It's not uncommon for people to be discouraged about being charitable because they never personally see the face of what they're fighting for.
For donors or potential donors of the Elmbrook Humane Society, that face can be a 3-year-old terrier mix named Roobert.
Roobert was transferred to Waukesha County's only no-kill shelter Jan. 26 with a severe case of heartworm, and Elmbrook executive director Heather Gehrke said that his chances were not great.
"Heartworm as a whole is not easy or always cost-effective to treat," Gehrke said. "This is a severe case. Even for us, we had to think hard about this. Being a no-kill means that you are making a commitment to treat anything that is treatable."
Gehrke and her colleagues at EBHS spent some time determining if Roobert's condition was indeed treatable. They consulted a cardiologist and learned that Roobert would require treatment not available locally.
In the weeks since, Roobert has spent two nights in Madison in two separate trips to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
"He continues to have a severe infection with heartworms which, in his case, were actually within his heart itself," Doctor Rebecca Stepien, clinical professor of cardiology, said. "Subsequent therapy allowed those worms to shift out of his heart and into the arteries in his lungs, where they are still."
Roobert will return to Madison in about a month, at which point she hopes that they will be able to kill the heartworms.
"Hopefully that will be it. What happens with those injections is that the worms are killed by this drug and then his body will break down the worms and sort of clean up the mess," Stepien said. "His prognosis, if he doesn't have complications, is pretty good for survival."
Stepien noted that Roobert may suffer from long-term lung problems.
"This kind of infection causes damage to the lungs, which is probably partially reversible but may not be 100 percent reversible," Stepien said.
Roobert's prognosis upon first arriving in Madison was such that Stepien was somewhat surprised at Elmbrook's commitment to treatment.
"This is a severity of infection that commonly results in people deciding to euthanize the patient rather than pursue therapy," Stepien said. "However, the Elmbrook Humane Society was very interested in doing whatever it took to treat Roobert."
In total, the Elmbrook Humane Society has spent approximately $2,500 on Roobert's treatment so far.
"There may still be a few more bills. We're actually anticipating that it's going to be upwards of $3,000," Gehrke said.
That bill is one of the higher expenditures for a single animal that Gehrke could recall, but she said that ACL surgeries can result in a similar figure.
"We don't place a worth on an animal's life. It's more about the prognosis; the probability in that animal living a good quality life," Gehrke said. "It's about fulfilling our no-kill mission to say that if it can be reasonably treated with good prognosis then we're going to do it. That's the commitment we have to make."
Last weekend, EBHS hosted its annual spring gala. This year marked the second time that the shelter took donations specifically to assist with larger medical expenses, such as Roobert's treatments.
"These are not your basic medical needs like spay and neuter. These are more complex medical needs," Gehrke said. "Last year we incurred almost $32,000 of medical case needs for things like an eye surgery for a cat, we had some pups that we had to treat for parvo."
So far, Gehrke said that Elmbrook has spent well more than its projected budget for the first 3 months of 2016.
"We have a budget of $7,500 through March. We are almost double our budget. We're almost at $14,000 in medical expenses," Gehrke said.
The gala's donations will help to offset those expenses, however, with the $12,500 in donations toward such medical needs being matched by two donors for a total of $25,000.
"It would not be possible to save Roobert or other animals without people supporting our medical funds," Gehrke said. "The support of our medical fund or unrestricted donations literally means life or death for animals. It allows us to help animals that may not otherwise have had a chance."
Roobert is being cared for in one of Elmbrook's foster homes. He is not yet ready for adoption, but the shelter is allowing interested parties to fill out an adoption application for the future.
"I can understand why they were interested in pursuing it, because he is a really sweet, little dog," Stepien said. "He will make someone a very nice pet once we get him through this."
EBHS has also set up a Razoo page for Roobert's treatments in an effort to recoup some of the costs. To learn more or donate, go to https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Roobert-Battles-Severe-Heartworm