CVIndependent

Fri04032020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

It’s so hard to know what to believe when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. So much misinformation is being posted and spread around. State, county and local governments have been forced to figure this out on their own—and that has left us hanging.

I don’t want to get sick, and I really don’t want to have my friends and loved ones ill because we didn’t take things seriously enough. People need to take precautions—if not for themselves, out of care for others—and that includes the need to provide a plan for our best friends, our beloved companions: the animals that rely on us for safety and care.

One bit of good news: According to World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Veterinary Community, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected by COVID-19. But we humans can, and we should always—not just in a crisis—have plans in place that address what happens to our pets if something happens to us. This is not the time to overload shelters from carelessness or panic.

So, what do we need to do in the event we get sick or are hospitalized? Animalsheltering.org lists five key points to be prepared. (Given that we live in earthquake country, being prepared is even more necessary. Consider Salt Lake City’s earthquake on March 18; it can happen at any time.)

• Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes ill.

• Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets.

• Keep all animal vaccines up to date in the event that boarding becomes necessary.

• Ensure that all of your pets’ medications are documented, with dosages and administering directions. Including the actual prescriptions from your veterinarian, if possible, is also helpful, as is including your veterinarian’s contact information.

• Microchip your beloved animals. If that’s not possible, make sure they have identification—such as an up-to-date tag with a current phone number on a collar or harness.

I asked Dr. Allison Bradshaw, Mobile Pet Vet in the Coachella Valley, what advice she could provide to help people feel more prepared.

“As we face possible supply-chain interruptions or quarantine, it will be wise to have a two-week supply of pet food and any medications that your pet may rely on,” she said.

She also reiterated that there’s no evidence your pet can have, spread or get ill from COVID-19.

“The American Veterinary Animal Association has released the following statement: ‘Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people,’” she said.

I asked her what she thought about going to a dog park. She said that people should be aware and take the precautions to avoid human exposure (stay six feet apart; don’t go out if you’re sick, etc.), but not because of exposure between dogs.

Don’t be in a vacuum, and don’t isolate to the point that your animal needs help. There are many resources to help. Start by calling your veterinarian for advice.

With so much uncertainty in our lives, our highly sensitive animals can sense the frustration, concern, fear and confusion we are feeling—and that might cause anxiety in them. However, it is more important than ever to protect your animals from getting loose. We cannot rely on the system to do our work for us—because those who work to protect our animals at the shelters may need to protect themselves.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

The love we receive from our animals is deep, beautiful, unconditional and extraordinary. The relationships we have with our animals are incredible: You might be aggravated with all the humans in your house or even in your life—but the magic woofie or kitty will always save the day. Whether you’re returning home for a trip or a simple errand outside, a pet is always happy to see you, wagging or barking to welcome you.

This magical relationship makes it even more difficult, painful and heartbreaking to say goodbye. No matter how many years they live, it is never enough—and sadly, we often must make the decision to end their lives.

It’s terrible to watch the decline of a pet. Sometimes it seemingly comes on suddenly—our eyes are opened for the first time to a slowing gait, a missed jump onto the couch, or the inability to finish the usual walk. Sometimes we must watch as an illness takes hold. Regardless of how the end of the life of a beloved approaches, it takes a toll—emotionally and physically.

The hospice aspect of our sanctuary is the most difficult—and it’s an aspect we deal with a lot. We usually bring in senior dogs that are in the shelter system; they’ve been abandoned by their family because the family can’t afford to pay for euthanasia, or perhaps they don’t want the responsibility of caring for an ill senior dog. We know from the moment we get the first request and/or see the first picture that the remaining life span will be short. Nonetheless, we approach each dog with the same hope—that there will be some sort of magic that restores quality of life or longevity. We know that will almost never be the case, but the heart wants differently.

There have been times we have taken a dog straight from the shelter to the veterinarian to be euthanized, because the animal was dying, and the shelter did not want the responsibility. We recently welcomed an older dog that wheezed and gasped. We tried a few medicines, and while he responded slightly, his level of discomfort was heartbreaking. Late at night, we took him into the ER vet and gave him the ultimate gift of love.

Yes, we call euthanasia the ultimate gift of love—because that’s what you’re doing when you’re ending your animal’s pain and suffering, while your heart is breaking. People always say that they do not know how we do what we do. I always say: How can we not? These gentle and loving creatures are completely dependent upon us for their well-being and care; in return, they give extraordinary love. How can we not love these beloveds enough to say goodbye and end their suffering?

People also ask: How do we know when it is time to say goodbye? It’s an easy (while still heartbreaking) decision, after checking with the veterinarian, if your animal can no longer walk. It’s easy if your animal is too weak to stand up or has lost bodily functions. It’s easy if your animal no longer has any interest in food or water. Be sure to ask the veterinarian if he or she is just extending the life or providing longer-term care. Veterinarians are life-saving heroes—and sometimes it’s hard for them to recommend saying goodbye.

But not every situation with an animal is such an obvious crisis. It is the more subtle times that people need to be aware of: Suffering animals will sometimes still eat, drink and show you love, because you are their everything. Up to their last breath, they want to please you. Your great sadness and heartbreak should not stop you from seeing clearly what is happening, and doing what is best for your animal.

People always wonder after if they say goodbye if they did so too soon—if they did the right thing. Well, we say that it’s a good thing to wonder—because you will never forget if it was too late. We had a dog with congestive heart failure dog before we started Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love. She went into respiratory distress at the end of her life, because we were not paying enough attention. We have still not gotten over that experience. Do you want one more day or one more week with your animal if it’s truly suffering?

Trust me: We aren’t clinical about any of this. Our hearts break every time; we cry over every dog to whom we say goodbye. But every one of those dogs is held tightly, sung to or whispered to, and loved in the last minutes of their lives. Isn’t that something we all deserve?

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

The Coachella Valley is a pet-lovers’ paradise.

We love our animals. We dress them up. We sleep with them. Some of us take our pets out shopping, dining or hiking. We share photos of and stories about our pets, and believe that they are our soulmates. Almost everyone has a funny animal story to share. Almost everyone has a story of loss with which we can commiserate.

But sometimes, that love doesn’t go far enough. Just take a look at any of the lost-and-found pages for our valley communities, and you’ll see that the number of lost and escaped animals is astonishing. And sometimes, love doesn’t mean forever: Animal-rescue organizations and animal shelters know that it’s become far too common for people to abandon older pets.

Janeen Hudson Bahr is the founder and president of S.O.A.R.—Society’s Outkasts Animal Rescue, a Coachella Valley animal-rescue organization that works on the issue of senior-animal abandonment. Bahr said the survival rate for senior animals is low. After all, when a person becomes an animal companion, a relationship develops based on trust and love. Over time, the trust and love deepen—and so does the animal’s dependence on us for safety, care, food and shelter. It becomes a deep and meaningful relationship—and when a human abandons that relationship, it is heartbreaking for the animal, who believes it is part of your pack. To them, being discarded is heartbreaking and life-threatening.

Senior cats and dogs at shelters without rescue efforts are barely seen, and rarely heard about—and when their hold period is up, they’re often euthanized. Even worse, when an animal has been surrendered by its owner, the euthanasia clock starts ticking immediately. Also, many animals are abandoned at shelters by owners as “strays” so owners can avoid paying relinquishment fees. Those animals have to wait a period of time before they can be adopted or rescued—and for older animals, that wait period can be debilitating or even deadly.

In the Coachella Valley, animals are lucky to have Michelle Bergeron, the rescue supervisor for Animal Samaritans, who works with the county’s Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms. She works hard to coordinate rescues and save animals’ lives. She said senior-rescue groups are few and far between, and adoption offers for seniors are limited. Even though rescue groups post senior animals’ pictures and needs on Facebook, and there are many comments on each post, the rate of rescue and adoption is low.

I founded Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior rescue and hospice in the Coachella Valley. We see many of these abandoned former beloveds. They are heartbroken. They are depressed. They are confused. Regardless of the condition in which they used to live, they are now without their family and without their pack—without understanding why.

I have asked shelters in Southern California about the reasons people give when relinquishing an animal. The most common reason is that the animals have costly medical issues. Another frequent reason is a need for an animal to be euthanized, combined with the owner’s inability to pay, and a belief that the shelter will do what is best for the animal—which is not always the case. Some people have had to say goodbye to a pet when going into assisted living or hospice care, and family members and friends either will not or cannot take in the pet. And then there are people who have simply become tired of their old animals. Some of these old animals are picked up loose on the street; even though there are known owners, those owners never come to claim them.

It does take a village to help abandoned animals—and it takes people with deep hearts and incredible fortitudes to adopt an animal closer to the end of their lives. Yes, losing an animal we love can be soul-shattering—but what an amazing gift of love it can be for a person to hold an older animal close and speak lovingly to them as they leave this world.

If you have a pet, be a forever friend—a forever companion. Keep your beloved animals through to the end of their lives. Recognize the value of your senior animal. Don’t be quick to break their heart and abandon them. Find a solution for their medical problems. Reach out for help if you need it.

And if you are thinking of adopting, consider a senior pet. They need that forever love—but be patient. They may be heartbroken after being left behind, but in spite of that heartbreak, their ability to forgive is extraordinary and educational. You will change their life—and the depth of their love and gratitude will change you forever.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets