HEALTH

How one nonprofit helps cover the costs of pets’ medical care

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

Five-year-old Katie happily takes treats from her parents. They’ll celebrating because the lab mix is now cancer free.

“She’s my little sweetie pie. We go on walks, we play, we do everything,” said Bloomfield resident Fred Gardin.

Mom, Pam, and Dad, Fred, remember getting hit with the horrifying news last summer after doctors found a tumor on Katie’s leg.

“It was a gut punch. It was tough, it was hard to hear,” Pam said.

Along with tests, Katie had surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The price tag for their four-legged family member’s treatment without insurance?

“The amount that we were paying was about $17,000 in a couple months time frame,” said Fred. “It’s just so much all at once.”

Which is why the couple says they were grateful to learn about The Brodie Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to offering financial assistance to pet owners whose cats and dogs are suffering with cancer.

“We call it giving the gift of time,” said Sally Williams, founding director of The Brodie Fund. “We can help them. If we can help them financially, why not? As long as there’s a good quality of life for the animal, why wouldn’t you want to help?”

Williams named the organization after her beloved cat Brodie who died of cancer in 2016. During his radiation treatment she spent every weekday at the animal hospital listening to other pet owners try to come to terms with the sad news.

“You would hear these conversations about, ‘We just got this diagnosis. Our dog or cat has cancer. The treatment is this much. How do we do this and what are our options?'” said Williams.

That’s why Williams created The Brodie Fund. In the past two years, the nonprofit has awarded more than $35,000 in grants. The recipients don’t have insurance for their four legged companions and pet owners must supply their financial information on the online application. The Brodie Fund relies on grants, fundraising events and donations.

“It took away some of the financial anxiety and let us just focus on Katie as a patient,” Pam said.

Almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. AVMA says there’s less information about the rate of cancer in cats, although some cancers are more common in cats than in dogs. Veterinarian Oncologist Dr. Kendra Pope started caring for Katie after her cancer treatment. She says pet owners can learn from the animals battling the disease.

“They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t carry the burden. They live in the moment. They can teach us so much about just day to day,” Pope said.

So far The Brodie Fund has awarded more than 20 grants to cats and dogs which they provide directly to participating hospitals throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. JD was diagnosed with cancer about six months ago. Doctors discovered a tumor on his leg. He received $1,500 from the Brodie Fund.

“These are your best friends. These are your children. He’s my son, technically, so when someone can come in and help you get them better, it’s priceless,” said Matawan resident Gina Caputo.

Nine-year-old JD is taking an oral chemotherapy drug. Caputo says she’s happy her boy is getting the care he needs. Sally loves seeing the dogs and cats who have benefited from the grants.

“To meet the animals that we have helped, you can’t help but want to keep doing this and grow it,” Williams said.

She hopes to one day expand the nonprofit nationwide. As for Fred’s hope for Katie?

“I hope she gets to chase as many squirrels as she wants and chew things and break stuff. She can do whatever she wants,” Fred said.