No case is too big or too small for the Community Animal Assistance specialists at Best Friends who help people every day.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of offering hope that can make a huge difference in the life of an animal.
Take Little Kitty, a sick stray kitten found by a Best Friends member, who could not get the cat to eat. Not knowing what to do, the woman contacted Best Friends’ animal assistance department for guidance.
Diane Young, an animal assistance specialist, was assigned Little Kitty’s case. Young offered tips, including a possible solution to get the cat to eat. She thought it could be the kitten wasn’t eating because, with her illness, she might not be able to smell the food. Young suggested feeding the kitty "stinky" cat food. She also suggested the caregiver get the kitten medical care (the cat was later treated by a veterinarian for feline leukemia when she tested positive).
Young quickly heard back from the cat’s caregiver. "I spoke with you on the phone today about a stray who wouldn't eat," the woman wrote in an e-mail. "Well, she just ate some of the chicken and tuna Friskies! I offered the kibble and she didn't take it. She went straight for the chicken and tuna. I think you’re right; she couldn’t smell [the kibble]."
Several weeks later, Young got another message about Little Kitty with even more good news: "I wanted to let you know I found Little Kitty a wonderful home with another feline leukemia positive kitty and two very sweet ladies. They send me pictures of her from time to time and I've gone to visit her. It means so much to hear a positive voice at times, and I thank you for that."
Godzilla and Shakespeare, two senior huskies, also faced a big challenge. The 11-year-old pair, a brother and sister, had lost their home and ended up at a shelter. Both were well behaved and good with people and cats. Their story was included in a monthly message that was sent to Best Friends members in the Los Angeles area.
The message reached a family who had recently lost their husky to health issues. When they learned about Godzilla and Shakespeare, they arranged to meet and spend time with the pair.
That was all it took. Godzilla and Shakespeare went home with the family.
But for a boxer named Jasper, the challenges he faced were even more dire. Jasper appeared to have been used as bait dog for fighting. Jasper had been missing from his home. He found his way home a year later with his face severely damaged and his teeth ground down — a procedure sometimes used to prevent bait dogs from biting other dogs. On top of that, the once-happy dog was frightened and submissive. The family rushed Jasper to the Animal Health Center in Columbus, Ga., but they never returned for him. He needed treatment for heartworms.
The clinic repaired Jasper’s face, "treated him with antibiotics, and helped him put on 15 much-needed pounds. Now happy and healthy, Jasper has found a new home," said a flier about Jasper. "His face and nose are a bit crooked from his healed injuries, but he has not forgotten how to smile."
Jasper, too, found a new home, this one in a quiet household. It’s those positive outcomes that keep animal assistance specialists like Patricia Prior going. She assisted the Animal Health Center staffers find the boxer a new home.
"Jasper was very important to me because I knew that he would not find a home if he did not get a lot of help," she said. She also knew Jasper’s history and realized that he’d probably never before had a good home.
"I wanted very much to help this 8-year-old dog find his first loving home," she said. "The woman who finally adopted him contacted me a few times. When I get the news that a case has ended well like this one, I always exhale as if I have been holding my breath the whole time, just waiting for a happy outcome."
For Jasper and the others, she said, "I know that I have helped these animals beat terrific odds. The feeling is intense joy, relief and renewed strength. It is what motivates me to go to bat for the next one."
It is no different for specialist Troy Lea. When she received word that Arnie, a tough to adopt Jack Russell terrier, had been adopted, she was more than relieved. The frightened dog while at a shelter had bitten a volunteer when she tried to pick him up, and he faced being killed — that is, until the shelter reached out to Best Friends for training tips to help Arnie past his negative behavior.
His adopter, a Jack Russell-savvy person, connected with him at the shelter and adopted him. When told about his history, Arnie’s adopter responded, "Well, he's a Jack Russell."
"When I get an update like this, I feel happiness, satisfaction and the drive to keep pushing forward for more happy endings," Lea said. "I always feel filled up and kind of recharged. It’s truly what makes everything worthwhile."
Previous happy outcomes are always in the back of her mind, Lea said, as she works a case.
"I think it’s what my entire department strives for," she said. "When it works out, victory is sweet.
"Nothing can compare to being a part of saving a precious life or helping to make that life the best it can be."
Photos of Jasper courtesy of the Animal Health Center and photos of Godzilla and Shakespeare courtesy of Best Friends Los Angeles Programs