POST FALLS — Standing near a rainbow mural in the TAILS Foundation Inc. Thrift Store and Community Center, Tara Myers held a framed photograph close to her heart.
"This is Lady," she said, showing the photo of her beloved black Lab. "She had bone cancer. She was 9. It took her really quick."
As the cancer wore Lady down, Myers knew it was getting to be time to say goodbye to her sweet girl.
"She was throwing up and wouldn’t go outside to go to the bathroom," she said. "I was just like, ‘Oh no.’"
Beneath the pain of losing her pal, Myers began fretting over how she was going to pay for euthanasia.
"Money was tight," she said. "I didn't know what I was going to do."
After four days of unsuccessful calls to find a veterinarian she could afford, a panicked Myers went to TAILS Foundation Inc. to seek assistance through its RainbowTAILS program, which offers help with humane end-of-life services for pets. TAILS Foundation founder and director LaRain Saige found Myers a vet and was able to use money the foundation had raised to cover the expenses of seeing Lady out with dignity.
"I definitely knew it was the right thing and it was time," Myers said. "It made a really miserable situation a little better."
Saige discovered the need for a program like RainbowTAILS a few years ago when her friend's husband had to go through the heartbreaking act of taking the life of his 14-year-old dog when they couldn't afford the vet fees. Saige said they tried fundraising but just didn't make enough money in time.
"If you take it into your own hands, you’re basically taking on the responsibility of that death," Saige said. "That can have traumatic effects on that person’s psyche. All they think is, ‘I killed this animal.’ The husband couldn’t even speak for like a week. They had him for 14 years, and you have to go and shoot him in the head because you don’t have the 80 bucks to euthanize him. Are you serious?"
TAILS (Tales of Animals Impacting our LiveS) Foundation partners with independent and holistic veterinarian Dr. Tracy Ridgeway as well as River City Animal Hospital in Post Falls to provide euthanasia for a discounted fee or no fee at all. The nonprofit is always in fundraising mode and in need of volunteers to ensure it has money available for this specific service, which can cost anywhere from $60 to $300 depending on size of the animal and if remains are returned to the owners.
Saige said many times, veterinarian clinics won't allow financing or clients don't qualify for Care Credit to help with the payments, thrusting pet owners into desperation.
“It doesn’t matter where we are financially, even if we’re scraping,” said community outreach coordinator Krysta Bell. “If that need walks through the door, we say ‘OK.’ That’s our priority."
Through RainbowTAILS, Saige and Bell also help grieving families make the right choice when deciding if it's a pet's time to go. They go through a checklist with pet owners to help them understand their pet's health and what options they have.
"When it’s time for an animal to go, it’s time for them to go and sometimes you just need to let them go,” Saige said. "It’s more humane to euthanize them than to let them live. If they can’t get up and eat and drink on their own, they can’t get up and go potty on their own, then it's time to go."
Pamela Wallace recently had to make that sad decision when her son's 15-year-old pit bull, Scrappy, was nearing the end. Saige helped her through the process because it was a devastating time for her and her son.
"My son wasn't ready," Wallace said. "My head knew this, but my heart didn't want to. I don't know how we would have gotten through this."
Wallace shared a couple photos of Scrappy and a video of her other dog covering him with a blanket during his final hour. She said RainbowTAILS is an important service that people need to know about; thanks to the vet who made a house call, Scrappy had a peaceful passing at home.
"What do you do? People are having to make these horrible decisions, but it's your pet at the end of his life," Wallace said. "They can't talk. These are animals. You have to speak for them, they depend on us.
"It’s the last loving act you do for your pet."
TAILS Foundation provides several other services and is working on extending RainbowTAILS to include hospice care and recovery of pets' ashes or remains.
"By the time some people find us, they’ve been calling for days trying to find someone to help," Bell said. "Then they hear about us and it’s a breath of fresh air. I am so honored to be a part of the RainbowTAILS program because as heartbreaking as it is, it means the world to me because of the relief that I see on everybody."