By LuAnn McLain
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to observe and participate in an event that was quite spectacular. In fact, the more I reflect on it, the more amazed I am. A spay/neuter clinic was held at Fort Belknap, open to all area residents, providing free spay/neuter surgeries for cats and dogs.
Hundreds of cats and dogs were spayed and neutered during those three days. Each animal got a collar and an ID tag. Having been a proponent of spaying and neutering or companion animals for years, I did not expect the event to challenge my way of thinking. But it did.
The veterinarians and vet techs who participated in the event, including local folks, were amazing. Local folks had the opportunity that they may not ever had otherwise to learn some new techniques and sharpen some skills.
The veterinarians who came from Vermont and Colorado were masters, all running clinics where spay/neuter is a priority and having been instrumental in establishing national organizations dedicated to promoting spaying and neutering. They have incredible knowledge and experience related to the techniques of spaying and neutering animals.
Many of the animals I saw that were relieved of the burden of reproduction may never see the inside of a veterinarians clinic. Some of the owners of those animals may not be able to ever own their own home, own a new car, or even have health insurance for their children.
Those of us who drive shiny, comfortable cars, return home to well-insulated houses, met by groomed, vaccinated pets, can talk about those people who dont value their pets because they dont have to pay for getting them spayed or neutered. When we do that, we arent looking very much past our noses.
I observed many caring owners. Almost all were brought in by owners except for those who needed assistance with transportation. Few had crates so risked scratches, etc., to get pets safely to the Bingo Hall where surgery was set up.
One concerned owner had brought in her four month old kitten. She told me she had tried to find out about getting her kitten fixed by a veterinarian in the area. She had been informed that her cat needed to be six months old and had to have her vaccinations first. She was relieved to have her kitten fixed. Waiting until she could get the money to pay for vaccinations and surgery could have meant risking a litter of kittensa cycle in this kittens life that never had to get started.
I watched some owners wait hours for their pets to reach the surgery tables and then begin recovery. Some people brought in several dogs and cats both. Many came great distances with pets that had never ridden in a car. Pretty heroic if you ask me.
As important as the skilled professionals are to the whole operation, volunteers are also vital. Often children sat with me while I watched dogs in recovery. The older youths would teach the younger ones what to watch for and how to check the dogs. Stroking the dogs, talking to them, was something they did well and were very helpful.
Periodically dogs had to be rolled over. Adult volunteers and teens usually did that. Some dogs seemed distressed and the kids worked at keeping the dogs from flopping around too much and cooed them if they whined.
It was not unusual to see several members of a family sitting on the floor around their particular dog or dogs, helping them to wake up.
Some adults helped as volunteers for others animals while they waited for their own animals to be finished. As I watched the volunteers grow weary I thought of many people I know who might have been able to help and probably would have found it to be a rewarding experience.
At the beginning of the three days, especially during the first day of the clinic, I wondered if it was right to be putting these animals through surgery in a setting more like a MASH unit than a clinic. What about the animals with fleas or even mange? Maybe other animals would be exposed to them.
I finally realized that it wasnt meant to replicate a veterinarian hospital. The purpose was to provide surgeries for all those who wanted it and were able to get to the clinic, because for most of the animals it was the only chance they probably would ever have.
I know the animals had the best possible vets performing their surgeries and that they had close watchful eyes while in recovery. I know that many of the animals are regularly exposed to far more dangerous conditions than fleas and mange.
There will be more of these kinds of events around Montana and even in our geographical neighborhood. I sincerely hope those who are interested will consider being part of the experience and that those who chose to not participate this time will be ready to allow themselves a little new challenge.
Have a great week with your companion critters. If you would like to write to Pawsitively Pets, please send your letter to PO Box 1731, Havre, MT 59501.