Six months ago, in memory of my late beloved Labrador Retriever, Tiffany, I started a charity fund in her name, that would pay for health care for pets of the less fortunate whose lives are threatened by treatable injury or disease. Fund raising has been a combination of internet donation and waiting room collection box, waiting room candy machines, book sales, and yard and bake sales.
Fund raising has been slow going, and weather has until recently hampered our ability to have outdoor yards sales. Nonetheless, the fund finally reached a point that it could begin to be used sparingly, just in time for a case that epitomized the situations that Tiffany's Fund was intended for.
This past Tuesday afternoon, in walked Lady, a 4 year old Labrador Retriever, Doberman Pinscher cross, one of our cherished patients because of her extraordinarily sweet, gentle disposition, as well as her remarkable beauty (she wears the best features of both breeds that she's comprised of). Her owners are an elderly couple that do not have much money, but never hesitate to keep Lady up to date on her yearly visits and preventives.
On this particular day, Lady was very sick, having thrown up a sock the previous night, and hadn't stopped throwing up since. She was listless, severely dehydrated, and very painful in the abdomen. X-rays and a radiographic technique known as upper GI series, we ascertained that Lady likely had additional foreign bodies obstructing her bowels, a situation that would lead to certain death if left untreated.
When I presented the estimate for the necessary surgery and intensive care hospitalization to the owners, Lady's father agonizingly told me that he could not afford the surgery and would have to put her down. At this point, I did not offer Tiffany's Fund money to help, since we have three main rules for considering candidates for Tiffany's Fund. These criteria are in place to weed out those seeking to misrepresent themselves and fraudulently, take advantage of our fund that we work very hard to raise money for.
(1) The patient's condition must be potentially life threatening. (2) The client must not come in asking for the fund, or indicate in any way that they brought their pet to us specifically because of the fund. (3) The client must apply for and be denied Care Credit, a third party, interest free medical lending company we offer as a payment option. Of course, there are subjective assessments that my experienced technicians and I consider, that one gets a feel for the quality of a pet owner from years of experience (e.g., don't tell me you can't afford health care for your pet, when you show in a BMW or walk in with a Louis Vuitton purse).
In tears, Lady's elderly father told me that he would likely get accepted for Care Credit since he retains a good credit rating, but living on a fixed income of $1200 per month, he refused get himself into debt that he and his wife would have to starve in order to pay back, even without interest. He agonizingly told me that he adored his dog, but he could not justify putting his wife in harms way by spending money they don't have.
Seeing that this dog was always well cared for, and knowing this sweet old couple for 4 years, I knew that Lady's father was being sincere. As such, I waved the Care Credit criteria and offered our fund to pay for Lady's treatment.
On abdominal exploratory surgery, I found that there were two socks jammed in her small intestine, causing obstruction and hemorrhage. I removed the obstruction via enterotomy, flushed her abdomen, closed her incision, then treated her aggressively with IV fluids, antibiotics, GI protectants, and narcotic pain management. Lady went home yesterday eating, in good spirits, her pain under control, and ecstatic to be reunited with her owners, a sentiment that was mirrored by her owners. I got to experience the joy of a life saved through the inspiration and memory of the greatest friend I ever had. It is my goal to ensure that this is only the first of many to come.
If you would like to read more about Tiffany's Fund, and/or wish to contribute, please visit the Tiffany's Fund page of my hospital's website at:
Roger Welton, DVM