FIT for the Mini-King of Beasts

My family's pet is a cat named Samantha. My daughter calls her Sammy. I call her Sam Giancana because she rules our house like a Mob Boss.

She claims my favorite chair, and I'm supposed to think it's cute. Ditto for wrestling a ball of yarn to within an inch of its life, rushing to a window to check out her pals from the animal kingdom, and licking my bald spot (with that wet sandpaper tongue) when I fall asleep on the floor. That latter still sends my daughter into hysterics.

Then of course, there are the droll looks I get — a la Morris the Cat of TV commercial fame — from this creature. It's as if she's saying, "Look at this fool I'm so gallantly suffering! I deserve a medal."

I can forgive all this because there were times when my daughter came home from high school, a latch key kid for about 90 minutes prior to my wife making the mad dash home, and this furry little court jester was her only company. Indeed, she was Lindsay's best buddy. Still is.

The thought of anything calamitous impacting her health would be devastating to my daughter. I would not be going out on a limb to assume the same is true of every family pet, which is why the Dane County Humane Society's new Felines in Treatment (FIT) Center deserves our support. This building, estimated to cost around $400,000, is being built to house the Society's nationally recognized feline ringworm treatment program.

For cat lovers, it's significant because it means that shelter kittens with ringworm won't have to be euthanized to stop the spread of the disease. With this treatment, developed with the help of the UW-Madison Veterinary School and former Dane County Humane Society head Dr. Sandra Newbury, now at UC-Davis, homeless young cats with this condition get a second life. They also get a chance to become a pet and perhaps someday provide as much joy to some lucky family as does our little Sammy.

Gayle Viney, public relations coordinator for the Dane County Humane Society, called the ringworm treatment program groundbreaking, and indeed it is. With it, the local Humane Society is considered a, well, ring leader in the industry. "We're really proud to be leading the way in showing that these cats can have that 'forever-home' and they don't have to be euthanized," she said. "We're able to lead the way, and we're able to be a role model for other shelters."

Jan Viney, development director for the Dane County Humane Society, said news of the Society's breakthrough has spread to shelters where the very mention of ringworm, which is traceable to humans and difficult to contain, scares the daylights out of people. On a recent personal vacation to San Francisco, Jan visited the Humane Society there, and when staffers heard she was from the Dane County Humane Society, several of them wanted to meet her.

"They wanted to meet me because of this program and how much they've heard about it," Viney said. "It really made me feel proud that people in Midwest can be a leader in something that isn't coming out of the west coast or east coast."

Such an example of local innovation is deserving of a sporting chance. The Humane Society is about $150,000 short of the money needed for the FIT facility. For every $1 it raises for the project, Maddie's Fund will match, dollar per dollar, up to $100,000. Maddie's Fund, based in California, is named for the Miniature Schnauzer of David Duffield, the founder of PeopleSoft, and his wife Cheryl. They endowed Maddie's Fund with $300 million to save the lives of dogs and cats and to make America a "no-kill nation" with regard to pets.

The Dane County Humane Society, which has been a leader in how infections are treated, had to move ahead with construction or the FIT building, or the construction program would been discontinued this fall. The single-wide house trailer currently used for this purpose is a 1960s era building, and the Humane Society would like to replace it with a new structure next to its main shelter building on Voges Road.

The Greater Madison business community already is chipping in. Engineered Construction is the contractor; Alexander Company donated all of the design work; Ryan Signs has donated all of the signage. Your organization and employees can chip in by sending cash or in-kind donations (office furniture, computers, and related items) to the Humane Society.

For more details, visit www.giveshelter.org and click on the Join Our FIT Campaign icon to navigate to the donation page. For more information, check out this video link.

If you'd like a closer look, a Grand Opening for the FIT building will be held on Thursday, Sept. 30, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Short of meeting its fund-raising goals, the Humane Society will have to make up the difference out of its own pockets. It's willing to do that, but I think cat owners would agree that any organization dedicated enough to find all homeless cats a home, and solve problems related to that goal, deserves to succeed.

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