TEARS Animal Rescue has had one of the most interesting months in its history.
One small kitten – brought into our organisation through our Feral Cat Project and at first thought to be either a Devon Rex or suffering from a skin disease – turned out to belong to the rarest Advanced New Breed in the world. A Lykoi; the only natural-born Lykoi on record in SA and the 35th in the world.
TEARS’ press release and images of our Lykoi started a media frenzy and have featured in newspapers and magazines around the world, along with radio, television and international news agencies like Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. It’s been surreal to see TEARS Animal Rescue getting a mention on ABC News New York and eNCA.
Another story that caught the attention of TEARS’ supporters has been that of Gemma, the year-old pitbull cross who came to our organisation in a pitiful state; more than half her body ravished by mange.
A stark picture emerges from these two very different admissions to our shelter, of what is valued as most rare and what is commonplace. Eyona, our Lykoi is a great rarity; Gemma’s state and story only too common. And it’s been just such a month for us – with thoughts turning to the things we save and discover, and those we lose.
It seems particularly pertinent that we’ve launched our TEARS Quest for Hidden Treasure campaign in this climate of great wonder at what our mission can achieve and deep sadness and frustration at our own limitations as an organisation.
So what makes the difference between what is found and what is lost? How do we maximise our achievements and minimise the sadness and frustration? The answer that comes to us is simple – YOU are what makes the difference: friend, supporter, mission ambassador.
We dedicate this first winter edition to the joy of those we help and the sadness of those we have lost, and to you – our partner in the joy and sadness of it all and, simply speaking, TEARS’ reach and its future. That’s you.
We ask you to join us, in the stories that follow, on a journey of hidden treasures that are quite simply, precious to us.
EYONA, GEMMA AND JORDAN
The story of the discovery of the rarest of kittens under a bush in the Company’s Garden, brought in by Michael Matthee of TEARS Feral Cat Project, is already passing into history as you read this. Eyona, which means ‘the one’ in isiXhosa, is slowly emerging from his very different, feral world under the protection and guidance of one of TEARS’ most trusted volunteers and feline experts. Of course, he is oblivious to the fact that he’s just made it onto Good Morning America.
He’s begun to sleep on his foster mom’s bed and plays now and again with other cats. His favourite toy is a soft-toy spider and he’s in for the treat of a playdate and reunion this week with Marigold – who while still a kitten herself, took Eyona under her very gently paw. In his first weeks at TEARS, the small ginger kitten kept Eyona close to her and always slept with her arm protectively over him as if she sensed he wasn’t quite like the other kittens they were surrounded by and needed a little extra reassurance. (Marigold – a special needs cat has been adopted by a TEARS staff member.)
What an exciting life this little boy has ahead of him.
As rare as Eyona’s story is, Gemma’s is common. The small black and white dog, not quite a year old, was removed from Vrygrond – a place regularly visited by our mobile clinic – and brought to TEARS; more than half her body raw and bleeding from mange.
As harrowing as the pictures that sparked such support for her were, her physical and mental state are far worse in the flesh. Mange has a terrible smell, her raw skin oozes and sometimes breaks open and bleeds. But Gemma is one of the lucky ones – we reached her while there was still hope of recovery for her, and she will be nursed back to health before claiming the life she should have had from the beginning. It’s not always like this.
Late last year, we took Jordan into our custody. He was a pitbull cross, his entire body covered in mange - a constant source of suffering for him. TEARS’ staff tried everything in their power to treat him, to get this lovely dog to rally. Our behaviourist took him into her home to give him the gentlest of environments in which to recover and all the love and care he’d need to pull through.
But as time went by, Jordan’s wounds would not heal. Our vet, Dr Tracy Dicks, estimated that he’d been suffering from mange since he was a puppy and now, at the age of about two, his skin was so horribly damaged – cracking open and bleeding whenever he moved – that to subject him to further treatment, further weeks and months of suffering would not be humane.
Three aspects are taken into consideration when deciding to euthanize or sustain life: the animal’s physical state, their emotional and psychological wellbeing. In other words, what must be ascertained is whether or not the animal will be able to tolerate the trauma of aggressive regimens necessary to treat chronic injuries or illnesses, emotionally and psychologically. Medicines will often fail if an animal is severely stressed. The very difficult decision was made to euthanize Jordan.
He passed away in the arms of our Animal Care Manager and our behaviourist – both of whom had fought so hard for him. The message across Jordan’s photograph was written to our behaviourist, Helen, by one of TEARS’ greatest volunteers and supporters, Sam Dorkin.
As rare as Eyona’s story is, Gemma’s is common, and Jordan’s equally so. Gemma is a fortunate girl – we reached her in time. Left another year in the state she was in, her story would have had the same ending that Jordan’s had.
TEARS QUEST FOR HIDDEN TREASURE
We’ve just launched the biggest and most ambitious campaign in TEARS’ history – TEARS Quest for Hidden Treasure.
It seems auspicious that as we were ironing out the details that go into a large campaign, our Operations Manager and feline expert, Mandy Store, delivered the news; that the strange looking kitten, who until then had had various descriptive nicknames like ratty-cat, bat-cat and monkey-boy, quite possibly belonged to the rarest breed on the planet.
Even those not given to fanciful thoughts, took it as a good omen – just as we were putting the final touches to our Hidden Treasure campaign we discover one of the rarest treasures in the animal kingdom hidden beneath a bush.
Literally magic and treasure
When we began to talk about the magic involved in turning around dogs’ and cats’ lives and the treasure that allows us to do this, we realised that far from being two flashy words to carry a fundraising campaign, these words had literal meaning for us and definitely for our dogs and cats.
Take Gemma, for instance… Imagine you’re lying in the sand of Vrygrond trying to lick away the mad burning itch that haunts every moment of your day. You lick until all the hair is gone and skin cracks open and bleeds, but nothing takes away the pain. Even in sleep you are aware of the stench of your own putrefying flesh.
Then you look up and there is a face peering down at you. The eyes are gentle, facial features soft. A towel is placed around you and you’re lifted out of the sand. Then you’re bumping along in a box, the smells of what you left behind begin to disappear. You’re taken out of the box, there’s the chill of something smooth under your burning skin. You’re a bit frightened as you’re touched and carefully looked at but the voices are calm and the eyes that look at you seem to really see you and you begin to hope. Just maybe...
It takes a while to process what happens next. You’re put into a kennel and there is softness against your skin. The terrible burning and itching and pain has eased and you eat the best food you’ve ever tasted in your life and there is delicious fresh water to cool your tongue.
For the first time in as long as you can remember, you crawl into the softness, you feel little pain, stomach full, and you fall into a deep untroubled sleep.
For Gemma, quite literally, magic happened. The relief from pain, the softness of blankets against her skin, the meal and clean fresh water are the treasures we gave to Gemma. If she could speak, she’d tell you that she now believes completely in magic and treasure.
Animal welfare is not neutral ground
As TEARS staff we can only go so far. Each member brings absolute dedication to the long hours and hard work that is their job, and accepts the loads of joy and heartache that go with the territory. But we would make little magic without the treasures brought to us by volunteers and supporters.
The one tin of dog food that filled Gemma’s stomach that first night is no less important to the mission than clinic supplies or containers that provide office space for the staff that make the rescues possible. It’s all treasure, and with treasure we make magic.
So please bring us your treasure. Our Quest for Hidden Treasure is incredibly simple to do. It involves just a few steps:
You get to choose how you’d like to take part: as an individual (can include family and friends), a learner or a business.
- Print out your I FOUND TREASURE! form from our website and have a look at the wish list.
- Go treasure questing: fill your trolley with items from supermarkets and suppliers, fill out the items on your treasure form and attach your till slips or your donation proof of payment.
- Bring us your treasure on SURRENDER YOUR BOOTY! days and we’ll turn your treasure into magic.
We promise that TEARS Quest for Hidden Treasure is set to be meaningful, emotional and loads of rollicking fun. And let’s not forget, there are fabulous prizes to be won.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
WHAT MAKES A LIFE?
TEARS is a pro-life animal shelter, but we are not a no-kill organisation. This means that although we will always do our best to save each and every animal life, sometimes the injury or distress is just too great and the only humane option left is to euthanize.
With every critical case that enters our organisation, our animal care and veterinary staff consider three main criteria before making a decision about continuing the life and care of an animal. First and foremost each individual is treated as a sentient being with more than just a physical body to treat.
Gemma has a fighting spirit and it was evident that she would push through at all three levels with lots of love and support from everyone at TEARS, and her rallying fans. The donations that have poured in have allowed us to give her the best care we possibly can. Jordan, we knew, no matter how much love and medical care we gave him, was not managing to pull through at either a mental or emotional level.
- Veterinary and physical components – this includes the level of injury and disease, and how much pain the animal is enduring and will continue to endure during rehabilitation.
- Mental component – we ask: Will this animal’s psychological state (its temperament and mental resilience) allow her to endure an extended period in the clinic, daily injections, examinations, baths, wound irrigation, changing of dressing, etc. as well as medication with severe side-effects?
- Emotional component – Sometimes the light in an animal’s eyes goes out and they have given up. The level of sadness and trauma, in addition to their physical pain, is just too much for an individual to bear.
As a pro-life organisation, the decision is never easy and we do all we possibly can to save lives – here are two stories that show the level of consideration and thought we give to every single animal that enters our care.
6-month old Picasso was brought to TEARS a number of weeks after an injury to his left front paw. He was limping badly and x-rays revealed he had a crushed foot that was now infected badly. This was spreading to the rest of his body and making him extremely sick.
There were only two options – euthanasia or amputation of the infected leg. Many would have chosen the first option. The idea of a 3-legged cat seems cruel, especially as there are so many other “normal” cats looking for a home. But our animal care staff saw a glint in Picasso’s playful eyes. He had a sore leg, but the rest of him was absolutely fine. Mentally and emotionally he was a gladiator.
So we decided to amputate his leg and put him under 24/7 vigilant care. Within hours he was hopping around, and whenever he was picked up he would purr loudly, rubbing his face into his loving carer’s chest, using his other front paw to “ask” for more strokes.
Now, just a few days later, he is manoeuvring around his enclosure as fit and fast as the other kittens. He’s playing, eating and always ready for attention.
He will continue to be assessed by our animal care staff with his needs and happiness top priority always.
Grysie was a male feral cat that was being cared for by a TEARS’ supporter in Retreat. Although he was completely wild, he trusted her enough to jump onto her roof for food and she was able to keep track of Grysie’s comings and goings. He wasn’t neutered so he often got into fights with other male cats.
One day she noticed that Grysie had a massive wound on his back. After a number of attempts, he was eventually caught by TEARS, with the aim of sterilising him and attending to his wound. Unfortunately, it was severely infected from a burst abscess and infested with maggots. After further tests it was discovered that he was also suffering from feline AIDS.
Although the wound could have been treated, the post-operative care would have been traumatic enough, but to contain a feral cat in an enclosed space like a clinic cage, would have proved too much, mentally and emotionally, for an animal adapted only to the wild. If he had survived the operation and treatment, he would have been a desperately unhappy cat in confinement, so the decision was made to put him to sleep. If he had been left on the streets as he was, with nobody looking out for him, he would have died a desperately painful death alone, just a few weeks later.
The staff at TEARS are consciously aware of what each and every animal is going through at every stage of their rehabilitation. If at any point an animal appears to be suffering more than they can bear, a decision about what is best for him or her is made. Unfortunately, sometimes this means putting them out of their terrible misery. Other times we are able to save, rehabilitate and rehome incredible animals with amazing stories.
Taking a pro-life stand costs though. It takes considerable, additional resources to fight for animals’ lives. This is why we’re running the TEARS Quest for Hidden Treasure campaign. Animals like Gemma and Picasso need intensive veterinary care and rehabilitation and we cannot do this alone. They are worth every single cent we spend, and the more help we receive from our supporters, the more animals we can rescue in dire need of help.
It is absolutely incredible how much one person can achieve when they don't turn a blind eye to the pain that is going on around them. So often we scroll quickly over haunting images on Facebook, much like the one we posted of Gemma. Yet, those that stepped forward with donations and love made all the difference.
A little goes a very long way.
Ingrid Newkirk started PETA in 1981 after her discovery of what happened to monkeys in cosmetic testing laboratories. The movement now has over 3-million supporters worldwide and was voted by Time Magazine as the most influence social advocacy group in the world.
The RSPCA started in a London coffee shop, initially with the idea to help pit-ponies in the coal mines. They went on to save millions of animals in the First and Second World Wars, and have gone on to change dozens of laws regarding animal rights and have made an impact on billions of animals' lives.
The global phenomenon of Greenpeace started in 1971 by a small group of activists motivated by their vision of a green and peaceful world. They set sail from Vancouver, Canada, in an old fishing boat and sailed right into many a headline, and history.
TEARS also has a very small and humble beginning (read more here
) which shows that anyone with a heart and a will to make a difference can do just that.
We could have chosen many ways to ask for your financial help to further our mission, but the Quest for Hidden Treasure allows us to partner closely with you in order to change animals' lives and that's what we get the biggest kick out of.
We hope you'll join us.
DESPERATELY SEEKING A HOME FOR KRISTEN
Kristen came to TEARS in much the same condition as Gemma. She was covered in mange, was down to just skin and bone, and was terrified of being touched. At the time, there were pledges of homes and support on Facebook, as there have been more recently for Gemma, yet in the end, nobody chose to adopt her.
Kristen is a beautiful girl with so much love to give. We would hate for her to be just another forgotten story.
You can go to her profile on our website here:
This month a number of our dogs, puppies, cats and kittens found loving homes. That included a number of dogs that have been in kennels for far too long: Nova, Venus, Ambrosia, Carley, Rouge, Tara, Alesso, Lloyd, Macey, Morgan, and Trevor.
Our hearts are overjoyed!
Here is Macey heading off with her new mom:
SURRENDER YOUR BOOTY! Days
Friday 17 June and Saturday 18 June
We get to meet you, and turn your treasure into magic!
You’ll be taken to the TEARS Treasure Cave where you’ll get to SURRENDER YOUR BOOTY! for real. We’ll take photographs and video so you have a memento of your treasure before it’s put to use as TEARS magic.
It’s going to be fun and festive and you’ll even get to meet our dogs who are the best ambassadors to tell you just how much we appreciate you treasure quest.
You’ll leave with no doubt that you’ve had a direct hand in the magic of transforming fear, pain and cruelty into huge smiles, glossy coats, wagging tails and eventually, very soon we hope, a new beginning – a loving pair of arms and a forever home!
Please let us know if you'd like to come along to our first SURRENDER YOUR BOOTY! day. You can email either Tracy (email@example.com) or Michelle (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This Saturday 28 May, we'll be at the Hill's Western Province Cat Club Show:
|ENDING WITH A SMILE - AN ANIMAL HERO WHO SAVES HER GUARDIANS' LIVES
Reader's Digest shared the following story of Shana, a German Shepherd mix who helped her guardians (another pair of empowered supporters) escape death. It illustrates the theme of our newsletter beautifully - we go to the ends of the earth for the ones we love. At TEARS we do that for every single animal we help, and in return, they're always willing to give back without question.
In 1999, Eve and Norman Fertig, founders of the Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary, saved a two-week-old German Shepherd mix from a puppy mill. The pup they named Shana grew to an intimidating 160 pounds, but Eve said the dog trailed her like “a little lamb.”
One October several years back, as the Fertigs, both then 81, fed injured rescue animals housed in one of the buildings on their land, an unseasonable, violent snowstorm blew in. When the couple went outside to check the weather, several trees fell, trapping them in a narrow alley between two buildings. Eve and Norman weren’t wearing coats or gloves and couldn’t climb over or duck below the tree trunks. For the next two and a half hours, they huddled together for warmth as the snow piled higher.
“We were in big trouble,” Eve said. “I told Norman, ‘We can’t stay here. We’ll die.'”
Around 9:30 p.m., Shana, who was outside, began burrowing toward Eve and Norman in the deep snow. It took the dog nearly two hours, but eventually she cleared a narrow tunnel about 20 feet long stretching from the front porch of the main house to the Fertigs’ location.
When Shana finally broke through the snow and reached the curled-up couple, she gave one short bark. Her message was clear: Follow me.
Norman looked at the tunnel, which was a foot high, and refused, telling Eve he’d spent too much time in foxholes in Okinawa during World War II. But in her no-nonsense Bronx accent, Eve changed her husband’s mind: “Norman, if you do not follow me, I will get a divorce.”
Shana grabbed Eve’s jacket and guided the 86-pound woman onto her back. Norman clutched Eve’s ankles, and for the next two hours, Shana pulled the couple through the tunnel.
Shana finally reached the house around 2 a.m., and the Fertigs managed to get just inside the front door. They collapsed with fatigue. The storm had knocked out the electricity and heat, but Shana lay next to them all night. “She kept us alive,” Eve said.
Firefighters arrived later that morning and were astonished at the sight. Eve said, “They kept looking at that tunnel and saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like it.'”
After the ordeal, it took five months for Shana’s feet to heal from the injuries she received while digging.
You may be willing to give them a home, but they'd give you the world if they could!
WE ARE ABLE TO ACHIEVE ALL WE DO FOR ANIMALS
ONLY WITH YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT.