Sunday, April 4, 2010

The State of Rescue

I'm a rescuer.

Being a rescuer is not a choice - you either are or you aren't. Watch your kids for the warning signs: Bringing home strays, moving turtles from the roadway, trying to feed baby birds who fell from the nest...when other neighborhood kids start bringing their sick, injured or found animals to YOUR kid, you know you're in trouble.

Those of you who know me, are aware that IL-MO Rescue, NFP is pretty much a one-woman operation. I do my best to keep it small, assess each animal as an individual, provide the care they need and find them a home where they will live happily until they leave this life for the next.

This formula used to work pretty well. From my viewpoint, organized rescue went along pretty well for about 15 years. But this last year has been the absolute worst year. The national economy is the major culprit and, well, there's just not much I can do about it. I have begged for money more often this past year then all the previous years combined. It's a bad sign. It hurts the rescue, it hurts my stalwart few who seem to give over and over again, and it takes a toll on me as an individual. The other culprit is outrageous veterinary costs. Here's an example:

The pug pictured here is Gracie; she has a story. At age 11, her owners, who had bought her as a tiny pup, abandoned her at a shelter in STL where she would have been euthanized had I refused her. Despite her age, Gracie is bright, playful, alert and an all-around marvelous little ladypug. She had been spayed, but her teeth were pretty bed. Normally, I can get a dental done for right around the senior adoption fee of $150. It's doable.

Here's the twist: There is one area vet I rarely use because, although they're very good, they are pricey and I know it. But a downtown groomer, whom I considered a friend, did a small fundraiser for us and, instead of making a check out to IL-MO Rescue as would normally be done after a fundraiser, they made it out to this vet and told me we had a credit of $167 there. This did not thrill me, because I had a $910 bill for a parvo pup to pay and could have used that $167 for that. But okay, a credit is better than nothing. How bad could a dental be? To use the credit, I sent Gracie to them. I walked out with a $595 charge for a dental! My heart nearly stopped. Even worse - the money that had been raised in our name had not made it there, and the groomer will not return my calls to find out why.

I have to admit, the vet - who, BTW, drives a car worth more than my house - did a nice job on Gracie. And I just love her - I'm glad she's pain-free now. But at age 11, she will be hard to place at all. Isn't part of being a veterinarian offering care at a reasonable cost to the old, the rejected, the puppymill cast-offs?

I love dogs, cannot imagine living without them. I wouldn't want to live without them. My little wood-frame ranch needs lots of work I can't afford, in fact, I've nearly lost my home twice. I drive an 11y/o van coming up on the 200,000 mile marker - three-quarters of those miles transporting rescued dogs. I don't live in a nicer house or drive a newer car, not because I couldn't, but because I rescue.

We have some great pups for adoption now (Thanks, Amanda!) who should go for decent fees that will cover a few more pugs like Gracie, but no one is adopting. Things are bad all over.

I'm starting to wonder how long I can continue rescuing on $27,000 a year. Then I have to wonder, how do I stop?

How do you stop being who you are?

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