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Posts Tagged ‘Capital Humane Society

Her weight had started to climb, but something still seemed amiss. Whenever Andy or I entered the guest room, the little black kitten was lying down? Shouldn’t a kitten do more than lie down? Shouldn’t she be playing? One evening, Andy tossed a fluffy yellow ball her way. Onyx sat upright but otherwise didn’t move, not even when Andy and I tried to play ‘keep away’ with her. Another evening, I dangled a pink plush mouse near her. Again, despite her green eyes sparking with curiosity, Onyx made no attempt to play. Even though she snuggled into us and purred whenever we picked her up, worry tugged at me. Andy was still having to syringe feed her, which didn’t seem normal for a growing kitten. Then there were the regular soft stools in her litter box. I tried to push the phrase “failure to thrive” out my head, but it got harder with each passing day to maintain hope.

Failure to thrive in kittens can occur from birth to nine weeks of age. Affected kittens often decline quickly and die. Immediate detection and treatment are key to survival. The problem is that fading kitten syndrome, like its name implies, is a condition and not a disease. There are many causes. Worse, many of those underlying causes are difficult to prevent. It can be the fault of the mother, who might have a difficult birth, inadequate milk production, or even an incompatible blood type with her offspring. The fault can lie with the kitten, who as the runt might have congenital abnormalities, immature lung development, or decreased nursing ability. Infections, toxins, and other environmental causes such as temperatures that are too high or low can be at fault. Finally, nutrition can be at fault, if the mother h didn’t eat enough while pregnant or nursing or the kitten received inadequate milk replacement formula. Especially when a kitten is discovered homeless, many of these causes can already have taken a toll, in which case recovery will be an uphill and sometimes impossible battle.

scheduled a vet appointment for Onyx, but also collected a stool sample to bring to the Capital Humane Society for which we were fostering Onyx. At the vet, Onyx meowed plaintively when touched, showing that she wasn’t feeling well. But she also insisted on exploring the exam table, showing that she still had some fight left in her. The vet left to run some tests and we let Onyx roam the floor. She discovered some hanging leashes and began to play with them. Andy and I exchanged glances, surprised and delighted with Onyx’s energy level. Moments like these are what calmed my worry that Onyx had fading kitten syndrome. The vet echoed feeling that Onyx had too much spunk to die. The call we received later that day from CHS gave us even further reason to hope. Onyx was diagnosed with Giardia. That would certainly explain her poor appetite, runny stools, and lethargy. The good news was that, although Giardia was contagious and potentially life-threatening, it was treatable.

Giardia is a common intestinal parasite in people and animals. It’s excreted in the feces of an infected cat, then picked up when ingested by other cats sharing litter boxes. Giardia can also be found on contaminated surfaces, in soil, or in food or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected creatures. The most common symptom is diarrhea. Other symptoms are weight loss, poor grooming, and lethargy. Unfortunately, these symptoms can also be indicative of many other medical conditions, and so Giardia isn’t always readily recognized by its symptoms alone. The incidence is relatively low in North America, but can spread quickly wherever several cats share space, such as in shelters and multi-cat households. For treatment, Onyx received a week’s worth of metronidazole. We already had Onyx confined to the guest room, so we didn’t need to quarantine her, and had already been thoroughly washing our hands well after each contact. I consulted Lancaster County (Nebraska) Ask-A-Vet and learned that I should bathe Onyx and then clean her after every bowel movement. In addition, I followed the advice to change clothes after cleaning her litter box.

The crate was a mess. Diarrhea soaked the litter box and the blankets. There was even diarrhea splattered on the floor around the crate. This was the worst incident, but the next day the tide turned. Onyx had a solid stool. She began eating both her wet and dry food. Syringe-feeding had suddenly become a thing of the past. One night she turned escape artist and found her way out of her crate. Having realized that adventure can be fun, Onyx started to explore the guest room with earnest. She soon discovered the delights of closets, curtains, corners…. and of playing hide-and-seek with her guardians.

At the time of this article, Onyx continues to thrive. In the three weeks that we’ve had her, she’s gone from 1.2 pounds to over 2.5 pounds. Her litter box, scratching post, and toys get put to full use. She’s showing even more curiosity, wanting to play with Andy’s beard and my glasses. She’s also learned to jump, and a few times she’s managed to climb into the guest bed. Friends of ours have nicknamed her Black Beauty and Blackjack, as her personality develops. More adventures lie ahead for Onyx, when we introduce her to our other pets. In addition, soon she will be spayed, and then we can begin our search for an adopter. Thank you Capital Humane Society and Joining Forces Saving Lives for letting us foster this beautiful little girl.

Plaintive meows caught her attention as she headed inside her home for the night. Scurrying away from her porch were two tiny kittens. The woman had a dog crate handy inside and she retrieved it now to try to capture these scrawny black cats. They’re too small and too young to be outside. Were they even six weeks old yet. If a fox or some other predator didn’t kill them, they could easily be crushed under a car’s tires. The woman shivered. This cold snap was typical of Nebraska weather in fall. It was not the time for such little creatures to be homeless. The kittens took a few steps towards the crate, and the woman wondered if it smelled too much of dogs. She disappeared inside and returned with an open can of tuna.  She placed the can inside the dog crate, then stepped back and waited. Slowly, one of the kittens approached. Its hair was unkempt, and its bones protruded. Finally, its hunger overcame its fear It stepped inside the crate. Soon the trembling kitten was devouring the tuna. The woman looked around. Its sibling had disappeared. Sighing, she closed the crate, and then pulled out her cell phone to call Animal Control.

Pet fostering starts with a need. Early this past November, a friend of a friend messaged me. She wanted to know if I had a trap that she could borrow. She said she was trying to trap a kitten. And then she proceeded to tell me about another kitten for which she needed to find a home. As is my habit in such situations, I sent her a list of animal rescues and wished her the best. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is where my involvement ends. My husband and I don’t rescue. Both times we’ve tried foster care, we ended up adding a new pet to our household. We now have four pets, and that’s enough. But something about this kitten tugged at my heart. When a posting about the kitten appeared on the Joining Forces Saving Lives Facebook page, I followed its progress. When I learned that the kitten had been labeled ’feral’ by the shelter, and that this label was causing potential adopters to shy away from it, I knew my husband and I had to get involved.

The little black kitten hunkered in a cardboard box at the back of a cage at the local humane society. When a volunteer picked it up, the kitten uttered an almost inaudible squawk. The volunteer handed the kitten over to me. The kitten flattened itself against my chest and buried its head inside my jacket. When I gave the kitten to my husband, the kitten instantly clung to him too, and even protested when we said goodbye. On our second visit, the kitten had been identified as a girl and given the name Onyx. We asked if we could check the kitten’s weight, and discovered it was only 1.3 pounds and quite bony. Onyx’s spunk had no doubt helped her to survive the perils of outdoor life, but by our third visit we realized that outdoor life had taken its toll on this frail kitten; when weighed again, she was now down to 1.2 pounds. The shelter had kept Onyx safe and warm since she’d arrived, but now she needed more. In order to thrive, she needed a home. And so, with the help of Joining Forces Saving Lives, we became her foster parents.

Fostering is a roller coaster ride. The first day Andy and I brought Onyx home, we placed her in our spare room. Because her low weight was our biggest concern, our immediate goal was to get her to eat. I tried hand feeding Onyx three different kitten foods. Two of them she rejected; the third she not only ate from my hand, but she also from a dish. I felt elated. But my excitement was short-lived. When I later mixed milk replacement powder into her food, Onyx refused to sniff it. Andy had to syringe feed her. At least half of the watery mix dribbled down her chin and chest, but she must have enjoyed what she ate. The next morning, Onyx ate an entire helping from a dish. Again, I felt elated. A quick recovery seemed imminent. Except by noon, Onyx was again refusing to eat. And so, the roller coaster ride began. One day she had normal bodily movements. Another day, her litter box was a mess. One day she strutted about the guest room. Another day she retreated into a corner. And so, we were eager for the most miniscule indications that Onyx was going to live.

The wide-eyed kitten rolled onto her back. She stretched her front paws over her head and purred contentedly when we scratched her fat belly for the fifth time in one night. A camera flash illuminated the scene. We had taken yet another photo of her. She batted the camera strap with her paws. Elsewhere in the house, the three family cats were restless. They remained unsure whether to accept this creature that had disrupted their cozy lives. Onyx stretched her back legs until her paws touched the side of our napping toy poodle. One day at a time….

At the time of this article, Onyx will be nine to ten weeks old and has reached a healthy weight of two pounds. She likes to play with small plush toys and our toes. She also likes to run about the guest room, but also likes to take long naps in our laps. We’ve nicknamed our foster cutie “Bat Girl,” because her little black face and big black ears she looks like a bat. It’s fun watching her personality develop. Thank you, Capital Humane Society and Joining Forces Saving Lives for letting us foster her.

Animal welfare volunteers provide support to their organizations in ways that are as diverse as the volunteers themselves, but what they all have in common, and what connects them and makes them a family, is their passion for animals. Earlier this month, I shared a story about a four-year-old boy who asked for money to be donated to Lincoln Animal Ambassador’s Pet Food Bank, and a nine-year-old boy who helps out at Big Dogs Huge Hearts events. Today I’d like to introduce a twenty-two-year-old college student who volunteered at The Capital Humane Society for two years as part of her veterinarian studies. Like the two boys I featured, growing up with pets led Jenna Rifer to want to help the cause of animal homelessness.

JennaRifer&LucyIn the most difficult times of her life, pets have helped Jenna Rifer. Because pets have always been her support system, Jenna grew up with the lifetime dream of being a veterinarian. She wants to give back to animals by caring for them and by being their advocate.

Animals have a lot to teach and to give us. My dog is always happy and reminds me that there’s always something to be cheerful about. She also teaches me to love unconditionally. We’ve gotten a lot out of our relationship with each other.

Although the small town where Jenna grew up didn’t have a shelter, even in high school she started to research into how to help homeless animals. When she moved to Lincoln to attend university as a pre-vet student, she worked at the Belmont Vet Center and spent two years volunteering at The Capital Humane Society as a vet staff. She also served as an officer for the UNL No-Kill Advocacy Club and, when the opportunity arose, took a trip to the Best Friends Society to help care for dogs, cats, horses, and all kinds of other animals.

At the Belmont Vet Center, Jenna worked as a kennel assistant. Her duties included providing care, food, and exercise for boarding animals, monitoring the health of animals, sterilizing and maintaining equipment, and assisting with veterinarian staff as needed.

Here, Jenna experienced educational moments. She got to observe spay/neuter surgeries. She saw an older female dog that had an infected uterus. The vet in charge remarked that most pets end up spayed/neutered one way or another: If an owner doesn’t ask for the procedure when their pet is young, chances are the pet will be back when older due to behavior or disease. Jenna was learning firsthand the importance of early spaying/neutering.

Naturally, there were also blissful moments. For example, there was the time when the Belmont Vet Center accepted a dog from an overcrowded shelter in Texas. “The dog was so afraid. I laid there and tried to get him used to me. He was sixty pounds and I had to carry him. I’ve never seen a dog so afraid. The most he would do is move a few steps. A few months after he was in a foster home, I got to see him and he was bouncing about.”

I asked Jenna about why she decided to work at an open admissions shelter. True, an open admissions will take any homeless pet that is brought to them and, unlike a no-kill shelter, they never have to turn ones away. At the same time, unlike a no-kill shelter, open admission shelters often don’t have enough resources to care for pets with special needs, including those with behavior issues or those that are seniors. Moreover, when they run out of room, they have no option but to euthanize. Jenna admitted that working in an open admissions shelter was tough, but also said that she feels these shelters are where the most need exists, because the lives of the animals truly depend on being adopted.

As a veterinary staff volunteer with the Capital Humane Society, she helped out at the Admissions & Assessment Center. Some of her duties included holding animals, giving vaccinations, assisting with pre-surgery and post-surgery care, and administering medications and treatments.

Jenna pointed out that whether or not she volunteered in one, it wouldn’t change the outcome for a homeless pet. And so what she tried to do at the Capital Humane Society was to give the best support she could to the animals. She found it cool to see everything that workers at the Capital Humane Society try to do for animals. Jenna gave an example of how some dogs aren’t bothered by living in a kennel while others are. The latter can become afraid and even aggressive, or shy and even shutdown. Regular exercise and play can help the dogs from going stir crazy, which then makes them more adoptable. A similar situation exists for the cats. In a small kennel, they would get mean. With a larger space to roam and play, the cats would be more relaxed and social.

It’s important to help animals because we created this problem of homelessness. We made animals into pets and we overpopulated them and so we should work to change this problem.

Jenna experienced her share of sad moments. In answer to my question about what it was like when an animal got brought into the shelter, Jenna told me, “It really sucked. Owners will walk in to give up their pet. It was incredibly sad seeing the animal realize he wasn’t going back with the owner. He could be there forever.”

Jenna also found it eye-opening to see all the sick, neglected, and abused cats that would get brought to the shelter. She couldn’t believe “how poorly some people take care of their animals”. Seeing an older animal walk through the kennels also broke her heart. “You think that could be my pet.”

But there were also exhilarating moments. Jenna told of the amazing transformation of a pit bull that had been brought in with mange. The female dog was hairless and covered with scabs. “It was very scary.” Jenna and other volunteers took turns taking the pit bull out of her kennel, walking her, and socializing her. “Later on, I saw her and her hair was all grown back.”

JennaRifer_LucyJenna feels proud of her time spent volunteering at the Capital Humane Society. She also ended up with an unexpected surprise from her two years there, her nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Lucy. “I wasn’t planning to rescue, but then I saw Lucy, and I kept thinking about her. Lucy had issues: she had undergone a hard surgery, needed to be housebroken, and expressed horrible separation anxiety. College was hard for me. When I adopted Lucy, she became my support system. We helped each other through our hard times.”

When I met Jenna this past spring, I asked for her thoughts about how those involved with saving homeless pets should promote them to increase their changes of being fostered and/or adopted. Her favorite type of promotion are those which visualize for the owner how a pet might fit into their home. And, going along with what research across the country now seems to suggest, she recommended, “Get pictures of the dog enjoying life. Fosters can tell what positives there are. Write a story that makes animals easier to relate to and feel more like companions.”

I also asked Jenna about her dream for future shelters and she said, “Having a no-kill shelter where dogs were known to be friendly and people could bring their dogs for daycare to see them and then people could see pets as companions.”

This past fall, Jenna headed to Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where she will pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. I wish to first to say congratulations on her recent graduation, and second to wish her all the best for fulfilling her dream of making a difference in the lives of animals by becoming a veterinarian.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2016.

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