Nonprofit helps pets and people alikeBy Victoria Bedford|Sep. 21st, 2014Send to Kindle“I called 911, because I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I took him to the emergency room — that’s when they diagnosed him with epilepsy.”
The veterinarian suggested the dog be euthanized and advised Parkhurst, who lives on a monthly disability check, to start another search for a healthier, less expensive, lower-maintenance dog. But Parkhurst didn’t agree.
“I told them they can’t put him down because he’s sick,” she said. “I have multiple issues, and they’re not putting me down. No way.”
Without knowing how she could afford to keep Cody healthy, Parkhurst proceeded to take the puppy to obedience, advanced obedience, and service training. Meanwhile Cody’s medical bills were growing, with three medications a day, special dog food, and frequent veterinary appointments. That’s when Parkhurst received a call from Phinney’s Friends, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income people keep their pets.
In 1994, the MSPCA established Phinney’s Friends to assist low-income, disabled, and elderly individuals, and people with HIV/AIDS and their pets. In 2009, it lost all government funding and became an independent nonprofit.
“A group of volunteers got together and we decided to keep it going,” said the group’s president, Daniela Caride, who runs the nonprofit’s headquarters from her home. “Even if it’s only advice, we help anybody who needs help.”
Phinney’s Friends has 60 regular clients and helps others on an emergency basis. The organization’s 150 volunteers walk dogs, deliver food and pay for medications, and make regular appointments to check up on clients.
“What we do is a little bit of everything,” Caride said.
Parkhurst connected with Phinney’s Friends through a referral from the Kindness Animal Hospital, her regular veterinarian.
“They called us and told us about this woman with a service dog who needed a little help,” Caride said. A volunteer from Phinney’s went to Parkhurst’s home and offered her their standard $125 per year for regular clients (now $250, as of last April) to help with medical fees. Parkhurst gladly accepted the funds.
“A little help is better than none,” she said.
As her relationship with Phinney’s progressed, Parkhurst began to see just how far the nonprofit was willing to go for her and Cody.
“I did not know they were going to show up a month later with a 30-pound bag of dog food,” she said. “I was in tears. It was not expected.”
In addition to dog food, volunteers surprised Parkhurst by driving her to appointments, and to get supplies. The biggest surprise of all came in the form of the veterinary bill for Cody’s $600 to $800 in treatments, charging a mysteriously low $0.
“It’s so cute; she never asks for anything,” said Caride. “So when we have the funds, we have to call the vet and ask if Arlene has an outstanding bill, and we pay it.”
Parkhurst and Cody are visited each month by a volunteer. As of June, Alakananda “Ally” Rangachari, 24, of Acton, sees the duo regularly.
“It’s such a rewarding experience,” Rangachari said, “especially to hear how much she’s been helped by the organization.” The Ithaca College graduate was looking for volunteer opportunities, and was motivated to join Phinney’s because of a personal love of pets.
“I have three dogs of my own; they mean everything to me,” she said. “It’s so great that there’s an organization that helps people keep their pets, especiawlly when they’re going through hardships.”
Most Phinney’s volunteers understand relationships with animals from a personal perspective. Caride, who owns four cats and three dogs, says pet ownership keeps clients healthy.
“We’re not only helping pets,” she said, “we’re helping people who need their pets.”
Today, Cody is 4 years old, and works every day as a dedicated service dog. He still has seizures, but now Parkhurst knows how to deal with them.
“I turn it into a game,” she said. “I just turn it into one-on-one social time. It might take an hour, or it might take three hours, but he goes back to normal.”
As for Parkhurst’s health, she feels better than ever.
“My life has changed drastically.” she said. “[I don’t have] a lot of the issues I used to have, because Cody picks up on them before they happen.”
Parkhurst says she would have always done anything in her power to keep Cody healthy, but she doesn’t know how it would have been possible without help from Phinney’s Friends.
“I don’t know if they realize how much help they really are,” she said. “They are such a blessing, I can’t put it into words.”
Victoria Bedford can be reached at email@example.com.
Follow her on twitter: @tori_bedford.