030818 Nonprofits: Donation for X-ray unit will help St. Frances cut costs
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Nonprofits: Donation for X-ray unit will help St. Frances cut costs

By Emily Topper
Coastal Observer

Hayden Quattlebaum got 14 wonderful years with her “soul dog,” Cotton. The blond cocker spaniel crossed the rainbow bridge in 1999, but she will live on in memory at St. Frances Animal Center. Following a donation from Quattlebaum, the center’s clinic has been renamed the Cotton Memorial Veterinary Clinic.

Quattlebaum’s donation to St. Frances allowed the center to acquire an X-ray machine, a blood analysis machine and a box truck to transport adoptable animals to and from events. A donation from Quattlebaum in 2015 allowed the center to open the clinic.

The center did not disclose the amount of the donation.

“I was very surprised when they renamed the clinic, and they were so thoughtful to do that,” Quattlebaum said. “They made it a part of their permanent logo. That’s huge to me, it just makes it so real.”

Quattlebaum has lived in the Pawleys Island area for about 15 years. Everywhere she’s lived, she said, she tries to get involved with the local humane society and identify shelter needs.

“I asked them to send me a wish list,” she said. “I wanted them to get what they needed.”

Devon Smith, executive director of St. Frances, said the ability the center now has to do its own X-rays and blood work saves time for both pets and owners.

“We can get answers faster,” Smith said. “For example, a lot of animals that come to us have been hit by cars. They have back ends that aren’t working and we don’t know why. Before, private vets were having to do the X-rays for both the public and the in-house animals.”

With a machine on location, the center charges the public $75 for an X-ray. While vets offered discounts to the center, having to send away for an X-ray would still double the cost. Similarly, in-house blood work drops the cost down from $120 to $40.

The center aims to be as low cost as possible. When a client can’t cover the cost, the center tries to have grant money available.

The newly-renamed clinic sees about 2,000 animals per year, Smith said, and does about 1,000 spay or neuter procedures.

“We also do microchipping and vaccines,” Smith said. “We’re actually doing a free microchip clinic right now, and the vaccinations are imperative to make sure that we are saving animals.”

Smith added that another 1,500 animals pass through the shelter each year.

Supporting the high-traffic, no-kill shelter and clinic was important to Quattlebaum, who wants all animals to be able to have quality care.

“I’ve got a plate in my kitchen that says, ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened,’ ” Quattlebaum said.

For her, that first animal love was Cotton, a puppy she adopted in her mid-20s while living in Charleston.

“She was a little girl, and she was just my heart and soul,” Quattlebaum said. “She died in 1999 and she’s been gone so many years already, but I still think about her every day. This was a way that I could honor her memory, which I very much want to do.”

At the time, Quattlebaum lived with a roommate in a house with a fenced-in backyard. From the time she brought home Cotton, the two were inseparable.

“I got married halfway through her life,” Quattlebaum said. “I had a husband and two step-children, and she took them on right along with me.”

Cotton had her own baby book and stationery. At Christmas, she had her own cards and was known to give more gifts than Quattlebaum.

“Our love was so complete and whole and uncomplicated,” she said. “It’s just such a wonderful connection. I’ve had a lot of animals and I’ve loved them dearly, but Cotton and I just went through a lot of things together. We were just there for each other. It’s just a gift from God that I had a relationship like that.”

When Cotton was diagnosed with ear cancer, she was treated at a veterinary school in Athens, Ga.

“She had to stay for seven weeks to get radiation and chemo,” Quattlebaum said. “But she lived for another three years after that. It was definitely worth it, getting her that extra care.”

It’s the same kind of quality care that Quattlebaum sees at St. Frances, and one of many reasons she wanted to support the nonprofit.

“They’re a fantastic organization, and they’re doing a wonderful job,” she said.

Smith said the center wants to do more. They always need more people to adopt animals, especially dogs. While the shelter has started bringing in cats from high-kill shelters, they have some issues getting dogs adopted — especially when those dogs test positive for heartworm.

“We’re always looking for people to sponsor those dogs,” Smith said. “That costs us about $60,000 to $80,000 per year. We can’t foot that bill without sponsors, because about 20 percent of the dogs that come in are heartworm positive. We’re also very full right now, and this isn’t even our busy season.”

It costs about $275 to treat a dog with heartworm, Smith said.

The center also needs to replace the 50 gates in its kennel at a cost of $100 each. For every gate donated, East Coast Fencing in Georgetown will also donate one gate.

“We’re always ready to have a needs conversation,” Smith said.

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