Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grants

The Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grants offer financial assistance for qualifying families in need of medical or surgical intervention for their beloved pet. These one-time grants aim to preserve the human-animal bond by funding life-saving or life-changing veterinary care to a pet that might otherwise be relinquished, euthanized, or enduring prolonged suffering.

Our Inspiration

On December 6, 2010, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Colton Rusk was gunned down by sniper fire in Afghanistan. Eli, the bomb-sniffing dog assigned to Rusk, threw his body on his fallen handler and stayed with him, protecting his body until other Marines arrived at the scene. Following the loss of their son, Kathy and Darrell Rusk decided to adopt the dog who had shown so much devotion to their son. Because the U.S. military had spent thousands of dollars on Eli’s training, he was still considered operational, but the Secretary of the Navy approved his discharge, marking only the second time in history that a U.S. military dog has been adopted by the family of the fallen handler. Today, Eli lives with the Rusk family in the Southeast Texas city of Orange Grove. When the TVMF Board of Trustees learned about Eli, they stepped in to fund any veterinary care the black Labrador may need in the future.

Because Eli and Colton’s relationship exemplifies the strength of the human-animal bond, TVMF wanted to further recognize the service of both Eli and Colton by creating a veterinary grant program and naming it in their honor.


Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grants are one-time financial assistance grants for families in need of life-saving or life-changing veterinary care that will save their pet from euthanasia or prolonged suffering.

In order to be eligible for a Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grant, the following criteria must be met:

  • Your veterinarian must apply for you. Only veterinarians who are members in good standing of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association and who practice in the state of Texas will be eligible to apply for these grants for their clients.
  • You must demonstrate financial need along with the capability to make some financial contribution toward the cost of the animal’s care.
  • The animal must also have a good-to-excellent prognosis following the medical or surgical intervention.

Questions about the grant process? Please contact Leah Ann Tibbitts, COO, at

To apply for a Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grant, please click here.