Posted in Features


Touch A Truck

an album by Maralyn Fink

Program helps kids with special needs

Amanda Shaffer and her husband, Willis, have four beautiful children, all of whom have various types of special needs, including scoliosis, chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, autism, asthma, sleep apnea, oppositional defiant disorder, and attention deficit disorder, just to name a few.

Having a child with special needs can be overwhelming for any family, but having four kids with serious health issues can leave a family in emotional and financial ruin. Luckily for the Shaffers, they have been blessed with an outpouring of support from family and friends, who lend a hand when they can, a shoulder to cry on, or a listening ear.

Amanda also credits a little-known program for helping her and Willis keep their sanity and stay out of bankruptcy: Children’s Special Health Care Services. The program covers over 2,600 health care diagnoses and is for Children’s Special Health Care Services children from birth to age 21, and some adults with certain conditions.

The program assists the family with things they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise, like medication and equipment costs. It also helps ease the family’s financial burden by helping to cover co-pays, hospital stays and travel costs when visiting out-of-town doctors. In addition, CSHCS helps with specialty medical bills and deductibles, finding specialty services and providers, coordinating services from multiple providers, locating support groups, identifying community-based services to help care for the child at home, and much more.

“We simply would not be able to treat our kids without CSHCS,” said Amanda. “The program has given us something invaluable- peace of mind. It allows us to concentrate more on our children and less on medical bills and related expenses.”

Helping other families in the same type of situation is a passion of Amanda’s, and as Parent Liaison for the program, something she’s proud of.

“As CSHCS Parent Liaison, I have the great pleasure of working with families just like my own. I’m the point of contact for moms and dads looking for answers. I help them through the tough times and support parents new to the program. We share similar experiences, and that helps me connect with them on a deeper level. I understand what they’re going through, where they’ve been, and what they need.”

It’s her mission to make as many eligible families aware of the program and encourages them to apply, regardless of how much money they make, or if they are insured. That’s because the child’s medical condition, not family income, determines if they qualify. Families with higher incomes, like the Shaffer’s, may be asked to pay a small yearly fee, but she says it’s well worth it in the long run.

Amanda’s working hard to support every member of special needs families and is especially excited about two opportunities coming up.

Children’s Special Health Care Services staff Back row: Laurie Finn, Peggy Fox, Laureen Simon, Intern Hanna Hengesbach. Middle row: Cheryl Thelen, Jennifer Stratton, Sue Corrigan, Jacque Strack. Front row: Amanda Shaffer. Missing: Jamie Sawdy and Wendy Currie.

All families currently enrolled in the program are reminded of the 4th annual CSHCS Family Fun Day Picnic, being held on
May 20 at the Ithaca High School Football Complex from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This year’s festivities will include crafts, games, a photo booth, door prizes, sensory activities, pizza and community resource information. Those who think their child might qualify for CSHCS, but just aren’t sure, are also invited to attend. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and help determine eligibility.

Shaffer is also coordinating Sibshops, which are fun events filled with games and laughter, just for siblings ages 8 to 13. It’s a great place to talk about the good and not-so-good aspects of having a sibling with special needs with others who “get it.”
Amanda said it’s important to acknowledge that being a brother or sister of a person with special needs is for some a good thing, others a not-so-good thing, and for many, somewhere in-between, and that it’s okay to have those feelings.

The other thing Shaffer wants clients to know is that she and the rest of the health department’s CSHCS staff really care about them and work hard to help families achieve the best possible outcome. If you think your child may qualify for Children’s Special Health Care Services, have questions about the picnic, or would like to sign your kids up for a Sibshop, call:

Clinton County: 989-227-3121
Gratiot County: 989-875-1004
Montcalm County: 989-831-3643

A Look Back – Turn of the Century Shuttle Vehicle

by Barry Clark Bauer

This photo has suffered a lot of damage but it’s still interesting none the less. It’s a turn of the Century shuttle vehicle apparently running in St. Johns and Maple Rapids.

Weather permitting it was an open air shuttle; otherwise they had canvas sides that rolled down. Above the rear of the vehicle stood the Steel Hotel.

Benny and Jessie’s Pet Info – The Ultimate Guide to Responsible Pet Adoption

Adding a cat or dog to your family is a big decision, and these days there are many ways for you to do so. Adoption is an option for folks looking to possibly save a little money—and more importantly, save a life.

Adopting a cat or dog shouldn’t be taken lightly—after all, you’ll hopefully have this pet in your home for years to come. Luckily, when it comes to pet adoption, you’ll have plenty of good options when deciding on the best pet for your household.

“I think that people don’t realize the great variety and quality of animals that are available for adoption,” says Carol Novello, president of the Humane Society Silicon Valley. “I think there’s the perception that there’s something wrong with shelter animals, and in many cases they’ve just found themselves in circumstances where the cards haven’t fallen in their favor.”

There are multiple things to consider before you adopt, including what kind of pet you’re seeking, where you might find that pet, how much your new furry friend will cost up front and in the long run, and more. Read on to learn everything you need to know about responsible pet adoption.

Pet Adoption: Picking the Right Family Member

You might already have your ideal pet in mind, based on what you know about certain breeds or your interactions with them in the past. While that’s perfectly fine, you should realize that you might change your mind once you meet a few cats or dogs.

“While certain breeds do tend to have certain characteristics, there is a lot of variation of personality within individual dogs or cats within a breed, so it’s much more useful to focus on [your] lifestyle and expectations, and then to think about the individual pet,” says Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of the Michelson Found Animals Foundation.

Think about how a pet will fit into your life and your schedule. Do you want a dog that’s good with children? Do you have the time to devote to training a puppy? Do you have the space to accommodate a larger dog? Figuring out those types of questions will be more important than honing in on a specific breed or being swayed by an adorable face.

“Knowing what you’re looking for in terms of activity level, play level, all of those types of things are really important,” says Jim Hanophy, CEO of Operation Kindness, a no-kill shelter in Texas. He says that some breeds come with special considerations like high exercise, mental stimulation, or grooming needs, and it’s important to keep such things in mind when picking out a cat or dog.

You can narrow down your options if you know whether you’re looking for a cat or a puppy or an older dog. Looking closely and honestly at your lifestyle can help determine if you have time to put the work into a puppy.

“A lot of people love to adopt puppies because they’re cute,” Novello says. “Puppies are also a ton of work. You’ve really got to invest in training and it’s a huge time commitment versus lots of great older dogs.” And while cats, and especially kittens, do require your attention, giving them the care they need generally takes less time and effort than with dogs.

Where to Adopt a Pet

If you’ve already done a search to see what kinds of pets are available in your area, you might’ve been surprised to find how many options you have when it comes to where to adopt from. Depending on where you live, municipal shelters, rescue groups, no-kill shelters, or a local Humane Society might be an option.

“There’s a huge range of options and you can’t use one paintbrush to say, all municipal shelters work like this or all rescue groups work like that,” Gilbreath says. “If the animal’s been in a foster home obviously you’re going to have information about whether or not they’re housebroken, any interesting habits or quirks they might have, potentially how they are with other animals or children. In a shelter in a kennel setting, a lot of times, you aren’t going to have as much information.”

Rescue groups and foster programs typically have higher adoption fees and a longer adoption process than shelters, Gilbreath says: “It can work out great, wherever you adopt from, it’s just a matter of understanding that the process may be different.”

Hanophy suggests asking friends with adopted animals where they adopted from and what the experience was like. Depending on your area, online review sites like Yelp might also give you an idea of a shelter or rescue group’s reputation.

“Make sure you’re dealing with the people and organizations that care for animals,” Hanophy recommends. “Most municipal shelters are reputable and have the best interest of the public at heart. With the freestanding shelters, look at the reputation of the organization, talk to people who have adopted from them. Then it’s just using your own best judgement.”

In addition to being lifesaving for animals, most places that offer adoption want to make sure you and your chosen pet will have a happy life together, Novello says: “A lot of shelters and rescue groups will really take the time to determine what your needs are and create a match that will work for the family looking to adopt.” Most also will accept pets back should a match not work out as expected.

Adopting a Pet: Cost Considerations

Any time you get a pet, whether through adoption or other means, you’ll also need to buy supplies for that pet. Common expenses include those for food, bowls, treats, litter boxes, bedding, crates, collars, leashes, and toys, Hanophy says.

You’ll also have to budget for medical expenses. Although it’s a common misconception, shelter pets aren’t necessarily more expensive than others when it comes to medical costs.

Some pet medical expenses are likely to be covered for you before you even adopt, depending on the facility. At the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, for example, a health exam, spay or neuter, vaccines, and a microchip are all included in the adoption fee. Learn more about what to expect from adoption fees here.

“There are a lot of added services that you get when you adopt a dog from a shelter as opposed to getting a dog from Craigslist or a breeder where you have to incur those additional expenses for vaccines or veterinary care,” says Dr. Cristie Kamiya, chief of shelter medicine at the Humane Society Silicon Valley.. “Probably about three-quarters of the animals that come through our doors need some level of medical or behavioral support, These are dogs that might have an injury or an illness that needs to be treated and we spend a lot of time fixing these guys. If we have animals that have chronic conditions we might take a little bit longer to find a home for them.”

If it’s not included with your adoption fee, Gilbreath recommends looking into microchipping your pet, noting that one in three pets will go missing in their lifetime. While a collar with an ID tag is essential, a microchip can be a good backup option should the pet become separated from its tag.

“We want all pets to get a happy, loving home and keep that happy, loving home, but things happen,” she says. “Pets are animals, they naturally have an instinct to wander. A microchip is the only form of permanent identification.”

Consider Dog Breed Restrictions

No matter how much you love a certain breed, check to make sure your city or town doesn’t have a law preventing that breed before you adopt. While it may seem unfair to prospective pet owners, these laws (known as breed-specific legislation) may ban breeds such as Pit Bulls, American Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and more according to the ASPCA. More than 700 cities have such laws.

Breeds may also matter for homeowner associations and for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Some insurance companies will deny coverage if you adopt a dog of a specific breed. These rules vary by homeowner association and insurance company, so check with yours before you adopt a dog.

Not Ready for Pet Adoption? Try Fostering

Many organizations have limited space and many animals to care for. Or they may have dogs or cats who do better in a home setting than in a kennel day after day. Whatever the case, many shelters and rescue organizations seek foster, or temporary, families for the animals in their care.

“The beauty of fostering is it can be for as little as a weekend or as much as 10-12 weeks,” says Hanophy. “We have some fosters that love to take the pregnant moms, deliver the puppies, and help the puppies grow.”

By fostering you can “try out” having an animal in your home and see if it’s a good lifestyle fit for your household. If you’re unsure about what type of animal you eventually want to adopt, most shelters have cats, dogs, kittens, and puppies available for foster programs. As a bonus, most organizations give you all the pet supplies and food you need while fostering, so it’s more of a time commitment for foster families than a financial one.

“It’s a lower commitment way to get pets in your home and get your feet wet,” says Gilbreath. “At the end of fostering, if you don’t want to keep the animal, that’s fine, and if you do want to keep the animal, that’s great, too.”

If you do end up adopting the animal in your care, that’s called a “foster failure”—and it’s not a bad thing.

“Fostering is fantastic,” says Kamiya, who is a foster failure herself. “It’s a win-win for everyone. It’s a win for the adopter and it’s a really nice entry into pet ownership for people who are interested in getting a cat or a dog, but aren’t quite ready to make that commitment yet.”

Maralyn’s Pet Corner – CPR and Artificial Respiration for Kittens

How to Perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Artificial Respiration

Artificial respiration (AR) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are emergency procedures that hopefully you will never need to use. It is better to take your kitten to your veterinarian before problems become severe enough to require CPR. But, when necessary and if performed correctly, CPR may give you time to get your kitten to your veterinarian.

What to Watch For

These signs are all reasons to get your cat to your veterinarian immediately:

– Difficulty breathing
– Weakness or lethargy
– Unconsciousness
– Any sudden onset of illness
– Any sudden unexplained change in behavior
– Severe injury or trauma

Before you begin AR or CPR, make sure the kitten is truly in need. Talk to the kitten. Touch and gently shake him. You risk serious injury by trying to perform either AR or CPR on a kitten that is startled awake while sleeping. Here are some vital signs you can check to help you decide if AR or CPR is necessary:

– Check breathing – Watch for movement of the chest, or feel for it with your hand. Put your hand in front of your kitten’s nose to feel his breath; if mist forms on a piece of clean glass or metal placed in front of your kitten’s nose, CPR is probably not necessary.
– Check the color of his gums – Bluish or gray gums are a sign of not enough oxygen; white gums are the result of poor blood circulation.
– Check for a pulse on the inside of the thigh, near where the leg meets the body.
– Listen for a heartbeat by putting your ear or a stethoscope on the left side of the chest near the elbow.

Immediate Care

If possible, perform the following steps en route to your veterinarian.

– Check for breathing.
If there is none, open the mouth and remove any obstructions in the airway.
Pull the tongue to the front of the mouth, then close the mouth and gently hold it shut.
Make sure the neck is straight and breathe short puffs of air into the nose – one breath every 6 seconds (10 breaths/minute). (If you have been trained in CPR for human infants, use a similar strength of breath.)
– Watch for chest movement; the chest should both rise when you give a breath and relax after the breath.
If the cat’s heart stops, use both artificial respiration and CPR (steps 7-10)
– Check for a heartbeat and pulse.
If there is none, lay your cat on his right side on a flat surface.
– Place your thumb and fingers from one hand on either side of his chest behind his elbows and give a quick squeeze to compress the chest to about 1/3 to 1/2 of its normal thickness.
– Compress the chest about 100-120 times per minute; give two breaths for every 30 compressions.

Veterinary Care


Your veterinarian will give your kitten a brief physical exam to assess heart and lung activity before beginning resuscitative efforts. If your veterinarian can revive your kitten, appropriate testing will be done to determine the underlying health problem.


While your veterinary team continues with CPR, some or all of the following may be done to aid in reviving your cat:

An endotracheal tube will be placed and oxygen used for artificial respiration. (An endotracheal tube is a tube placed in the trachea – the large airway that connects the throat to the lungs – that can be used to deliver oxygen to the lungs.)
An intravenous catheter will be placed to allow for easier administration of emergency medication and to give fluids.
Epinephrine and other emergency medications will be given in an effort to stimulate the heart and breathing.

Living and Management

Unfortunately, most kittens that reach the point of needing CPR do not survive. If your kitten survives, expect him to stay in the hospital until a diagnosis is made and his condition is stabilized.

Follow all your veterinarian’s aftercare instructions, and if your kitten shows no improvement or relapses, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.


Accidents do happen, in spite of our best efforts, and some can be severe enough to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation or artificial respiration. Regular check-ups and prompt care of health problems will diminish the chances your kitten has a serious issue which requires artificial respiration or CPR.