Requests keep pouring in at an increasing rate from those whose pets need veterinary care but who, due to dire financial circumstances, cannot afford the costs. Last year we served about 70 pets, and as of April this year we’ve helped 39 pets. The increase is due to several factors: word of mouth, steadily growing rates of poverty and homelessness in our area, and a reputation for being compassionate and non-judgmental. One day when I picked up a prescription for the pet of client, the pharmacist looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for the work you are doing.” I often hear that comment. It’s heartwarming to know we are so appreciated in the community.
Often when pet owners call, I hear desperation in their voices. “My cat is my best friend, and I am so scared,” or, “Please, I don’t want my dog to die.” And when I am able to say, “Yes, we can help,” they often break down in tears of gratitude, right there on the telephone. I want to thank you, dear supporter, for making it possible for us to do our important work. Never underestimate the power of your own ability to make such a difference. Please enjoy this newsletter. Don’t hesitate to contact us any time with your ideas and comments.
– Laurie Riley, Pet Helpers President
Our procedure for accepting clients is simple. The phone rings. The person calling is someone who is struggling with homelessness, unemployment, or who is trying to get by on Social Security and not really making it. Their pet is sick, injured, or needs to be spayed, neutered or vaccinated. We refer them to the appropriate veterinary office. We do not give any money directly to clients; after the appointment, the vet sends the bill to Pet Helpers.
We are so lucky to have great veterinarians who work with us, who regularly discuss with us the diagnoses, prognoses, care plans, and finances for each client. Our systems have been honed so that everything happens in a way that is easiest for the pet, the pet’s owner, and the vet. It’s gratifying that something so needed works so well.
Two challenges are ongoing: the need for funds and the need for after-hours emergency care. We estimate we will spend at least $50,000 this year in veterinary bills. So our fundraising events and efforts are a large part of our volunteer activities. We depend entirely on donations and grants from caring people like you.
We hope at some point to be able to find a way to access after-hours emergency veterinary care. The closest dedicated emergency clinic is an hour away, is often booked up, and the average cost of an appointment is far above what we can afford. Having looked into how we might address this challenge, it is clear that we need a sponsor. We will revisit this in the future, because the need for emergency services is not going away. Meanwhile, we continue to do our usual work of caring for every pet who needs us.
Some of the pets we’ve served so far this year include:
- “Charlie”, and elderly beagle, needed dental extractions
- “Yuki” the kitten had an eye swollen shut
- “Pumpkin”, a diabetic dog, had pancreatitis
- “Ringo” the dog had an upper respiratory infection
- “Sadie” the elderly dog had a cough and seizures
- “Rex” the dog needed dental extractions
- “Brandi” the dog needs ongoing pain and heart
- “Tully Mars”, a 16-yr-old cat, had a bladder infection
- “Tiger” the cat had a severe injury
- “Moe” the dog had a tumor on his eyelid removed
- “Joe” the dog needed dental work
- A stray, emaciated kitten needed general care and spay. The person who found her adopted
- “Junior” the dog had hives and open lesions from scratching
- “Buddy”, and elderly dog, has Cushing’s disease and needs medications
- “Itty Bitty” the dog had seizures
- “Kobe” the pit bull had a severe fungal infection on his nose
- “Mocha” the dachshund had a severely bulging eye that needed to be removed
- “Fraggle” a border collie, was attacked by another dog, needed surgery plus dental
- “Jake”, a dog with unregulated thyroid disease, needs tests and ongoing meds
- “Burly”, pictured above with his fellow Quentin, had a growth under his tongue that was
- “Princess”, a Staffordshire terrier, drank some toilet cleaner and was poisoned
- “Finnegan” the dog had hair loss, weight loss, and an ear infection
All of these pets were treated, plus numerous additional spays, neuters and vaccinations.
March 2023: Dear Donors, Friends, and Volunteers,
The year has started energetically for Pet Helpers Port Townsend as we receive increased requests for help. Local agencies and veterinarians are regularly recommending our services to their underfunded and unhoused clients, who are always so grateful! In 2023 we have already served 26 clients; that is about a 50% increase from last year’s monthly average.
One of our patients this winter has been Kobe the dog who has an autoimmune condition, which manifested as a massive, bumpy white nose that eventually looked like a cauliflower. He was very, very uncomfortable to say the least. One of our wonderful local veterinarians treated him, and what a difference!
Here is what Kobe’s nose looked like before it reached its worst
Two weeks later, Kobe’s nose was so much better:
This may seem like a small thing, but for Kobe, it’s huge.
Because it’s a chronic autoimmune condition, his medications need to be continued to prevent recurrence.
We also had the pleasure of helping Quentin and his affectionate dog Burly. Burly had a growth under his tongue that made it hard to eat. The growth was removed in a surgical procedure that was costly (approximately $3000), but so worth it to keep these two together.
And…among our recent cases was a simple tooth extraction, without which Rosie the dog was in great pain. The cost was $1600 – for just one molar! That price is typical for a dental extraction.
Dental issues are probably the most common of veterinary procedures for all pets. Needless to say, the costs of all veterinary services have gone sky high, but we cannot say no when a pet is suffering. That’s why your donations are important.
The Pet Helpers Second Annual Pet-Themed Yard Sale will be May 27. Mark your calendar! We will have a huge assortment of pet supplies – beds, blankets, coats, leashes, collars, carriers, toys, handmade dog scarves and much more – this is definitely not your average yard sale! If you have high quality, like-new pet items to donate, please call 360-840-5264.
The uptown location is the same as last year and will be posted in our next newsletter and on posters around town.
On May 28 we will sponsor a special Vaccination and Education event at the Caswell-Brown community, open to pet owners who are underfunded and/or living at Caswell-Brown and other locations in our area. A very generous veterinarian is donating his time to do the vaccinations, a Basic Pet First Aid learning session will be taught byour own BillTesterman, and Laurie Riley will talk about basic dog obedience training techniques. We hope to offer dog baths and nail-trimming by a professional groomer as well (basic grooming is important for good health, especially for long-haired dogs).
Walk and Wag in is coming up in August – our community dog walk and all-ages celebration day for the public is in the planning, and potentially we hope to have activities such as a “Draw Your Pet” contest for kids, a pet photo contest, maybe a dog agility course, an obedience contest, and more. If you have ideas and can offer expertise, equipment, or materials for activities such as these, please call 360-840-5264 to volunteer. Watch for posters and notices around town and in your email for the date and location.
Rhody Parade: we plan to participate in the Rhody parade this year, which is May 20. Tentatively, we hope to have a truck to ride in, and of course those who wish can walk alongside. If your dog is friendly and not reactive to other dogs, please join us in this delightful way to help keep Pet Helpers visible to the community.
As we continue to serve, Pet Helpers’ main projects remain:
- Seeing that the pets of underfunded people in our area receive the veterinary care they need
- Exploring better access to emergency veterinary services Visiting encampments and transitional housing communities to meet people and their pets
- Ongoing fundraising activities
- Coordinating with efforts to improve living conditions for underfunded pet owners, which in turn improves the lives of the pets they love
Acknowledging our Veterinarians and our Volunteers
As always, we would like to thank the veterinarians who work with us and who invoice us directly for the services they provide to our clients, as well as those who volunteer their time with us. In addition, we acknowledge our volunteers who walk disabled clients’ dogs, transport clients to appointments, help at fundraising events, keep track of donation jars at stores around town, and donate space and energy to make sure that we can continue to do our work. Deep gratitude to all!
Thank you for helping us help pets in need
As the approach of spring brings cheer to those of us who are well fed, well housed, and whose pets are securely cared for, may we remember the pets and people who are still unsheltered or underfunded, and who need help to stay healthy. That is our work and our passion, and we are confident that it makes a difference.
Finnegan says, “My ear infection is all better now. Thank you for your generosity and caring!”
Pet Helpers Board of Directors:
Laurie Riley, Board President; former veterinary assistant, client triage and volunteer coordinator
Susan Bingham, Board Vice President; former social and human services project manager,
William Testerman, DVM, Board Secretary
Dr. Lois Davis, PhD/PsyD/EdD, activity organizer
Laurie Perrett, advisor and member at large; former fire and aviation manager and gallery director