Pet Life

Veterinarian Karen Fenstermaker­ – with her goldendoodle, Teddy, and miniature Australian shepherd, Tuff­­ – treats patients with funding from Max’s at VCA Ocean View Animal Hospital.

In the waiting area of VCA Ocean View Animal Hospital in Pacific Grove, a brown chihuahua and it’s human are checking out while a black-and-white Labrador puppy squirms in its person’s arms, waiting to be seen. Some days aren’t so positive, with pet parents grieving – some of them who can’t afford vet bills. Roderick Gilchrist, the VCA hospital manager, recalls a terrier mix named Sweetie, whose humans are a young couple that couldn’t cover the $1,600 veterinary bill coming their way.

“Sweetie had a severe case of heartworm disease, and the care for her treatment would have been too much for them to afford,” Gilchrist says. That’s where Max’s Helping Paws came in. The nonprofit has partnered with VCA for three years and helped save Sweetie. The couple qualified for financial help from Max’s, which provided $1,050, covering two-thirds of their bill. Gilchrist also remarks on how fast the money was made available for Sweetie, one of 175 pets for which the nonprofit has helped cover veterinary expenses.

Dyana Klein, one of the founders of Max’s, says the organization often provide the money within a few short hours to pet lovers facing urgent decisions. She also says they help non-qualifying pet owners, sometimes by helping them find ways to raise money themselves: “We don’t say no frequently,” Klein says. “We try to find reasons to say yes. But when we must, we locate other animal organizations that could likely help. I also give guidance on how to set up a GoFundMe page. In fact, I just spoke with the CEO of GoFundMe yesterday asking for a template to give people on how to set it up for those who are not computer savvy.”

She adds that medical care for animals is not black and white, and it’s not limited to emergency situations. “There’s a gray area,” Klein says. “There are sometimes things that we don’t cover, like dental, but the situation is serious, and someone just needs a little help. We find ways to say yes to pet parents who deserve a little help.”

The nonprofit’s Big Idea is to provide up to $6,000 to qualifying pet owners whose animals have chronic conditions, part of a new continued care program. More broadly, the mission is to provide a financial lifeline to families with a pet in a health crisis – a different kind of necessity than food or clothing, but one that helps families stay whole and keep the animals they love and consider as family members. “We enable pet parents to keep their animals at home,” Klein says.

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