Friday, February 10, 2012

In Loving Memory of Oksana

Claudia Vecchio, 2/10/12
Founder of ORA

This evening, February 10, 2012, at 9:50 pm, our dear Oksana passed away. Heartbroken as I am, I must nevertheless continue caring for the many cats here at the sanctuary (my residence, that has been transformed into an animal sanctuary for the un-adoptables). We do not have the luxury to stop working to grieve over Oksana’s passing, so I thought that the best homage to our Oksana while helping to placate our pain was to commemorate her on this page.

Oksana was truly a special cat. Naturally all cats are wonderful and special, but Oksana was special in a different way. When she came to us, Oksana was the type of cat that pounds do not hesitate for a moment to kill: a black (therefore less likely adoptable), adult, unspayed cat with behavioural problems.

Oksana was found in the middle of the winter of 2002 in front of a portable used as the headquarters of Wild Care, a wildlife rehabilitation center that unfortunately has since closed its doors for lack of funds. Oksana had been abandoned in a red carrier with an open can of tuna. Corinne, one of ORA's co-founders, used to religiously volunteer for Wild Care every Sunday for an intense four-hour shift of cleaning and feeding wild animals. That particular Sunday, as soon as Corinne appeared at the door of the portable to get her assignments for the day, she was handed the red carrier with Oksana in it.

ORA had not yet been founded at the time, and Corinne was naturally considered the most appropriate candidate to care for Oksana. It soon appeared that Oksana had suffered from major trauma and/or abuse. She was terrified of human hands. We could not even place food in front of her without being fiercely attacked. But we did not consider even for a second to “euthanize” Oksana. We just felt terribly sorry for her, wondering what ordeal she might have endured to be so terrified of human hands. We learned to feed her wearing skiing gloves. After months of care and loving words, Oksana came to understand that she could start trusting us. Oksana started feeling more comfortable in our house although adopting her out was not an option as she would still react with aggression to sudden movements of our hand. Oksana also learned to accept the many felines coming and going. She did not establish friendship with any of them and regarded them as competitors for our attention, but she learned to tolerate them.

Then in 2008 Oksana was diagnosed with breast cancer. A biopsy identified the cancer as being of a particular aggressive type, but we persuaded the reluctant vet to perform a mastectomy. The vet cautioned us that the cancer could return. It did in fact return two years after the surgery and since then it has continually grown larger. However with holistic remedies, large administration of vitamins and supplements and local application of ointments, Oksana was able to keep the cancer at bay for another two years, living, against any forecast, well for four years even after cancer diagnosis and surgery. It is astonishing that the same Oksana who did not even allow us to place food in front of her when first she arrived here, swallowed then, every day, for four years, without even a bit of resistance, all of the pills that I administered to her. She allowed me to place her upside down on my lap to spread the different holistic unguents on her tumors. This procedure was always followed by a brief session of pats and kisses and I will never forget the grateful look in Oksana’s eyes. It is like she understood that I was trying to do my very best to help her to live. And Oksana fought with me to defeat her cancer, but we both failed, although our tacit collaboration prolonged Oxsana’s life for four more years.

At midday today, Oxsana ate half a can of A/D (highly caloric prescription diet food) and this afternoon she ate a bit more food and some treats and as usual she accepted the administration of vitamins and supplements. At 9:30 pm, I saw her sitting on my bed. I gave her a big kiss, then I went downstairs to replenish some cat dishes with new food. When I arrived upstairs, a few minutes later, Oksana was laying down, breathing heavily. I took her in my arms to help her feel more comfortable for a while, but then she suddenly passed away. Our Oksana is no longer with us.

Animals always teach us something if we are perceptive to learn. Oksana’s death, happening now while we are organizing the Nathan Winograd event, while we are trying to raise awareness amongst the general public about the horrors of thousands of animals being killed in pounds every year in the GTA is like a validation of our assertions: Oksana had ten great years with us because we did not give in to clich├ęs. She was entitled to her life and we respected her right to live. Nobody has the right to terminate a life under any excuse whatsoever. So called “vicious cats” are made that way by humans and with human love they can become the most docile and lovable animals.

We will miss you tremendously, dear Oksana. We are glad and honoured that you came into our lives and that we had the privilege to care for you. You have taught us so much. I will miss the loving look of gratitude in your eyes when I was caring for you. Have a good time on the other side of Rainbow Bridge and befriend some kitties there until we can be reunited again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

ORA historic event: Nathan Winograd "Building a No-Kill Community"

Nathan Winograd, the spokesperson for the No-Kill Movement in the United States, has been invited by ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals to lecture in Toronto on April 14. ORA has rescued hundreds of animals in the 10 years we have been in operation, but every year thousands of cats and dogs are killed in Toronto pounds for no reason other than the unwillingness of pound directors and staff to implement life saving alternatives.

In Toronto pounds, the rate of animal killing is horrifically high. In 2010, Toronto Animal Services has killed over 58% of the cats they have received: 5,446 cats have been outrageously killed by Toronto Animal Services in 2010 alone (official data). Other pounds in the Greater Toronto Area kill an even higher rate of companion animals.

Pound directors and staff often invoke "lack of funds" as an excuse for the killing. In reality it is not money that is needed, but good will. They miss the compassion needed to implement alternative measure to killing, such as Trap Neuter and Return for feral cats; aggressive adoption on and off site; working with rescues and the community; promoting volunteerism; implementing low cost spay and neuter programs.

Nathan Winograd has proven that killing animals is unnecessary. He has transformed high-kills pounds in San Francisco, New York and even in rural parts of the States overnight into no-kill shelters.

That is why we have invited Nathan Winograd to Toronto. ORA cannot save the thousands of cats that end in city pounds as we operate without staff, we do not even have a building and no public funding. We operate on a shoe string budget. Any cat in our care cost us $1.40 a day against the preposterous $20 to $30 cost of keeping a cat in a city pounds (that is before killing them)!!! We are sickened by this continued slaughter of cats and dogs and we want to see it come to an end.

Directors of city pounds and Toronto city councillors will attend the Nathan Winograd event and we hope that it will contribute towards changing the fate of the many thousands of poor defenseless animals whose lives are violently ended for no reason, year after year. Nobody should be allowed to do that. We cannot allow it to continue.

Let's Stop the Killing. Join the No-Kill Revolution, and attend the Nathan Winograd event. We have the power to make things change by putting pressure on the decision makers, politicians and administrators. They are paid with taxpayer money, they are accountable to us. We must be informed in order to keep up the pressure to implement alternative solutions to the killing.

This is a very enlightening event. Nathan Winograd, a former criminal prosecutor and attorney, is a very knowledgeable and very sought after speaker lecturing all over the United States. We are very proud to have him in Toronto on April 14!

Nathan Winograd in Toronto for the first time.
"Building a No-Kill Community"

Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Hall, Room 714
Address: 222 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto ON M5V 2W6 Canada
Time: 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Registration starts at 2:15 pm

Book signing event will follow: Nathan's award winning books "Redemption" and "Irreconcilable Differences" will be for sale and he will autograph them at the event.
Redemption has become the Bible of the No-Kill Movement,

A leadership workshop will take place in the evening from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
Tickets are $35.00 for the seminar only, or $50.00 to attend both the seminar and the leadership workshop. Advance sale only. Limited seating. Call 416 726 5762 or 416 726 8895 to purchase your ticket(s) or buy online through Paypal at,
Many thanks on behalf of our feline and canine friends whose lives we are working to save,

Claudia Vecchio
Volunteer Chairperson
ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals
Tel: 416 726 5762

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Special Thanks from ORA and Jackson to Moore Park Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Lindsay Paterson of Moore Park Veterinary Clinic in Rosedale recently performed a pro-bono dentistry on ORA’s Jackson, a sweet nine-year-old kitty. Jackson needed teeth cleaning to remove tartar accumulation and prevent periodontal disease.

Dental work is needed more than once in the life of a cat or dog and is very important as it helps to prevent bacterial infections that can lead to liver, kidney and even heart disease. ORA is sheltering a number of special needs and older animals and therefore, we have several animals needing dental procedures every year.

We really appreciate Dr. Paterson’s help to our organization and we hope that more vets will join in performing pro-bono dentistry on rescued cats. Dentistry is an expensive procedure that can range from several hundred dollars to $1,500-$2,000 or more if dental extractions are required. Any vet who performs just one free dental procedure a year helps us tremendously in our efforts to preserve the good health of the animals under our care, so ask your vet if he/she is doing any community work and let us know if he/she is prepared to help rescued animals in need by donating one hour of their time and expertise.

Jackson’s Story: Jackson was rescued from the notorious Hamilton Animal Control (HAC) by ORA volunteers in 2003. The HAC was then, and sadly still is, a high–kill shelter (see ORA's Volunteer Blog for the HAC-STK Jackson, just two days old, was rescued along with his Mom and two siblings. Just born, they were marked to be killed. Jackson, his mom, Dodi, and siblings grew into wonderful, healthy cats under the care of ORA’s foster Mom and they all found great adoptive homes. Unfortunately, two years ago, Jackson’s adopter suddenly became very sick and returned Jackson to ORA. Jackson has not found a new adopter, but he has adjusted very well in our “sanctuary”: he is a sweet cat who gets along great with everybody, be they cats, residents or volunteers.

To sponsor Jackson with a monthly donation, please call 416-726-5762, 416-726-8895 or e-mail

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