Food and Meds for Aquino: Interview with Westlake Animal Hospital

Interview by Diane Baren – December 2017

Aquino is an Australian Labradoodle raised to be a Service Dog, and he’s completely dedicated to his best buddy Sonny Brooks – US Military Veteran. The Crockett Foundation connected with Sonny via the efforts of some very caring groups and individuals in Florida. Together they orchestrated a surprise for Sonny and Aquino. We spoke with Kathy Miccio from Westlake Animal Hospital about how this played out, and here’s that interview.

  1. Question: What is your title and job at Westlake Animal Hospital?

Answer: Receptionist. I schedule appointments, surgeries, take payments — very limited answers to questions — and I dispense medications.

  1. Question: How did you hear about the Crockett Foundation and their desire to help Veterans?

Answer: The Crockett Foundation sent a letter to the office manager here at Westlake Animal Hospital. The office manager showed the letter to me because she knew my husband and I like to help Veterans.

  1. Question: How are you and your husband helpful to the Veteran community?

Answer: We volunteer with K9 Partners for Patriots, located in Brooksville, FL and we donate to them. The organization rescues dogs from shelters, or breeders will donate a dog to them. They deliver a 19-week program to train Veterans to train their own service dogs. My husband and I are foster parents to Service Dogs who are being prepped for Veterans who need Service Dogs.

Part of our interest in working with K9 Partners for Patriots is that my husband is a 911 survivor retired fire fighter from New York and he has a Service Dog, a German Shephard. Helping first responders with their Service Dogs is close to our heart. It’s something we really understand.

  1. Question: How was Sonny Brooks identified as someone to connect with the Crockett Foundation for assistance?

Answer: The owner of my yoga studio, Janel Norton, is also the Co-Founder of an organization called The Veterans Alternative, in Holiday, FL. They provide alternative treatments that help Veterans transition back into civilian life. No medication involved. All yoga, self-defense, etc. Their program is called Accelerated Resolution Therapy, or ART for short. My husband and I help them out.

When the office manager at Westlake Animal Hospital, where I work, showed me the letter from the Crockett Foundation about them looking for Veterans to help with costs of food for their dogs, I decided to bring the letter to Janel. I asked Janel if she knew anyone from The Veterans Alternative who needed help.

After talking with Janel I contacted the Crockett Foundation. That is how I connected Debbie Mrozinski, The Crockett Foundation President, with Janel. Then Sonny Brooks and his dog were identified for assistance with food and meds from The Crockett Foundation.

 { See Sonny Brooks’ interview about this gift and about his Service Dog, Aquino, here. }

  1. Question: What was it like at the animal hospital on the day that Sonny and Aquino received the donation of dog food from the Crockett Foundation?

Answer: It started out with the clinic staff trying to be very nonchalant because the gift was a surprise to Sonny that day. Sonny and Aquino were not currently clients, but his fiancé had got him to the clinic with Aquino that day as part of the surprise event.

Sonny expected to pay for Aquino’s visit. When he came out after the exam he went to the front desk to make payment. That’s when he was told it was no charge.

When it was explained to Sonny what was going on he was blown away and so grateful that somebody would go through those lengths for him. Meaning The Crockett Foundation and the others who connected them with Sonny for his dog. He was so appreciative to Debbie and me and anyone else involved.

It was very emotional and a wonderful experience for us. The Crockett foundation did a short video on a cell phone to capture the experience.

  1. Question: Approximately how much money has the Crockett Foundation contributed to helping Veterans who are your clients – paying their vet bills or buying food for their pets?

Answer: Maybe 6-8 bags of food, flea preventative for 6 months.

  1. Question: Does Westlake Animal hospital have many Service Dogs as clients?

Answer: Some of our clients are blind and we treat their Service Dogs.

  1. Question: Do you have a sense of how many of your clients are Veterans?

Answer: I don’t. They don’t say anything (self-identify). But sometimes a client, older men, will come in with a cap on that indicates they served in the military.

  1. Question: Do you know of other Veterans who would enjoy having a pet if they could afford the veterinary costs more easily?

Answer: All the veterans I know personally have pets. I know all of them from The Veterans Alternative.

  1. Question: Does Westlake Animal Hospital have a special mission to help clients in need of help paying for pet food and vet bills – or other social service goals?

Answer: The hospital doesn’t have a particular mission of that kind, but they are not opposed to helping someone. For instance the doctor did the exam for Sonny’s dog at no charge, and didn’t charge for medication.

In this event with The Crockett Foundation the clinic anticipated that they would come and pay for food and flea preventative. But when Sonny came in with Aquino it was clear that the dog was itching and had some skin issues.

The doctor chose to do the exam spontaneously that day, and didn’t charge for it. It was an experience we could all be proud to be involved in and we were thrilled to participate.

Contribute to the Crockett Foundation mission of helping Veterans have greater joy in their lives – including caring for their pets and service dogs through assistance with food costs and medical bills. Donate to the Crockett Foundation here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *