Ann Johnson of Melrose felt hopeless when the veterinarian told her that her 14-year-old Labrador Partner had to undergo a costly procedure. Partner suffered from an infection in his teeth and needed oral surgery. As Ann’s long-time companion, Partner is “no ordinary dog” but a service dog who has already saved her life more than once. Partner helps Ann with her type 1 diabetes to alert her when her blood sugar goes above or below normal levels. She recalls an incident where Partner, who was just seven months old at the time, was smelling her breath indicating to Ms. Johnson that something was wrong. “The insulin pump I was wearing was no longer inside of me. It was still attached but it was no longer pumping insulin into me. My blood sugar level was so high that my glucose monitor couldn’t read the number,” Ms. Johnson recalled. “I realized this young dog saved my life by waking me up.”

Ms. Johnson’s neighbor told her that Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) had a companion pet program that could help her lessen the cost. “I didn’t even know they had the pet program. I was shocked. I was thrilled,” Ms. Johnson said.

MVES created the Senior Companion Pet Program fund to assist very low income older adults and adults living with disabilities with their companion pet expenses. Examples of some pet expenses this fund covers include pet supplies, pet food, veterinary care, and temporary boarding. The main goal of the program is to maintain our low-income elder’s safety and health by providing them with pet support for expenses so they can use their limited resources to remain safe at home and in their community. Through limited financial support funded through private donations, the program has helped 20 consumers and more than 30 pet companions this year.

“Residents in the building often have expenses that they can’t afford when it comes to pet care. In this case, [Ms. Johnson] had a service dog that required a surgical procedure that when you’re living on a fixed income, she couldn’t afford to take care of,” said Donna Jones, Resident Service Coordinator at MVES.

After Ms. Johnson was told about the Senior Companion Pet Program, she reached out to the Melrose Senior Center where they helped connect her to MVES. The Senior Center asked MVES about partnering to help alleviate the financial issue Ms. Johnson was experiencing in regards to her pet’s procedure. MVES agreed. According to Ms. Johnson, Mystic Valley worked fast to get the check in for the procedure.

“Mystic Valley worked so quickly to get me the check. I was really surprised and delighted. I had no idea that this program even existed. I don’t know what I would’ve done [if it wasn’t for the program]!” said Ms. Johnson.

Thanks to the Senior Companion Pet Program at MVES, the extraction went successfully and the dog is no longer suffering from pain.

“I have no idea what I would’ve done without the program’s help. I had no other options to come up with this money. I know that anyone that [the program] has helped in the past has to feel how I feel now. MVES and the Melrose Senior Center came through for me and I am so grateful,” Ms. Johnson said.

MVES has many consumers who need help to remain living safely in their homes with their beloved pets. The Senior Companion Pet Program is vital in assisting older adults with expenses related to their pets, but, unfortunately, the program is totally reliant on private donations and so is very limited in its ability to meet the needs of low income elders and their Senior Companion Pets.  Please consider helping support this program so our consumers can continue the love they have with their pet companion and they don’t feel isolated and alone

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