Henry and Copper. Not yet made whole.
We're looking at about $3000 each for their orthopedic surgeries, not counting aftercare.A private donor is covering the remainder of Henry and Copper's surgery costs. (She types through tears...)
When is an animal "rescued?"
The video crews catch the initial gore and horror: The scarred pit bull on his logging chain, the skeletal horse hock-deep in in mud, a hundred cats peering from holes in the wall.
The news footage shows the "rescue" -- trucks and trailers, mountains of crates, live traps and catch-poles and people wearing dust masks and t-shirts with the name of some National Animal Charity in VERY LARGE LETTERS on the back.
They gather up the miserable creatures and make them Go Away. They rescue them.
Maybe, if this show came to a Theater Near You, you might catch a news brief a few weeks later about their former owner's plea bargain, and how she "signed over" all the animals in return for leniency on the charge of cruelty to animals. Whew. That's good. Now the animals are really rescued.
Of course they are. For decades, you will see tiny clips of these same miserable crime victims against New Age background music and a Genyoowine Hollywood Celebruvoiceover.
Today I saw a seven-year-old picture of some of these dogs on my teevee while Nina from Just Shoot Me told me to send $19 a month to the National Animal Charity -- in this case, the HSUS -- to rescue them.
Where are the after pictures?
The shining horse carrying her rider down the trail. The sleek pit bull lolling on the sofa cushions. Smug moggies sunning on the windowsill.
In many cases, the after pictures would be problematic fundraising, because they look like this.
Or in the case of horses, even this.
It wasn't the man or woman trying to plea bargain on charges of cruelty who killed them.
It was the "rescuers" who determined that all seized pibbles are "fighters" and all "fighters" are irredeemable. That hoarded cats, once extracted from the drywall, are expensive to vet and time-consuming to tame. That seized horses are expensive to keep and can be quickly unloaded at auction.
But more and more, animals that are seized are getting an opportunity to live and to heal.
It may take months of patient training before a puppymill survivor can stand upright on a leash or work up the nerve to take some chicken from a human hand.
Untold hours in the round pen -- and hay, wormer, and the farrier on speed-dial -- to make a neglected horse into something other than a Frenchman's sandwich.
The cats will need to be treated for URIs, say goodbye to their gonads, and, if an implacable volunteer with a lap and a feather wand can't convince them that the Good Life lies in an easy chair, they'll need to find productive employment as barn cats.
The humans who accomplish these transformations are not the employees of the National Animal Charity.
In addition to the time -- volunteer time, unpaid time, time gifted for love -- this all takes money.
Money for food, money to transport, money for kennel runs and fencing, and, frequently, lots and lots of money for veterinary care. Sometimes, specialist surgery.
Like this girl.
While the HSUS was sending her pictures around as part of a scheme to raise a million bux this month, Fay was having her first surgery to fix her amputated lips.
Brilliant! The HSUS is taking care of Fay! They have the ability to raise beaucoups bux and pay the surgeon. Then, when she's all fixed up, they'll find her a home.
Or ... not.
True, the HSUS was part of the drama when Fay was seized. They will waste no opportunity to tell us so.
They never owned Fay.
They never had custody of Fay.
They never fed Fay.
They spelled Fay's name wrong.
The warm bed in the safe place is being provided by Gale.
Gale, like virtually everyone who works "for" or runs a Small Local Animal Charity or Small Focused Animal Charity (such as a breed or disability-focused rescue), is a volunteer.
If my experience with NESR is representative -- and I believe it is -- there is no "fundraising budget." We use our websites and email lists to ask for support. Volunteers work the phones and sweet-talk corporations for donations that represent peanuts to them, jackpot to us when it comes through. We scrounge supplies on Craig's list. Foster families feed the beasties.
If the HSUS persuades good-hearted animal lovers to send them a million dollars this month -- 1% of their 2008 revenues -- perhaps $300,000 will be available for "program costs." Including their employee's salaries, office space, vehicles ...
The rest will pay for Nina van Horn to tell us on the teevee to send more moneyz.
Meanwhile, Gale and her fellow volunteers scrape and beg to get together the vet fees for Fay's multiple surgeries.
But I already sent money to the Humane Society for that dog! They sent me an email! Who are these people asking for more!
They are the ones still rescuing Fay.
She's not rescued when the bolt cutters sever her chain.
She's not rescued when the video camera is packed up and the van drives away.
She's not rescued when the man who cut her lips off signs her over, nor when he is sentenced for his crime. Indeed, that has historically been when she is most likely to be killed by her custodians.
She's not rescued when she puts the first tentative foot onto a cushion by the hearth of a foster family's den.
She is not rescued when the surgeon pulls the last stitch.
She's rescued when she has been made as whole in body and mind as can be done, and she's living a life as a normal dog. Not an object of pity, not a poster girl for anything, not a project -- just somebody's dog.
The hard work of rescue takes months, years. It has nothing to do with catch-poles or t-shirts with VERY LARGE LETTERS displayed for the cameras.
Of course, the punch line to Fay's story is that the HSUS was caught with its pants down and its pecker in the apple pie.
Confronted by bloggers here and here and on Twitter and Facebook, the National Animal Charity now claims that it will be sending money to pay for Fay's surgeries -- the ones it claimed were already done on its fundraising video. Five thousand dollars -- which is not the full amount needed. Chump change to the HSUS -- and the largest line item in the budget of almost any local or focused volunteer rescue.
Fay's foster human will believe it when she sees it.
Meanwhile, the HSUS probably brought in $5000 within five minutes of sending that email. And continues to rake it in.
Fay will reap some benefit from the HSUS's most recent experience with the mousetrap in the cookie jar. She's fortunate to carry visually stunning evidence of physical abuse, fortunate that she became the poster pit for a cynical money-pitch, fortunate that they got caught in a lie that was specifically and concretely about her.
What about the others?
The other dogs from the Missouri fight bust -- dogs whose needs may be less visually apparent, less dramatic. This one needs a dental, that one is hypothyroid. All these need to be spayed. This guy needs to see a chiropractor to do something about the damage that logging chain did to his neck. This one really needs to see a professional trainer.* All these need to be tested for heartworm and treated for coccidia. This is the hard work of rescue, as well as the expensive part.
Thousand dollar vet bill here, fifteen hundred there ... pretty soon you are talking real money. The three bux profit you got from selling each Studmuffins of Rescue '09 calendar doesn't go nearly as far as you thought it might.
And so on.
We think it's great that the HSUS is now thinking in terms of survivors, rather than proclaiming each animal "rescued" when the bolt cutters come out and then advocating that they be summarily executed for the crime of having been a victim.
We'll believe they mean it when the money starts flowing. Sure, it's likely that Fay's rescuer will see the $5000 -- such a pittance from the hundred-million-dollar budget when you've been caught in the lie, it's cheaper to cut the check than to dodge the truth.
* Why is it that it is assumed that veterinarians who provide care to animals owned by nonprofit rescue groups will be paid for their services -- while those who make their modest living as trainers are expected to always work pro bono? Because we love animals and shouldn't ever take any money for our time and expertise. Unlike a vet, who is a professional.
I'm not in any way dissatisfied with my professional decision to provide pro bono services for NESR -- it has been my choice, and I believe that all professionals should donate services to some worthy cause of their choice.
But you know, a trainer's mortgage payment is not pro bono.