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Published on Jan 20, 2014
Inside the comfort of her home, Annie Blumenfeld sat by her fireplace with Rep. Tony Hwang as they spoke about Annie's determination and love for her dog, Teddy. Teddy is an energetic bearded collie/otter hound mix and Annie is a sophomore at Fairfield Warde High School. She was first inspired to advocate the heartworm issue by Teddy who was diagnosed with heartworm disease two years ago. Teddy was rescued by a shelter in Houston where he spent his life in a crate with the heartworm disease spreading. Annie and her family adopted him. They began the treatment for Teddy and Annie began to raise awareness towards this disease by researching, advocating the issue, and painting pictures of Teddy to be auctioned off. All of the proceeds have gone to local shelters including Fairfield, Norwalk, and Trumbull.
During the fireplace discussion, Annie elaborated on Teddy's condition and her ultimate goal. The disease affects more than 1,000,000 dogs in the United States and 45% are unprotected from heartworms. It is a devastating disease that is transmitted by mosquito and can be transferred from dog-to-dog.
The worms begin as larvae that infect the heart and take a couple of months to grow into worms. These worms can cause coughing, liver problems, and kidney failure. Her goal, along with efforts from Hwang, is to raise awareness in the community and help dogs get the protection they need from heartworm disease. "We're striving for education in shelters and hopefully on the dog license you can have a notification or awareness for heartworm disease education," said Annie.
Currently, the dog license provides the owner with forms that have multiple check boxes as reminders for treatment and awareness such as rabies and various other reminders. The objective here is to provide the owner with a simple reminder to get their dog inspect or treated for heartworms because the effects of ignoring the possibility of the disease can be extremely harmful. The treatment for heartworms costs $2,000. In comparison, the preventative is only $45+ depending on the weight of the dog, and this provides the protection necessary for all dogs. Not only is the treatment expensive, but more importantly it is painful for the dog.
This is the pain and suffering Annie witnessed in Teddy. It was a heart-wrenching experience, but it became her motivation.