Trisha Horton knows what it's like to feel powerless.
A parent of multiple children with special needs, she has guided one son through epilepsy and recovery from brain cancer. One of her daughters has autism and needed heart and back surgeries this year.
In early November, a smaller and even more helpless member of the family needed care. Mackenzie, a 6-year-old "chug," a mix of pug and Chihuahua, had developed bladder stones that needed to be removed. Horton and her husband were unable to afford the surgery.
"I had told my family that I would never own a dog again," she said. "Because if I can’t help them in an emergency like that, I shouldn’t be owning a pet."
On a sleepless night when her dog's condition was worsening, Horton happened across an ad while scrolling through Facebook. It was for a group that helps cash-strapped pet owners pay for veterinary care they can't afford.
Horton said she sent a message to the page right away explaining that her dog was in serious need.
"When I woke up the next morning, I got a message from Pauline, and it said they would take my case," Horton said. "I cried, I was so excited."
The woman who had responded to her message was Pauline Redon, one of the founders of No Pet Left Behind. Redon launched the nonprofit in June 2016 with three other women who now make up its board, including Summer Hunt, an office manager at Phoenix Animal Hospital. Redon and Hunt got to know each other through Redon's appointments for her own pets, and for years they discussed the needs of low-income and homeless pet owners they saw.
Hunt said she's seen owners come in for estimates for procedures that wind up being prohibitively expensive. In 2016, Redon retired from her job as a sheriff's patrol deputy, through which she had encountered many homeless pets in need of care. She had even rescued some herself.
"I know a lot about what goes on with the animals and the neglect," Redon said. "It breaks my heart because I really do love animals, and they shouldn’t have to suffer just because the owner doesn’t have any friggin' money."
Hunt said many people living without homes depend on their pets for survival, whether for protection or companionship.
"They will feed their dogs before they feed themselves," she said about people on the street. "They love them just as much as we do."
No Pet Left Behind tries to have some mechanisms in place to screen applicants and validate their financial need. One of those is a CareCredit Card, which is designed to help consumers pay out-of-pocket medical costs with more flexibility than a typical credit card — no interest on bills unless the user stops making payments on time. If people are denied the card, that can be a red flag of financial instability.
"They have to make some kind of effort to help themselves," Redon said. "We’re trying to avoid getting people who just want others to pay for their vet care."
No Pet Left Behind usually arranges for care to be provided at Phoenix Animal Hospital, which offers the organization a discount.
Nancy Looney, a technician in the vet's office, said it's common for people across all income levels to be surprised by the costs involved with keeping a pet healthy. She said No Pet Left Behind is also helpful for providing preventive care that can help ward off more expensive emergencies, saving money in the long term.
"It's nice to be a part of that," she said.
No Pet Left Behind provides the connections and funding for cash-strapped owners to obtain care, but the organization itself relies on help from others. Redon said local barbershop The Gentlemen's Den has raised about $1,200 for the group through two fundraising events and haircut raffles. Hunt's mother helped connect the nonprofit with a friend who writes grants. They meet people who might need help through outreach with Compassion Highway Project.
Their funding sources are as creative as they need to be to keep up with the requests they get.
"Our constant issue is fundraising," Redon said. "It’s an ongoing thing but worthwhile as far as I’m concerned."
As of Dec. 26, the organization had paid $18,390 for 121 vet visits. Those vet appointments range from emergency care and teeth cleanings to spay and neuter services. In addition, No Pet Left Behind provides supplies such as coats and leashes. All of its funds go directly to assisting pets and their owners.
Redon knows that some question whether people who can't afford to care for animals should have them — but she says that's not a question the nonprofit asks.
"Now that they have the animal, the animal needs to be taken care of," she said. "That's where we’re at."
To reach No Pet Left Behind:
No Pet Left Behind says 100 percent of its charitable donations go toward providing vet care as well as food, coats, collars, leashes and other essentials for pets in need. Contact No Pet Left Behind at 541-778-6328 or by email at email@example.com. Find more information about its activities at www.nopetleftbehindmedford.com. Donations or letters can be sent to P.O. Box 974, Medford ORE 97501.
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.