Students heading to Starbucks for their morning coffee on Oct. 20 may have also had the chance to meet and maybe even get a couple kisses from two-year-old Trixie, a happy and energetic puppy on a mission.
Trixie was visiting student commons with her owner, second-year vet tech student Kelsey Poitras, to help promote The Pet Project, a cause that could help pet owners who worry about being able to afford veterinary care for their furry pals.
Poitras and Trixie are no strangers to how costly essential veterinary care can be. Last year an accident left Trixie in need of surgery that required stitches and anesthesia.
Poitras told the Times that anesthesia can be very expensive, especially for a dog.
“It came up to around $950,” said Poitras. “Having something like The Pet Project at that time definitely would have saved a lot of money.”
Poitras, along with fellow vet tech students Michelle Anne Olsen, Valerie Fenske and Genevieve Champagne came up with the idea for The Pet Project last year. The project gained momentum when they won second place in the Start Something with Alesse contest.
“We were amazed by the positive reaction we got from the contest,” said Olsen. “Not only did we get a small cash prize, but it really got the word out.”
Olsen, Poitras and Fenske were joined by fellow vet tech students Athena Van Hoof and Hanna Thompson at their booth as part of a public outreach project where they were promoting The Pet Project to students.
Passers-by were encouraged to fill out a survey that asked questions like “do you have pet insurance?” and “have you ever had to postpone or decline essential veterinary services for your pet in order to receive reduced-cost veterinary services?”
Olsen said the data was being collected so they can gauge student interest and build a report that would make it easier for them to get the funding they need to launch the project.
“It’s those kinds of hard numbers that can get you funding,” said Olsen. “Once we get up and running, the idea would be to have a website where you can apply to volunteer at animal shelters or clinics in exchange for vet services,” said Olsen.
Although she doesn’t have any pets of her own, second-year public relations student Chelsea Rutherford was enthusiastic about the project.
“I think this is an awesome service,” said Rutherford. “The expenses are what deter me from getting a pet. If something like this existed I’d be less worried about not being able to take care of it and more likely to adopt one.”
Although Olsen says their busy program is making it difficult to dedicate enough time and resources to the project right now, they’re hoping that once they graduate in the spring they’ll be able to start reaching out to local animal shelters and clinics.
“We’re still in the preliminary stages,” said Olsen. “But we’ve already had general interest.”
“We’re also hoping to start getting some sponsors a little further down the road,” said Fenske.
There’s no doubt that with tuition, textbooks and living expenses, vet bills can be a huge problem for student pet owners. But in exchange for volunteering a little time to an organization that could really use the help, Van Hoof says that could be a thing of the past.
“It’s such a simple idea that makes so much sense,” said Van Hoof. “I’ve probably spent about $5,000 on my cat. She’s chronically ill. Sometimes I worry about paying my rent. I can’t believe no one has thought of it before now.”