Archive for July, 2012

Pippi’s Story

When Pippi fell ill, he was unable to eat or use his litter box, crying out when anyone came near him. My friend Emmy was so afraid to ask for help, but she could not stand to see her baby in pain.

We headed for the Animal Coalition of Tampa’s clinic to ask for advice and they told us to bring him in right away. We both thought that with some antibiotics he would soon be back to normal.  ACT’s prices were lower than anywhere else, so I thought this was Emmy’s best option.

But then the vet broke the bad news to us and my first thought was that Pippi, also known as “Pippi the Magic Cat,” had finally run out of magic.  His bladder was blocked and he was in pain from the stones he could not pass.  We were stunned and I worried about how Emmy would survive without her cuddly companion if he couldn’t be treated.

When I first met Emmy, she had survived six decades of painful adversities and was suffering from one day to the next, powerless to control her own future.

When Emmy first met Pippi the Magic Cat, he too was a survivor and was suffering from the uncertainty of being born into an unplanned litter. Together they rescued each other, forming a loving bond that would strengthen them for many hardships to come.

Pippi was going to need surgery to survive.  Emmy burst into tears, not knowing how she would pay for it.  I thought for sure she would be forced to let him go for lack of funds and I knew that this would crush her.

The love between Emmy and Pippi the Magic Cat was born of need — pure in its origin, pure in its power and pure in its ability to turn desperation into determination.  Pippi’s magic was his ability to make Emmy laugh at her dire circumstances.  With him by her side, she knew she could go on, no matter how daunting her situation was.

I have learned so much from Emmy’s fighting spirit. The first time I saw her, she was hobbling past my home on the way back from the grocery store. In spite of the struggle, she lit up the neighborhood with her radiant smile. Then she huffed and she puffed, determined to make it unassisted to my neighbor’s garage that she gratefully called home.

That smile saved me, because I too was struggling.  As a Vietnam veteran who was new in town, I was in need of a distraction from fighting with the VA for my disability benefits so that I too could go on.  I will always be grateful to this beautiful lady for befriending me on that hot and lonely day.

Emmy and I are survivors, each affected by the ravages of war. Growing up poor in Mississippi, she was the daughter of a shell shocked WWII combat veteran who, in a blinding, war-flashback rage, injured his wife and family, leaving his battered oldest child, Emmy, to care for them while recovering from her own seen and unseen wounds. Her childhood was like a nightmare but through sheer determination, she survived.

Emmy put herself through college by winning beauty contests, armed with not only her exotic Russian/Native American good looks, but also with a beautiful singing voice that would later carry her far away from her miserable childhood to New York City for Broadway musicals and a television series.

But every time Emmy wowed the audiences with her performances, it would take her weeks to recover from the stress. She tried other types of work, but she could only hold onto jobs for short periods of time because of her lifelong battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Eventually her frail mother took her in but when she died, so did Emmy’s financial stability.

But somehow she pressed on, fighting for her recovery as well as her independence.  Just as she was making progress, she was injured in a devastating car accident.

Emmy wound up camping on her brother’s couch until he became so frustrated with her for not being able to get a job that he put her in a Tampa homeless shelter.  From there she fell in with people who took advantage of her. Eventually my neighbor, a fellow musician, let her live in her garage.

One day while visiting with Emmy in the garage, I saw framed photos of her “baby,” a fluffy black and white tuxedo cat named Pippi.  She burst into tears when she saw me looking at him, explaining that she’d had to leave him with someone she barely knew when she went to the homeless shelter.

One day I could stand it no more, so I told Emmy we were going to go find her baby.  The woman who had taken him in had a farm way out in Pinellas County, but Emmy could not remember the address nor find any reference to it.

Determined, we drove out there anyway.  Miraculously, Emmy led us to the farm.  We couldn’t get anyone to come to the door when we rang the bell, so I climbed over the fence and then found a way to let her in. When we found him, Pippi was stuffed into a small crate out in the heat – flea-bitten, neglected, dirty and sad.  The woman came out and told Emmy she could not have him back because she had no money to pay her for boarding him.

Never get in the way of an angry female Vietnam vet!  I’ll spare you the details of how it went down, but we wound up with Pippi the Magic Cat in the backseat of my old car, cuddling and crawling all over Emmy the whole way home, his motor almost louder than the one under my hood.  Twice I had to pull over to dry my tears before I could continue driving.

While the hot and stuffy garage that Emmy and her kitty lived in was better than living on the streets, the situation there was grim. So one day I began the long ordeal of getting Emmy the government benefits she had earned over decades of working.

The day we walked into her new government-subsidized apartment for the first time was the first day of freedom for Emmy and her little feline friend. No more would they suffer from lack of shelter in the heat and storms and freezing cold, fearful of predators, human and otherwise.  No more would they be forced to live in dangerous situations, not knowing where their next meal would come from.  Best of all, they would never again be separated from each other.

At last they could forever leave behind the indignities of homelessness. The senior living center is full of people like Emmy – they are all lost souls just like her, hoping to make it through just one day at a time.  Best of all, they let the residents keep their pets there.

Emmy and Pippi the Magic Cat have had a happy life since getting their own place.  When her health allows, Emmy gives back to her community by singing for weddings and funerals and entertaining audiences around town at nursing homes.

They still have many challenges. “So often I feel like I’m caught in a vise,” says Emmy.  “Some people doubt my disability and push me to deny it, while others pile on pity.  My kitty does none of these things. He shows me every minute of every day that it’s OK to just be me.”

ACT came to Pippi’s rescue with an experienced surgeon and medical team, plus respite care overnight and through the weekend at an emergency services clinic. For ACT, no cost was too great to save Pippi so he could go back to performing his magic on Emmy.

Pippi is now on the mend.  His stitches are out and he is healing under the watchful eyes of the big-hearted woman who saved him so he could save her.  He is back to his old self, making Emmy laugh with his magic tricks.

Emmy and her kitty will continue their fight for survival, but with very limited funds and now a huge medical bill to save Pippi looming over them, this is an uphill, very stressful battle.

Can you be a part of their survival with a donation toward Pippi’s medical expenses?  We want the angels at the Coalition to continue performing the magic that saves so many of Tampa Bay’s animals and the people who depend on them.

It is very painful to ask, but it would mean so much to us. Please contact ACT at 813-250-3900.

With love and gratitude –
Pippi and Emmy’s Friend


July 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

Pippi Lives: The Angel Fund Needs ICU

Pippi being loved back to health by ACT’s staff

One way that we care is through your donations to the Angel Fund.  Angel was the first little pit that was found by the side of the road, so skinny that her ribs protruded and she couldn’t lift her head.  One of our volunteers nursed her back to health but couldn’t afford the medical care, so we put a jar out and flyer and we asked for help through the Angel Fund.  The donations covered Angel and the concept took hold, so it now covers other destitute situations that come our way.

The Angel Fund went into the deep red for Pippi.  But the good news is that Pippi lives!

Pippi is the light of his mom’s life.  She’s had many hardships and Pippi is her only anchor.  They are like Salt and Pepper.  Peas in a pod.  Yin and yang.

Mom worked hard to get out of a homeless shelter when they would give her a roof but not extend it to Pippi.  Back in a very humble but private space, Pippi recently fell ill.  He was unable to eat or use his litter box and cried out whenever anyone came near him.  Mom thought it was something that would be cured with antibiotics, but didn’t have money for even that and felt guilty and helpless and very depressed.

Then Mom heard about ACT and a friend paid for an exam.  The horrible news was that antibiotics would never touch what was wrong with Pippi.  He was in lots of pain from a blocked bladder and stones he could not pass. The reality that she could lose her baby showed on her face as shock, but was soon replaced with relief when the medical team at ACT was determined to find a way despite Mom’s dire financial situation. The surgery and aftercare took 3 long days and ran around $1500, including two nights of aftercare that ACT had to outsource.

Now, Pippi is home and Mom is loving him back to health.  But the Angel Fund is in trouble.  It’s underwater. That’s the bad news.  But we can fix that with your help!   Click on Donate, and in the special instructions text box, write in “FOR ANGEL FUND.”  We will send a note of your compassion in your name to Pippi and his Mom.

For the full story as relayed by a friend, click here.

July 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm 1 comment

Qs & As

Do you have a medical or behavioral question for our vets?  Submit your question to us and we’ll ask one of our vets to research it for you.  We will then print the question and answer in our newsletter.  Please submit your questions to

Questions from a client:  “Do you need to see a doctor first to schedule surgery? I have a black lab 9 yrs old who has a growth on her upper eyelid. I would like it to be removed.”

Answer:  Yes.  Although we perform growth removals, pyometras and other live-saving surgeries, our veterinarian needs to see your pet for an evaluation.  The low cost surgeries are extremely popular and can take about a week to schedule. If yours is an emergency, make sure the receptionist knows that when you call 813-250-3900 and we will accommodate the situation.  

Question from a client:  “I don’t have much money.  What should I do?”

Answer:  Call us so we can help.  Our prices are low. Most often, once you realize how small the fees are to do what your pet is in need of, you can find the money.  We keep our prices low because we live our motto “Caring more.  Costing less.”  If that doesn’t work, we’ll help you figure a way around it.  That’s the Caring part.

July 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm 2 comments

Did You Know…?

You already know that ACT offers quality, affordable spay/neuter surgeries.  Did you know that ACT also offers a number of other valuable products and services?  ACT has a daily shot clinic Monday – Saturday offering a host of vaccines at affordable prices, including distemper, bordetella, rabies, leukemia and others.  ACT offers a variety of flea and heartworm medications both in the clinic and online with free shipping!  ACT also has a wellness clinic and offers life-saving surgeries.  Make ACT your one-stop shop for all of your pet care needs.

July 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer Call

The move-in date for our expanded build-out is rapidly approaching, and we are looking forward to the prospect of having more space and providing our customers with a lobby that is actually indoors!

We need volunteers in a number of different areas.  Are you savvy with social media?  Would you like to help with our newsletter and see your article in print?  We need submissions of articles for the newsletter.  Do you like working on websites?  We need assistance in a number of areas.  We need licensed repair people and odd-job workers who are just plan savvy or handy. Even if we’ve heard from you before, can you shoot us an email at, answering 4 questions:  your name, your skill set and/or license, and the best way to reach you (hopefully email!)?

Oh, we’d really appreciate a volunteer coordinator!

July 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm Leave a comment

A Letter from our Executive Director

Hello ACT Friends and Supporters:

Can you be a part of the biggest move of our lives?

We have already turned the keys in our “new” facility and have begun the inside renovations. It’s right down the street at 502 W Gilchrist Ave.  Same zip.  Same phone number.  It’s a short drive from where we are, but it’s a world away.

Right now, we have 3,200 square feet in which to schedule appointments, welcome our animals, examine them, house them, give them vaccines, perform critical surgeries and ready them to go home.  And we have used up every single inch.

This year, as soon as the build-out is complete, all that will change. We will move into our “like-new” home that is nearly 10,000 square feet.  Enough room to do even more surgeries.  Help even more animals. Save even more lives.

We promise our clients will never have to wait in our cold, hot or rainy “parking lot lobby” again if you can help us increase our space by participating in our Naming Rights Campaign.  We could use your support, from underwriting the most critical Surgery Room for $15,000 to having a recovery cage dedicated with a permanent name plate for $75.  What a gentle but strong way to remember a lost pet or loved one.

Our automated system allows you flexibility in making your donation as well:  you can choose monthly payments which we will automatically draft from a credit card, a single check or credit payment, or combinations of all three.  All donations are tax deductible.  Click here to donate. Call us if you need any assistance:  813-250-1234.

Please watch for the date, as well: we will be inviting all sponsors to our VIP pre-grand opening once we get our clinic looking like a clinic. Time and details will follow, but we’ll make sure our tour covers your “named place” in the clinic.

With much gratitude,

Linda Hamilton
Executive Director
Animal Coalition of Tampa

Click here for a list of naming rights
Click here for a blueprint of the space

To name a room or space, fill out and send in the form on the link above.  Or click here, make your pledge, and write in your chosen selection under “Special Instructions”.  Once we select the vendor making the plates, we contact you for your specific wording.

July 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

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