Ann Helderman Vaughan wants another cat. But first she needs more answers, and her heart hopes for a cure for the often fatal feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) disease that took the life of her cat in 2011.
Hard to diagnosis and with no effective treatment available, the baffling cat disease strikes between 1 in 100 and 1 in 300 cats under 5 years old, though mostly kittens are stricken. And the incidence can be up to 10 times greater among kittens from breeders or shelters. With its origins in a common and benign infection called feline coronavirus, FIP arises from an unexpected and deadly mutation of the virus. And variations of the coronavirus affect people, too; the common cold is often a result of a human coronavirus.
Sneezing and coughing were the first symptoms of Ann's beloved blue-eyed Gauguin. Named for her love of art, the Seal-Point Birman cat became Ann's "only baby" in 2009. By 11 months, he was hitting the cat show circuit to become a Grand Premier—the championship designation for a spayed or neutered cat.
Traveling and stockpiling premiership status ribbons were exchanged for veterinary visits in 2011 for seven, seemingly never-ending, months.
The litany of blood tests, CT scans, abdominal ultrasounds initially only netted misdiagnoses, including cancer.
"Gauguin's body was being ravaged by FIP, but no matter where I went, no one knew definitely what was wrong," says Ann. "There were many opinions and guesses because many realized I was one of those pet owners who would go to any lengths to care for Gauguin."
A medical mystery first identified in 1963, with little medical progress of understanding the disease until about a decade ago, "it is one of the most complex diseases I have ever studied," explains renowned animal health researcher Dr. Al Legendre, professor emeritus and an original faculty member of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.
"I learned of Dr. Legendre and his work at UT after reading an article about FIP," says Ann, who graduated from UT Knoxville with a home economics degree in 1963. "I established an endowment (the Gauguin Memorial Research Endowment in Veterinary Medicine) at my alma mater in hopes that research can be done on all issues related to FIP, particularly the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure."
"If a disease killed puppies with this kind of frequency, a cure might have been found years ago because of the emphasis and dollars which go to canine studies," says Legendre. "Well, might have been found," he emphasizes.
With funding by Winn Feline Foundation, Legendre's pilot study treating cats with the dry form of FIP, just like Gauguin, has proved promising, with more than three dozen cats who have surpassed the one-year survival mark.
It's a small victory that Ann hopes will be the birthplace of "saving cats from this fatal disease, plus sparing other pet owners from the same emotional and financial toll I have experienced. "I hope that our lives, Gauguin and mine, will have some special meaning and will benefit others—human and animal."
Do More With Your Generosity
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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The University Of Tennessee a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.
an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan
"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to The University Of Tennessee [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."
able to be changed or cancelled
A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.
cannot be changed or cancelled
tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient
the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation
the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase
the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on
The person receiving the gift annuity payments.
the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid
a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will
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Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.
Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.
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You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.
You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.
A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.
A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and UT where you agree to make a gift to UT and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.