Last Monday, I received a Facebook message from the son of a dog owner who wrote, “Please help me I’m desperate. I barely had just under enough for a consultation and no vets would take me. I checked all over the place.” Thankfully, he didn’t wait for my response via Facebook Messenger, he called our Pet Support Space Office, and was able to speak directly with one of our counselors.
4-year-old Phoebe had been hit by a car. Phoebe’s owner and her son were homeless, living in their vehicle when Phoebe accidentally got out of the car. Upon finding her lying on the pavement, the son knew Phoebe was seriously injured. With no money and no support from family or friends who could loan him money, he started reaching out – calling animal hospitals and checking prices. He even started a Facebook fundraiser to try to save Phoebe’s life before finding DDR.
DDR counselor Amanda learned of the severity of Phoebe’s injuries and immediately arranged for Phoebe to be examined by a veterinarian. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Animal Wellness Foundation, we were able to get treatment for her injuries and three days of hospitalization. The total cost for her hospitalization and care was $612. We paid $400 and the Animal Wellness Foundation covered $212.
Upon releasing Phoebe from the animal hospital, it was a difficult decision for all of us to make to let Phoebe return to her family because she still needed continued care, but her family was more than capable of administering medication and keeping a watchful eye over her. My first thought when I listened to Counselor Amanda explain this case was to take control, insist Phoebe go into a foster home while she recovered, or have another round of medical boarding. We worried about the heat and how they would manage. However, trusting that her family loves her and only wants the best for her, we remained open to the plan of her going “home”. But, I wanted to know more. What led them to becoming homeless? Are they looking for housing? Is it fair to put Phoebe back with her family when they are living in a car during this heat wave?
When I work directly or indirectly with a pet owner who is trying so hard to do everything right, and I can see how dedicated they are to their pet, I consciously have to remind myself that the pet owner(s) will allow change when they are ready for change. We can provide resources and options and when they are ready for the change to come into their life, DDR will be there. It’s not my responsibility to fix their problems or to impose my idea of what is best on them, because what I think is best, may not be the best solution.
After Phoebe went back to her family, they truly did the best they could considering the situation they were living in. They realized they needed more help and called our counselor to see what options might be available. Since Phoebe was recovering from internal bleeding, Counselor Amanda and I both felt that Phoebe should be hospitalized again and another 3-4 days of medical boarding would be the best option. Her family agreed and was grateful. So why didn’t we insist that Phoebe stay in the hospital until we decided it was safe for her to go home?
Some of you reading this post might think it was irresponsible of us to send Phoebe home. To that I write, it’s not our call. We cannot control a situation based only on what we feel is best, always reminding ourselves that we are there to assist the pet owner achieve their goals. Working with the medical staff to understand options, knowing that Phoebe’s family is dedicated to her recovery, and love her so much, there are many factors involved in making the “right decision”. Too often I am asked how to “handle” or “deal with” a homeless person who has a pet, as if there is a general response that can solve each unique situation. My reply is “What would you want someone to do for you if you were in that situation with your pet? “ I pray that none of you ever has to experience what it is like to experience homelessness with your pet. For those of you who have, you are an amazing survivor, and I hope you share your story of hope with others.
Thank you to all of you who have emailed me your comments, and encourage us to continue to help pet owners in crisis. #becauseweallneedhelpsometimes