Friday, September 2, 2016

Old Problems Need New Solutions

It’s not only that we are seriously failing at raising the funds to cover the inevitable costs of the basic necessities of the large number of shelter cats, like we’ve been doing over and over again every month for ages, but it’s also turned out we have to fix
(strengthen and renovate) the outdoor enclosure as soon as possible! The links of our chain link fence are way too wide to prevent kittens and tiny adult cats from escaping through the wire and the six bottle babies are exactly proving our point, now that they are big
enough to be released into the yard.

Over the last few days that they have been out of the house, they’ve already squeezed through the wire mesh a zillion times and instead of having fun in the yard, they spend their time walking on the top
wire mesh and screaming as loud as they can. Fortunately, they don’t dare to come down, at least for now (good for them) but their new pastime is not perfect either. Needless to say how worried we are about their safety, but it’s senseless to keep them locked
inside the house for another couple of years.

Please donate as much as you possibly can! Without your support we won’t be able to carry on for much longer and the shelter will sadly have to be shut down. After all of these years of
hard work, rescuing and caring, after all the tears and joy, failures and victories, the shelter cats will end up on the street again and will never get another chance. We’re heading towards disaster although we’re fighting to save them with all our might, but
we can’t do much on our own and we’re begging all of you to help us. If not now, then when?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Nothing Is Over Until It’s Over

Sharing bad news and talking about sensitive, difficult topics is never easy and that’s why I’ve been delaying writing this post for as long as I could, but now I feel it's high time to just come clean about what's been happening at the shelter behind the
scenes since December of 2014. However, I need to emphasize that back then no one could possibly foresee how the situation would evolve, nor be able to predict the ultimate outcome.

Danica suffered a significant stroke that
affected the left half of her body and it rendered her immobile and bed ridden at the beginning of December the year before last. As she had always lived alone here with the cats, a couple of us (her helpers and friends) rushed to her aid, not only to help her but
also to keep the shelter going. Doctors were optimistic at that point and we all hoped she would be able to recover enough to take care of the kitties again in a few months, albeit with some help and a worker or two. Unfortunately, that was not the case; she
had spent months in two rehabilitation clinics (one of which is the best in Serbia) to no avail – she made very little, if any progress. Last summer she began talking about going to a nursing home where she would have trained professional staff 24/7, as she was
still bed bound and relied on assistance with almost all of the activities of daily living. After months of what seemed to be an unending struggle with bureaucracy, she finally went into a nursing home where she has skilled nursing, three meals a day, physical therapy
and lifelong care. Since her stroke, let alone her departure, a three digit number of cats and the shelter's existence itself have been left hanging by a thread in midair.

The biggest problem we were facing was that the cats wouldn’t be able to live alone
here just being fed and checked on every day, no matter how independent and self sufficient they might appear. Someone needed to step in and move to the shelter in this little village in the middle of nowhere in order to take care of the cats, but Danica had never made any
arrangements for them in case anything bad happened to her. Long story short, as I’ve been helping Danica for years, running her website, her blog and some of her social media accounts from a distance of 200 km, guess who was supposed to jump in when something goes seriously wrong? So I came here more than a year and a half ago, together with my 13 cats and a pooch (now two of them) but I didn’t come to stay; I really hoped that Danica would recover and I’d be back home by autumn. Wishful thinking… And
a huge mistake.

Anyway, although I wasn’t exactly eager to keep on living here, I never really had much of a choice – if a private animal shelter closes down, the city council is supposed to find some solution and take over the animals. As the city pound in
Subotica has a capacity of 150 animals, and right now only dogs, the Felix kitties wouldn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t stand the thought of them being cast back out into the streets to suffer yet again or being put down. Cat Shelter Felix was registered in
2011 and got a certificate from a veterinary inspection showing that it complies to the new Rulebook of Conditions that animal shelters need to fulfill in 2014, but it doesn’t change a thing. Even though Serbia has a no kill policy, I didn’t even dare to imagine
what would’ve happened to the Felix cats had I not arrived at the shelter when I did.

Danica was certainly doing her best to take care of the cats, but with her health declining, things had been spiraling out of control over quite a long time. Only one cat was tested for FIV and FeLV; many cats that were periodically showing symptoms of some mysterious diseases had never had an accurate diagnosis; the house was a total disaster, with leaking ceilings from which chunks of mortar
were falling, cracked flooring and old wooden windows that couldn’t seal properly. There was a huge pile of rubbish behind the garage; the outdoor fence with the posts that had been deteriorating and crumbling for ages was still standing by pure miracle. And last
but not least, the future of all of the shelter cats was still rather uncertain as this property didn’t belong to Danica but to a friend of hers who could try and get the cats evicted at any given time. Just great.

As always, first things come first - Danica
sold her apartment in Novi Sad and bought this 2200 square meter property together with the house of 130 square meters and the cats’ rooms for 15.000 euros, so the cats were finally safe no matter what. The roof of the house was repaired last summer,
the rotten wooden platforms and boards in the yard were replaced and the new ladders were made. As most of the cats which had been shedding abundantly for months were not able to replenish their fur because of a low quality diet, we began feeding them better
food and the change was more than obvious; in just a couple of weeks’ time the kitties’ fur became shiny and smooth. We paid for around thirty trips with a garbage truck filled with trash (old broken wooden beams and boards, rags, worthless pieces of cloth, empty tins, wet cardboard boxes and so on) that went back and forth to a city dumpster. Around 50 cats have been tested for FIV and FeLV so far and those who are FIV positive – luckily, none of them is FeLV positive - have been receiving interferon
regularly since last year.

Many of the cats that Danica took into the shelter in 2010 when she moved in are quite old and either chronically ill now or in delicate health; the same applies to Etela’s cats which survived the fire that
ravaged her shelter in 2011 and ended up here. Whenever any of them gets sick, the treatment lasts for weeks, the costs are tremendous and despite all of our efforts, they almost never bounce back. Moreover, we’ve taken in at least 20 new cats since last autumn as
apparently no one else living nearby was able to help (they wished they could but they had three or four cats already). Although we’ve been fighting numerous battles at the same time for months and accepting new cats was the last thing we needed, we simply couldn’t turn
our backs on them, pretend they never existed and leave them to their fate. Someone had to save them and that someone is always hard to find - if not us, then who?

This leads me to my next point, our current situation. With Danica
out of the picture and only one friend who lives in Subotica and is worth her weight in gold, I’m stuck at the shelter now with more than 140 cats in total and two dogs. It should probably be mentioned that I still bear the consequences of a serious auto immune disease I had and therefore walk with crutches, but no one should feel pity for me, I’m fine and totally able to take care of myself, my cats and my dogs. What was left of Danica’s money was used for the renovation of two rooms in the house, one of which was
refurbished in April and the other is about to be finished soon, the work is still in progress. The entire house was supposed to be renovated when Danica sold her apartment, but most of the money she had received was spent in the meantime on cat food and vet bills for
the shelter cats. The sad truth is that our monthly costs are an average of around 2.500 euros, but we haven’t raised not even one third of that sum in ages with all the problems that needed to be solved, so we were using our personal savings and all of our income for
as long as we could. Right now we are flat broke, we can’t keep borrowing money from friends and relatives forever (and we’re expected to pay off these debts one day also) so I fear we will soon reach the point of not being able to feed and treat the cats properly if we don’t think of something smart and soon. We are now applying for various grants for shelter improvements, but without some serious help the shelter will not be able to hold on much longer.
If we somehow manage to get the funding we need, we could enlarge the outdoor enclosure for the cats while strengthening the existing chain linked fence (which is a must this summer as it’s barely holding up, after sagging under the weight of snow
year after year) and we would get 30 square meters more. We need fencing with finer mesh that could be added to the existing fence which is already enclosing the shelter as it’s become weaker as time’s gone by and the links are too large to prevent little kittens
and skinnier adults as well from escaping through the wire. It would still leave us with half of this property empty, as the shelter currently occupies less than one half of it and if we succeed in finding enough sponsors sometime in future, we would be able to
build one more outdoor enclosure as big as this one, with at least one large kitty room. Then we’d have enough space to take in dozens of lonely, hopeless and abused strays who would be our temporary residents - we could get them ready for adoption and
they would stay with us until finding well screened forever homes. That being said, I hope the time will come when we’ll be able to replace the outdoor fence which is already threatening to fall on us.

From this point on, we will have to create
monthly fundraisers for covering the costs of cat food and vet care for around 130 shelter cats (I’ll continue supporting my own pets, like I’ve done for years). However, I’m honestly not able to cover the ongoing costs of all the shelter kitties, regardless of how
much I wish I could, so if and when we fail to raise enough funds, the cats will go hungry and without proper vet care. And if the shelter closes down due to the lack of funding, it will be the end for all of its residents. We are doing everything we can to stay afloat, but
we can’t give what we don’t have and we don’t know how to find money where there is none. We’ve fulfilled all of our legal obligations a long time ago, all of the shelter cats are vaccinated, spayed/neutered and the younger ones are microchipped as well, but we have never had any kind of help from the state in the form of Governmental funding to help and improve the conditions for our shelter residents.

Felix shelter, like all of the shelters in the world, relies
entirely on donations, on good will and the generosity of supporters around the world; if we don’t receive enough support, the shelter will cease to exist in the near future. And if we have to beg, cry and plead for help two times a day, so be it. Thank you to all of you
who’ve had enough patience to read this post and a thousand thanks to those who have been diligently supporting our kitties for years now! Without you, there would be no us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Until We Meet Again

Is there any way to write about someone truly special when aching sadness is far too deep and the overwhelming grief too unbearably painful to be poured into words? When all we are capable of thinking about is how wonderful it would be if we could turn back
time? When memories of happy days from the past are valued much more than the sad thoughts of the grim present? When our desperate clinging to hopes and dreams and maybes and what-ifs abruptly ends, leaving us with nothing but insufferable emptiness?

Our sweet boy Ian is gone. After almost a month of his undaunted, stout-hearted struggle for life, his frail little body just couldn’t take it anymore. He was so weak over the last few days that he could
barely lift his head, but his eyes were still clear and sparkling and his bright yellow gaze was telling a different story – he was refusing to be defeated. Even though he was putting an enormous effort into bearing any weight on his back legs while staggering towards a
familiar voice, he was making it clear he wouldn’t give up. He was only a year and a half and just a month ago he seemed to be a cheerful youngster growing into the gorgeous, powerful kitty boy he would’ve become, an amazing, joyous creature without a care in this world, who was making every day count. But we should’ve known by now that life is unfair and way too often, the best die young, like shooting stars, like fleeting glimpses of divine light…
Our striking little guy was around eight months old when he arrived at the shelter in August of 2015. He was most likely born on the street, where he had been living all of his life together with his kitty friends, until all of them were poisoned and he was the only one left
standing. Thanks to some incredible luck, he managed to escape the same fate and became the sole survivor. Even the sheer odds of him staying alive in this place for much longer were slim to none. However, he was obviously born under a lucky star (or at least
he seemed to be lucky at the time) as we were deeply touched by his sad life story and simply couldn’t resist his sweet, unique little face, so we took him in as quickly as we could.

Adored by many, he had been thriving at the shelter until he
suddenly became unwell approximately a month ago; his gate was unsteady and he was oddly limping on both back legs. The thorough vet exam (which included blood work and X-rays) revealed not only that he had a fever of over 40 degrees C, but also had a hairline fracture
of the lumbar spine and an air rifle pellet lodged behind his sternum close to his lungs. We put him in the cage, as he mustn't be allowed to jump until his vertebrae healed completely. He was enduring his imprisonment stoically at first, but a few days
later we were forced to let him out of the cage as he became deeply depressed and rapidly started to shut down. He enjoyed sunbathing in the yard and spending his time amongst the other cats, so that's exactly what he was doing from that point on, although his back legs were still wobbly and he kept tiring easily. We all thought that was it, just an old injury and an unfortunate accident… Regrettably, we couldn’t be more wrong.

As Ian was FIV positive, the vet
supposed the recent injury to his spine was the trigger to the weakening of his immune system and over the next couple of weeks his serious health issues kept on piling up one after the other. It turned out he was also infected with the feline herpes virus, his nose was
blocked, he stopped eating and the parasitic blood infection (haemobartonellosis) he had ultimately led to hepatic encephalopathy. Things were quickly going from bad to worse - he began showing neurological symptoms, his head
was shaking uncontrollably as if he had temporary head tremors, but he was still fighting. He received IV fluids for hours every single day, coming back home completely drained and exhausted and yet he found some inner strength to climb his
most-liked wooden platform to catch the last rays of the setting sun. His bravery and fierce determination were literally leaving us choked up and breathless.

Unfortunately, our sweet boy was dealing with too many serious problems at the same
time and little by little they were taking their toll - he was rapidly getting weaker. At one point I guess we all knew he was losing his battle, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell the vet to put him down. He was a fearless fighter, one of the most amazing furry creatures I have
ever had the honor to meet and it was crystal clear that he should leave only when he was ready, on his own terms. He wasn’t in pain and as long as there was life, there was hope. Swiftly fading, but hope nonetheless.

Sadly, the end had to
come. Ian passed away peacefully at the vet's, but he was barely conscious when he arrived at the ambulance and he probably thought he was still at home surrounded by his friends - in his last moments of being able to see and understand, the place
he knew and loved was the last thing he was looking at. After countless pricks of the needle, weeks of aggressive treatment, days of trying the impossible, the force-feeding and waiting for a miracle, his hard fought battle was finally over.
Godspeed and goodbye for now, my valiant little hero. We’ll meet again one day, never to be parted again. Fly free, my precious darling, I know your wings were ready but my heart was not. No one will ever take your place.

Wait for me, sweetie and let your light shine bright while you soar among the stars. Loving you has been a privilege.