Pets provide incredible social, emotional, and physical health benefits to their human family members. And this is especially true for people with memory issues like Ruben Gonzalez.
As a veteran with dementia, Gonzalez’s beloved dog Jenny is his whole world. When everything else seems confusing and scary, Jenny is there to keep him grounded in the present moment. Every day, Gonzalez and Jenny go for a walk through their neighborhood. They don’t go far, and they don’t go fast, but they always enjoy each other’s company. One day, on their daily walk, a neighbor’s dogs escaped from their yard and attacked sweet Jenny, grabbing both of her front legs, pulling in opposite directions. Desperate to save his best friend, Gonzalez tried to get the dogs away and ended up with major damage to his hands. Gonzalez’s wife, Rose, and neighbors who heard the attack managed to get the dogs off Jenny but not before she had suffered extensive and life- threatening injuries to her front legs. While family members took Gonzalez to the emergency room, his son bundled Jenny up in blankets and rushed her to an emergency vet, but their nightmare was just beginning.
To begin treatment, Gonzalez needed to pay a deposit, money they simply didn’t have. When The Arizona Pet Project heard about the situation, one of their veterinary social workers contacted the emergency veterinary clinic to arrange for her emergency care so they could begin treatment. Stabilizing Jenny was just the first step, and she would need intensive care over the next several months, followed by rehabilitation. Once Jenny was stable, The Arizona Pet Project enrolled Gonzalez and Jenny in AlignCare and transferred her to one of their vet partners, Palm Glen Veterinary Hospital, for follow-up care. She was not out of the woods, and if they could save her life, she would need months of care. The vet staff changed her bandages and cleaned her wounds every day, desperate to save at least one of her front legs. Being separated from her family wasn’t just hard on Jenny. Gonzalez, confused by the absence of his dog, would often escape the home and wander in search of her. Determined to be back with her family, Jenny fought to recover. Through incredible partnership between AlignCare, the Arizona Pet Project, and veterinary service providers, Jenny was able to go home. Now Jenny is home with her favorite person and is able to enjoy walks and car rides. And to the two of them, all is right in the world once again.
Click here to help families like Ruben Gonzales and Jenny receive needed veterinary care by donating to AlignCare.
The University of Tennessee College of Social Work’s Center for Behavioral Health Research supports The Program for Pet Health Equity (PPHE), which exists to improve access to veterinary care for pets and their families not adequately served by the current system. PPHE promotes and facilitates national collaborations and public policy development to remove barriers to veterinary care. Activities include education, community service, and social and public health research. AlignCare is a program of PPHE. AlignCare is the first One Health healthcare system that addresses the needs of people, their pets, and their ecosystem, which is largely defined by socioeconomics.