Social networking helps care for mauled feline
July 2, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Social networking is helping Atticus Finch pay some of his emergency medical care bills.
Mr. Finch, as the Muir family of Glenwood Springs calls its 7-year-old cat, was trapped outside his home last Saturday by two neighborhood pit bulls. Anne Muir said she heard the commotion and rushed outside to chase the dogs away.
“If it had been a couple of minutes later, I don’t think he would have survived,” she said.
It was touch-and-go as it was. Muir and her daughters rushed Mr. Finch to Valley Emergency Pet Care in Basalt, a 24-hour emergency room for pets.
The cat suffered major puncture wounds that tore muscles, broke vertebrae and knocked his kidney out of his abdominal wall, according to Scott Dolginow, a veterinarian and owner of Valley Emergency Pet Care. The cat’s spine was intact. The family was concerned about its ability to pay for the extensive medical treatment, but the crew at the clinic took the steps they needed to care for the cat.
“It’s a classic case where we treat the animals whether or not the owners can pay,” Dolginow said. The Basalt clinic “struggles to stay afloat,” but it provides a vital service, he said.
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The effort is worth it, Dolginow said, because families like the Muirs obviously care for their pets.
Kate Muir, Anne’s 20-year-old daughter, hatched a plan Saturday night to raise money to help pay the medical bills. She posted a picture of Mr. Finch being treated at the clinic on an image board on the website 4chan.org along with a comment on his plight. She opened a PayPal account and appealed to people to contribute, even if it was just $1.
It was risky, she said, because people using the website are “notorious for helping or ruining your life.”
Comments from other users are threaded onto the original image. “A lot of people didn’t think my story was true, that I was trying to scam them,” Kate said. Others expressed sympathy for the pet’s plight and pledged contributions.
Greg Sher of Arkansas was browsing 4chan late Saturday night and was “surprised by the seeming sincerity of the OP” or original poster, he said.
“Atticus looked so sad in the picture,” Sher said. “He had an IV sticking out of his paw, and I really felt sorry for him. I have two cats myself, and I would feel terrible if they had been in a similar situation.”
Since many people posting in the thread were accusing Kate of lying, Sher called the clinic himself to investigate. He spoke to Dolginow and was convinced of the authenticity of the story. He originally planned to write a check, but he called back on Monday with a credit card donation of $100.
“Once I found out that the story was true, I began actively challenging other posters to call the vet and find out for themselves,” Sher said. “I continued to bump – post in – the original thread, and when it died off, I started a new one.”
Kate said there were $76 in donations via PayPal and $100 donations from Sher and another contributor.
It’s a start, for which the Muirs are grateful. Dolginow estimated Mr. Finch’s medical bills at $2,500, including labor, as of Thursday night. That included another surgery to make sure internal injuries were healing. The cat is responding to care and “on the way to good health,” Dolginow said.
He has been a veterinarian for 26 years, operator of the emergency clinic for six years and never encountered a case before where strangers responded to a posting on the Internet then called in to check on an animal getting treated. He said the clinic received five to 10 calls about Mr. Finch on Sunday and Monday.
“Some were irritated people who said, ‘Just put the cat to sleep,'” he said.
But the contributors are giving all involved a little better feeling about humankind.
Anne and Kate said they don’t know what they’d do without their cat. Anne said they visited him Thursday night, and he was purring away.
“He’s doing really well,” Kate said. “I think he’s going to make it through this. He was really lucky. He was mauled to two pit bulls.”
Contributions for Mr. Finch’s care can be sent directly to Valley Emergency Pet Care, 180 Fiou Lane, No. 101, Basalt, CO 81621. Make a note that the contribution is for Mr. Finch.