Health Care

On the road with the Mitzvah Fund

Mobile veterinary clinic provides full-service health care for pets

A patient gets a checkup inside the Mitzvah Fund mobile veterinary clinic.

by Andrea Stander

Have you seen Baby Huey? Maybe you’ve passed it in front of Montpelier City Hall this past summer & fall? It  belongs to the Mitzvah Fund! As a new volunteer, I’d like to share some of Baby 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 seniors, 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 Connie Riggs, DVM of Worcester cofounded the fund in 2006. 

“Baby Huey,” mobile veterinary clinic. Will Lindner photo republished from August 3 Montpelier Bridge.

Last February, 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 10AM-4PM at the Montpelier Transit Center on Taylor Street. We are very  thankful to GMT for providing such a great opportunity and 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…. in partnership with Central Vermont Council on Aging (CVCOA) & Meals on Wheels;  The Mitzvah Fund is bringing Baby Huey to senior centers and meal sites throughout CVCOA’s service area. 

On the last day of November, in a soaking rain, The Mitzvah Fund’s veterinary team and their fantastic  volunteers took their mission on the road to the Randolph Senior Center where they held their first  CVCOA/Mitzvah Fund/Meals on Wheels Wellness clinic. This community collaboration was the first of what we  hope will be many more! As a newbie volunteer with the Fund, I had the privilege of tagging along. 

Buffy, a 14-year-old cocker poodle

Nine dogs and cats belonging to seven area low-income seniors, including two veterans, received much  needed initial veterinary care. 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 seniors 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 low-income seniors. 

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 senior heart patients and  have found that doing their diagnostic “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 many 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, elder 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. 

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: themitzvahfund1818@gmail.com or by calling 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 “Get Involved” at the top of the page to see options for making electronic  donations via 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. 

The author 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. Article republished with permission from East Montpelier Signpost, a community newsletter.

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