Helping Strays volunteer Mary Potts initiated a unique Valentines Day fundraiser, hoping the community’s hearts would go out to some of the neediest animals in the shelter.
“It’s taking off so well already,” Potts told the Republic-Times.
The “Buy a Heart, Save a Heart” fundraiser has already raised about $200 for the shelter’s heartworm positive dogs. Currently, these 13 dogs require treatment funded through the diminished Pet in Need fund.
The fundraiser involves volunteers coming together in an arts and crafts setting to create Valentine hearts that will then go to local businesses — the volunteers are also paying for supplies out of pocket.
These businesses can ask customers to purchase a heart for a minimum of a $1 donation to Helping Strays.
On Thursday, volunteers came to Helping Strays and worked diligently to make hearts for the fundraiser. Friends Jan Bolar and Diane Biscan were among the group.
“Mary got us both involved because we are good friends of hers,” she said. “She wanted to make $500. I think she’s going to make two to three times that much because all the volunteers here show you how much they love Mary.”
Potts showed the Republic-Times a special heart made for Biscan as an example of the different projects that have come out of the heart-making event. At least 500 hearts have been made, if not more, Potts said.
“This is Diane’s dog, Libby, and she just passed away, so we’ve made a personalized one for her,” she said.
Businesses supporting the fundraiser include Bad Sister Boutique, Columbia Animal Hospital, Mueller Veterinary Services, Uptown Hounds, Fashion Attic, Who Dat’s, Headquarters Salon, Fabulous Finds, The Tavern at Maeystown, Philomena + Ruth and others. Bad Sister owner Heather Kapp has raised $150 alone at her shop in Columbia.
“We have been doing a lot for Helping Strays ever since we opened,” she said. “We are a family that loves dogs — we have three dogs and one cat. Jeff walks the dogs at the shelter on Sunday night. Just as much as we can help the community, we’ve always liked to do that.”
That and other examples of support from the community have led Potts to rethink her original fundraising goal.
“When we first started, I was thinking, ‘Let’s try $500 for one dog,” Potts said.
“What if we tried to treat 10?” Alice Imhof of Helping Strays chimed.
The Pet in Need fund covers extensive medical care that includes heartworm disease treatment, surgery, treatment of burns and broken bones and other care. Heartworm treatment costs an average of $500 per dog.
“It’s not just about the money. It can kill the dogs to have the treatment,” Imhof said.
Among the dangers of administering heartworm treatment, Imhof said the treatment can cause renal failure. Not treating heartworm also brings complications.
Heartworm disease occurs when a foot-long heartworm lives in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of a dog, causing lung disease, heart failure and organ damage. The heartworm is transmitted through a mosquito bite and affects dogs in all 50 states.
But while heartworm treatment can break the bank, Imhof said prevention comes out to as little as $6 per month in the form of one single pill. Prevention is the best option as heartworm disease causes irreversible damage to a dog’s health.
“Some think we are mean if we insist they have to do that,” Imhof said.
In addition to keeping up with heartworm prevention, the American Heartworm Society recommends annual heartworm testing.
Potts’ fundraiser will continue through the end of the month, with Imhof saying Helping Strays hopes to find a business, individual or organization that will match whatever is raised through Buy a Heart, Save a Heart. Contact Helping Strays at 939-7389 for more information.
“These dogs need a chance. Without (heartworm treatment), they don’t have a chance,” Helping Strays employee Heather Schultheis said.