time". And the owners wanted him gone...that day!

Despite Fredo being adopted by an organization that clearly spells out their adoption and return policy, Fredo was taken to a different shelter. The reason for return: "biting!", a death sentence by most animal shelters that operate as Animal Control and use euthanasia as a management tool for their intake of animals.

Lucky for FREDO, a microchip saved his life. He was returned to the original rescue and his life spared.

Fredo entered foster care, where, he settled in very quickly and comfortably. He was carefully assessed and it came to pass that Fredo was deemed a "non-biter", at least for any behavior issues. Fredo was a lover! He loved to sleep and snuggle with his new owner, and in the same Fredo fashion as before, he shared of himself so unconditionally that he became a favorite of his new foster family.

Last night Fredo died...suddenly.

Lying on the pillow beside his foster's head, Fredo purred loudly while being petted to sleep, like he had been so many nights before. And the night ended, like it had so many nights before, with Fredo and Foster snuggled together as they sleep.

But shortly into the night, the foster was awakened by Fredo's labored breathing. By 4:00 am Fredo had passed. And his foster, who he had found a special place in their heart, sat in shock...wondering what happened.

A necropsy was performed the next day and the cause of death was Heart Failure caused by Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

A heart condition that is becoming more talked about by veterinarians and pet owners. Often times there is no warning. Pet owners will leave their pets while they head off to work and when they come home their pet is deceased and pet owners left heartbroken.

As in the case with Malcolm. Malcolm entered foster care, where his owner fell madly in love with his vocal  cantankerous, but loving personality. This handsome brown tabby male was left at home, as usual, while his owner went to work. When he came home, he found his beloved Malcolm in distress in his kitty bed with both hind legs paralyzed. In Malcolm's case, he suffered from an Arterial Thromboembolism. After a trip to the emergency clinic, Malcolm's condition was so advanced not even surgery to remove the clot causing the blockage could save his life. After intense consultation with the specialists who were working hard to save Malcolm's life, his owner said his tearful goodbye and sent Malcolm onto a pain-free journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

In two cases beloved felines were lost to a heart condition that often has a grim outcome. And in most cases, it's done without warning.

But when caught in time, some kitties can live a full life. In one article, a vet suggested to pet owners that they ask that their vet take their kitties blood pressure during their annual exam. Often times this simply procedure can detect a heart "issue" whereas, further tests might be suggested and possibly the heart condition can be caught and managed, prolonging their life.

It's important that we, as pet owners become informed and educated and not to solely rely on vets to know our pet's health. Felines especially, are very good at disguising their pain and symptoms of diseases and health issues are often not discovered until it's too late. Veterinarians are trained experts on the science and body of an animal, but pet owners know their pets behavior patterns better than their vet. Often times diagnosis is done by the process of elimination from a vet as the search for the cause or disease that don't always show up in radiographs or bloodwork. By observing, recording and discussing openly with your vet any and all changes in your pet's diet, stool, activity level, weight and personality, you can help the vet diagnose your cat's health issues and possibly save it's life.

As this "condition" becomes more popular, we recommend that when you notice a behavior change in your pet, that you contact your vet immediately and begin the process of discovery. It could save his or her life!

While there is no cure for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, we felt it important to share Fredo and Malcolm's story. We believe that every companion animal's death can teach us something...and save a life down the road! Our mission is to share what we learn, in the hopes, that our losses can become more time with your pet on this earth!

In memory of "Fredo", "Malcolm" and my beloved "Potiphar".
Linda R. Blakely, Director

Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary & Rescue.