What do Hershey, Rambo, Arlie, Pepper, Moxie, Kiki, Shadow, Sadie, and Yukon have in common? Some are working animals who provide valuable services for their humans. Of course, they are all adorable.
Even more important, they are all beloved companion animals whose families needed assistance to cover veterinary costs.
Because our mission is to help pets and people live healthy, happy lives together, we love sharing stories of people and pets who have utilized our flagship program: One Health Veterinary Care Vouchers. Vouchers are worth up to $250 at participating veterinary clinics in northeast Ohio.
And as you’ll see from these stories, they can truly be lifesavers.
In 2019, Robert, a retired Marine Corps captain, was grieving the loss of his wife and his Labrador retriever in Strongsville, Ohio. Halfway across the country in Fort Worth, Texas, a box of lab mix puppies was dropped off at an animal shelter. One of them, Shadow, spent her first year in foster homes. Then Delta Air Lines flew Shadow and nine other dogs to the Cleveland Animal Protective League, hoping they would find homes in the area. That’s when Robert found Shadow.
The Wounded Warrior Project’s Canine Companions for Independence provided training so Shadow can help Robert, who has PTSD, with his day-to-day activities.
Robert’s vet, Dr. Mary Ann Tima, offered discounts based on his age (80) and Shadow’s service dog status. And she also recommended Robert apply for Vouchers, which covered Shadow’s exam and vaccinations.
The two best friends spend every waking moment together and share a king-sized bed. “She’s perfect. She just never leaves my side,” says Robert. “In fact, when we go to the grocery store, I don’t have to push my buggy with groceries in it. She’ll actually walk in front of the buggy and she pulls me through the store. She’s been a blessing to me,” says Robert.
Sadie, a sweet golden retriever mix, might have lost her leg — or her life — if her dad, Rafael, hadn’t gotten assistance from One Health Organization. When a large lump appeared on Sadie’s leg, Rafael, who speaks limited English, called several clinics.
Finally, a bilingual receptionist at Gateway Animal Clinic pointed Rafael to One Health Organization. Program coordinator Ira Reynolds and an interpreter helped Rafael apply and receive Vouchers for a critical surgery.
“Without financial support from One Health Organization, she probably wouldn’t be walking, and may have lost her leg,” says Stacy Ozanich, Gateway’s hospital manager.
Yukon is a dog who thinks he’s a cat. The border collie is the main character of a children’s book, Pretty Kitty, written by his mom, Heather. Heather and Yukon visit schools around the world (via Zoom) to help young people find a passion for reading.
Heather, a long-time kindergarten teacher with an incurable medical condition, lives on a fixed income. So, when Yukon was diagnosed with liver failure, Heather turned to One Health Organization to help treat Yukon’s disease.
Even though Yukon is 15, he is still an active guy. They walk at least a mile a day, and he squeaks his toys and loves his food.
“To know there are big hearts out there to create an organization that enables pets to have the care they need is beyond-words beautiful,” says Heather.
Nicole knew the moment she saw Hershey, an adorable brown and white pit bull mix, that she was taking her home. “I was like, ‘I can’t let her go,’” she says. Five years later, Hershey and Rambo, a gray tiger-striped cat, are also in love.
Nicole stretches her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as far as she can, but she and her boyfriend have trouble making ends meet. The rising cost of veterinary care and pet food made things worse. When Nicole took Hershey to Maple Heights Animal Clinic, the receptionist suggested the Voucher program.
Nicole has used Vouchers to pay for routine vet care for both animals, and she was able to pay for an emergency visit when Rambo was losing fur from his tail because of an allergic reaction.
Nicole keeps the Vouchers around in case another emergency arises. It’s comforting to know that veterinary care will be accessible and affordable if they need it.
"It’s been a lifesaver," says Nicole.
One day after work, Gina’s husband noticed that a scrawny kitten had crawled into the engine compartment of a truck. The kitten came home as a gift to Gina’s daughter, Kime, whose cat had just died two days earlier. She named him Pepper.
He was sweet and spunky, but also suffered from a serious upper respiratory infection and a flea infestation.
Gina lives on a fixed income and fretted about veterinary bills before she found out about the Voucher program. Luckily, the family was able to use Vouchers for a checkup and medications at Fox Veterinary Hospital in Elyria.
Even though Pepper’s infection muted his meow, he purrs a lot, and Gina can’t say enough about how grateful she is. “He is now happy and healthy and living with us,” says Gina. “She has spoiled that cat beyond measure. She got him so many toys. She absolutely loves him.”
When she was a puppy, Arlie lived with Melinda’s son. But the bulldog pup struggled with health problems, and Melinda’s son told his mother he could no longer handle Arlie’s health needs.
That’s when Melinda took Arlie into her home and started pursuing all the avenues to treat her illness.
Arlie weighed just 48 pounds, and had multiple health problems, including diarrhea. “You could see all her hip bones, all her ribs,” says Melinda. Her son had spent thousands of dollars on various medications, including steroids and probiotics. “She was shedding like crazy.”
She began calling around to clinics and specialists who told her that Arlie needed a very expensive colonoscopy. And there were no appointments available for months.
When they adopted Arlie, Melinda knew they would need some assistance to help pay for veterinary bills. She was able to use Veterinary Care Vouchers to cover most of the costs of Arlie’s visit to a veterinarian who diagnosed Arlie with ulcerative colitis and prescribed an affordable medicine.
Arlie bounced back. She now weighs 90 pounds and makes friends with every human and animal she meets. "I thank One Health for getting her shots, because God knows, we’ve been struggling,” says Melinda. “It’s been rough since Covid. I’m just worn out. I’m thankful for what I have, but it’s hard.”
Kathy is a retiree living in a small home in Cleveland, Ohio. Her constant companions are Moxie, a short-haired tortoiseshell, and Kiki, a black shorthair. Kathy adopted the cats from Cleveland’s Animal Protection League. The 10-year-old cats are relatively healthy, but Moxie has some allergies that make her itchy.
Because Kathy lives on a fixed income and wants to keep her babies healthy, she applied for One Health Veterinary Care Vouchers. She has qualified every year since 2017. Kathy takes her cats to Roberts & Wendt Animal Hospital in Lakewood, Ohio. She says she is grateful that they accept Vouchers, and wishes more veterinarians would accept them.
“My pets mean EVERYTHING to me,” says Kathy. “I never had kids, so they are my children. I’m retired and live alone. It’s so helpful to get these funds, as I am a low-income senior. I feel comforted getting my cats vet care and medicine,” she says.
All of the pet parents featured in these stories would do anything for their pets. They know that regular veterinary care is keeping up our half of the bargain, but they need a little help from the community to cope with rising costs.
Stories like these inspire us to continue our work to keep pets and people happy and healthy, together.