Ronnie Polaneczky: Fundraiser to help pay for dog's wounded knee

Stephanie and Patrick Dodd with Yazzy, whose injured knee will cost about $4,000 to repair. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)
Stephanie and Patrick Dodd with Yazzy, whose injured knee will cost about $4,000 to repair. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer) (Amanda Gilanyi)
Posted: August 05, 2010

ANEW SURVEY shows that 63 percent of pet owners are willing to pay for their pets' medical care if it costs $500 or less.

If the price tag rises to $1,000, only 42 percent of owners would find the money, according to a poll by pet side.com. At $2,000, the percentage slips to 35. And at $5,000, a scant 22 percent would foot the bill.

That doesn't mean the nonpayers don't want to keep their nonhuman family members upright and breathing. But who can afford to? Especially when the economy is in the crapper and folks have lost human medical benefits along with their jobs?

You can love your pet with the ardor of "The Dog Whisperer" but still wonder: Where should the financial sacrifices begin and end?

Patrick and Stephanie Dodd have been asking that question since their beloved, 2-year-old, 102-pound Rottweiler, Yazzy, busted a ligament in his right hind leg.

They've obtained several medical opinions, and each indicates it would cost about $4,000 to make Yazzy good as new. The bill would cover X-rays, anesthesia, meds, surgical placement of a titanium plate, an overnight stay at Society Hill Veterinary Hospital - plus rehab, if the Dodds want Yazzy to resume bounding through their Old City neighborhood, where he hurt himself while playing in the first place.

"We just can't afford it," says Patrick, 31, who, like Stephanie, 30, works in sales.

The couple recently dipped into savings to pay for their elopement in Mexico in April and then move to Philly from Atlanta. They were in the midst of planning a wedding reception here when Yazzy tore his crucial craniate ligament - think knee - a common injury in big, heavy hounds like him.

"We just weren't expecting a $4,000 medical bill," he says.

When he and Stephanie weren't kicking themselves for not having medical insurance for Yazzy (the way about 800,000 Americans do for their pets, at a total premium cost of $272 million), they were frightened for their big guy.

Without surgery, Yazzy - young, loving, energetic and otherwise hardy - would become increasingly disabled, overusing his left hind leg to compensate for the bad right one. Eventually, he'd probably just scrape his bulk along Philly's mean streets using only his front legs - a miserable fate by any estimation.

He's "young and healthy," says Patrick, adding that Yazzy has many good years ahead if he has the surgery.

So this Sunday, the Dodds are doing something that loved ones of uninsured, medically needy humans do all the time: They're hosting a party to raise money to pay for their pup's medical care.

Its name?

Save Yazzy's Leg.

I'd never before heard of a fundraiser for a sick dog. But a Google search turned up a surprising number of pet owners unwilling to make the wrenching decision to let their pets go, rather than going into hock to keep them here - or hobbled.

For example, in Irvine, Calif., a mutt named Madeline needs $5,000 for a new hip. And here in Philly, there's a call out for donations to fund the mounting medical bil

ls of Mingo, a sick Wire Fox Terrier.

As for Patrick and Stephanie, they'd organized, separately, lots of fundraisers in the past.

Patrick, who dabbles in stand-up comedy, had pulled off three comedy events - in New York, Georgia and Colorado - to raise money to support research of pancreatic cancer, the disease that took his grandmother's life.

And Stephanie, a Penn State grad, has personally raised nearly $18,000 for various children's causes sponsored by her alma mater's alumni association.

If they could raise money for strangers in need, they thought, why not shake the trees for the dog they loved?

So this Sunday, the couple will do just that - "Our first real project as a married couple," says Stephanie.

The $20-per-head fundraiser will be held at Olive on 3rd, a new BYOB near 3rd and South, where manager Christine Fischer is letting Patrick - an accomplished amateur chef - create the meal. Not only is Fischer donating the food, a friend of hers is offering homemade wines and limoncello.

"Yazzy is like their child," the bighearted Fischer says of the Dodds, whom she befriended as they planned their wedding-rehearsal dinner. "They're so worried about Yazzy! I have two daughters. If they got sick, I'd want someone to help me, too."

As word of the dinner has spread, donations have poured in of items to be raffled that night: pet products, dance lessons, gym memberships, pilates classes, gourmet teas and homemade dog biscuits.

"Everyone has rallied behind us," says Patrick, amazed by how every business owner

they've approached has lent support - although it helps that Yazzy is one sweet dog. "We love this city."

Wanna learn more? Go to saveyazzysleg.com.

E-mail polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/polaneczky. Read Ronnie's blog at http://go.philly.com/ronnieblog.

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