Helen Uitermark lives alone in her home in the San Gabriel Valley, except for her pets, including dogs large and small. About a year ago, she adopted Mitzy, “so, if nothing else, I can hug her on my lap.”
Mitzy is a West Highland White Terrier mix and is about the size of a Maltese-Poodle mix. She was just the right medicine to lift Helen out of a depression arising from her own medical problems.
Helen, is a senior citizen who often uses a cane or walker because of a broken ankle suffered nearly a year ago. Mitzy replaced two tuxedo cats that were apparently lost to coyotes.
Last spring, Helen said, “it was obvious that Mitzy wasn’t feeling well so I took her to Covina Animal Hospital. The diagnosis was glaucoma in her left eye.”
Dr. Karryssa Fenderson-Joseph, the hospital’s medical director, said that, when Mitzy’s condition did not improve with medical management, the best option she could offer was to remove the eye. The surgery took place a few days later.
Mitzy soon was able to run around in Helen’s backyard. “Everything was fine for several weeks,” she said. “Then, because Mitzy didn’t seem to be herself, I checked her, and the other eye seemed to have a white haze across it. I took her back to the hospital and she was diagnosed, again with glaucoma.” Dr. Fenderson said she recommended removal of Mitzy’s remaining eye after Helen told her that she didn’t want Mitzy to have on-going problems.
“After removal of the right eye, Dr. Fenderson had me come back several times because of an anemia condition (Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia). I had never heard of it.
“Dr. Fenderson gave Mitzy a full-blood transfusion,” Helen said, “and she improved every week. We’ve been back to the hospital every month for a checkup. According to the doctor, the numbers have been holding so – unless something else happens – we’re good to go!”
Dr. Fenderson said that Mitzy has done so well since her transfusion that she is in remission and no longer is taking medication for IMHA.
Helen had been told about Angel Fund by friends and she asked Dr. Fenderson about it. “She immediately said: ‘Let me see what I can do.’ There was no further discussion about it but a few visits later, she said: ‘By the way, the grant has been approved.’ I almost danced out of her office! You have no idea how much I appreciate the Angel Fund grant.
“Dr. Fenderson has been so terrific, that’s where I will be going. It’s 15 miles from my home but, yes, she will be taking care of all my animals. I love her dearly.”
Mitzy seemed to be depressed after the second eye was removed. “She wasn’t interested in much and wasn’t even exploring. I was offered a kitten, about eight weeks old, and I said yes, since I’d lost the two cats last year.
“The kitten, Rusty, a male who is about six months old, and Mitzy get along fantastically. Mitzy’s depression has improved so much. It was wonderful to see. She gets around the house and backyard just fine. Every day her awareness seems to get better.”
Helen is getting used to dealing with a sightless Mitzy and she often forgets that her dog is blind. “She and I are getting accustomed to it. I can hear Mitzy on the other side of the door when I drive into the garage. It’s as if she’s trying to jump into my arms when I come through that door – then she does.”
But the household got a shock when Helen was pressured into accepting two Shi Tzu dogs that needed a new home. Helen said that she really did not want more pets, especially with a pinched sciatic nerve that added to her mobility problems. “They were absolutely loveable animals but it was too much,” she said.
A month after they arrived – the Shi Tzus were adopted by another family – much to Helen’s relief.
“My household is down to Mitzy and Rusty now. After the Shi Tzus left, Rusty came over to Mitzy when she was lying down and cuddled up to her. And she is walking through the house like it’s her domain again. I hope it is for many years to come!!”