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.