By Edita McQuary
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” — James Herriott
Pets have always been important in people’s lives but the pandemic has brought people’s dependence on their pets to a whole new level, according to Michelle Frampton, Executive Director of the BirchBark Foundation.
“Pet owners who have not been able to see family and friends have had to rely on ‘Coco’ or ‘Buddy’ for daily interaction, comfort and happiness,” she said.
A University of Colorado graduate with degrees in psychology and social work, Michelle has built and worked in various non-profits for 25 years helping people combat food insecurity and in locating community services. She is a perfect fit to lead the BirchBark Foundation (BBF).
Michelle added: “Since its inception in 2013, BBF has grown from the vision of Dr. Merrianne Burtch, DVM, DACVIM, to a successful organization saving the lives of hundreds of pets each year, and providing stability to thousands of animal-loving families and individuals.”
The foundation, serving Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties, has as its main focus financial help for life-saving veterinary care. They work with 31 Veterinary Partners to save pets’ lives and help pet owners afford to pay for the life-compromising or life-threatening treatments. BBF will pay for a fixable but unaffordable prognosis which the pet owner cannot afford to pay.
The Veterinary Partners receive a $500 quarterly stipend from BirchBark Foundation, sign a partnership agreement and help in fundraising efforts. Emergency veterinarians receive three stipends per month.
Some veterinarians also give a donation of $5 to $15 to honor a lost pet.
The Vet Partner discounts 25% of the cost, the pet owner pays 25% of the cost and BirchBark Foundation pays the balance of 50% of the cost of care with no limit. The only stipulation is that the Veterinary Provider must be a member of the BirchBark Foundation. There is a list of providers on their website.
As an example, Max, a 2-year old dog, inhaled a foxtail which wound up in his lung. The veterinarian removed one lung lobe and after spending two weeks in the hospital, Max was released to go home.
Can you imagine how happy his owners were?
A program open to all animal lovers is their monthly Zoom support group for Central Coast people as well as anyone anywhere who has lost their pet. When life becomes “normal” again, BBF will again offer additional in-person support groups. Counselors are available for one-on-one meetings on Zoom or on the telephone with individuals and families.
Lastly, BBF provides newsletters, social media and quarterly webinars to all animal-loving people so they can be the best care-givers for their pets. As you can imagine, a foundation offering such wonderful benefits has to raise funds from the general public in order to continue operating. They do not at this time have a building/office presence. They do have Sarah, Community Support Coordinator, who answers the Help Line.
In order to participate in the BBF program, certain criteria must be met by the pet owner. The website has a list of questions which must be answered in order to be accepted into the program.
Fund-raising is of the utmost importance. Before the pandemic in 2019 they held a “Fall in love with Birch Bark” in-person gala in Monterey’s Marriott, which 150 people attended and was very successful.
The recent July 31 live on-line “Love Heals Auction” on U-Tube netted $100,000 thanks to our Central Coast and beyond animal-loving public.
“Our goal is unique — we want to be a resource to the animal-loving public so they can make the best choices for their pets who are in need of serious medical aid,” explained Michelle. “We appreciate and are grateful to all who contributed to this event. Our focus is not on finances but on providing choices for animal care. There are seniors in our community who will sacrifice their own well-being to allocate their funds to their animals. We want to reframe how we think about the human/animal bond.”
BirchBark Foundation, a 501©(3) organization, 101 Cooper St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060, P.O. Box 1903, Monterey, CA 93942, phone: 831.471.7255. www.birchbarkfoundation.org