My family is forever indebted to NDN, make no mistake about that. My brother was in grad school when he was diagnosed with cancer. Paying for treatments, travel to get to some of these rare clinical trials, etc. was nigh impossible on his stipend and student insurance. My parents' retirement was severely delayed throughout this process in transporting him, arranging for help for him, etc. They are not in the upper echelon of earners, but they worked very hard over their lifetimes to get what they had, and I, the baby in the family, had just gotten through high school when this burden was laid upon them.
There was no telling how or when the whole ordeal would end, except that it wouldn't be cheap. I have long since lost track of the people that helped us, or did us favors throughout that time period. You guys know who you are, and know that we are eternally grateful for that.
After my brother passed away, there was an overwhelming outpouring of support once again from this community. People wanted to send checks to help out with the funeral, to start a tree on campus in my brother's name, help out with scholarships, etc. Hell, people offered to pay for the funeral services outright. We turned down much of this, especially the ultra generous stuff. Not because we felt we were too good for the help, weren't grateful, etc, but to avoid a situation like this down the road. I also want to note that not once did we solicit this help in any form, but merely provided where to send aid at people back here's stubborn insistence.
A few things that helped my parents reach actual retirement:
1. When my brother passed away, many of his extremely high medical bills died with him. Most of this was ridiculous trumped up medical bills, such as clinical trial care triple billing us unnecessarily (clinical trial was supposed to be covered, but they billed my brother's insurance, AND him directly for the same thing, etc). My sister-in-law and brother were married through the Church, but not legally, so thankfully she was not saddled with this burden either.
2. My parents sold our largest parcel of land, something they had been working to pay off since early marriage. It was farm ground, not really worth a whole lot but for its size. This freed them up to get their condo in South Bend.
Not once did my family ask for anything but prayers and advice from this community, even in our darkest hours. This community provided all that and more. That you would ask for such things for yourself is mind-blowing... not to mention the fact we're talking about my brother, a human being, compared to a dog. My brother's dog is more precious to me and mine than any other pet ever has been, but outside of that "surgery" for a dog would have been a .22 shell, especially if it was an expense that couldn't be afforded. Maybe that sounds harsh, but growing up on a farm teaches you some harsh lessons.