No Kill column: Open your heart: Bring home a living jewel

February 12, 2013 

On Jan. 10, a petite female German shepherd mix dog was found wandering near Able Elementary School. She was scared and looked hungry, yet was all wags and licks as she surrendered herself to the animal services officer.

Five days later, when no one had come forward to claim her, the young dog became eligible for adoption. She seemed to be a prime candidate, for she looked healthy, had a lovely disposition, was only about 40 pounds and was young, about 1½ years old. It seemed that she might yet get a second chance at a happy forever home.

Unfortunately, the happy ending seemed less likely eight minutes later when her blood was drawn and tested during her health screen.

Opal, as she has come to be named, tested positive for heartworms. This treatable condition is transmitted from the bite of a mosquito. If left untreated, heartworms will find their way into her lungs, veins, liver and her heart, where they will cause severe damage.

The good news for Opal is that the treatment can be very simple. The adult heartworms living in her can be killed with a drug that is injected into her muscles. During the one- to two-month recovery period, her exercise should be limited to leash walks. Thanks to the No Kill Manatee, there is more good news for Opal; the treatment cost can be covered by the medical fund that has been set up for just this type of need.

The bad news for Opal is that Manatee County Animal Services simply does not have the facilities to house heartworm positive dogs. The only

hope for Opal and the other dogs like her is to be adopted and treated or to have the ability to recover in a transitional foster home.

The best news for Opal and her friends, Diamond, Sapphire, Jewel Jill and Ruby Rufus is that we are establishing a program that we hope will save these "living jewels."

In honor of Valentine's Day, we are launching a year-round "Open Your Heart" program to encourage you to adopt our heartworm positive dogs. There will be no adoption fee and the cost of treatment will be covered. If you cannot adopt but wish to transitionally foster one of these dogs, we will provide you with treatment and help you to find homes for them after their recovery while they continue to live with you.

If you can't do either of things but wish to help, please consider donating directly to the No Kill Manatee Fund by coming into either Animal Services location or online by visiting our website.

Open Your Heart and save a life. It will be the best Valentine's Day gift you ever got.

If you are interested in helping Manatee County Animal Services save our heartworm positive dogs, consider becoming a transitional foster parent or adopting one of many dogs that are awaiting treatment.

For more information, visit our website at www.MyManatee.org/pets or call our shelter at 941-742-5933.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Bradenton Herald.

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