In Honor of Butchie

(Written by Jen Taylor, Executive Director of Pets Alive Westchester)

I don’t typically write many blogs or personal view points. I am fortunate enough to have some of the most amazing animal welfare advocates I have ever met deeply and closely involved with Pets Alive and Pets Alive Westchester and they are an incredible voice for our organization and for the No Kill movement. I am always in awe of our President, Kerry Clair and animal rescuer John Sibley at how well they are able to convey a message, how they are able to create change through their words and how sincere they truly are in each and every post they write.

However there are times in which I feel it is also important to join them. I feel it’s important for our volunteers, our supporters, to feel intimately involved in everything we do. It’s is because of them, of YOU, that we are able to continue rescuing animals, rehabilitating them and helping them all find their forever homes. We are an organization of transparency. We hide nothing, we share everything. While we tend to focus on the positive aspects of our days, our weeks and our years – there are times in which we must also face the difficult, the hard and the unknown sides of animal rescue. The difficult situations are typically the ones that create the most questions, or misunderstanding. While at times it may appear that we (those employed within the organization) do not want to talk about it – I believe it really comes down to not wanting to overwhelm our supporters with the negative or sad things we must deal with. However occasionally it is appropriate to discuss these things openly so that we can all remain on the same page, with the same focus, saving animals. Treating, rehabbing, and rehoming animals.

At times we must face the issue of weighing our options and choosing what is the best course of action or treatment for our elderly, and sickly, population. This weighs very heavily on us as there are always many factors to consider when making treatment decisions.

Firstly we work very closely with both our onsite staff veterinarian and Medical Director in determining diagnoses. For many of the senior’s diagnosis is usually made using basic diagnostic tools, a simple blood panel and the experience and knowledge of our amazing veterinary staff. You can learn a lot about an animal’s medical conditions from a blood panel and it is a fairly inexpensive way to determine if an animal has a terminal condition.

Once we can determine a diagnosis and given approximate prognosis, it is up to us to determine the best treatment course for an animal in our care. For an animal living in a kennel environment the decisions are not always easy or straight forward. We, along with our vets, must determine what is the best course of action that still maintains a good quality of life, and is manageable in a kennel environment.

Chemotherapy, for example, may not be a treatment option that can be utilized it many cases. It is very difficult to provide an area for an animal recovering from chemotherapy/radiation sessions and would require a qualified foster home. But more importantly, besides facility and after care concerns, we must always ask ourselves, what will be that dog’s quality of life for his remaining weeks or months?

Most times we must get creative in how we will enrich that dog’s life. We seek hospice foster homes, we encourage volunteers to spend as much quality time as possible, or we find an alternative to the kennel for that dog so that he can spend as much time getting love and affection, as well as so we can keep our eye on them for any changes in their condition.

It is only after all creativity, ideas and options are exhausted and it is determined that the animal is suffering with no quality of life do we discuss euthanasia. This is never an easy decision and we rely on our veterinarians to provide us with all our options. They are so close to our organization and our animals that we trust our doctors to provide us with the information we need to help us make the best decisions for them. Of course some would argue that we don’t really know if our decision is always right. Well no, of course not. Each and every time there is some level of doubt, or even regret, but that is more often for our own selfish reasons than for what is most kind and most humane. Even amongst the No Kill community you will hear various stands on euthanasia. We all have our own opinions, but what’s most important is that we always remember to act on the information we have available and make decisions based on what is best for that animal. I personally believe that quality of life is, in the end, is what is most important to determine.

And that brings me to my Butchie – a dog that changed my life and to which I will forever be thankful for having the chance to know and love.

Butchie was found as a stray and surrendered to the shelter in 2004 at 6 years old. He was quickly placed in kennel run and forgotten about amongst the hundreds of other dogs already in residence. This was the case for many dogs at this shelter before Pets Alive came here.

Through the years Butchie was seen in medical and treated for various urinary tract infections and other minor ailments. At the age of 13 Butchie began to show more serious medical signs. He was suffering from lameness and a distended abdomen. It was diagnosed as an abdominal early stage tumor and he was placed on indefinite cage rest.

When I first met Butchie he had not been out for a walk in months. As I would walk through to close down each night I found myself overwhelmed at the sheer amount of dogs and would often think to myself “how will I get to know each one? How will I connect to all of these animals?” One of those nights Butchie must have read my mind and he met me at his door whimpering and whining. Begging me to come in. I thought he was suffering in pain. After all he was in such bad shape our previous vet had advised not to allow him out for walks. So I sat with him for over an hour. We snuggled on his Kuranda bed and I wept as he laid his head in my lap. I called my vet tech, Mara, back to work (mind you it was close to 10pm) who did not hesitate and immediately rushed to his aide. When she arrived, along with Lead Dog Caregiver Christian, we quickly determined that Butchie was not crying from pain. But he was crying for my attention – I decided right then and there that he would no longer sit in his kennel all day.

When they told me he hated other dogs, I responded by saying try again. Of course, like so many others classified in the same way here by the previous administration, when we introduced him to the office, he fit right in to the pack.

Suddenly he could walk with a little more strength.
Suddenly you could see glimmer of life in his dark eyes.

Butchie, the dog no one knew and no one saw, was now a staff and volunteer favorite.

He spent his final months as my office dog. Relaxing on his own bed all day and sitting in the sun with his many admirers on the nice days. Just last week Butchie began having several “bad days” in a row. We all feared he was nearing the end and kept a close watch on his every move. When he suffered a stroke and lost all control of his back end we consulted with the vet and made the decision to let him go.

It was, by far, the hardest decision I have ever made.

The entire staff sat with him for nearly an hour. Talked to him. Held him. And we cried. Each and every one of us cried. Writing this now is difficult- the tears have welled up in my eyes and I miss him immensely. Just one old dog. One old dog who spent nearly a decade in a kennel. I wish I had been able to do more for him. I wish he was in a home when he passed – but dwelling on the past will get us nowhere and I owe it to Butchie to honor his life and never give up on finding a home for each and every one of the remaining legacy animals.

So join me in honoring Butchie and every single animal that has passed with us. Let us not waste the lessons they have taught us. Let us thank them for giving us an opportunity to make it right for the nearly 300 animals, their friends, who are still here, still waiting, still full of so much love to give.

We offer a Forever Foster program – you provide the loving home, we provide the medical care – for life. Simply come in and we can match you to any number of our wonderful legacy/senior animals. We promise that what you may lack in length of time will be far outweighed by the sheer amount of love you will receive. If you are unable to adopt or foster please help us in networking them. YOU can make a difference. YOU can be their voice.

I thank you all for supporting who we are and what we do. I thank you for stepping up to help every time we’ve asked for your love and support. It’s time we finish the Elmsford Animal Shelter Mass Rescue – it’s time they ALL go home.

Filed in Tributes by kerry on Jun 21, 2012.  There are 10 Comments

10 Responses to “In Honor of Butchie”

  1. Juliette M Says:

    Indeed, it IS time they ALL go home. You have a good outlook on all of this, Jen, and your blog is well written.
    I hope that with both of our large senior office dogs gone (Butchie to the rainbow bridge, and Sherry to a new adoptive home) that you will fill their office spaces with two more legacy dogs. Many if not all of our legacy dogs would really thrive in the office- it is the closest that some of them will get to a “home”. For some, like “Tony”,it is a soft place to rest a tired old head, and for others, like “Fate”, it is a place to learn love and come out of the shell that the kennel has put on some of them.

    Rest easy, Butchie – you are missed.

  2. Christie Says:

    Beautifully written (I’m crying as I type). Pets Alive is such a model organization, thank you again for your transparency and your ability to share your experiences in a way that helps others understand animal rescue just a little bit more.

  3. don taylor Says:

    very proud to call you my daughter, making a differance in life and the lives of our most innocent of friends, the animals God put here for us to share such an innocent kind love and friendship, its heart and soul warming to read what you wrote. “Remember your soul is the one thing ya cant compromise”. nice job baby daughter

  4. kerry Says:

    You too, my dear friend, are an AMAZING ANIMAL ADVOCATE.
    Love you.
    Love this blog.
    Your care, your compassion, your love shines through – as it does with every interaction you have with an animal.
    Pets Alive was blessed the day we found you.

  5. Karen Palchanes Says:

    As you know I have Lucinda and I had Smokey…..and love my seniors….so happy Butchie had you guys loving on him….but in the future if there is a Butchie that you know his time is near…please contact me and I will take them in….I don’t really have the space for 3….but I would deal so that dogs like Butchie who needed a home because thier time was near had one….I want you to put me on the list for that cause.

  6. kerry Says:

    Karen, there are probably fifty dogs like that at PAW. Probably fifty that won’t survive another year. :( it is why Joy and Jen have worked so hard for them. There are so many that desperately need to get out. We are hopin the blog generates more loving people like you.

  7. Karen Palchanes Says:

    Kerry….when you have one that you know is ailing and really doesn’t have much time call me…Lucinda obviously lied to you guys and is staying strong…so I can’t say waiting for her time to come makes sense….If you have a dog that you “know is in their last weeks please contact me…I will come and get them so they can pass in a home….my vet will come to my apt from here on in and let them be put to sleep in the peace and quiet my quiet farm life.

  8. KarenK Says:

    Bless all of you who do this work. When I look at my 12 year old Pug Raisin, who has never spent 10 minutes in a kennel let alone 10 years, I feel so bad for all the shelter dogs, especially the Seniors.

  9. Westchester Veterinarians Says:

    Oh looks so cute… It was nice reading this blog…

  10. Patty Ricci-Chervin Says:

    Jen, this is indeed beautifully written, open and honest. I only recently became aware of the past history of your shelter. It’s a tough history to fathom but again, that’s the past and we all need to look to the future for all of these animals. I volunteer at CT Humane in Westport and have a co-worker who volunteers at Pets Alive who made me aware of the Forever Foster program. As the mother of 2 seniors I know their needs change, and while their daily routine is simple it’s the world to them, and then come the complications. It’s such a great idea to have this type of program for these gentle souls. They need all the love we can afford. Thanks for fighting the good fight each day. I stand behind you, along with so many. We’ll get there. One day at a time.

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