We’ve all heard the truism that pets can be an important part of maintaining our health and well-being, especially as we age. Taking care of pets can become increasingly difficult for the elderly or those with disabilities, but the benefits of pet ownership can be especially important for these populations. While there is a range of services to help people stay in their homes and maintain their independence as they age and/or deal with complicated health issues, one aspect that may be overlooked is the need to ensure that the beloved pets are also taken care of, as SHRS recently learned.
Donna called the SHRS hotline about her rabbit, Timothy, who had a growth on his testicles. Donna has health issues that keep her from driving, and at times make routine tasks difficult. Donna receives help from In Home Special Services, but they are not allowed to provide pet care or transport. Donna was desperate to find help for her bunny. Fortunately, SHRS was able to step in, and there were several dedicated volunteers who responded to the call. Through extraordinary effort, we were able to get Timothy the care he needed.
Donna lives on a fixed income, so she could not afford costly vet services. The SHRS Board of Directors decided that because this was an extraordinary situation, SHRS could cover the costs of Timothy’s vet bills, if he had a good prognosis. At a minimum, the SHRS would pay to have Timothy evaluated by a local veterinarian.
The veterinarian felt that the tumors were localized, so neutering would be adequate treatment. Although this is a fairly simple operation, Timothy needed post-operative care that Donna, with her health issues, could have trouble providing. Sharon, a long-time SHRS member and volunteer, kept Timothy while he recovered from surgery. Donna was thrilled to have Timothy back home. Donna’s cockatiel was also relieved to have Timothy back home – the bird has bonded with Timothy and gets quite cranky and depressed when his rabbit buddy is gone.
Several months later, SHRS received another call – Timothy had become lethargic and wasn't eating well. Rachele and Susan jumped in to help. Rachele picked Timothy up from Donna and took him to the vet, who treated him for a large infection in the mouth. The infection may have been caused or made worse by his diet, which included more treats than usually recommended for rabbits. After the visit to the vet, Timothy was returned to Donna, who “cried tears of joy” according to Rachele. Since Donna would have difficulty giving Timothy his medication, Susan and Rachele worked out a schedule where one or the other visited Timothy and Donna every day to medicate him. They also advised Donna to avoid feeding Timothy sweet treats, and provided some samples of proper food. Donna paid close attention and changed Timothy’s diet. They have even been able to find a bigger cage for Timothy and a new cage for his buddy the cockatiel. Susan has continued to work with Donna and Timothy. Recently, Donna called Susan to let her know that Timothy was doing really well, with lots of energy.
“Timothy is a very good bunny,” according to Susan. “He clearly adores her.” Timothy lets Donna pick him up, and was a good patient when SHRS volunteers helped take care of him.
Timothy’s story is a special case – an owner who is highly motivated to do the right things for her rabbit, but who cannot always provide the care he needs due to health issues and financial limitations, coupled with knowledgeable and caring volunteers who were able and willing to help. While SHRS provided financial support, it was really the time and care given by Sharon, Rachele and Susan that resulted in Timothy getting the medical attention he needed. According to Susan, “Donna is really sweet and appreciative…she understands that SHRS has gone above and beyond the call of duty.” For pictures of Timothy and other buns, visit SHRS’ facebook page at facebook.com/allearssac.
With great sadness we note the sudden passing of Donna. She put Timothy in the care of SHRS, and we are looking for a permanent home for him. He has special needs because of the kidney and bladder stones. He is affectionate and very well behaved.