Archive for February, 2015

AHF Pet Therapy Team Comforts Patient With Severe Depression

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Mia for MissionIn November, Mission Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit (located in Laguna Beach, California) opened their doors to a Pet Therapy Program, which has been offered by the hospital as a Community Benefit service to patients for the past 8 years. Over a dozen dedicated Pet Teams have volunteered their time in an effort to support the healing journey for patients, and most recently, two teams have opened their hearts to the behavioral health patients. Recently, staff shared a story of a patient who was significantly changed due to a visit with Mia, who has been a canine volunteer with Mission Hospital for 7 years.

“We had a patient with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder who experienced major loss and was having a very difficult time coping.  She suffered with thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and severe social isolation. She had these symptoms for days and had not attended any patient groups. While she initially declined pet therapy, further prompting encouraged her to participate. Initially, she simply sat next to Mia, but after a few minutes, she began gingerly petting her and her physical affect began to change. She walked out of the group room with a small smile on her face. From this day until discharge, she became more and more visible on the unit, began sleeping better, and no longer had thoughts of suicide. We are convinced that she would have been here far longer if she hadn’t been given the opportunity to make that initial step to spend some time with Mia.”

It is connections like this one that make our work at Mission a sacred experience and help to bring wholeness to our patients, our co-workers and our community. Many thanks to volunteers Pam and Daleen who take hours from their day to prepare their dogs and spend time at our ministry; without them, these sacred moments would not be possible.

Mickey Gets Help from AHF Angel Fund

Friday, February 6th, 2015

MickyThanks to the doctors and staff of the Lomita Animal Hospital, Mickey’s family could afford the fracture surgery he needed because the hospital reached out to the Angel Fund for a grant.

And, now, he’s a happy boy!

AHF Board Member Receives Southern CA Veterinary Award

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Dr. V Photo 2 dogs (2)Board Member Dr. Alice Villalobos Received the Southern California Veterinary Medical Associations’ Highest Honor – The Don Mahan Award.

Below is the article that appeared in the SCVMA monthly publication “Pulse”.

Dr. Alice Villalobos: From ‘Concrete  Society’ to Renowned Veterinarian

From the moment she graduated from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1972, Dr. Alice Villalobos was a veterinarian with a special pedigree.

She was one of the profession’s first oncologists. She had, in fact, unofficially done a three-year residency in veterinary oncology while she was completing her studies at Davis. “When I went to my first lecture about the cancer cell, I was very inspired,” she recalled in an interview. “I felt it was something I could do [that was] worthy of devoting my entire career to. And that is to kill the biggest pest in the body, which is the cancer cell.”

Student Villalobos worked for Dr. Gordon Theilen, a cancer research specialist widely regarded as the father of veterinary clinical oncology, who designed a three-year residency program for Davis that she was the first to complete. That oncology training and mentorship have served her well. Today she is regarded as a pioneer in the field, has written a textbook on the subject and is in wide demand as a speaker.

After receiving her DVM degree, Dr. Villalobos returned to the Los Angeles area where she grew up and worked as an associate in Manhattan Beach. In 1974, she opened the Coast Pet Clinic/Animal Cancer Center in Hermosa Beach, which developed into the first multidisciplinary private oncology and radiation therapy referral service in the United States. She also worked 10 years as a research affiliate in radiation therapy at UCLA’s Rilger Center.

“When I got out of vet school, I never knew that I was going to be a leader in veterinary oncology. It became a rapidly growing specialty and board certification was established in the mid ’80s but we already had a radiation oncology practice with three oncologists, internists and a surgeon. Many people called us Davis south.”

In 1999, Dr. Villalobos sold her clinic to VCA. Today she operates a Tuesday clinic at VCA Coast in Hermosa Beach called Pawspice (it rhymes with hospice). It “embraces treating advanced disease using kinder, gentler approaches that do not compromise the patient, expert pain control and immuno-nutrition that helps patient well being,” she said. “We try to have pets at home with their families. The whole idea is that the patient feels comfortable at home and the family members have privacy. We prioritize pain control and quality of life big time.”

Her team also runs a busy Wednesday clinic at ACCESS in Woodland Hills called Animal Oncology Consultation Service & Pawspice. This schedule allows time for writing, speaking at national and international meetings and participation in organizations dear to her heart. Her textbook, “Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond,” was published in 2007. She has written two monthly columns for Veterinary Practice News and now writes occasional columns under the title, “Dr. Alice at Large.”

Dr. Villalobos comes from the “cement society.” She grew up in the Crenshaw District near the Forum in Inglewood. Her parents immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico as children. “My parents considered education very important,” she said. “I was the first one [the fourth of five siblings] to go away to college.” Her father worked in a factory and her mother worked as a seamstress. “We got by just fine but we didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “Jobs and student loans helped me pay for college.”

Young Alice went to St. Mary’s Academy and attended El Camino College and Long Beach State. She transferred to UC Davis as a senior, then won acceptance to veterinary school.

As a child, she said, “I always loved animals. I collected bugs in the back yard. I wanted to have a dog but we couldn’t have one. A stray came into our yard when I was in second grade and he was scratching all the time. I wanted to help him. We took him to the vet. He took a skin scraping and showed me a terrible creature under the microscope – a sarcoptic mange mite. I’ll never forget that ugly creature. I asked the doctor how much it would cost to fix the dog. The doctor took off his glasses and he looked at me and he said, ‘30 dollars.’ I knew right then that I was going to be a veterinarian and take care of my own pets.”

Today, she said, she likes to show clients cancer cells under the microscope. “I think it really means something to them.”

Her goal is to “create a movement throughout the United States and the world to increase the awareness of all practices, whether general or specialties, to the concept of hospice or Pawspice so that pets can spend their last days on comfort care at home with their families – and not in the hospital. We were trained to not send an animal home that can’t move. But now we’re asking emergency room doctors and clinicians to rethink and send patients home for hospice. People prefer a little more time at home to say goodbye to their pets with help from a house-call doctor or their local veterinarian.”

In 2004, Dr. Villalobos put together her Quality of Life Scale. In wide use today by veterinarians and pet owners, it “helps people make the decision to continue hospice to improve the patient’s quality of life or to make the final call for euthanasia so that we can assure a peaceful and painless passing.”

Dr. Villalobos has a protocol for euthanasia that is “very gentle and kind.” She wants family members to feel comfortable and unrushed and, she said, she never separates the pet from the family. She sedates the pet first so that the pet falls asleep with loved ones nearby. Family members who feel uncomfortable can leave the room before euthanasia. She wants it to “be a peaceful experience for all . . . and a memorable experience” even though it is a difficult time.

On January 31, Dr. Villalobos was presented the H. Don Mahan award at SCVMA’s annual Celebration and Installation of Officers. The association’s most prestigious award goes annually to a person who has served organized veterinary medicine in an extraordinary manner.


Dr. Villalobos and Ira Lifland, her husband of 32 years, are “the American mom and dad” to three Asian families. They are guardians and god parents of 16-year-old Cindy Zhou, who has lived in their home in Hermosa BeacherHHH eermosa BeachHfor two and a half years.

In 1977, Dr. Villalobos founded the Peter Zippi Fund, which has helped more than 14,700 homeless animals. The recipient of numerous honors, she was named Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year in 1999, received a UC Davis Alumni Achievement Award in 1994 and won the CVMA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014. She has held many leadership positions and has served as president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics, the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and the Sierra Veterinary Medical Association. She is veterinary chair for the National Academies of Practice and is a director of the Animal Health Foundation.

She stays fit by jogging and skiing. She also loves dog walking, community work and travel.

–by Jim Bell

Angel Fund Helps Rescue Pet Owner on Disability

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Mocha AF McDadeWhen Nancy McDade learned late in 2013, that Mocha – her four-year-old chocolate Labrador – needed surgery, she knew what she needed to do.

The former merchant teller at a bank was unemployed and living on disability payments and she immediately set to work to find ways to pay for an operation that was well beyond her means. “I wanted to do everything I could for my dog but money was definitely a factor because I didn’t have any for this. I contacted several agencies that help provide funding and the veterinarian [Dr. Sean Kay of Macy & Thomas Veterinary Hospital in Whittier] suggested Angel Fund.

“Dr. Kay is a generous and caring person,” she said. “He knew I didn’t have a lot of money and he discounted some of the services he had control over. But the surgeon who would come in expected full payment.”

The staff at Macy & Thomas helped Nancy with an Angel Fund application. And Dr. Kay, from the very beginning, told her: “We’ll just assume you’re going to get it.” She did. Angel Fund provided $500 and Macy & Thomas helped with $500 more. Her other efforts raised $700 to $900 from about half a dozen agencies.

Nancy had first noticed Mocha favoring her right rear leg and limping. So she took her to see Dr. Kay. An x-ray showed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “It was torn but not fully detached and they tried doing laser treatments to see if it would heal. But it was torn too badly.” She was given the option of doing nothing. But that could have led eventually to amputation and it could have caused problems in the leg on the left side.

So, Nancy said, the choice was easy. “A bird should fly and a dog should run,” she said. “There was a beauty about Mocha, like a race horse, when she ran. She jumped over short little fences, like garden fences. There was beauty in the way she did it. And I wanted her to be able to do it again.”

So Mocha got the surgery. Depressed after five or six days in the hospital, she came home to recuperate. Under orders to keep her in a small space so she could heal, Nancy said she and son Jacob, who lives with her, “had barriers all over the front room. But at one point I took her back to the hospital because her leg was swollen and I was told that she was standing on it too much. She needed just enough space to stand up and turn around and we had been giving her too much.”

Mocha’s recovery took about four months. Today, she “is running around again like a crazy woman. She’s very happy. She’s a very well behaved dog and she is very protective of me. Nobody is allowed on my front porch – well, she thinks it’s her front porch. She follows me from room to room. Sometimes it’s like am I protecting you or are you protecting me? Because she’s always right next to me and fully alert.”

Nancy is grateful to Angel Fund, Macy & Thomas and the other donors. “They helped save my dog’s life – not that it was a life threatening condition. But this [surgery] gave her quality of life. . . . Wonderful!”