BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – We’re not supposed to outlive our children. It’s an unwritten rule we expect as parents and we don’t prepare for the flip of life when a child is taken from us.
Jenni Buechel, of Fort Madison, is navigating those rough seas as she lost her daughter, Kaitlyn Schlicher (Buechel) to a bone marrow disease in November. But Jenni is trying to keep her daughter’s memory alive through pets that Kaitlyn was so fond of.
Buechel reached out to PAW Animal Shelter in Fort Madison in February, when Kaitlyn would have turned nine. The loss is so fresh that Buechel would think of taking cookies home or making other plans for a party and have to remember that her daughter wasn’t there. But Buechel said that it’s the pets that remind her so much of her daughter, so she wanted to do something on her birthday that would help the lives of other pets still looking for a home.
“It would have been her ninth birthday in February. No birthday party,” Buechel said Thursday. “I was thinking people who would have been giving her gifts could donate instead to keep her memory alive. Kaitlyn just loved animals and when I called Sandy (Brown) at PAW she said people could donate food or treats, but those would be gone quickly and maybe we could donate something more permanent that they could put a plaque on with Kaitlyn’s name. I thought that was a good idea.”
Brown said the shelter will always take the donations of paper goods, food, treats etc., but she wanted to help Buechel keep her daughter’s memory going.
“Her mom wanted to honor her birthday,” Brown said. “Usually when people have a memorial, I suggest they do something concrete and not do things that get used up because three weeks later it’s gone. I always ask them if they want to do something in the way of a kennel or a tower. Or put their money toward something that people can go by and see.”
Brown said initially they looked at play towers, but money has been coming in so the shelter is looking at something even more permanent like stainless steel units where adoptable pets can live during the transition to homes.
“Those things can run anywhere from $150 to $1,000 depending on what direction you go,” she said. “But the ones we’re looking at are kind of different, they’re three-highs and have like a basement, a middle, and an attic. They run about $300 or $400.”
Buechel said Kaitlyn was sick a lot with Neutropenia, which is a condition where the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough neutrophils, which help the body fight bacteria and other foreign bodies that can cause infections. On Nov. 2, Buechel was called home when her daughter was unresponsive. EMTs performed CPR on Kaitlyn, but couldn’t resuscitate her and the eight-year-old was pronounced dead at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
No autopsy was done, but Buechel believes her daughter was killed by the flu. That wasn’t ever identified by doctors as the cause.
“She always had a flu shot, but this flu season’s immunizations weren’t as effective as they have been in the past… I think it was the flu.”
She said Kaitlyn was different from other children because of the disease, but was the same when it came to her three cats and a dog.
“She was sick a lot for sure, but sometimes she would just act sick. The animals would let me know, because they would go by her and she would perk right up. Those animals would bring that out of her. Maybe….that’s another reason people should adopt,” Buechel said.
Donations can be made through the PAW Facebook page with PayPal or a credit card, or can be taken or mailed to the animal shelter at 2031 48th Street in Fort Madison between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. A donation button is on the shelter’s Facebook page located at: https://www.facebook.com/PAW-Fort-Madison-Animal-Shelter-179648212052707/
“I hope it’s a success, I really do,” Buechel said.
Brown said the shelter plans on totaling up the donations at the end of the month and then getting with Buechel and deciding which way she wants to go. Brown is also hoping someone would donate a plaque with Kaitlyn’s name on it to hang on whatever is donated.
“We’d have people walk in and say they saw it on television and donate in honor of her, and we have some people who are just walking and in donating in her honor. Obviously we will continue to take donations, but we’d like to have something for Jenni soon, so if anyone is still planning on donating, it would be great if they could do it before the end of the month.”
The shelter can be reached by calling 319-372-2274.