By Amy LiebermanMarch 28, 2011
Frankie’s Friends helps pets receive lifesaving treatment.
When Jeanine Russo and Jason Mays learned their nine-year-old cat, Avery Mays, had lymphoma, they feared that the worst – not only for their beloved cat's prognosis, but also for their ability to cover the costs of her treatment.
But soon after, Avery Mays was referred by her regular veterinarian to NYC Veterinary Specialists, a BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, they realized they had options they never thought existed. A nurse told them about a financial grant through Frankie's Friends, a non-profit foundation dedicated to saving pets from cancer and other deadly diseases. The couple applied and received an affirmative response within 24 hours.
Within the past six months they have received $7,500 to cover the vast majority of Avery Mays' ongoing treatment. The shorthaired domestic tabby is now in remission and Russo is hopeful for her future, despite the difficult odds facing cats suffering from lymphoma.
“People could say, 'Oh, it's a cat, don't give it chemo, that's crazy,' but when you have had a cat or an animal for nine years it becomes a part of your family,” said Russo, an artist living in Brooklyn. “The idea of letting it suffer is just unbearable.”
Without the grant, Russo says, she and Mays would have had to watch their cat die a slow death, given their relatively low joint incomes. Now, Avery Mays is more or less back to her old self, eating, purring and walking around.
“I feel like we have our old cat back,” Russo said.
And without the help of a specialty hospital like BluePearl, Russo says she doesn't know where she or the cat would be. Their regular veterinarian initially wanted to operate on the tumor, which the doctors at BluePearl later advised against.
BluePearl hospitals, specializing in treatment of cancers, urological disorders, diabetes and cataract surgeries, now exist in 21 locations in nine states and are expanding at a rapid rate, paying homage to the growing field of specialized veterinary medicine.
In its latest acquisition, BluePearl Veterinary Partners recently assumed ownership of Animal Emergency & Referral Center (AERC) in Northbrook, Ill.
Dr. Neil Shaw, a founder and co-medical director of BluePearl, says that as BluePearl continues to expand, it works with the needs of the existing veterinary facilities in a particular community, since those vets will often refer emergency and specific cases to BluePearl.
BluePearl's veterinary services run the gamut, but the patients and owners often find common ground, Shaw explains.
“Probably the most consistent factor at BluePearl is not the disease, but the relationship that the pet owner has with the pet,” Shaw said. “If people are referred to BluePearl, you can bet that the pet is very much seen as a part of the family, and that is more consistent than any type of disease we treat.”
“It is about the bond between the owner and the pet. And the owner is willing to do whatever it takes to help keep the pet alive and improve its quality of life.”
That task, however, can be costly, and out of reach for many pet owners, much like Jeanine Russo and Jason Mays.
Shaw says this makes working closely with a group like Frankie's Friends – named after a Greyhound who died of heart disease in 2007 – very important.
Ninety percent of Frankie's Friends efforts and funds go toward helping owners who could not otherwise afford their pet's specialized pet care, according to Bonni Voiland, Executive Director. In 2010, Frankie's Friends provided grants to 75 families.
Voiland hopes that number will only increase in the coming years.
“We've grown a lot in the last two-and-a-half years,” she explained. “In 2010 we raised about $400,000, and the years before than it was $200,000.”
In 2008, Frankie's Friends raised just $50,000.
“We want to focus on raising more money and helping more families across the U.S.,” Voiland said. “Eventually our goal is to partner with a national organization to raise enough money to help find a cure to pet cancers.”
For more information about Frankie's Friends, visit www.frankiesfriends.com.
For more information about BluePearl Veterinary Specialists, visit bluepearlvet.com.
This article originally appeared on Zootoo.com.