Ann Champion, a production designer in film and television, has “always had animals and the one promise I always make them is, if their lives are at stake and they can continue on with quality of life, I’m not going to arbitrarily end their lives because I don’t have money.”
That promise was put to a severe test last summer. Her Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, then about 9½ years old and a picture of health, suddenly and inexplicably lost the use of her legs.
“Lillie had always been very fit,” Ann said, “so it was devastating to find her collapsed on the floor beside her bed when I went to get her to go for our walk [one August day]. She was completely alert and could raise her head and wag her tail, but even though she was trying to move all four legs she could not get them underneath her to stand up.”
Lillie weighed 110 pounds, “almost as much as I do,” Ann said. So it was almost impossible to move her. But Ann managed to get her in her car, with help from a neighbor, for a trip to an emergency hospital. The doctor did x-rays and blood tests that showed nothing wrong. He recommended taking her to a neurologist at a specialty hospital.
The neurologist recommended putting Lillie on steroids to reduce inflammation in the discs in her neck, which she thought were causing the problem. That sounded better to Ann than the other option – expensive surgery. “It would be a reasonable course of treatment and we could expect a good outcome,” the neurologist told her.
Quickly, Lillie was doing better. After a few days, the hospital wanted to send Lillie home to recover with outpatient physical therapy. “That created a whole new set of problems,” Ann said. “She was a very big girl and there was no way to get in or out of our Studio City home without having to negotiate steps. While there was a lot I was capable of doing to help her to continue to improve, I could not lift her.”
So Ann found a rehabilitation hospital. Lillie was fitted with a harness that made it easier to help her. The doctor at the rehab hospital said that he expected a full recovery. “The only negative in all this truly blessed and positive news was that it would take time – and time was money that I didn’t have.”
Ann had maxed out her Care Credit card and she applied for a higher limit. She also asked about Angel Fund and applied for help. She recalled visiting Lillie and taking her for a walk in the corridor with the help of the special harness a few days later.
“She was doing really well. I didn’t have to support her front end at all and she was placing her hind feet correctly and she was pulling me through the corridor. And I was thinking: ‘Yes! A couple more weeks of this and we’re gonna be home and walking up the hill.’ Then Lillie started doing less well, running a fever . . . and she started back sliding.”
The rehab hospital wanted Lillie to have a checkup so Ann took her to a nearby hospital, which found nothing wrong besides the disc problem. Ann decided to take her to the veterinarian in Pasadena who had treated Lillie in the past. He found liver problems, including a lesion. “So that was it,” she said, “there was nothing more that could be done. It was such a shock. Several vets had said: ‘You should have a full recovery’ or ‘You should expect a good outcome.’ Nobody said, ‘well, she may not make it.’ So I made this huge leap of faith and took on this enormous financial commitment. I‘m going to be paying for the rest of my life.”
Expenses for Lillie’s care totaled more than $9,000, including euthanasia and aquamation. She used her Care Credit to pay the balance owed to the rehab hospital – less $500 provided by Angel Fund. She also tried to raise money through an online website but after Lillie had to be put down that did not work. “I was very grateful for the help I got from Angel Fund. In this kind of situation, everything is a help. It’s a wonderful program. It was a godsend.”
Ann is struggling financially because working in the film and television industry is erratic at best.
Ann had given a home to a Swissy named Rozie before Lillie came into her life. She had lived with Rozie for six years after acquiring her at age six. So she had expected to have more time with Lillie, who had come into her life at four and a half years old.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs “are, without a doubt, the most wonderful dogs you can imagine in terms of their disposition,” she said. “They are beautiful and they are just absolutely incredible. But as much as I love the breed, I will never have another. They are so wonderful and you love them so much and their life span is so short. When they die, they just rip your heart out.”
Last Spring, Scott and Barbara Peterson had a visitor to their Tustin apartment – a beautiful black and white cat who was affectionate and loving. The animal – they named her Boots because of her white paws – soon became a part of the family.
But after a few weeks they realized that Boots was putting on weight, that she was pregnant.
When the time came for Boots to deliver her litter, it quickly became clear that something was wrong. She was in extreme discomfort and seemed unable to give birth. Scott searched the internet and found a website which suggested that a mother cat who was in labor for five hours should be taken to the hospital. He went back to the internet to look for a nearby veterinarian and decided to take Boots to Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Tustin not far from their home.
There Dr. Diane Craig performed a cesarean section and delivered two kittens. She told Scott and Barbara that one of the kittens was simply too big to be delivered by a normal birth.
Scott, a retired electrician, did not have the financial resources to pay the hospital and surgery bills. He applied for an Angel Fund grant and was approved for $500, an amount that the clinic matched. He and Barbara are grateful for the help they received and the care Boots was given.
Today, Boots, who was spayed when her kittens were delivered, is an indoor cat. One of the kittens still lives with the Petersons. “She [Boots] is really pretty. She’s black with white paws and a white tuxedo look,” Scott said. And she is healthy and happy. He e H
“I thought it was miraculous that she came to us when she was pregnant,” he said. “If she hadn’t done that, she probably wouldn’t have survived. She just walked in the door. We didn’t realize she was pregnant at first. But if she hadn’t come to us, she would not have lived.”
Did she have some inkling that she might need help? “I don’t know,” Scott said. “Maybe somebody else sent her our way. Maybe somebody from above.”
In January last year, Brandy Knochel took her dogs to Riverwalk Dog Park in Riverside not far from her Perris home. “It’s a dog park I frequent and we were on the agility side of the park,” she said. “There’s a hoop you can jump through and Ollie loves to do that.”
Ollie is a Rottweiler-Airedale mix who weighs more than 100 pounds. “Bubba, go jump!” Brandy told him. The dog eagerly ran for the hoop but his sister, a much smaller Golden Retriever mix, got in the way. “She jumped in before him, which slowed him down. So when he jumped through, his back leg got hung up on a chain,” she said. “And when he landed, he immediately laid down and started yelping. I thought, ‘Oh my god, he just broke his leg.’ He couldn’t walk and he wouldn’t let his toe touch the ground. So I took him to the veterinarian.” The doctor said she believed Ollie had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. She referred Brandy to a specialist.
A dog trainer, Brandy said she was “immediately doing fund-raising for him. I did training at discounted rates. I did rummage sales. I did garage sales. I knew he was going to get surgery but, if we could get help, it made it that much easier.” At her garage sale, she put Ollie in her front yard on an ottoman with a document that described what had happened. “We told people that all proceeds would go for his surgery. We had people who came to the sale and didn’t buy anything but donated to his surgery fund.”
A friend who lives nearby and works for SCVMA told her about Angel Fund. Brandy filled out an application. Shortly before Ollie’s surgery date, her friend called her and told her that her application had been approved.
Dr. Sam Shenouda performed the surgery on Ollie at Ambassador Dog and Cat Hospital in Long Beach. When he repaired the ACL, however, he discovered a torn meniscus and repaired that, too. The additional cost was $900.
“I had raised enough for his ACL surgery,” Brandy said. But with the additional charge for meniscus repair, she needed the Angel Fund grant and the hospital’s match to pay her bill. “When I found out they had approved it, I said, ‘Holy Cow! I cannot believe this is happening.’ I was very thankful for it. I’m sure he [Ollie] was, too.”
Ollie now is “a brand new dog, essentially,” Brandy said. “He looks so good. And the doctors said that, usually, if a dog tears a leg on one side, he is at risk for the other side. We’ve had zero issues with his other side. You wouldn’t know looking at him that he had had surgery. HJ He takes a little longer to get up, especially in the winter, if he’s been lying down a while, because he has to stretch the [injured] leg.
“We’re very, very much appreciative of the help Angel Fund gave us. It relieved some of the tension and it just made this a whole thing a lot easier. It worked out extremely well for us.”
Breed: Border Collie
Birthday: November 19, 2008
Weight: 40 pounds
Human Partner: Dee Marie Ebell
Nickname: “Mr. T”
Motto: “We Strengthen Your Spirit through Heartfelt Care”
Mr.T’s mild manner will lighten and brighten the lives of anyone he meets. He is eager to make a connection with his signature “high-five” shake using either his right or left paw. Tango’s gift of calmness gives way to make every day better for the people he meets. He thrives on the attention of all ages.
Tango loves herding sheep as well as his agility training to keep in shape.
His personable, sociable and sweet personality will prove to have a healing effect on people.
In the summer of 2013, Tess – Rochelle Bates’ beautiful black and white cat – was no longer easy to be around. “When she opened her mouth across the room from you, the odor could just about knock you down,” she said. “It was intense. And it had developed very quickly over a couple of months.”
Rochelle and husband Ed had taken in Tess when she was a feral kitten. She soon became a loved member of their household. So Rochelle took the cat, just four years old, to a dental cleaning clinic at a pet store. The veterinarian who examined Tess “took one look inside her mouth and he told me what was wrong. He said: ‘All her teeth are rotting. You’re going to need to take her to a veterinary dentist.’ It’s a congenital condition.”
Rochelle, a former writer and producer in Hollywood, is disabled and her husband Ed was unemployed at the time so she immediately began to search for a dental specialist who could give Tess the treatment she needed – surgery for tooth resorption and stomatitis – at an affordable cost. “It was a rough time for this to happen,” she said.
“I called around to lots of veterinary clinics and found that the treatment was just too expensive. It was thousands of dollars to have all her teeth removed – or some of her teeth removed. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I looked on line for different grants and explored every one that was available – every single one.” Finally, she found Angel Fund. “It was the only one left. And it was the one that helped us.” Angel Fund provided a list of hospitals that could do the surgery. She chose the Dog and Cat Dentist in Culver City not far from her home.
She took Tess to the clinic and met Dr. Anson Tsugawa, VMD, DAVDC, and Jody Janes, RVT. “They were just the most wonderful people,” she said. “Jody is so kind. She shepherded all the paper work through and it was processed very quickly. There was a small balance that I had to pay. But they [Angel Fund and the hospital] covered almost everything. It was so amazingly generous of them!” Angel Fund and the hospital each contributed $500.
Dr. Tsugawa at first thought that he could save four of Tess’s teeth. But he called Rochelle after her cat was under anesthesia and said that all her teeth should be extracted. “Otherwise,” he told her, “she’ll have to come back and have the others removed later. We might as well do all of them when she’s young and healthy.”
The surgery “made a world of difference,” Rochelle said. “Tess had a very quick recovery and you would never know now that she doesn’t have any teeth. Dr. Tsugawa told us what would happen and that’s exactly what happened.”
Tess needed pain medication and antibiotics for a few days. Rochelle said that she gave the patient and her other two cats soft food at first, then switched to dry food. “Tess ate it with them [the other cats]. Now she eats a mixture of wet and dry food, like she always did before. She doesn’t care.”
The surgery has made a “world of difference” for Tess, she said. “Her personality has really blossomed since she doesn’t have that pain. I can only imagine what it was like for her.
“And I will always he so grateful to them [Dr. Tsugawa and Angel Fund] for this because, honestly, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Cassie is a Chocolate Havanese and her birthday is November 26, 2012.
Cassie came into Deborah’s life when she needed a pet to help her through some difficult times. Right away she brought so much joy, Deborah knew she had to find a way to share this gift with others. That’s when Deborah discovered the Animal Health Foundation. I found the joy Therapy Pets brought to those in need and couldn’t wait to have Cassie bring that same joy to someone in need.
The AHF couldn’t be more proud of Cassie and Deborah, who both look forward to visiting nursing homes/hospitals to brighten an individual’s day.
Welcome Cassie and Deborah!