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Cinderella Fund: Charming’s story

Posted on Friday, October 30, 2020
Charming (left) enjoys a day out with his foster Ashley Freeman and her two dogs, Bronx and Lexington.

A fairytale ending is what we want for each and every one of the pets who enter our doors. Whether they’re transferred from a municipal shelter or surrendered by an owner, the staff of the Richmond SPCA work tirelessly and passionately to give every pet in our care a life they deserve. Thanks to our Cinderella Fund, our shelter pet veterinary team treated and rehabilitated more than 2,900 sick, injured and neonatal pets last year. Our goal is always to restore them to health before finding them lasting, loving homes, but on occasion we also care for pets whose illnesses are beyond treatment. One such pet is a 5-year-old dog who we named Charming.

On a hot August day, Jenn Walters, coordinator of surrenders at the Richmond SPCA, met with a kind woman who had found a sad, hairless dog running through her neighborhood.

“The Good Samaritan who surrendered him to us had found him running loose as a stray. She had him for three weeks and intended on keeping him, but his skin condition worsened, and she did not have the funds to further treat him. He was gentle and very calm during our intake exam, but we we could tell his skin hurt. He would flinch when we touched him in certain places.”

Charming had complete alopecia and a severe case of conjunctivitis. Our admissions team assumed his hair loss was caused by severe allergies or ringworm, but a dermatophyte test, biopsies and endocrine testing produced no clear diagnosis.

With no conclusive answer as to the cause of Charming’s severe dermatitis and hair loss, our shelter veterinary team enlisted the help of Dr. Edward K. Martin of Richmond Veterinary Ultrasound Services for further evaluation and testing. Dr. Martin performed an abdominal ultrasound and sadly found a tumor on his spleen that had metastasized throughout Charming’s abdomen. Testing also revealed that his alopecia was caused by a rare condition in which disease of the liver leads to the degradation of skin cells. 

Our veterinary team determined that Charming’s prognosis was bleak and that medical efforts should be focused on keeping him comfortable and happy for the rest of his days. Richmond SPCA Associate Veterinarian Dr. David Molinas has been working with Charming and developed his palliative care plan.

“We choose to enter an animal into hospice care when we diagnose a terminal condition and believe their lifespan will be dramatically shortened, but also feel that their current quality of life is good and euthanasia is not yet appropriate,” said Dr. Molinas.

Dr. Molinas placed Charming on a steroid regimen to slow the growth of the tumors that have metastasized throughout his belly. He is also taking apoquel, an allergy medication, that relieves the terrible itching that had left his skin so inflamed.

Luckily, we have some amazing staff members who are not only devoted to our mission in their working hours but are also amazing fosters, giving temporary refuge to pets in their own homes. Ashley Freeman, a veterinary assistant who works on the public surgery team at our Susan M. Markel Veterinary Hospital, inquired about taking Charming home as a foster hospice. Ashley is an ardent animal lover and has adopted four pets from the Richmond SPCA including a 15-year-old geriatric dog named Jasmine who lived several comfortable months in Ashley’s loving care before she was laid to rest.

“Charming soon went from a scared timid boy unsure of everything and everyone, to an adventurous pittie who loves nothing more than to be outside zooming, chasing tennis balls and tirelessly hiking,” said Ashley. “Charming never misses an opportunity to give welcome wiggles or kisses anytime his human or his sisters, Bronx and Lexington, enter the room or snuggle up really close. Charming quickly made himself a part of our family and forever made a lasting impact.”

We are eternally grateful to our foster care providers who open their hearts and homes to our pets, especially when they are in need of medical care. Dedicated Blue Team volunteer and foster care provider Janene Charbeneau has fostered several cats who were in need of palliative care and describes the bittersweet nature of fostering hospice care cats.

“I am honored and humbled to be with cats at the end of their lives,” Janene said. “There is something life affirming to hold a cat or look into their eyes as they pass to the other side. To know that I gave them love and a safe place during the last weeks or months of their lives is so gratifying.”

Our community’s support of the Cinderella Fund allows us to give sick and injured pets the best diagnostic tools and veterinary care to relieve their suffering. By giving to our Cinderella Fund, your dollars reach 82% of the 3,600 animals in our care each year who arrive in need of lifesaving veterinary treatment.

Help dogs like Charming by supporting our Cinderella Fund

All proceeds raised through our 22nd Annual Fur Ball, presented by Dominion Energy, help sick, injured and neonatal animals by fueling our Cinderella Fund. Join the four-legged fun and help pets in need!

Anne Goddard Rand is the communications specialist at the Richmond SPCA. Prior to working for the Richmond SPCA, she worked in the wildlife conservation field with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the National Wildlife Federation.

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