On the Road with The Mitzvah Fund
On the Road with The Mitzvah Fund by Andrea Stander
Have you seen Baby Huey? Perhaps, you saw it parked in front of Montpelier City Hall this past summer and fall. It belongs to the Mitzvah Fund! As a new volunteer, I’d like to share some of Huey’s recent adventures.
The Mitzvah Fund is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to provide needed, non-emergency, veterinary care to the companion animals of Vermont veterans, low-income older adults, disabled first responders and those who are living without housing. The Fund’s goal is to support our neighbors and their four-legged family members when they are facing economic hardship. We provide care for one animal per household per year. Deb Glottmann, CVT of East Montpelier and Dr. Connie Riggs, DVM of Worcester co-founded the fund in 2006.
In February 2022, The Mitzvah Fund was fortunate to acquire a mobile veterinary clinic. Affectionately known as “Baby Huey” (38 feet long and weighing in at 21,000 pounds!) Huey is now adorned with the Mitzvah Fund’s eye-catching logo and photos of the animals it serves. The mobile clinic has been a regular sight in front of City Hall in Montpelier on Fridays all summer and fall. For the coming winter, the Fund will continue its Friday (by appointment only) clinic hours from 10 AM to 4 PM at the Montpelier Transit Center on Taylor Street. We are very thankful to Green Mountain Transit for providing such a comfortable indoor waiting space for our clients & patients. When time allows, visitors are welcome to take a tour of the mobile clinic, which includes a full surgery suite, dentistry suite, digital body and dental x-ray units and all the equipment and supplies needed to provide excellent care. It even has a generator that can provide endless hours of electricity.
Our newest adventure is in partnership with Central Vermont Council on Aging (CVCOA) & their Meals on Wheels program. The Mitzvah Fund is bringing Baby Huey to senior centers and meal sites throughout CVCOA’s service area to provide mobile veterinary clinics.
On the last day of November, in a cold pouring rain, The Mitzvah Fund’s veterinary team and their fantastic volunteers took their mission on the road to the Randolph Senior Center where Center Director Emilie Daniel welcomed the first CVCOA/Mitzvah Fund/Meals on Wheels Pet Wellness clinic, sponsored by Central Vermont Council on Aging and funded by Meals on Wheels America in partnership with PetSmart Charities. This community collaboration was the first of what we hope will be more such clinics! As a newbie volunteer with the Fund, I had the privilege of tagging along.
During the Randolph mobile clinic visit, 8 pets were provided care. Services included comprehensive exams, tail trimming, medications, dental care, lab work, and more. What struck me immediately was the tremendous love and affection these owners had for their companion animals but also their stress from worrying about how to access and pay for necessary veterinary care was palpable. Most of the pets are older, like their people. Like our human health care “system,” the world of veterinary medicine is experiencing the same staffing shortages, rising operating costs, and burnout of experienced veterinary professionals. These impacts make it harder for everyone to access a veterinary clinic and to afford its services, but especially affect people with low incomes.
As I gathered photo releases from the participating humans, it was obvious how invaluable their furry family members are for their well-being. The first person I met was “Lee” and her chihuahua “Luna.” Lee’s teal-streaked gray hair perfectly matched Luna’s snug teal coat. Lee, a veteran of the Vietnam War, had spent her professional career as a nurse. She eagerly told me how she had found Luna as a puppy on the side of a road in Texas where she’s from. She said there was no question she would adopt Luna when it became clear she had been abandoned, and they’ve been together ever since. Luna received a thorough check up. She had bloodwork and x-rays taken to figure out if she was healthy enough to have a “sorely” needed dental procedure. Digital x-rays, which were available immediately, revealed Luna needed to take heart medication for a few months to reduce her heart size and then, the Mitzvah veterinary team could re-evaluate her overall health before doing any anesthesia. Deb & Connie have a lot of experience caring for older heart patients and have found that doing their “homework” proves invaluable for the long-term health of their patients.
One of our favorite pairs on this rainy day was David and Buffy. David was in the Army & National Guard from 1978-1994. Buffy is a 14-year-old blond cocker-poodle mix. David had been very worried about her teeth and his regular vet had recommended extensive dentistry that he just could not afford. Buffy had a complete exam, as well as important diagnostic tests to check her blood cell count and screen for other common elder dog health problems. As an almost 15-year-old young lady she was in remarkable shape! She did have severe dental disease and desperately needed to have all her painfully infected teeth removed. Deb and Connie felt she needed this procedure as soon as possible so they sent her home with preventive antibiotics, and she came back two days later and had 33 teeth removed! She was up and eating shortly after waking up and is now doing great.
Animals do incredibly well when you take painful infected teeth away. Dental disease, just like in humans, is a contributing cause for heart and kidney disease. Finally, and most importantly . . . dentistry in companion animals can be life altering. Their faces even change. They lose that “worry grimace” caused by the chronic headaches and mouth pain from infected teeth. The improvement in these animals’ quality of life is truly miraculous and why the Mitzvah Fund’s work is primarily canine and feline dentistry.
The entire Mitzvah Fund team is truly dedicated to providing skilled, compassionate, and very necessary care for the animals who often play a crucial role in reducing social and emotional isolation for older Vermonters. The Mitzvah Fund collaborates extensively with area veterinary clinics, older adult services and other social services agencies, as well as local law enforcement, animal shelters and rescue organizations to identify the people and pets who would benefit from their services. The Fund has a simple eligibility application which is available on their website and takes referrals from all their network of partners and the public. CVCOA will be sponsoring mobile clinic visits at additional sites throughout Central Vermont in the spring of 2023.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to see The Mitzvah Fund team at work and look forward to doing what I can to help them reach more pets and people in need of their services. If you know someone who might need these services, please get in touch. You can email: [email protected] or call 802-461-3277. You can also contact us through our website, themitzvahfundvt.org. If you visit our website, you’ll learn more about the Fund, read some more stories and see pictures of the animals and people we care for. And in this season of giving, please consider a donation. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, donations in any amount to The Mitzvah Fund are tax-deductible and gratefully received. All the Fund’s work is made possible by individual donations and some foundation and business grants.
You can mail a check to The Mitzvah Fund, PO Box 56, East Montpelier, VT 05651 or visit our website themitzvahfundvt.org and click on DONATE at the top right of the page to see options for making electronic donations via Network for Good, PayPal, or Venmo. And come visit us at the Montpelier Transit Center on most Fridays from 10-4. I guarantee your heart will be lifted!
To contribute to services for older adults and their animal companions, you can make a gift to CVCOA by mailing a check to Central Vermont Council on Aging, 59 N Main St., Suite 200, Barre, VT 05641. Or, visit www.cvcoa.org and click the green Donate button at the top right corner of the page.
Andrea Stander is a retired non-profit executive, long time Montpelier resident and now gets to spend lots more time with her almost 16-year-old dog “Belle” who is also a grateful Mitzvah Fund client.