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2010-03-31 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“TNR Day” looked like a feline episode of the M*A*S*H television show. Hawkeye and Trapper weren’t there, but a heap of Have-A-Heart traps was. On Sunday March 21st during Last Hope Animal Rescue’s latest free feral Trap/ Neuter /Return (TNR) clinic at Dix Hills Animal Hospital, 103 cats were spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped and treated for parasites. It was a long 12 hour day, yet well worth the effort because now none of these cats, or their prevented progeny, will ever reproduce.

Special thanks to Dr. Allison Rhein, owner of Dix Hills Animal Hospital, and her associate Dr. Suzanne Ravitz for hosting the feline invasion, and to local vets- Dr. Laura Gay Senk, Dr. Kevin Cummins, Dr. Diana Larmore, Dr. Deborah Lupo-Lyons, the hosts, vet techs and volunteers for giving their time and expertise.

All services were free to the public. Sorry, I couldn’t tell you in advance. The word spreads through the catty grapevine, filling all slots, as soon as the free clinics are posted. Last Hope always overbooks (this time taking 120 appointments) because actual animal attendance is dependent on many factors- the weather, the skill and determination of the humane trappers, and the hunger and whim of the intended cat patients that may or may not enter the baited trap.

Recovering kitty rests on hot water glove. Recovering kitty rests on hot water glove. A huge amount of planning and expense goes into these events. Since 2007, Last Hope has held six free feral clinics at various locations. Typically 75% of the appointments show, but February’s cat count at a similar clinic held with Hempstead Shelter (only for Town residents) brought in a disappointing 50 cats out of the over 100 promised even though there was no snowstorm that weekend. Closed Wantagh Bide- A-Wee next door to the shelter lent its hospital for the clinic. There were also two mobile vet hospitals waiting in the parking lot. So many doctors, so much surgical space, so few cats.

Since it was a shame to have many vets and vet techs ready and willing to help, this time Dr. Senk offered a great suggestion. Each person on the list got a phone reminder a few days before. Sometimes caretakers, who were allowed up to five cats each, are over ambitious. Cancellations were filled with a stand by list. Thecalls worked. Getting 103 out of 120 scheduled cats was a whopping 86% turn-out.

Despite planning, there are unknowns that slow the momentum, especially the male/female breakdown of the arrivals. Since ferals are not touchable, the sex of many (except the calicos) remains undetermined until they are anesthetized. As luck would have it, three quarters of the 103 were female. Spays are much more time consuming than neuters. A vet can do five male neuters in the time it takes to perform one spay. Females also require more surgical instruments which makes for more sterilization and autoclaving. Thisalso takes more time, especially with a limited number of surgical packs. In addition, once returned to rescuers, females require a longer post-op holding time before they can be released back to their colonies.

Just like the doctors on M*A*S*H, the volunteer vets are flexible. Their surgical area may not be spacious or equipped with their preferential suture, but they make do. When Dr. Suzanne Ravitz creatively set up an extra make shift operating table in a hallway and vented the anesthesia via a bathroom window, every human improvised by using the Wendy’s restrooms down the street.

Mass TNR days are conducted in stations, almost assembly line style. Tagging is done in duplicate so that once a cat is out of a tagged trap; a matching tag is tied to his paw while he is in recovery. A checklist of medical services completed is marked on the tag. Blankets and towels are not identifying cage markers because so much shifting is going on. Such care goes into putting the right groggy cat back into the right trap or carrier.

Ferals aren’t happy campers. They have no idea that this ordeal is for their own good, so when awake, they rarely cooperate. At the first clinic a cat got lose in a hospital van. The vet had to take his dashboard apart so another vet could grab her. Yes, the volunteer vets go with the flow.

Last Hope’s next free TNR day, open to the public, will probably be in the fall. Keep checking www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org for updates. In the meantime, Last Hope’s Fix-A-Feral program which subsidizes fees at select vets is in effect. You can learn how to get these discount certificates at the same website. Since 2003, Fix-AFeral has assisted in spaying/ neutering at least 8,000 Long Island cats.

Radio Days: This Thursday, April 1st at 7 pm I will be a call in guest on the “My Buddy Butch” online radio talk show, broadcast from Ohio. Theweekly show (www.mybuddybutch.com), bringing updates on pet, vet and rescue news, is co-hosted by author Jeff Marginean and his loquacious Boston Terrier, Butch. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff at the last two Westminster Dog Shows. We will be discussing the “Pets” column and purebred rescue; but, wait, might there be a reason Jeff scheduled me for April Fools’ Day? Tune in online to find out. If you miss the live show, it will archive on the MBB website.

Featuring a Special Shepherd Trio for Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Each is 2 -3 years old, each with a particularly sad story to tell- “Fanny” in Cage 27, was dragged into the shelter by an owner whose other dogs kept attacking her. She is terrified in the kennel but extremely loving and still likes to be around other dogs. “Smokey” in Cage 47, a slightly Border Collie/ Shep mix, was part of an eviction along with seven cats. She has just settled down in her cage, and is used to kids, while taller “Sangye” in Cage 14 lost his home when his owner died suddenly. “Sangye” knows the Sit, Down, and Crawl commands. He likes other dogs.

Male Dogs: “Wilson” delightful small Lab Cage 1; “Buddy” obedient brindle Pit Cage 16; Toy Spaniel/ Papillon; small Bichon/Poodle; “Duke” Rottweiler in Cage 17.

Female Cats: “Missy” the greeter in the lobby; “Ginger” in C-1 a 7 month old kitten who can retrieve specifically named toys. Her former owner was in a serious accident.

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