By Rhonda Van Pelt
If you’re an animal lover, you know that every time you give your heart to a pet, it’s likely that grief is in your future.
Cynthia and David Bullock had grieved for pets before, but losing Harley, their Rottweiler-heeler mix, to cancer in 2010 hit especially hard. So they turned that grief into a determination to help other pet lovers whose four-legged companions need veterinary care.
“When you have pets, you know that’s part of it,” Cynthia Bullock said. “There was just something about the situation, getting that diagnosis and being told you’ve got maybe a week and scrambling to do the research, scrambling to get her in for treatment and thinking about all the people who didn’t have our resources, who couldn’t do that. It’s an immediate death sentence.”
She talked about Harley’s Hope Foundation in the small building the Bullocks constructed on their Black Forest property, paying for it by using insurance payouts from their losses in the 2013 fire.
HHF focuses on reducing the number of pets that are given up or euthanized because their humans are facing financial difficulties.
“The majority of the people we work with are senior citizens or people with disabilities, 90 percent. So these are folks who may be living on a fixed income, who rely on these animals as their sole source of companionship or, if they have a service animal, that animal is actually helping them with their day-to-day living. And now you have an emergency — either the pet’s emergency or your own emergency, where you’re going to be hospitalized.
“What do you do? We don’t want to penalize these people who really love these animals. We certainly don’t want to penalize the animal by seeing them become a homeless animal statistic or become euthanized because the person simply doesn’t have funding.”
Bullock walked to a display of photos showing animals HHF has helped and began listing their medical issues: a dog whose leg was shattered by two gunshots (HHF helped get him a bionic leg); pets that were hit by a car, attacked by an off-leash dog, encountered a porcupine or ate rat poison; and a dog with flesh-eating bacteria from a snake or spider bite.
This is HHF’s first time in the Give! campaign, and Bullock is excited about what this can do to elevate the foundation’s profile.
When she’s not writing grants for corporate funding, she’s reaching out to local veterinarians and trainers, and to other organizations that help animals. HHF also helps out with food and training.
No. 1 on her wish list: foster homes for animals in need of temporary shelter.
For the past three months, the Bullocks have cared for Midget and Shady, cats whose “dad” had to jump out a second-story window to escape from his homicidal son. The man suffered fractures to his feet, one knee and his face, injuries that prevented his return to his job as a cook.
“He was being released from the hospital and was going to be sent to a homeless shelter because he didn’t have insurance. And so we told the friend who got the animals to us, ‘We will hold them as long as he’s in the hospital to give him an opportunity to get his life back together.’ He can’t go back to his apartment — his son bonded out. Why should he suffer any more by losing his animals?”
Kitty Pot’s evolution
The Bullocks don’t want to rely solely on donations and grants, so they’ve found a unique way to ensure a constant revenue stream.
Cynthia has grown catnip for years and was bundling plants for drying when she had a brainwave.
“I was listening to the news and all the hoopla about the legalization of pot. I thought, ‘Wow, I need to get some of that publicity and some of that money.’ And I remembered that one of my board members would call catnip ‘kitty pot,’ and I thought, ‘Hmmm, I wonder.’ So we rebranded it as ‘Kitty Pot’ and added ‘legally enjoyed by Cool Cats in all 50 states.’”
Flextec Corp., a custom label printer based in Colorado Springs, donated the label design — a colorful graphic of a stoned-looking cat — and the labels themselves. The demand has exceeded Bullock’s supply, so she’s importing dried, organic catnip from San Francisco and getting it into local and national outlets.
Volunteers help with stuffing the bags and adding the labels. Everyone HHF assists is asked to repay that by volunteering at the office, at pet fairs, etc. This year, HHF has worked 80 cases, plus another 200-plus animals through pet health fairs.
Bullock also focuses on pro-active help for animals, with increased spaying and neutering a major goal.
“It’s very gratifying to help on a one-on-one basis and know you’ve saved that animal’s life or you’ve kept that relationship intact, but we also want to see fewer animals going into rescues and shelters.
“Because now, as a society, we are looking at ‘What do we need to be doing? What services do we need to be providing to prevent these animals from continuously going into homes, being given up, becoming homeless?’ It’s a vicious cycle and we need to look at that as a community.”
For more information on Harley’s Hope Foundation, go to www.harleys-hopefoundation.org. To donate via the Give! campaign, visit www.indygive.com/save-the-tails/harleys-hope-foundation.