A Heart of Gold

Story by Monika Blackwell

Since making her first contribution to the Small Animal Hospital in honor of an Aggie veterinarian, Janel Griffey has decided to help other pets receive the same quality of care her dogs have received by establishing Emma’s Fund.

Janel Griffey with Dr. Robert Judd '79 and his wife Deborah in front of Molly's room
Janel Griffey with Dr. Robert Judd ’79 and his wife Deborah

Janel Griffey is not an Aggie, but Texas A&M has her heart.

Her connection to the university hinges upon the love she has for the Aggie veterinarians and veterinarians-in-training who have treated her family of dogs during the last decade and a half.

For years, Griffey has been a loyal client of Dr. Robert Judd ’79, her veterinarian in Waco. It was through her interactions with Judd that Griffey saw the power of the Aggie spirit and experienced the true selfless service that Texas A&M has imparted in all its graduates.

When Judd referred Griffey to Texas A&M for her dogs, Griffey knew that she had found a unique and trustworthy place for her beloved companions. She was impressed with the many students she met and has even tried to recruit a couple to move to Waco and work with Judd after graduation.

Because of the connections she has made, Griffey has become one of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) most generous supporters.


Griffey’s first gift to the college was a donation of two comfort rooms to the Small Animal Hospital (SAH), which provide hospital clients a home-like environment to reflect on their pet’s medical options and, for those who face the pain of saying goodbye, a quiet, peaceful place to spend their final moments with their beloved pet.

Molly’s Room was named for Griffey’s cherished dog, a 5-pound poodle who stole her heart from the beginning.

“Molly had over a dozen health problems, but due to Dr. Judd’s medical expertise, she lived almost two years longer than expected,” Griffey said. “I’d lost many pets before Molly. It’s always horrible, but this time there were difficulties.”

Griffey knew she needed to honor Molly in a special way to make peace with her death.

She also knew there was a need for another comfort room at the SAH; hence, Molly’s Room was born. In addition, the room honors Judd for his commitment to veterinary excellence and his exemplary care of Griffey’s pets.

“While at the SAH discussing Molly’s Room, I decided to make an additional gift of a second comfort room in memory of my great-aunt Emma,” Griffey said. “The Griffey Gang Room is adjacent to Molly’s Room. Its name is a nod to the moniker given to the original eight dogs I had rescued from a local no-kill shelter. When people saw us coming they called us the Griffey Gang, and the name stuck!”


Griffey’s great-aunt became the inspiration for a second gift to the CVM. A year later, she established Emma’s Fund.

Emma’s Fund assists pet owners 60 years old or older who are on a fixed income and require additional support within the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) to afford their pet’s life-saving care. To qualify, the treatment must be performed at the VMTH and the pet must have a good prognosis.

“My aunt loved all living creatures. She would rescue baby birds or newborn squirrels found in her backyard and valiantly try to save their lives,” Griffey said. “When finishing a meal at a restaurant, she never left an uneaten dinner roll or scrap of food. Instead, she placed the leftovers into a plastic bag kept in her ‘pocketbook’ just for the purpose of carrying little tidbits to the parking lot to be placed on the grass for ‘some poor bird or animal looking for food.’”

Janel Griffey and Dr. Sharon Kerwin in front of a sign commemorating Molly
Janel Griffey and Dr. Sharon Kerwin

Griffey recalls Emma’s home, which was never without a few stray cats and dogs tenderly cared for by her aunt.

“She is the one from whom I learned that all creatures deserved to be loved, not just the pampered and pretty ones,” Griffey said.

Emma’s Fund has also helped with the VMTH’s Meals on Wheels Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors (PALS) program, which allows veterinary students to make home visits to Meals on Wheels recipients to provide preventative care to their pets.

“I love talking with senior citizens,” Griffey said. “Their stories are rich and vibrant, and if you take the time to listen, there’s much you can learn from them! Aunt Emma and I had many long phone conversations. I’m sure one of her pets was on her lap the whole time, being petted.

“Often the only companions our senior citizens have is their pet. That pet is their entire world to them,” she said. “It hurts my soul to think some little old lady or man would have to euthanize an animal because they lack funds for medical care. I need only to think of Aunt Emma or my best friend, both on fixed incomes. What would they do? It was a no-brainer for me to establish Emma’s Fund!”

To ensure her generosity continues after her lifetime, Griffey has also left provisions in her estate to support the CVM. Her gifts will permanently endow Emma’s Fund and provide endowed support for the CVM’s shelter medicine program. She also has ensured that all of her dogs will have a home in the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center after her lifetime.

Griffey credits her father for her ability to make these contributions to support the causes about which she is passionate.

“My father was a self-made man. He was born to a dirt- poor tobacco farmer in Tennessee. He had a third-grade education, and by age 13, he held his first job as short-order cook. He died a multi-millionaire,” Griffey said. “I didn’t live with my father, but he blessed me by sharing part of his estate with me.

“I didn’t work for this money, so it’s not mine to waste. I want to make sure that when I am no longer here, my dad’s money still benefits others. That’s why my animals will live at the Stevenson Center and my entire estate will be donated to the CVM and the SAH.”

To support further innovations in veterinary medicine, please contact Chastity Carrigan, Assistant Vice President for Development for the CVM, at ccarrigan@txamfoundation.com or 979.845.9043.


Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of CVM Today.

For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

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