By Andrea Culletto  

When Barbara’s house burned down, she almost lost everything—including her beloved cat, Dahlia. This tenacious kitty is a survivor, but she didn’t escape unscathed. She suffered horrific burns on her face, ears and paws. It’s a miracle she survived at all. 

As if losing her home wasn’t enough, Barbara was unable to cover Dahlia’s medical expenses. But then a second miracle occurred in the form of a Heart2Heart Pet Lifeline grant. These funds, combined with a loan and community support from Barbara’s GoFundMe account, saved Dahlia’s life and set her on the road to recovery. Today, she’s home recuperating with the person she loves. Her future looks bright.

Heart2Heart Pet Lifeline is new to the La Crosse area. This volunteer-run nonprofit organization helps low-income pet owners cover vet bills and keep pets in their loving homes. Their philosophy is “No owner should have to choose between medical care and euthanizing or surrendering a pet.”

Heart2Heart works with local veterinarians, the Coulee Region Humane Society and other pet rescue organizations to identify
those in need. Heart2Heart volunteers understand the trials pet families face when they can’t afford medical care. 

Compassionate Roots

Kalla Kalloway worked with an animal rescue group in the Twin Cities where she fostered dogs who had been surrendered by their owners, often because of an inability to pay for veterinary expenses. This hurt both the owner and the animal. She knew there had to be a better way. 

Heart2Heart Pet LifelineAfter moving to La Crosse in 2017, Kalloway started Heart2Heart Pet Lifeline with two experienced and compassionate women, Peg Zappen and Marlene Bannen. They were joined by three additional volunteers with experience on the Coulee Region Humane Society Board or its Pet Therapy Program: Linda Lee, Diane Fernholz and Mary Strasser Colclough. 

This six-member board of directors understands the strong bond between humans and their animals. They find meaning helping others maintain that relationship. 

“We have seen the smiles and relief on pet owners’ faces when we assist them with veterinary expenses and help them save their beloved pets through our grants, which are approved and administered through the generous assistance of the Coulee Region Humane Society,” said Strasser Colclough.

To date, the organization has provided grants to 20 happy pets and their owners. Here are a few of their stories:

Saving Sally

When Sally was diagnosed with a uterine infection, her owner, Candace, couldn’t pay for her emergency spay. Fortunately, Heart2Heart stepped in, saving Sally and enabling Candace to keep her sweet Chihuahua. Sally did her part, undergoing surgery and taking her medication “like a little trooper.” 

A few days later, she was happily barking and playing with her brother, Gizmo. Candace is so grateful for the Heart2Heart funding that helped her keep her precious pup.

Best Buds

Jason and Dion were best friends. But Dion had big problems—six of them. The large oral growths had to be removed along with a tooth and a shoulder mass.

With help from Heart2Heart and a nine-hour vet visit, Dion was his old self again. After a short recuperation, Jason took Dion out for bike rides, pulling his furry friend in a well-padded bike trailer. They were both grateful to be healthy and together once again. 

Extending a Lifeline

All pets are important, but some are essential. Lydia’s dog, Zeus, is her lifeline. This service dog means the world to his owner. He helps her access the world.

When Zeus needed an expensive tumor-removal surgery, Lydia didn’t know what to do. The price tag was well beyond her means. She could only wait and hope. Then someone suggested she call the Coulee Region Humane Society and ask if help existed. 

It did. The Humane Society connected Lydia with Heart2Heart, who helped cover the cost of Zeus’ surgery. The procedure went well and Zeus healed beautifully. He now has many happy days ahead, enjoying life and helping Lydia enjoy hers. Lydia is so thankful for the grant that kept Zeus by her side. 

Love Comes First

Good cat-parents put their pet’s needs before their own. Char loved Cubby but she didn’t have the funds to treat his urinary crystals. She wanted him to be happy and healthy, so, even though it broke her heart, she surrendered him to the shelter, hoping he would find a home that could afford to pay for his care. Shelter staff had a better idea. 

They connected Char with Heart2Heart. Cubby received the care he needed and stayed home with the person who already loved him most. Both Cubby and Char are happier and healthier as a result. 

Accidents Happen

When Jen’s dog, Duster, was hit by a car, she had limited options—give him up or put him down. Both were terrible. She lacked the financial resources to pay for the medical care he needed, but she couldn’t stand to put him to sleep. So, she made the heartbreaking decision to surrender him to the Coulee Region Humane Society.

Fortunately, their staff stepped in with Heart2Heart funds, covering the cost of Duster’s care. Today Jen and Duster are happy to be reunited, safe and healthy. With Heart2Heart support, their sorrow turned into joy. 

Mo’ Pets, Mo’ Problems

Heart2Heart helps pet owners through all kinds of trials. They helped Richard pay for his cat Bowie’s urinary blockage surgery. When Archer’s tail got shut in a door, they helped cover the cat’s partial amputation. Likewise, when Thor’s graceful feline tail became infected and failed to respond to antibiotic treatment, they helped pay for the amputation, saving Thor from systemic infection and death. 

Feline Coal’s chronic constipation nearly claimed his life, until Heart2Heart stepped in. They spared Jed, an energetic yellow lab, from heartworm, and got Hopey the cat dental care so she could eat again. They even helped bring Krista, a lovely cat with luxurious white fur, back from the brink after she almost died from an unknown ailment. Thanks to Heart2Heart, these animals and their human friends are happy, healthy and right where they belong. 

Heart2Heart cares about pets and the people who love them. They quietly help where it’s needed most. Sometimes even those who directly benefit are unaware of their efforts. “A boy about 10 years old came through our [Earth Fair] exhibit and looked at photos on our display boards,” Bannen said. “He commented that one of the dog pictures looked ‘just like his dog’ and was amazed that the carpet in the photo looked like that in his house. When asked if his dog had been to the vet recently, he said, ‘Yes.’ It turned out the picture was actually of his dog. The boy got excited and ran to tell his dad and to show off the picture of ‘his’ dog. He was thrilled that the dog was representing Heart2Heart. 

“For many people, pets can be a compelling reason to get up in the morning and are ‘family,’” Bannen said. “Pets give people a sense of purpose, lower anxiety and calm agitation. The research on the human/animal bond shows many benefits to people’s health in having a pet.”

Spread the word about Heart2Heart Pet Lifeline to those in need and donate at You can also support Heart2Heart’s mission by donating gently used household items to RootinCrown consignment shops and designating Heart2Heart Pet Lifeline as your preferred charity. The organization will receive a portion of profits to help fund their important work. Like Heart2Heart’s Facebook page to stay up to date on their current efforts.