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Fostering Ups and (Big-Time) Downs

July 13, 2011

This was an incredibly intense yet fulfilling experience. There was lots of stress, but it turned out well, and it’s possible (though perhaps not probable) that we’ll do it again. However, we will not be doing it with PAWS. Let me tell you why.

Franklin and Bugs went to get fixed last week. Dropping them off was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time, maybe ever. At PAWS (and maybe elsewhere, this is not why I won’t work with them again) they do a kind of mass spay and neuter day. So, you bring your pet in the morning and pick them up in the evening. I had to put the kittens’ carrier on a large rolling rack, the kind you might see in a commercial kitchen, with a bunch of other cats and kittens that had already been dropped off. They were all scared and confused, I’m sure the air smelled of fear to them, and who knows how long they had to wait on that rack before they got rolled back to the medical area. I walked away from that cart in tears. That was bad enough. But then we came to pick them up at the appointed time, and we had to wait another hour because they “just got to the males.” So my kittens were in their carrier, alone and scared, all day long before you “got to them”? Crazy, but ok. Fine. It is what it is.

We bring the kittens home and they seem to be doing fine. A little wobbly from the anesthesia, but alert and hungry and ready to play. Then, pretty quickly, we notice that Franklin is making a strange sound. A very strange sound. It sounds like he can barely breath. His breath is wheezing in and out, very labored and very loud. I call PAWs, but they are closed. I call our vet, they are about to close. They give us the number of an emergency vet close by, so I give them a call. They say it’s probably an upper respiratory infection from being at the shelter all day but there’s also a chance that it could be aspiration pneumonia, which is a rare but very serious condition that happens if a cat vomits while under anesthesia and some of the vomit ends up in the lungs because the mechanism that keeps the airways closed is relaxed because of the drug. This is LIFE-THREATENING if not treated immediately, and we should bring him in ASAP. So of course we do.

Long story (and looong, sleepless night) short, it thankfully is just an upper respiratory infection and he will be fine with medication. It’s only been a few days and he is already vastly improved. But now we get to the point where I’m pissed off. I wrote an email to our foster coordinator at PAWS to let her know what happened and ask if we can be reimbursed for the trip to the emergency vet. I got a short reply that all foster animals need to go to PAWS to be examined so we will not be reimbursed. Period. I reply back in a very polite and understanding email that I fully understand the need for rules, but we were seriously concerned for Franklin’s life and since it was after hours and PAWS was closed, we felt the only responsible course of action was to take him to the emergency vet, and won’t PAWS at least consider a partial reimbursement?

Franklin finding solace in the only place at the vet's office that smells like home.

We have, after all, opened our home in order to help PAWS save more animals, providing these kittens with shelter, food, toys, litter and anything else they need at our own expense, as we were fully aware we would need to do when agreeeing to foster.

I received no response. My email was ignored (it’s been FIVE days, I received the response to my first email within an hour), and I am furious. Do they think people are seriously willy-nilly taking foster pets to emergency vets just to screw PAWS out of money? Do they think I would subject myself to hours in a vet’s office and a night without sleep as I monitored Franklin just for fun? Do they think I have anything other than concern for this animal’s welfare in mind? I am completely appalled at how this was handled. And you know what? It’s not about the money. If they had simply given me the courtesy of a response, something along the lines of, “We appreciate that you did what you felt was best for Franklin’s health, (oh, and thank you for that by the way) but we simply cannot reimburse anyone for emergency vet costs under any circumstances,” that would have been fine. I would have walked away feeling that at least my request was considered and that I was respected as an adult who was trying to do the right thing. Instead, I feel as though PAWS thinks I am IRRESPONSIBLE for taking Franklin to the emergency vet. That they think, for some unknown reason, that I did that just to break the rules. It makes no sense to me, and while I fully respect and support the PAWS mission and what they do, there are other shelters out there with foster programs that hopefully don’t treat their volunteers like they have no brains in their heads. Who don’t disrespect their volunteers by ignoring them. Who recognize that a person who did anything BUT bring Franklin to the vet in that moment is a completely irresponsible person who shouldn’t be looking after animals in the first place. We’ll be contacting those shelters if and when we decide to do this again.

It just breaks my heart that this ended on a sour note, because otherwise I really enjoyed the experience. I felt good knowing that taking these two kittens out of a cage at PAWS opened that cage for another animal to be brought in from a kill-shelter or the streets. Literally saving a life, it doesn’t get much better than that. And sure, Franklin and Bugs were annoying kittens at times; I had a cell phone charger cord eaten through and they have no regard for furniture versus floor, but they were kittens and that’s to be expected. They were otherwise sweet, Bugs was super cuddly and they both had a greater mastery of the litter box than our own two adult cats. I grew to love them way more than I thought I would, and when they get picked up by the lovely woman who has adopted them this Saturday I’m sure to cry like a baby. It was a great experience until the end. Souring people on volunteering for your non-profit is probably not the best way to go about doing business. I’m only comforted knowing that there are plenty of other shelters out there that need our help too. Hopefully the next volunteering experience will be just as fulfilling — and satisfying too.

I'll miss these little guys so much. They are twice this size now!

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