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HWAC comes through in the clutch

Helen Woodward Animal Center

As is typical of Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC), they never cease to amaze! From saving orphaned animals in need, to providing veterinary care, to educating the public, and conducting community events for families and animals alike to enjoy, this organization does it all. So, it is no surprise that there was no hesitation when it came to providing free services to a very special service dog to honor her Veteran Marine’s sacrifices for our country!

Daisy, a five-year-old Golden Retriever/Greyhound blend, is Katherine Ragazzino’s lifeline. Ragazzino is a retired disabled United States Marine veteran who is 100% disabled due in part to a traumatic brain injury she suffered while tour in Iraq. Ragazzino depends on Daisy, her service dog, to alert her to the onset of health issues that mirror a small stroke.

Over the past few weeks, it has been doting Daisy that has required medical assistance and the retired, disabled Marine simply did not have the means to get her the help she desperately needed. Enter HWAC!

Mike Arms, President and CEO of Helen Woodward was informed of Daisy and Katherine’s situation and granted the necessary services, some crucial medical exams, in honor of the sacrifices made by both Ragazzino and her devoted service dog.

According to her caretaker, U.S. Marine Veteran Ragazzino deployed two tours; serving in Iraq and off shore operations in Afghanistan. She was injured when her head was slammed during a vehicle accident. The accident, along with the intense duration of her tour during the war left her with the disabling brain injury, as well as PTSD, landing Ragazzino in the Wounded Warrior Battalion for nearly two years following her service. The head injuries left the disabled veteran unable to do even simple tasks such as typing on a keyboard, making her unemployable and struggling to survive.

Vocational nurse Michelle Tyler became Ragazzino’s full-time caretaker shortly after her release from the Battalion and discharge from the Marine Corps. Extremely concerned for her well-being, Tyler states that she saw an enormous transition in the former Marine with the rescue of a doting dog named Daisy, whose keen connection to the military veteran primed her for a quick transition into a service dog. Daisy is able to sense Ragazzino’s oncoming attacks and will nudge the disabled veteran into a safe position before her mini stroke-type symptoms occur. Perhaps even more importantly, Daisy provided Ragazzino a renewed reason for living. “Katherine didn’t care what happened to her,” stated Tyler, “but she would not let anything happen to Daisy. She got up in the morning to see to Daisy. It was really beautiful.”

For the past few months, Daisy appeared to develop some concerning medical problems. Last summer, after she received a haircut, her fur did not grow back. After going to the veterinarian, it was revealed that Daisy appeared to have a heart murmur and quite possibly, a thyroid condition to boot. The vet suggested that more tests would be necessary in order to determine Daisy’s condition. The quotes for the tests ranged into thousands of dollars. Ragazzino knew that she simply could not afford to get Daisy the help she needed! Thankfully, Carla DiMare, an attorney for the disabled Marine, reached out to Helen Woodward Animal Center’s President and CEO and shortly, thereafter, Daisy was scheduled to receive her medical care through the Center’s Companion Animal Hospital.

“These pets become our family,” stated Center President Mike Arms. “It would be devastating to not be able to provide medical care for a pet who is your actual caretaker in your daily life. This Marine dedicated her life to her country and her dog Daisy is dedicating her life to this Marine. I’m honored to help in any way I can.”

On Thursday, March 13th, Companion Animal Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Patricia Carter welcomed Daisy in for a full exam, a cardiac ultrasound and blood and thyroid work-ups, free of charge. Medical results did show signs of a thickening on one of the leaflets of Daisy’s heart valve (the tricuspid valve), which seemed to be causing the light murmur – a condition that can occur naturally due to an earlier infection. Fortunately, the symptoms should be manageable with treatment and good care which Dr. Carter is working on with Tyler, Ragazzino and her beloved Daisy. In the meantime, Ragazzino and Daisy will continue their path together, providing the world real-life examples of loving, living heroes.

For more information on the Helen Woodward Animal Center Companion Animal Hospital and the great work that they do, visit, call 858-756-4159 or stop by at 6523 Helen Woodward Way, Suite 200, in Rancho Santa Fe, California. You will be surprised to see that this is only one step in the many that this organization takes to ensure good health and loving care to animals and their humans alike!

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