"The entire family came in," said veterinarian Mark Vandenberg, "four young kids, mother, grandmother, uncles, aunts, talking about care and how much. I said don't worry about it, we'll make it work. There won't be any charges, period." Vandenberg is able to cover the dog's medical expenses partially with money from a special fund called Sam's Fund, and some will simply be donated by the clinic.
Sam's Fund was established by Debby Wooddell five years ago, after the death of her beloved dog, Sam. The name is also an acronym for Save Animals by Mark, for Vandenberg, who administers the funds. The fund was set up to help other animals injured or in need of care from an unexpected accident.
"It's when tragedies like this occur that animals need help," said Wooddell. "Everybody is trying to save him for the kids." Wooddell called Vandenberg "incredibly magnanimous" for his work with the fund.
"They felt compelled to do something," said Vandenberg of the Wooddells after the loss of their dog. "I've used a little bit of the money, but mostly it's been just sitting there waiting for the best use." Over the years the fund has been added to "a little girl came in and gave $5 the other day" but Vandenberg said the plan was to have the money available when real tragedy struck, such as the accident with Stewart and A.J.
A.J. has been at the clinic for two weeks already, and Vandenberg estimated he would have to stay there for another month.
"He's starting to come back again, starting to eat," said Vandenberg. "I think he's going to make it" yesterday a goat was in the clinic for treatment and A.J. got up to bark at it, which Vandenberg took as a good sign "but he has several big surgeries ahead of him."
Donations can be made to Sam's Fund at Alpine Bank, account number 1260316117, or by calling the San Miguel Veterinary Clinic at 327-4279.