Izzy’s Gift: Adopted dog inspires friendship, greater awareness of kidney disease impact

Jay & Izzy

Jay & Izzy

Izzy is four years old, loves the dog park and is a certified people-magnet. But she means so much more to her owners Tony and his wife Paula, who inherited her from their late friend, Jay.

Jay got Izzy as a puppy to help keep him active and maintain his health after he began suffering from seizures. When his condition worsened, Jay had to move into assisted living and couldn’t keep Izzy anymore. That’s when Tony and Paula got a call about a dog that needed adopting. “She found us, the dog of our dreams and a wonderful companion,” Tony says.

Tony and Jay didn’t know each other very well at first, but every couple of months Tony and Paula would drive Izzy to the assisted living center so they could all spend time at the dog park with Jay. Tony and Jay developed a friendship that later became a support system during a difficult time.

When Jay passed away, Tony and Paula wanted to do something special to honor Jay’s memory, and his wife suggested they donate to the American Kidney Fund. Not many people knew that Jay had received a kidney transplant at a very young age—a living donation from his sister. “It was remarkable that he had lived that long with a kidney transplant, from a child to well into his 50s. He lived a good life,” Tony says.

Tony & Izzy

Tony & Izzy

Tony was already familiar with AKF after supporting another friend, Ed, who had earlier passed away from kidney disease. Ed’s kidneys failed a year after both he and Tony retired. What was most shocking to Tony was how much of an impact kidney disease had on Ed’s life.

“Once Ed got sick, he really withdrew.” Despite his plans, kidney disease prevented Ed from walking in both of his daughters’ weddings and traveling with his wife once she retired.

Tony believes that the prevalence of kidney disease, how life-altering it can be and what organizations like AKF can do to help, “isn’t publicized enough.”


“We know about cancer, which is very much publicized, and we’ve had great success with that, but kidney disease is as traumatic as cancer. It is something that needs to be addressed, treated, and people need to be more aware of it.”

Greater awareness of the impact of kidney disease has made Tony more empathetic, especially when considering how drastically his friends’ lives were changed. Tony has realized how lucky he is to have his health and donates to help prevent others from facing the challenges Jay and Ed went through.

In addition to supporting AKF, Tony honors his friends by taking care of Izzy as best as he can, just as Jay did. Tony says Izzy’s friendly personality, social nature and nurturing temperament are a testament to Jay. “He gave us a gift and we gave him a gift.”

It’s often unexpected gifts like Izzy that help us to appreciate our health and choose to use our resources to raise support or awareness for others who may not be as fortunate. Tony believes that choice is worth it, especially when he remembers the tremendous joy on his friend’s face knowing Izzy was in good hands.


About the Author(s)

Kristina Brooks

Kristina Brooks is the American Kidney Fund’s social media manager.

Connect with Us