Fairy Tail Endings, Inc. is dedicated to helping financially struggling families in Florida's Sarasota & Manatee counties keep their pets and provide proper care through financial aid, product and service donations, education and outreach. A grant from Grey Muzzle helps support their 'Road to Recovery Project' by funding the cost of veterinary care for senior dogs in the program. Contributor Rhys Miller is Founder and President of Fairy Tail Endings.
At Fairy Tail Endings, Inc., our mission is to keep wanted pets healthy, happy and home with the families that love them. One of our fundamental beliefs is pets are family. Pets have meaningful bonds with their owners and other pets in the family that should be preserved whenever possible. Although adoption programs provide a wonderful service for displaced pets, the most rewarding scenario is finding ways to help people keep their cherished companions instead of having to relinquish them in the first place.While it’s easy to think you would never give up or neglect your pet, what if they needed care you couldn’t afford? While managing the animal care department of our local humane society at the height of the recession, I became acutely aware that this was the dilemma so many of our friends and neighbors now faced. Low-income pet owners already struggling to afford routine veterinary care, often feel forced to choose between surrender, euthanasia and neglect when faced with additional financial hardships or the escalating costs associated with senior and special needs pets. Diagnostics, prescription diets, maintenance medications and surgeries can quickly add up to a cost that is unmanageable for even the most dedicated low-income owners. Even preventable and relatively routine medical issues such as skin and urinary issues can suddenly become unmanageable and lead to the heartbreaking decision to surrender a beloved pet.
Every day I was met with pleas from tearful pet owners desperately trying to get help. They were arriving at the realization that surrender may be their pet’s only chance at health and they were willing to suffer a deep loss if it meant their furry family member would get needed veterinary treatment. I knew the adoption statistics for pets with extensive or chronic medical conditions could be grim and felt helpless with the lack of resources available for them so I decided to do something about it.
I founded Fairy Tail Endings in 2010, committed to the vision that no family in our community will feel forced to surrender, euthanize or neglect their beloved pet simply because of personal finances. We fund all levels of veterinary care with an emphasis on the treatment of health issues that have a good prognosis but often precipitate the decision to surrender or euthanize wanted pets. In our first 4 years, Fairy Tail Endings, Inc. has provided over $150,000 in direct veterinary care assistance to over 450 pets, keeping hundreds of families from experiencing the devastating loss of their best friend simply because of a financial hardship. Together our veterinary partners have donated over $121,000 in services towards these pets because they believe deeply in our mission and ability to affect positive change in our community. These relationships allow us to reach many more pets and families in need. In 2014, 34% of the pets we served were senior dogs age 7 or older…dogs that would be considered less adoptable because of their age and health issues.
Although pets are our primary beneficiaries, Fairy Tail Endings serves people through the care of their cherished companion animals, bridging social service and animal welfare priorities in a unique way for our community. Fairy Tail Endings believes in people and maybe more importantly, believes in people when no one else does. Life is tough enough without losing the wagging tail that greets you at the door after a long day at work, or the gentle rhythmic sound of a purr that reassures you that love is the most important thing in life, no matter what other chaos is ensuing. At our lowest points in life, the love from our pets may be the one thing that keeps us going. Fairy Tail Endings cherishes that bond. It's the whole reason we exist. We are an “animal” group, but we are a people group too because in a very tangible way, saving pets, saves people.Our pets love and accept us unconditionally. We all know that pet companionship provides valuable physical, psychological and social benefits and actually improves our health and outlook on life. These therapeutic benefits are often especially significant in vulnerable populations such as seniors, the disabled, homebound and persons affected by HIV/AIDS. Gregg, a disabled diabetic, insisted that his rescued pug, Otto, was his “little angel.” Not only did Otto alert him with a soft bark when his blood sugar was very low, but his fighting spirit “teaches me every day that you have to work through the problems and don’t get discouraged.” When Otto suffered a severe skin allergy and secondary infection, Gregg sought advice from dog lovers online and tried to manage it through diet and over the counter medications. He felt hopeless when these measures failed.
Gregg put pride aside and reached out to Fairy Tail Endings for help. We were able to fund an exam, blood work and treatment of his skin condition and underlying thyroid issue, keeping Otto comfortable and home with the dad he already loved.
Historically, the majority of our applicants found us through their own research and veterinarian or shelter referrals. More and more we have been approached by human service organizations trying to help their clients maintain bonds with their pets even in the face of serious illness and other challenges. Extensive efforts focus on bringing visiting pets into institutions such as nursing homes for pet therapy programs, yet few organized programs provide support for pet-keeping to these populations who live independently. In response, we created our Road to Recovery Project, a collaborative effort between Fairy Tail Endings, Vets to YOU!, Parkway Animal Hospital, Vet Care Express and select human service agencies to identify special-needs pet owners and administer program services. Fairy Tail Endings provides funding for the cost of vet care, grooming, transportation to veterinary appointments and pet food, removing the biggest obstacles vulnerable pet owners face in accessing needed pet care.Luz, a senior living alone in HUD section 8 housing, struggled to afford rent on her social security income. Her 16-year-old dachshund, Baby, was her best friend and only companion. When Baby stopped eating and became lethargic, she was despondent with worry. Her apartment community’s client services representative reached out to us for help. A veterinary exam revealed that Baby had serious dental disease and desperately needed 9 teeth extracted. The retail cost would have exceeded $1,200 but our partner generously provided the surgery and blood work at a huge discount to us. Six months later, Baby was “running around as a puppy again," keeping her momma’s spirits bright.
Last summer we expanded our outreach to include clients of Trinity Charities Inc. Inc., a nonprofit providing support services for those infected by HIV/AIDS or in temporary crisis. One of Trinity Charities’ board members reached out to us when they realized how many of their clients were sharing their meals with their pets because they couldn't afford to buy pet food. Food choices such as tuna and rice are often based on what can be shared with their pet rather than what is healthiest for them or their own nutritional needs. Although immune-compromised people are often urged to relinquish their animal companions due to concerns about disease transmission, giving up their beloved friends may have a detrimental, rather than beneficial effect on their overall health.
Our first Trinity Charities client was a bed-ridden/wheelchair-bound gentleman named Bob. His 9-year-old Chihuahua mix, Ginger, is “the light of his life.” She even makes a cameo on his answering machine message. In order to continue living with Bob at his assisted living facility, she was required to have an annual exam and updates on all of her vaccines, which Bob was struggling to afford or access. With the help of all of our partners, Fairy Tail Endings provided the necessary care as well as flea and heartworm prevention and a dental surgery to keep Ginger healthy so she can continue to provide emotional support to Bob. Providing pet assistance for vulnerable populations helps maintain important family bonds, removes a source of daily stress, and contributes to their overall health and wellness. Our outreach initiative has already provided monthly pet food disbursements to 136 pets and veterinary care for over 60 pets but we still have a waiting list of over 30 pets through this program alone.
While donating to shelters is a wonderful and worthy option, donating to organizations such as Fairy Tail Endings that address the root causes of pet surrender and keep pets in their loving homes reduces the number of displaced pets, and does a service to the owner, the pet and our already overburdened shelter system. You can have an incredible impact on animal welfare when you support organizations that honor the bonds between people and their furry family members and help pets BEFORE they get to a point of crisis!
To learn more about Fairy Tail Endings, Inc., visit www.fairytailendings.org.
For information about all of the wonderful organizations that Grey Muzzle supports, see Who We Help.
The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide.