This is the story of a local woman who lost almost everything. But more than that, it's the story of how a local organization saved one of the few joys she had left: her dog, Tilly.
Lisa Larson went in for routine surgery on a pancreatic cyst, and left the hospital with a chronic disability: pancreatitis.
The pancreas regulates insulin, the body's way of balancing blood sugar, and absorbs nutrients. But because her pancreas struggles to do either, Larson's blood sugar is often dangerously high. But she has to keep eating, since hardly any nutrients Larson consumes are processed.
Shortly after the surgery, the economy collapsed. She and her parents lost their jobs, then their home. They lost everything.
Larson was expecting to recover quickly after the initial surgery. Now, at 5-foot-8, she weighs just over 90 pounds.
“It's been a hard journey,” she said, “but it's almost like you have to die to understand what life is really all about. I'm so thankful for every day I have. I've had a lot of rough times, but I have so many amazing stories like the one about the EAPL.”
The Evergreen Animal Protective League offers an array of services, from adopting out animals to providing food and identification tags. But when EAPL president Jackie Bell met Lisa and Tilly, she knew this case was different. Tilly needed extensive dental work, and Larson was living on just $175 a month.
In less than a week, Larson got the call saying the organization had found the money to fix Tilly's teeth.
“I have nothing but my dog," she said, "and she's the world to me. To get that phone call from Jackie was so priceless, because when you're sick and you lose everything and you don't have a way to make income, you can't even help yourself. And for the first time in my life, I've been helpless.”
When Larson dropped Tilly off at the vet, she expected the dog would lose maybe four teeth. She lost 22.
But within five days, Tilly was a new dog, Larson said. She had a bone that she never seemed to chew yet protected around other dogs. Now she was chewing it. She'd never played with other dogs at the dog park. Now she was playing like a carefree youngster.
“I can't imagine how much money it cost,” Larson said. “There's no thank-you letter you can write to say how much something like that means to you. There's just no way I can thank them enough.”
The EAPL is lucky to have veterinarians who are willing to work with it on cases like Larson's, Bell said.
“We must help these people who need it because of homelessness or disability …," she said. "We try never to say no, but we do have to review each case carefully. It's pretty much only dire circumstances that we do (something like) this."
Some might be critical of a person for spending what little money she has on her dog, but the people at EAPL understand that Tilly is the most important thing in her life, Larson said.
Many organizations have come through for Larson, she said, including Evergreen Christian Outreach, the local food bank, churches and strangers. The list goes on, but tears prevented her from finishing it.
“It's such an emotional thing, you know, when you're ill,” Larson said. “I actually wasn't supposed to live. … They told me after I got some color back that I looked like a walking corpse. But my dog was always there, always by my side.”
Contact Stephanie DeCamp at email@example.com or 303-350-1043.
How to help …
Donations to EAPL may be made on the organization’s website, www.eapl.com.