Joe first met him in the parking lot of the Rhode Island SPCA. The 47-year-old man was weeping, and Joe Warzycha, the SPCA’s humane officer, couldn’t help asking what was wrong. He’d just had his dog euthanized he said. As the two talked, more details spilled out.
The man was homeless, living in an SUV that he’d outfitted so he and his three dogs had their own beds. He’d had a traumatic brain injury and was unable to work, but he wouldn’t go to a shelter. If he went to a shelter he’d have to surrender his dogs—and he couldn’t bear to do that.
Winter was coming on, and the immediate problem was how the man and his two remaining dogs, Princess and Max, were going to survive a New England winter. Joe located a pet-friendly motel and the man was grateful to have a warm place to stay but he was very concerned about Max. Joe had noticed that Max, a happy-go-lucky, three-year-old mastiff, had entropion. The condition could be successfully treated, but Joe knew the cost was well beyond the man’s means. That’s when Joe called Pets in Need.
A condition in which the eyelid grows inward, entropion causes the lashes to rub against the eye, irritating it. Dogs with entropion may squint constantly, tear continuously or keep the eye closed. Entropion isn’t a rare condition but it does require surgical expertise. The eyelid must be reshaped precisely—enough to position the lashes away from the eye, but not so far that the lashes no longer protect the eye.
The PIN clinic’s veterinarian didn’t have expertise in the procedure, so they made a call—and a veterinarian from the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association volunteered to donate his services. Max went into the operating room a happy dog with a bothersome condition. When the surgery was over, he was a happy dog and a PIN clinic success story.
Joe says about 90 percent of the calls he receives aren’t animal abuse. They’re animal neglect. Usually, Joe says, the family faces a hard choice: “Do I put food on the table or do I take my pet to the vet?” Rhode Island law requires pet owners to provide a minimum amount of care– or surrender their pets to the SPCA.
Now, Joe says, “I can offer a third option: Pets in Need. It’s comforting to know there’s another option.”
Max is now completely recovered. And it never would have happened if the SPCA’s big-hearted humane officer hadn’t encountered a man in distress—and had known that Pets In Need was the answer for a man who had little else in the world but his pets, and his great love for them.