My name is Rachel Backer and I am the Shelter Manager at Willamette Humane Society.
When I started my role here, I don’t think I could have imagined how it could touch me so deep in my core, in places of my heart unreachable by anything else.
This field is filled with wonderful people, amazing animals, breathtaking volunteers and just the most amazing community. Sometimes you’ll see a post of mine on Facebook where I’ll humbly ask for donations of much needed wet food, or smocks, or random things we need in the shelter, and I am blown away by the response EVERY SINGLE TIME.
We rejoice in every adoption, from the ones who leave within hours of arriving, as well as any time we have one of those animals we have worked so hard for, for so long, and they find the PERFECT HOME.
But then there are the hard things. The ones that we spend a lot of heart wrenching time and resources to rehabilitate, only to find that they aren’t “fixable”. Their hurts can’t be healed, but we can still help them even if they can’t be fixed like new.
Tatertot came in as a stray on September 21st, found by a Good Samaritan, meowing alone in the Fred Meyer parking lot, and if I’m honest, she messed my heart up pretty good. In her ten years of life, who knows how long she had been living outside, without love and attention and someone to snuggle her? And boy, was she a LOVE. She would HUG you, quite literally. If you held her against your chest, she would place an arm on either shoulder and bury her head into your neck, purring so loudly that it shook your soul. Needless to say, I fell in LOVE.
We searched, as we always do, for an owner. We posted pictures and searched online databases on Facebook and our website, but no one called, and no one came in to claim her. She had no family.
Upon intake she was dehydrated, underweight and covered in fleas, so we arranged for our shelter veterinarian to do a whole body check, from head to tail.
After being seen by the shelter vet, it was determined that she had a few conditions that left her prognosis unknown. We didn’t know how much life she had left, but for now she was comfortable, which was all we could ask for.
I looked at her prognosis on my desk for what felt like hours, staring at what was written by the vet. Tatertot’s future could be summed up in five words: Hospice Adoption with Medical Disclosure.
I knew what the odds were. A healthy senior cat often stays here longer than cats under a year old by over 33%, not to mention one with special needs. Who knows how long she would wait for a home? A “geriatric” cat with medical issues that would warrant her a hospice adoption?
I’d been doing this long enough to know that anyone could easily look into the next kennel and see a younger, vibrant feline that wasn’t on an unknown timeline. It was a tall order to ask someone to give this precious kitty a forever home knowing that “forever” could be very short, or to ask an adopter to fall in love with this love bug, knowing they could soon say goodbye without even a promised estimate of time.
It was a tall order, but we had to try.
On October 1st at 5:30 pm, I placed Tatertot in a kennel on our adoption floor with a waived adoption fee, a sign reading “hospice adoption,” and an explanation so as not to have anyone fall in love unrealistically.
Around 3:00 pm the next day, staff members burst into my office exclaiming “TATERTOT IS GETTING ADOPTED!” and I just lost it; the tears fell from my eyes all over my desk. I went out, got her, and just held her close, letting her hug me, and hugging her back, until it was time to go.
By 4:00 pm on October 2nd, Tatertot was in a home. with a family. LOVED.
THIS is what your support does. THIS is why we do what we do.
Your support not only gives the cute, fluffy kittens and the sweet, bouncy little puppies homes, it serves the Tatertots of our community. Your support serves the old, precious strays who have never known the warmth of a fireplace, the love of a family, or the satisfaction of a warm meal. Your support serves the senior surrenders who lost their family to unknown or difficult circumstances, so they can experience love and feel complete once again. Your support serves the young and bright animals with previously un-diagnosed and untreated medical conditions. Your support serves the animals so terrified of the world around them that they need an extra loving foster home to shelter and socialize them before adoption. Your support helps welcome them all and enables us to do all we can to take care of them. Every animal who comes through the shelter has a story, and your support gives them their happy ending. That’s the vision for The Next 50 Years at Willamette Humane Society, and you make it happen.
I hoped that sharing this story would tell you at least 3 things:
- If you are able, come in and take a gander at some of our “unique” cats and dogs, the ones with special medical needs, allergies, or that are older, or that are FIV+, or that are missing a limb or an eye, or have a few extra toes. These ladies and gentlemen are still loving and eager to give affection; they are looking for their forever homes, and sometimes it’s the first one they will ever have.
- If you’ve adopted from us, young, old, regardless of circumstance, I can’t tell you what it means to us to read these happy tails. Many times we fall in LOVE with an animal that we simply can’t adopt ourselves and we never hear about them again, and while we are SO happy and SO proud to do what we do, we let a little piece of our hearts go with every adoption of one of our animals.
- THANK YOU. We couldn’t do ANY of this without you. Your donations, your adoptions, your volunteering, your dedication to us, allows us to diagnose animals like Tatertot as well as offer treatments within our scope of possibilities. Your gifts allow us to pay for x-rays and ultrasounds at other clinics (we don’t have those machines here), send blood-work to the lab (or in the case of Project Health, purchase our very own blood machine to assist us in diagnostics), perform spays and neuters to each animal we adopt, treat skin diseases and allergies and abscesses (oh my!). Your generosities allow us to find special medical accessories for animals who need them (like Opie and his brace) and allow us to cover all of the medical expenses of animals with serious injuries (like Tony Bologna, a pup in foster with a broken pelvis that we have been treating since this past summer). It enables us to care for animals like Tatertot and Whizzard, a dog we cared for until his forever human adopted him, who was also a hospice adoption. He was able to spend his last five months in a home, LOVED. Your kindness, your selflessness, allows us to help these animals knowing we won’t make nearly the return on the dollar; they allow us to treat these treatable illnesses without going under as an organization. A “Geriatric” cat comes with an adoption fee of $20.00, normally, when often times we invest more just on the medical alone including vaccines, treatments, prescription medications and foods, antibiotics, dental exams and procedures, diagnostics, etc. In our first quarter of our fiscal year, from July 1st to September 30th, we took in 1300 animals and over 800 of those were categorized as treatable, manageable or rehabilitatable, meaning they needed treatment for an illness, injury or affliction of some kind before they could be considered “Healthy”, ranging from flea infestation to allergies to broken bones or upper respiratory infections.
Simply put, what YOU do enables us to do what WE do, and we never forget that.
We are humbled by your generosity and your support, and the gifts you give that enable Tatertot and those like her to get her to potentially her first (and last) forever home. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.Make a Gift
I wanted to share this update we received from Tatertot’s humans, Olivia and Isaac. It means everything to us.
When we arrived at the Humane Society early this month, we didn't plan on coming home with a new kitty. My boyfriend and I already had a 16 year old Golden Retriever and a 14 year old American Bobtail. However, while visiting the cat room there was one kitty who caught my eye, Tatertot. She seemed so friendly and had an adorable face so when a volunteer offered for us to go to a visitation room I couldn't say no. Tatertot had won me over; the only catch was she was very sick. Tatertot was a hospice adoption because there were multiple masses in her abdomen. At that point I'd already fallen in love so I still took her home and promptly to the vet. My veterinarian said that along with the masses, Tatertot had a heart murmur which makes it very difficult to predict when she might pass away. Despite all this Tatertot is happy as a clam and so are we. The other animals act as if they've been siblings all along, and I've never met a kitty who likes to cuddle more than Tatertot. One of her favorite activities is headbutting and purring. In the morning, I'm awakened to two meowing kitties on either side of me, begging for breakfast, and it's so cute I can't be mad. She has also created a very close bond to my Golden Retriever; they will sleep on the same bed, drink out of the bowl at the same time, and they have even begun taking leashed walks together! I feel so lucky that my boyfriend and I were there to find Tatertot and welcome her into our family. She is treated like an absolute princess and knows that she's finally at home. We look forward to spending many more years with Tatertot.Adopters Olivia & Isaac
Rachel enjoys connecting with customers, hearing their stories and happy tails, getting to know the members of our community, both 4 legged and otherwise, and posting to Willamette Humane Society's social media pages, sharing stories of the good stuff happening here.
When she isn't at work, Rachel spends her time covered in cat fur with her 4 (almost 5) kids, 3 cats, 1 dog, darling husband and a partridge in a pear tree.