Sunday, January 12, 2014

Death and Those You Leave Behind

There are a few die hard animal rescuers, guardian angels, and tireless animal advocates in Harford County, Maryland, where my clinic resides. They are the backbone of how Harford County, (a very rural farming community at the Northern most part of Maryland), keeps the feral cats from outnumbering the squirrels. These  few women generously dedicate their time and considerable amount of personal expense to help the four legged domestic pets of our community that no one else seems to care about. To say I admire and am inspired by them is a gross understatement. Whenever they come to see me at the clinic it is always with another cat or dog with another sad tale and another long road to a happy ending. It is my standard practice to not charge them for my time and to go to whatever lengths possible to assisting them care for their latest do-good-subject. 

Last Sunday Julia came in with a cat in a carrier and a visibly heavy heart. With the opening of the exam room door, a quick "hello" and the cursory "how are you?" introduction I knew that she had an especially troublesome story to share.

"Did you know that my neighbors passed away?" she began.

"Yes, I had heard that the Mrs. G passed about a year ago." I replied. I knew that her neighbors, longtime clients of Jarrettsville Vet, had a few dogs, a mix of poodles and German Shepherds, and some cats. I also knew that Mrs was ill and had passed. "But what about Mr. G?" 

"Yes, he just died too." Julia gave her shy smile and lowered her head out of respect.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I hadn't heard." I answered slowly and softly. 

"Yes, Mr. G died and wasn't found for a week. His other neighbors found him after they noticed there wasn't any footprints in the snow around his house for a few days. There were four dogs in the house, one had died and been eaten, and four cats. Most of the cats have never been seen by a vet and two of the poodles were so matted we had to shave them down to be sure they were poodles." She took a long pause....."Thankfully the little dogs are very sweet and I think I can find them a home easily. The cats....well, I'm not sure they will acclimate well, or be suitable house cats. I'm going too try to find them a home, but if worse comes to worse I suppose I will just keep them as barn cats.

"Oh, god, I'm so sorry." I was having a tough time processing all of the details, trying to skip over mental images, and feeling that sour mix of disbelief, disgust, and dismay. It is at these times that we struggle to remember those little details that make each person an individual. I remember them coming in together as a couple. He was tall, quiet, looming, and she was short boisterous and demanding. They were a colorful couple who most people cowered to, but they loved their animals. Blindly they loved them. 

To think that they were gone. 

To think that their pets, who they loved so very much were at the mercy of us. People they didn't know, who didn't care for them and who would likely split them up, or worse. It is hard for us to imagine that we are going to pass on, and it's even harder to think about planning for those that depend on us. But for our pets it is something they need us to do for them.

I asked Julia if she would allow me to write about this. 

She did one better, (as she always does), she wrote me her account.

She sent me these two photos of the cats that are still in search of a new home. If you can help her, or any of the pets that were left behind you can reach me here. 

From Julia;

On December 19 my neighbor was found dead in his house.  He owned a horse farm and lived by himself with his six dogs, five cats, and four horses.  Apparently he had been dead for over a week before he was found.  None of the animals had food or water, and one of the Poodles in the house was found dead.  Thanks to Officer Stacy Rawlings from Harford County Animal Control who came in and took care of everyone and made sure that their conditions were not critical.  Stacy also had the pleasure of dealing with a German Shepherd who was extremely protective of her property and was able to safely move her. 

The dogs and cats were transported to the Humane Society of Harford County where they were each given an extensive examination and food and water.  The shelter cared for the pets for almost a week until they were picked up on Christmas Eve and returned to the farm.  Thanks to Mary Leavens, Blaine Lang, and the staff at the shelter for giving everyone such great care. 

None of the dogs and cats appeared to be up to date on inoculations, and the Harford County Humane Society generously tested the cats for leukemia and FIV, gave everyone all of their vaccines, and a flea preventative.  This was a huge cost savings for the man’s son who is very appreciative.

I’ve have been helping to take care of the horses along with Emily Cavanaugh, and Jim Nooft.   The man’s son is a horse trainer so he will move the horses and sell them.  The dogs have all been placed in their new homes, and at this time I have possibly two cats that still need a home (pictures attached).  One older cat became very sick after she returned to the farm, and Animal Rescue, Inc. has been caring for Clarice.  Their vet diagnosed her with possible pneumonia, and she is being treated with fluids and is being fed every two hours.  She appears to be getting better so hopefully one day she will be able to go to a forever home.

After this experience I cannot say enough about having a designated care giver for your pets.  Since your pets cannot take care of themselves and make their own decisions, it is extremely important to have an advocate for them.  Also please keep an eye out for your neighbors who live alone, and if you do not see them every few days check on them since their life can depend on it.

A big thank you to Julia for sharing her story, her time, and for always being such a beacon of kindness and generosity to others.

As fate would have it another client died unexpectedly and left their pets alone in their home until his body was discovered. Their story follows next, and I will try to provide some guidelines to help us all take care of our pets should we depart before them.

If you have a pet question, or would like to help others with their pets, I hope you will join the conversation at Pawbly. Or you can find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

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