When Maria R. recently visited the Reaching-out Community Services food bank on New Utrecht Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, she noticed an ASPCA sticker advertising veterinary services for pets on a bag of cat food she received.
Maria called the number and spoke with Amanda Rodriguez, a Manager of Client Services at the ASPCA’s Midwest Office, explaining how her five-year-old orange tabby, Pumpkin, was suffering from dental disease.
“His top tooth dug into his mouth, and he could no longer eat dry food or treats,” recalls Maria. “His breath was smelly, too. He could only eat baby food.”
Amanda determined that Pumpkin qualified for veterinary services paid for through our One ASPCA Fund, a program with the goal of keeping pets and their people together by covering the cost of medical treatment.
“One ASPCA Fund focuses on medical conditions that have a good prognosis and require fairly short-term care,” Amanda explains. “Clients qualify if they live in a certain service area of the Bronx or Brooklyn, or if they’re referred by the ASPCA’s Community Engagement or Community Medicine teams, the NYPD, or social services agencies, as in this case, food bank clients.”
Amanda then scheduled an appointment for Pumpkin at the ASPCA Animal Hospital.
“I was so moved I started to cry,” says Maria, a former nursing home worker. “I am really, really grateful for the help because I can’t afford services like this right now.”
Pumpkin, also called Punki, is one of five cats Maria has adopted over the years. The others are Pepper, Layla, Princess and Looki. Pumpkin has a history of dental disease, and Maria says she paid for a dental procedure several years ago when he first showed up at her house.
“Someone dropped him on my stoop. He was hungry, beat up and emaciated,” recalls Maria, who also feeds and traps feral cats in her backyard. “I looked at that face and I said, ‘We’re taking him in!’”
On June 27, the day of Pumpkin’s appointment, Maria’s youngest son Ron took a day off from work to drive his mother and their cat to the Animal Hospital.
“He was like a real superstar with a chauffeur!” Maria says, adding that Pumpkin is an attention-loving ham, which was very evident during a short photo session prior to his surgery.
Gently prying open Pumpkin’s mouth, Dr. Anna Whitehead, Veterinary Staff Manager at the Hospital, confirmed that Pumpkin indeed needed dental surgery and scheduled one for the next day. She eventually extracted the majority of Pumpkin’s remaining teeth.
“It went great, and he did really well under anesthesia,” says Dr. Whitehead, who performed the surgery. Pumpkin went home the following day and is fully recovered and “back to his good ol’ self,” according to Maria.
“Cats live a long time at our house,” Maria adds. “Once I take them in they’re like a child—they become part of the family. And this guy, he’s like a movie star!”
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