Inspired Pet

What’s the meaning of a pet? In the memory of her childhood dog, Lisa Kuehl Hilas ’89 found her life’s meaning when she was at her lowest.

Inspired Pet
We've obsessed over our pets for a longtime. Here is an Eadweard Muybridge study on animal movement from from 1872-1885 held in the USC Digital Library./ Image in public domain via Wikimedia

When Lisa Kuehl Hilas ’89 was a kid, Whiskey, a small white and brown terrier mix with fluffy hair, made everything a little brighter.

Hilas’ memory of that loving little terrier inspired her to help extend the time others have to spend with their furry companions. And, decades later, Whiskey continues to comfort Hilas.

That came to be when Hilas was at her lowest, diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a rare retinal condition in 2000 that left her legally blind.

“I was just devastated,” she says. “Then I said, ‘You know, only I decide my value. No one decides that but me.’” She tapped into the joy she had with Whiskey and found purpose.

Hilas founded a veterinary nonprofit, Saving Gracie—named for her current dog.

The group funds veterinary care for pets whose humans cannot afford treatment. Lack of cash for treatment is common enough that the problem has a name; economic euthanasia is when a pet is put down for economic, not medical, reasons.

Now, a veterinary practice can refer a client to a Saving Gracie partner, known as Working Angels for Gracie. The pet owner then applies for assistance with the bill. Reducing economic euthanasia meets Hilas’ three goals for Saving Gracie: Save the human heart, save the pet, help veterinarians.

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