Every year, countless dogs die or go untreated because their owners can’t afford the medical care they need. But many others receive charitable funding for pet healthcare and go on to live long, happy lives. Who are the generous people who donate to these funds, and help keep other families’ pets healthy? The American Kennel Club caught up with some dog-loving donors.
The People Who Pay Other Families’ Vet Bills
Kitty and Steve Cooper
Dogs helped bring Kitty and Steve Cooper together. When they met, Steve had four dogs. “She showed me a picture of her son,” Steve told AKC.org, “and I showed her a picture of my dogs—”
“—and things proceeded from there!” Kitty quipped.
Among those dogs was Mountain Girl, an All-American Dog “who was just so sweet,” Kitty told AKC.org. “She had some hound dog in her, because she had this wonderful howl, and she was… such an imp, so mischievous.” Not long after they married 18 years ago, Kitty and Steve found a lump on Mountain Girl’s rump. Though she was only four years old, it turned out to be a fibrosarcoma.
The couple took Mountain Girl to vets and specialists around the country, finally settling on treatment at Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. “If it weren’t for CSU, she’d probably have been dead within a few months of the sarcoma,” Kitty told AKC.org. Instead, she lasted another two years, during which time, Kitty and Steve “fell in love with the people at CSU, and how hard they worked and cared for her. It was pretty special, the way they handled her.”
During one of their visits to CSU, Kitty and Steve watched another family receive a diagnosis of bloat and torsion for their dog. “I could see from their faces that the cost of the operation was just a little too much for them,” Kitty says.
“It was way too much for them,” Steve continued. “But they were doing it anyway. And both of us independently had the thought that we should pay their bill, but we didn’t do it.”
“We both regret so much not helping those people,” Kitty says. It was this regret that inspired the couple to establish a fund at the hospital. “People shouldn’t have to choose between food and their dog,” Kitty says.
Kitty and Steve stress that they aren’t wealthy, just comfortably retired. They started the fund with a little money, and added to it later by cashing in a life insurance policy they didn’t need.
The fund allows them to honor their beloved Mountain Girl while helping other animals and families in need—and also helping an institution that had been such a huge source of support to them and Mountain Girl.
“We think CSU’s pretty special,” Kitty says. “And I hope we inspire other people to do something like this.”
Fred and Rhoda Shulman
Two days after Fred and Rhoda Shulman rescued eighteen-month-old Labrador Retriever Kira, she started defecating blood. They rushed her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with parvo.
This was just the start of many medical complications Kira bravely faced down—she would go on to have ACL surgery on both hind legs as well as an eye trauma that required her to wear a contact lens. Then, finally, she developed the cancer that killed her. Fred, Rhoda, and Kira had just moved 2,500 miles across the country to Arizona when Kira started urinating blood.
When other vets struggled to diagnose Kira, the Shulmans took her to Midwestern University’s then-recently founded veterinary teaching hospital, “and they were just wonderful,” Fred told AKC.org. Sadly, Kira’s cancer was growing aggressively, and there was nothing the hospital could do.
Like Kitty and Steve Cooper, the Shulmans watched one family after another pass through the hospital, receiving excellent care amid often devastating circumstances—and noting that many of the owners were struggling to pay. “We were very moved by what the hospital was doing,” Fred told AKC.org. Finally, the couple approached the staff and offered to donate enough money to establish a hardship fund.
“Pets can’t help each other,” Fred told AKC.org. “They totally rely on the people that own them—we don’t even like to say we own them because they’re part of the family—but they rely on their family members to take care of them. And when you can’t take care of your pet, and keep it as part of the family, and give it the proper medical care, that’s just very sad.”
Donating to Midwestern and helping other families care for their pets has given the Shulmans “the wonderful feeling of giving to others who are pet lovers and pet owners, and allowing them to be, in some cases, as fortunate as we were: to save their pets, and have them around longer,” Fred told AKC.org.
How to Support Dogs in Medical Need
The Shulmans told the American Kennel Club: “We love animals. It doesn’t have to be ours.”
If you feel the same, you could follow the example of the Coopers, the Shulmans, and the many other generous people who help keep beloved pets alive longer.
If you have a relationship with a trusted animal-care institution, you can reach out to see if they have a fund you could donate to, or would be interested in establishing one. And if you don’t have a relationship, consider donating to your local veterinary teaching hospital. To find your local teaching hospital, you can search veterinary colleges by state on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website.
You can also donate the AKC Humane Fund, which offers grants to help support pet-related organizations across the nation.
“We don’t consider ourselves particularly special people,” Fred Shulman told AKC.org. “A little dog crazy, maybe!” Rhoda continued.
Aren’t all the best people?