Zoey: An angel for pets who need one

Alyssa Jackson
  • Zoey's Fun Run will take place on October 2 at John Rudy Park
  • The event will raise funds for pet owners that can't afford emergency medical care for their furry friends
  • The fund was established in memory of Zoey, a 12-year-old Shih-tzu who passed due to lung cancer

When Marjorie Mattis first had to put down Zoey, her spunky little Shih Tzu that she loved dearly, she was lost and grieving. Zoey lost her life to a rare form of lung cancer that was found in October 2011. Mattis was able to keep her fur-baby comfortable for three more months with several veterinarian visits, but had to euthanize the pup on New Year's Eve 2012.

Near the end of Zoey's life, Mattis spent a lot of time in her vet's office observing other pet owners and their animals.

Zoey, Marjorie Mattis' Shih-tzu, passed away in 2012 due to a rare form of lung cancer. She inspired Mattis to create a fund helping other pet owners afford emergency medical care.

"While I would sit in the vet's office, I would see the number of people that came in and the issues that their pets had and the cost of the vet care that people couldn't afford," Mattis said. "There are people who, because of the cost associated with an emergency procedure or sudden illness, are often unable to help their pets."

Mattis said that she saw a lot of people having to euthanize their beloved pets because they couldn't afford a surgery or medical treatment that would cost hundreds of dollars. After Zoey's passing, she wanted something good to come from her death.

Mattis wanted to help other pet owners extend their pets' lives.

Fun Run: Through the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, Mattis started Zoey's Fund, which helps pet owners who can't afford emergency medical care. Mattis said one of her favorite things about the fund is that all of the money goes to York County pet owners.

One of the fundraisers that raises money for Zoey's Fund — Zoey's Fun Run and 1 Mile Dog Walk — will be held Oct. 2. The fundraiser occurs annually on the first Sunday of October at John Rudy Park at 400 Mundis Race Road. Mattis said they are typically able to raise about $5,000 for Zoey's Fund with the event, which started in 2013.

Dog owners walk their pets through John Rudy Park at the 2015 Zoey's Fun Run.

The event is open to people who aren't pet owners, as well. Runners are invited to take part in the 5K run at 10 a.m., or dog lovers can attend and walk their furry friends for a mile at 10:10 a.m. Registration for both is held at 9 a.m. or can be completed online. The cost is $25 to register.

After the run and walk, people can take advantage of the different vendors who will be there, most of whom are pet-oriented, Mattis said. Those in attendance can get pictures taken with their pets or buy them treats and other presents. There also will be a blessing of pets by a local pastor and a memorial balloon release for anyone who has lost a pet and wants to commemorate them.

Mattis said many of the dog owners take the time to dress their pets in costume for their mile walk. Pets with the best costume get prizes, just like winners of the 5K run get prizes. Mattis said Zoey's Fund also holds a Pet Bingo in February to raise funds, appealing to a different group of people.

A pup walking in the 2015 Fun Run sports a detective costume. Many of the pets that participate in Zoey's Fun Run and 1 Mile Dog Walk don costumes to win prizes.

The fund: Mattis estimates that Zoey's Fund has been able to help 15 cats and dogs over the last four years. Mattis said she believes other pets can apply to be helped through the fund, but thus far the aid has only gone toward cats and dogs. The fund has always had enough money to help every animal that has applied, she said.

Only veterinarians may apply for Zoey's Fund. If they know about the opportunity and see an animal that could benefit from it, they will apply on behalf of the animal and pet owner. Mattis explained that the application is reviewed by a committee set up by the PVMA. The same committee acts as the fiscal agent for the fund. The process is very unbiased, which Mattis was careful to do when originally setting up the fund.

Mattis, who is the dean of academic affairs at the HACC York Campus, said many of her colleagues take the time to volunteer at the fundraising events and donate to Zoey's Fund throughout the year. In fact, all of those who organize the event are employees from the campus, even though it's not sponsored by HACC.

"It's a way for them to have an impact inside the college and outside the college," Mattis said.

Interested donors can donate to Zoey's Fund year-round by visiting the Fun Run website, where there also are newsletters, photos from past races and more information about Zoey and the fund.

"It’s just fun, it’s a fun morning to spend with pets in York County and being grateful to help keep families with their pets," Mattis said of the event. "We’ve at least helped 15 pets in the last four years, and a lot of them would have been euthanized. That’s never the way you want to see your pet go because you couldn’t afford medical care."