BLACKSBURG— When Mary Lou was brought to the humane society in Summers County, West Virginia, the three month old puppy’s tongue drooped out of her swollen mouth. Her jaw was broken and on one side completely crushed.

The heeler mix was quickly referred to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for surgery. Without that treatment, made possible by financial assistance from the college’s Compassionate Care Fund, “they would have euthanized her,” said Beth Vuolo, a volunteer at the humane society.

Vuolo said Mary Lou’s injuries likely came from being stepped on by a cow. Today, Mary Lou is doing well, having been fostered and later adopted, Vuolo said.

The Compassionate Care Fund has helped many animals like Mary Lou since its inception. It provides financial support when a successful outcome and good quality of life are likely following treatment, but an animal’s owners are either unknown or cannot afford that treatment. Donors provide the money for the fund.

Garnett Smith is one of those donors. Smith, who has generously contributed to Virginia Tech in many ways, is a member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of the university’s most generous supporters. He’s also an avid animal lover.

“I’ve had a deep passion for animals,” Smith said while explaining why he supports the Compassionate Care Fund. “I just wanted to make sure if someone had love for an animal and was caring for it, yet didn’t have resources to pay for some needed medical care, that I would have something in place to help those people pay for it.”

For Smith, his own animals are special companions. He has two dogs of his own, including Scarlett, a spaniel- and border-collie mix who used to belong to his daughter. He said Scarlett moved in with him shortly after his wife died.

“I live by myself, and they’re great company,” Smith said of his dogs. “They give me something to come home to, and I look forward to being with them.”

That kind of companionship is something Pamela Prather treasures with her own dog, Ariel, whom she’s had since the dog was a puppy.

Prather received assistance from the Compassionate Care Fund after an accident left Ariel with a broken back.

Ariel’s accident happened in October. Today, the pit-bull mix is recovering nicely.

Prather said she’s still not sure what happened to Ariel. One morning, she was fine, but later that day she was dragging her back leg.

Prather, who lives in Roanoke, said that when her vet examined Ariel she said the dog needed to go to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital right away. Prather said that when she rushed Ariel to the teaching hospital she knew her condition was serious, but she didn’t learn how much so until later.

Tests revealed a break in Ariel’s spine, which required surgery. Prather was told Ariel had a window of just a few hours for treatment, without which she wouldn’t survive.

“She would have died,” Prather said. “That was it. I thought it was an injury, not life and death.”

While Prather paid the bulk of Ariel’s medical bills, the Compassionate Care Fund was able to pick up the cost of some of the treatment, which cost thousands of dollars in all.

“Every bit helps, and I’m grateful for it,” she said – a sentiment that no doubt is shared numerous people whose beloved pets have benefited from the fund.

Written by Annie McCallum


Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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