Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Jul 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

A Second Chance for Pets

news3The BirchBark Foundation provides a lifeline for pets whose owners are unable to pay vet bills

Yrelda Rodriguez’s 2-year-old Shih Tzu, Lacie, has come to feel more like a family member than a pet, especially after a doctor told Rodriguez she was incapable of having children.

But when Lacie was run over by a reckless driver, Rodgriguez—an agricultural worker who lives near Soledad—was faced with a terrible choice: come up with money she didn’t have for surgery, or put Lacie to sleep. “I was horrified,” Rodriguez says.

Her situation is not unique.

In her 14 years as a Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist in Capitola, Dr. Merrianne Burtch says she’s seen the same story play out time and time again—pet owners who love their pets deeply but don’t have the financial means to cope with an accident when it occurs.

Veterinary bills can easily run into the thousands of dollars—a cost that can be devastating for those who live paycheck to paycheck. And, unlike hospitals for humans, animal hospitals generally require payment up front before treatment can proceed.

To address this, Burtch launched The BirchBark Foundation in February. The Santa Cruz-based nonprofit provides resources to pet owners with limited financial means that can often mean the difference between life and death.

“There are many people who talk to me about selling things or not paying their mortgage to pay for their pet because of how precious they are to their daily well-being,” says Burtch, BirchBark’s founder and director. “Those are the people we’re trying to help.”

Rodriguez found out about BirchBark from a secretary at the animal hospital she’d taken Lacie to, and later that day she was able to get the assistance she needed to pay for Lacie’s surgery. Months later, Rodriguez says Lacie has made a full recovery.

“Now you look at her and you can’t even tell she was smashed by a car,” Rodriguez says. “If BirchBark hadn’t been there … I don’t know what would’ve happened.”  

Since it began accepting applications for grants six months ago, the BirchBark Foundation has helped 14 other pet owners on the Central Coast.

The organization works from two different angles to provide assistance. By making arrangements with local animal hospitals, it’s able to reduce the cost of a given procedure by about 25 percent. Then, with money raised through donations, BirchBark pays for 50 percent of the operation—requiring pet owners to put up only 25 percent of the cost. Procedures BirchBark has helped with ranged from $1,300 to $6,500.

The idea came to Burtch four years ago, but began to take shape last year when she turned to her friend and client Bunny Tavares to help realize her vision.

Tavares, an independent marketing and media consultant, is no stranger to love and loss when it comes to pets. Since she met Burtch more than 12 years ago, she’s lost both a dog and a cat to cancer.

After committing herself to the BirchBark Foundation, Tavares worked tirelessly with Burtch for a year doing research and raising the initial donations. Now, as BirchBark’s unpaid executive director, Tavares fields up to 25 calls a week from distraught pet owners seeking help. A rigorous application process makes sure applicants have demonstrable financial need.

“Every single person I talk to means that person knows about BirchBark and can help spread the word that we’re here to help,” Tavares says.

The organization, which set a goal of doling out $50,000 in grants over its first year of operations, has awarded $30,000 in the first six months of giving grants. Grants are dependent on fundraising success, which has been encouraging so far. A boost to these efforts is on the horizon: BirchBark will be the recipient of Whole Foods Capitola’s Nickels for Nonprofits program from November to January. The program donates the $.05 cost of a paper bag to a local nonprofit.

Going forward, Burtch and Tavares have high hopes for the foundation’s future. In the long-term, they have plans to establish a hospice program to provide relief for dying pets and their owners, as well as a respite program, where volunteers will watch over sick animals at their owner’s home.

Both women say that while BirchBark is still trying to establish a solid foundation, they’re proud of what it has achieved so far.

“We vacillate between anxiety over whether or not we’ll be able to keep it going,” says Burtch, “and pride and a lot of hope in our community, because without that we never could have made this work.”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Boards Are Back in Town

More than a century after a famed trio of Hawaiian princes first surfed in Santa Cruz, their redwood olo surfboards are returning to the Museum of Art & History

 

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

Saturday, July 4, is the 239th birthday of the United States, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence (the U.S. astrology chart has Aquarius moon—freedom for its people, by its people). Cancer, a liberating and initiating sign, is the “gate” where Spirit enters matter. Cancer receives and distributes Ray 3 (Divine Intelligence) and Ray 7 (new rules, new rhythms, new free nation under God). Cancer represents an intelligent freethinking humanity that can and must create right economics for the world. This means a policy of sharing, an opportunity for the U.S. when Venus (money, resources, possessions, etc.) retrogrades July and August in Leo (the heart of the matter). The United States has a unique spiritual task for the world: to lead humanity within and toward the light, accomplished by its people who must first awaken to this task, learn discrimination and be directed by the soul to assume the Herculean task of spiritual world leadership. Let us review the first words of our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Let us form that union together. The following is a review of the spiritual tasks for each sign. Read all the signs. They all apply to everyone.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Designing Woman

Female gardener helps build Versailles in fun, if uneven, ‘A Little Chaos’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Lunch is Packed

Picnic basket lunches from Your Place, plus smoked chili peppers, and new owners at Camellia Tea House

 

What would you like the Supreme Court to rule on next?

Raising the minimum wage so that those that are in poverty now can have a higher standard of life. Greanna Smith, Soquel, Nanny

 

Bruzzone Family Vineyards

Bruzzone Family Vineyards is a small operation run by Berna and John Bruzzone. Starting out a few years ago making only Chardonnay, they eventually planted Pinot Noir on their extensive property and now make this varietal as well.

 

Ty’s Eatery

Pop-up hooks up with Santa Cruz Food Lounge for healthy comfort food