Gavin and Roller, a corgi, watch a video. Gavin and his dog live in Bellbrook. /CONTRIBUTED
Photo: MARISSA SCHNEIDER
Photo: MARISSA SCHNEIDER

Giving Tuesday: remembering pets today

Tuesday, Nov. 27, is Giving Tuesday. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, it starts the charitable holiday and end-of-year giving.

This year my family gave to three organizations. First, to Love of Labs Indiana (LOLIN), the rescue organization where we adopted our black Lab, Teddy. Second, to the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals (SICSA), where our daughter, Jordan, adopted her black cat, Wednesday.

The final organization is a new one for us, Ellie’s Rainy Day Fund. This charity helps Miami Valley families keep their medically challenged pets despite financial hardship.

ERDF was born out of founder Juli Burnell’s experience with her own dog, Ellie. The puppy had several bouts with pneumonia before being diagnosed with a rare lung condition.

These bouts landed Ellie in multiple emergency facilities where Juli saw families heartbroken because they couldn’t afford treatment for their beloved pets. She believed other pet lovers would want to help families save their pets.

The mission of ERDF is to help families avoid the hard decision to surrender or euthanize their pets because they cannot afford the medical costs. The organization has specific criteria in selecting the pets for their program.

First, only local vets or public officials (police, fire) can submit requests for services. It is important that the animal plays a critical role in the family and has a high chance for a good medical outcome.

Second, clients pay what they can afford. The vet discounts his services and ERDF pays the difference.

As of May, ERDF has helped 102 families and their pets by providing over $150,00 in financial assistance. All donations go to the care of the animals.

One such lucky recipient, Roller, a 3-year old corgi, lives in Bellbrook with the Schneider family and his best buddy, 5-year old, Gavin. According to Gavin’s mom, Marissa, the two don’t interact like a traditional boy and dog. Gavin’s autism is an undercurrent in their relationship.

From the beginning, the corgi seemed to sense Gavin’s challenges. Roller was patient in a way that many other dogs would not have been and never acted aggressively toward Gavin’s meltdowns. Roller showed the little boy unwavering companionship, giving him the opportunity to practice social interactions.

About two years ago, Marissa and her husband, Phil, noticed blood in Roller’s urine. After multiple infections and treatments, it was discovered that Roller had kidney stones. After the stones were removed additional abnormal liver readings showed Roller had a liver shunt, an abnormal connection between veins.

The family was devastated. Roller was an integral part of their family. He was wonderful with Gavin but they didn’t have the resources for additional medical services. Marissa called the vet to arrange to put Roller out of his discomfort.

Their vet called ERDF and organization approved funding for Roller’s medical care, about $3,100. As Marissa says, “The Fund, and those who contribute to it, are all superheros. They swoop in and catch you when you’re falling. And just like that, you regain focus in your whole life and all that you have to be grateful for.”

Today, Roller and Gavin’s relationship continues to grow. The corgi is still Gavin’s best buddy and protector. Gavin engages Roller more and more every day. When Gavin runs, the corgi, a natural herder, always makes sure the 5-year old doesn’t stray too far away.

A story and a charity that can’t help but make you smile.

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