A very special Helen Woodward Animal Center resident meowed his final farewell to the staff he had come to know as family, on Feb. 4. Despite the lack of dry eyes in the building, every tear shed was full of joy for the inspirational, diabetic, Hurricane Sandy survivor who has finally found his forever home. The adoption was made all the sweeter due to the idyllic union of Tommy and his new family – a Sacramento-area based physical therapist named Ann E. Collins who had been diagnosed with diabetes over 51 years ago and her family of special needs pets.

Tommy, an eleven year old domestic short haired tabby, was one of forty-seven orphan pets who made national news when they were flown across the country to Helen Woodward Animal Center in Nov., 2012.  The East Coast shelter dogs and cats had been waiting for forever homes when Hurricane Sandy hit and left their facilities uninhabitable. Upon arrival, Tommy’s prospects looked rosy. Despite his advanced age, the friendly feline with a reputation for affectionate head butts had tons of media attention to help him land the perfect new family. Unfortunately, Center veterinary staff soon discovered that Tommy was suffering from diabetes, as well as diabetic neuropathy – a condition that affected his nerves and made it difficult for him to walk – and required serious medical care.

The spunky cat didn’t let his illness get him down, however. Throughout months of insulin injections and laser treatments at Helen Woodward Animal Center, Tommy befriended every vet tech and adoptions staff member who came his way establishing himself not only a staff favorite, but as a true example in the art of survival and never giving up.

In early October of 2013, Tommy’s neuropathy showed remarkable signs of improvement. Although his diabetes remained, his legs were back in bounding condition and Center staff hoped his chance at a new life would arrive swiftly. But months went by and Tommy remained. The few who inquired expressed concerns about his age and his insulin injection requirements.

“I think every single staff member considered adopting him at some point,” said Helen Woodward Animal Center Customer Service Supervisor Jonelle Lenz. “We all loved him so much but we also understood the challenges. We wanted him to find someone who would be home for most of the day to attend to his medical needs. He deserves it. He had a rough go of it and he never let it affect the amount of love and devotion he expressed to anyone who showed him kindness.”

Last week, the happy ending Tommy hoped for came from miles away in Northern California. Ann E. Collins, from Rocklin, in the Sacramento area, had seen Tommy’s story shared on multiple pet blogs. Insulin dependent for over fifty-one years herself, she has a soft spot for special needs pets and plenty of experience with diabetics. Collins’ family of pets currently consists of a twelve year old Lab with diabetes, a tripod Afghan hound, an emergency rescue Pit Bull and a senior cat.

After multiple phone conversations with the Center adoptions staff and Center Pet Trainer Rob Kuty, Collins decided to take the long drive down the coast to adopt Tommy. “This is what I do,” said Collins. “This is where my heart is – with these animals. It’s time for Tommy to come home.”

Tommy’s fans at Helen Woodward Animal Center couldn’t agree more.  They are grateful to Ms. Collins for her devotion to pets with special needs and wish their beloved Tommy a fond farewell and a purrrfect life.

Helen Woodward Animal Center is dedicated to providing our orphan pets whatever medical care they require and the same loving concern we would provide to our pets at home.  This financial commitment is made possible through the generous support of our donors. For more information on Helen Woodward Animal Center or on adoption, contact: 858-756-4117 ext. 1, go to www.animalcenter.org or stop by at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe.

***

About Helen Woodward Animal Center

Helen Woodward Animal Center is a private, non-profit organization where “people help animals and animals help people.” Founded in 1972 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the Center provides services for more than 57,000 people and thousands of animals annually through adoptions, educational and therapeutic programs both onsite and throughout the community. Helen Woodward Animal Center is also the creator of the international Home 4 the Holidays pet adoption drive and The Business of Saving Lives Workshops, teaching the business of saving lives to animal welfare leaders from around the world.  For more information go to: www.animalcenter.org.