Paws on Your Heart donates to local vet clinic

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Dr. Dave Connell, left, received a check from Cheryl Meyer on behalf of the Paws on Your Heart Endowment Fund as Mayor Russ Loven looked on. Loven welcomes donations to the City for care of feral animals. (Press photo by Melissa Spielbauer-Combs)

By Molly Moser

A new endowment fund supporting disadvantaged pets and their owners has decided to give its first payout to the Guttenberg Veterinary Clinic in light of the clinic’s charity work with local animals. The vet clinic, owned by Dr. David Connell, has long acted as a shelter by caring for homeless and mistreated dogs and cats.

The vet clinic in Guttenberg often treats strays for upper respiratory infections, parasites, and other minor concerns, in addition to providing food and litter. “It’s not a huge financial outlay, but we do our best to make sure that they’re healthy. There may be an occasionally stray that may need something more than what we normally provide,” said Dr. Connell. 

Over the past several years, the Guttenberg Veterinary Clinic has provided a home within its own doors to a cat whose leg had to be amputated after it was cruelly thrown from a moving vehicle. If it were not for the clinic’s volunteer efforts and donated expenses, this cat would not be alive today. 

“Supporting rescue efforts like this is exactly why the Paws on Your Heart endowment fund is needed,” said Susi Nehls, who co-founded the fund with her husband, Roy Blair, in 2015. The Paws on Your Heart Pet Rescue Endowment will provide grants to nonprofit organizations that provide pet rescue service or support services for pet owners in Iowa. Any type of pet rescue or shelter service providing services to Iowa residents may qualify for these grants, but the funders are especially interested in dogs and in supporting organizations that serve either dogs that are disadvantaged, or their owners, if they are disadvantaged.

“We may use it just as much for people in need, whether veterans or seniors,” said Connell of the donation. “Last year I did a cancer surgery for a pet that needed it. I had known the guy for years, and his family has had some health issues of their own, and so I treated this particular animal for about a third of what it normally would have been just because it probably wasn’t going to get done otherwise. Obviously there are going to be animals in need, but a person or family that I feel is deserving a little bit of help is going to be my focus.”

The vet clinic started their pet rescue with a three-legged gray cat named Esmerelda, who was left at the door and made the clinic her home after her amputation. After Esmerelda died, the clinic adopted Henry, and since then, there have always been at least three cats living at the Guttenberg Veterinary Clinic simultaneously. “Right now we have three babies we’re bottle feeding,” Connell told The Press. “I didn’t ever have a big bleeding heart for this kind of thing, but most of these animals are healthy and they really don’t need to be euthanized. It doesn’t take long for us to find homes for a lot of them, and it’s quite amazing how you can do it if you put your mind to it.”

Born under a porch in downtown Guttenberg, one such kitten was delivered to the Guttenberg Veterinary Clinic for euthanization in 2014. His hind legs were severely deformed from the knee down, and Connell explained that the kitten would likely have become food for a hungry predator if left on his own. Since he was otherwise healthy, Connell performed surgery rather than euthanization. Thanks to the wisdom and kindness of the Guttenberg vet, the cat, Oscar, will spend his nine lives good health and good company at the vet clinic.

Since the Guttenberg Veterinary Clinic is not a nonprofit organization, the Paws on Your Heart endowment has granted its first payout of $490 to the City of Guttenberg, which has agreed to maintain the donation as a separate line item in the budget and reimburse the clinic for any expense it submits until the donation is depleted. 

Community members wishing to contribute to the Paws on Your Heart endowment fund are encouraged to do so on Thursday, May 11, by donating through Great Give Day.  Great Give Day is a 24-hour, online giving day presented by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (who holds the Paws on Your Heart endowment) to celebrate and support the work of nonprofits throughout the region. Over the past three years, Great Give Day has raised nearly $900,000 for nonprofits in the area. This year’s Great Give Day goal is $1 million. 

To donate on May 11, visit the Paws on Your Heart Pet Rescue Endowment at Gifts of $10 or more are encouraged. All gifts are eligible for federal, charitable-giving tax deduction. Gifts of $50 or more are also eligible for Endow Iowa, a 25% state tax credit. 

The first donation to Paws on your Heart Pet Rescue was made by someone whose friend’s dog had just died. The donor was looking for a way to do something in memory of her dog, a Yorkshire terrier named Bea. She wanted to support living pets, and so made a donation to Paws on your Heart in Bea’s name. Bea’s owner was very pleased to hear about the opportunity. “I like to think of Bea as living on, in this way,” she said. 

Donations can be made at any time following Great Give Day on May 11 by visiting or contacting the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, 700 Locust St, Suite 195, Dubuque, IA 52001.

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