Rescues #13-17: Our Virginia Animals (Part 2 of 2)

Following is a compilation of posts from the Greg Fund Facebook page, October 25-28, 2017.


#13 and 14 – Qingling (born March 2009) and Meiling (born June 2009).

Version 2From 2009 through 2015, I volunteered with the SPCA of Northern Virginia (SPCA NoVa). When Greg and I lost our “California cats” to old age diseases in 2009 and 2010, we had capacity to take in some of the many cats in SPCA NoVa’s foster network.

In October 2009, we had our eyes on two young tabby girls who SPCA NoVA had rescued from outdoors. We settled on one, a 7-month-old who happened to be in foster care near our then-home in Arlington, Virginia – and SPCA NoVA assured us that the second tabby would soon find a permanent home of our own. A year later, we were ready to adopt again – and that second tabby was still in foster care. We knew at this point that tabby girl #2 was meant to be ours – and we adopted her in October 2010. Though these kitties were not sisters, they had so much in common that they might as well have been – and we named them Qingling (upper right) and Meiling (lower left), after the famous Chinese Song sisters of the 20th century.

Qingling and Meiling, like my other animals, are provided for in my estate planning documents: if anything should happen to me, they will return to the SPCA NoVa network, with a sum of money to provide for their lifetime care.


#15 – Itchy (c.2003-June 1, 2017).

animalResueItchy’s story is one I have told more times than I can count. Still, it is a story that must be retold … and retold … and retold again — until people stop buying dogs from breeders, and instead open up their hearts and their homes to rescued dogs like him.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)’s Community Animal Project, now a primary recipient of Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund grants, began watching over Itchy in 2007, in Suffolk, Virginia, where his owners kept him in a garbage-strewn outdoor pen. Finally in June 2013, one PETA fieldworker noticed that Itchy’s persistent cough—the result of an advanced, untreated case of heartworm disease—had gotten markedly worse. After she informed Itchy’s owners how serious this condition was, the owners finally agreed to relinquish Itchy to PETA.

Our PETA contacts then emailed Greg and me to ask if we would be willing to add Itchy to our family, which then consisted of two other dogs Fox and Marina, and five cats.

Greg and I talked it over, and decided to drive to PETA’s Norfolk office, with Fox and Marina, to meet Itchy in person. We deemed the meeting a success: Itchy pretty much ignored Fox and Marina, and vice versa! And with that, we made the commitment to give Itchy a home – our home.

Despite his years of isolation, Itchy quickly demonstrated an innate ability to get along with other animals – with Fox and Marina, and even more with our cats!

Meanwhile, Dr. Hanh Chau re-opened Middleburg Animal Hospital less than one mile from our house – and we immediately began working with her to cure Itchy of his heartworm disease. Within four months, he was deemed heartworm free!

After four happy golden years, Itchy succumbed to liver cancer this summer. He continues to live on in the hearts of all who knew him, and has been memorialized with a leaf on the Tree of Life at PETA’s Norfolk headquarters – just above the leaf dedicated to animal advocate Sir Roger Moore, who predeceased Itchy by one week.


#16 and 17 – Henry (foaled March 10, 1998) and Caroline (foaled c. 2007).

IMG_1495Greg and I brought Henry and Caroline home on June 21, 2014 – our last animal rescue together. It was a huge leap of faith for us to adopt this particular pair as our first companion horses, when this was practically our first interaction of any type with equines! And yet thanks to Greg’s determination, we powered through and made it all work.

Henry and Caroline were first spotted in April 2014 by a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) fieldworker in rural North Carolina. The fieldworker learned that the horses’ owner had moved away months before and left the neighbor’s brother in charge of their care – but could see that both horses, particularly Henry, were severely malnourished and in poor health. PETA had the horses removed due to chronic neglect – and given their close bond, placed them together in a temporary foster home.

Then PETA President Ingrid Newkirk reached out to Greg and me about adopting this horse pair. I initially feared it would be too steep a learning curve for us, but Greg was convinced it was the right thing for us to do – and so we said yes! – and took a trip to their Suffolk VA foster home to meet them for the first time.

Soon after we made this commitment, we learned that Henry was a former racehorse who had run over 50 races and earned over $100K during his career.

Meanwhile, Greg and I spent two months learning everything we could. Greg purchased a horse trailer and learned to drive our pickup with the trailer attached; he also purchased a tractor and learned all about pasture management. Together we read books, took online classes about horse care, and solicited advice from everyone we knew who did have horse experience.

And then came the big day, when Greg and I left our house before dawn to pick Henry and Caroline up from foster care in Suffolk VA, and to bring them home with us to our then-home in Middleburg.

Naturally we experienced some challenges during our first months with Henry and Caroline. Henry in particular suffered from a series of low-level ailments, and was highly suspicious of any form of veterinary or grooming care. We were, however, fortunate to connect with compassionate and technically expert equine caregivers – and over time we mostly resolved these issues.

Today, Henry and Caroline – along with their newest herd member Charlie – are healthy and happy horses, and they are very good friends to me.

~ Alysoun

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