Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lessons from Sunday

Over the last few days of thinking about Sunday, a few ideas have settled out of the cloud of action and emotion that followed my finding her, taking her to the shelter, and her death.

  1. Take tick-borne diseases seriously, and 'prevention is better than cure'.

I paid lip-service to the possibility of one of our animals becoming sick from the parasites that throng to them during the summer: I bought Frontline and wormer but did not use them with the precision and care that make them effective prophylactics. It took looking into Sunday's belly and seeing how her blood could not clot, making her body unable to cope with her surgery to make me realise that taking an extra five minutes to apply Frontline properly really can save a life – or at least the misery and expense of illness. After Lizzie was spayed, the vet said something about her having bled heavily internally possibly because of ticks, but he never emphasised either the seriousness of the problem or how easy it is to combat.

Sputnik had his tests a few days ago and recieved the all clear for leishmania and erlichiosis, and the vet showed me how to clip the hair on his neck so that the Frontline goes directly on to the skin for full absorbtion. “Every month,” she said. “You have to put it on at least every month to be sure that he's covered. And if you see that it begins to be less effective, switch brands. Our ticks and fleas sometimes become resistant if you always use the same brand.”

  1. Educate yourself and ask questions.

I don't blame the vets at the shelter for Sunday's death: they're busy and rely on others to obtain the details of the dogs on which they operate. Sunday left the shelter kennels and went to the clinic for three procedures – a blood test for leishmania and one full blood screening for other parasites or problems, and a spay. She was spayed before she was tested. Had she been tested first, the vets would have been able to tell that she had a erlichiosis. She would have been treated for a month and then could have been spayed safely. I didn't know enough to insist on that. Before your animal goes for a routine procedure, educate yourself as to what is involved and the potential risks, and don't be afraid to ask questions or question authority. You can't know everything, but learn what you can.

  1. Understand your local shelter's policy.

Cyprus has a serious animal welfare problem: far too many animals for the number of available homes. Shelter space is extremely limited, and only one shelter, Paphiakos, will take in any animal with no questions asked. The up-side of Paphiakos' policy is that if you find an animal on the road or in distress, you can count on them to take in without a quibble. The down-side is that that animal will either be quickly euthanised or will cost a lot to extricate.

When I found Lizzie, I took her to the nearest shelter, PAWS. Annie M., whom I had known for years, initially refused to take her on the grounds of having no room. She eventually conceded when I told her that I'd lay bets that I would be back for her within the week. I was, and I took Lizzie joyfully home after paying a donation of ten cyprus pounds. In the days that followed, I took her to be spayed and chipped and vaccinated, and for a few happy weeks, she was a part of the family. But Annie has gone back to the UK and PAWS is only open for two hours each morning, so I took Sunday to Paphiakos. When I mentioned that on a local forum, I took a lot of flak: “any dog, particularly a hunter, taken to Paphiakos is almost immediately killed” and other similar comments. I checked with various long-time pet-owners in the area, and they confirmed this. That's why I decided to try to get Sunday out and give her a chance.

Sunday, the day before her op.

But once an animal is in Paphiakos, springing them is not cheap. The website (click on Re-Homing tab)  states clearly that charges for spaying, chipping, vaccinating, parasite treatment, and municipal license must be met REGARDLESS OF WHAT TREATMENT HAS BEEN DONE TO THE ANIMAL PRIOR before it can be released to its new home. In other words, if you want to adopt a dog that has already been spayed, you will still have to pay the spaying charge (115-184 Euros); a dog might have been micro-chipped by its former owner, but you will still have to pay for chipping (34.50). The management justifies this by saying that it needs to cover all charges incurred in its countrywide rescue service, and also by saying that any potential owner needs to understand that having a pet involves financial commitment, but in reality it means that dogs like Sunday are priced out of a home. There are few people like Rosie who would pay her medical bills, sponsor her (90 Euros for six months minimum) in an attempt to keep her off the notorious PTS (put to sleep) list, and even be willing to pay her rehoming fee should she manage to find someone to take her on. The reality for un-chipped dogs like Sunday, who sometimes come in at a rate of ten per day in the hunting season, is euthanasia – often well-within the fifteen days that they are supposed to have as a window for re-homing or adoption.

Sputnik the day we found him in June 2011.
He settled in quickly...

I understand why this situation exists, but it doesn't make the decision of what to do with the stray animals that I find on my doorstep – and there have been around 15 in the last few years – any easier.

1 comment:

  1. Yup. An absolute must. Regular flea and tick apps.Even in the city. Ruth