Well, here we are releasing the 5th edition of our “Out of the Box” e-newsletter and I still haven’t run out of things to tell all of you! In fact, each day brings more voicemails, emails and text messages presenting TASP with more requests for help of every sort. I have to admit, 2018 has been one heck of a challenging year for our little organization, with the loss of Mitch and the exponential growth in the number of requests we’re receiving. But we’re a sturdy, stubborn bunch and we keep our noses pointed into the wind, moving one foot ahead of the other, one project after another.
These days at the Plasse ranch, when I’m not working at my paying job or tending to TASP matters, I’m caring for a number of my own and TASP’s hospice dogs and cats. Dear old Otis, our 24-year-old hospice cat, finally passed over to the other side less than a month ago. Meantime, Guidry, the Catahoula puppy I brought home from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina is now pushing fourteen and losing control of his back end. I thank God every morning that he’s able to get up with assistance and walk just a bit on the farm he so conscientiously patrolled all these years. And I thank God I have a job that allows me the privilege of being able to care for his needs at this stage of his life, and a husband who is kind enough to hand-feed Guidry when I’m not home and to help me rearrange our home’s entire basement level to accommodate this beloved old dog’s condition. I know there are people who love their animals as much as we do, but who aren’t as fortunate as we are. My heart goes out to these people because I know what it feels like when an animal leans its head up against me asking for help. How would I feel if I couldn’t afford to respond?
Believe it or not, I still occasionally encounter people who give that “deer in the headlights” look when I tell them what TASP does. And I can understand why some folks might not readily relate to the concept of helping animals and their owners through tough times. If you were fortunate enough to be born into a secure home and have not experienced the loss of your security up till now, it might be hard for you to wrap your head around all the changes a person is subjected to when their life is interrupted by a health issue, a divorce, the death of a spouse or loss of a job. Those changes can be more readily comprehended and rationalized by a human, but what about their pet? A conversation I had recently with a nice lady on the phone illustrates this perfectly, I think. The tearful call came one night while I was working through the day’s voicemails and emails while simultaneously choking down a bowl of soup for my dinner.
This woman from a county about an hour and a half from my house was sobbing that she’d been sent to us by her local shelter. She had contacted them looking for help for “Hennessey,” a female pit bull she’d rescued from a neglectful home two years ago. The dog was very weak, not eating for the past couple of days. When she originally took the dog in, she had her spayed and vaccinated by a local vet hospital and Hennessey had been healthy right up until this problem occurred. But between then and now, this lady had endured four surgeries; and what had been a financially secure home turned into a place where there was barely enough to go around even when things were all running smoothly. With Hennessey suddenly becoming ill, there was no emergency fund left to treat her at a vet. I listened as Hennessey’s Mom told me her story, and then my heart sank when she said, “And then the guy at the shelter told me, ‘People who can’t afford to care for an animal shouldn’t have one.’ You know, when I rescued Hennessey, I COULD afford a dog! I never planned on getting hurt and I never dreamed I’d be begging for someone to help me get her vetted now!”
These are the situations that deserve “out of the box” consideration. It’s an adult pit bull that is loved and that has an owner who wants to keep her. Should we send that dog into the shelter system and hope she finds another home where her owner won’t someday get sick and have trouble paying a vet bill? Or should we just help this pet owner through the current crisis and let the family resume life together, not overburdening the shelter with another pit bull? After all, Hennessey’s Mom was able to afford the day to day care of this dog and would probably even be able to afford vetting if this need hadn’t just occurred at the same time she was healing from her last surgery.
More and more of these crises are being brought to our attention now because we’ve been making happy endings for at-risk pets for over ten years….and good news is contagious. We’ve done our best to offer whatever help we can remotely over the phone and internet to these distant counties. Proof of financial need can be texted to us; payment of a vet bill can be made over the phone in most cases. We’ve mailed pet store gift cards to people needing supplies where we can’t reach them and we’ve had supplies shipped directly to needy animals from places like chewy.com. We’ve shipped first aid supplies to the cat whose rearend was ripped up by the new family dog and we’ve helped explain in layman’s terms things like abcess care, second intention healing, tapeworm, flea prevention, kidney failure and amputation to worried pet owners facing big and small decisions. We’ll keep on fielding the requests from wherever animals are at risk in the Capital region and do our best to respond with enduring solutions. If we can’t be there personally, then we’ll work with those who are there……like the man in Amsterdam who requested help for an injured cat belonging to his neighbor who speaks Ukranian fluently but has trouble with English. I have strong faith that TASP will find ways to grow support in the areas farthest from our reach through partnering with other individuals and groups, so if you know someone who might want to team up with TASP in places like Fulton, Montgomery and western Schenectady counties, please have them contact TASP through our website, or call me at 518-727-8591. After all, TASP can’t be everywhere all the time, but with so many caring animal lovers in our region, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t work together to prevent an animal’s suffering when their owner hits on hard times.
Thanks from the heart from all of us at The Animal Support Project for caring enough to open and read our messages, and for supporting our mission. We wish all of you and your families: two-legged, four-legged, furry, hairless, scaled and feathered, warm-blooded, cold-blooded, old and young, a very beautiful holiday season and a new year that fills you with joy, prosperity and gratitude. Will be back in touch in the spring with more good news for y’all.