Animal Tales: Monthly free clinic puts pets first

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Scout, a beagle-terrier mix cools off in an ice bath while he waits for care at the Androscoggin Humane Society tents at Kennedy Park on Wednesday.
Scout, a beagle-terrier mix cools off in an ice bath while he waits for care at the Androscoggin Humane Society tents at Kennedy Park on Wednesday.

LEWISTON — Teila Reed, her grandmother and the family dog, a terrier-Chihuahua mix named Chewy — short for Chewbacca — arrived at Kennedy Park Wednesday morning and lingered in front of the yellow Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents for three hours.

Reed did not, under any circumstances, want to miss the clinic.

The wait paid off. Chewy got a rabies shot, a distemper shot, a quick check by a vet and a bag of dog food bigger than he was. All for free.

“It’s honestly a godsend,” said Reed, who lives in Lewiston. “To get your dog properly taken care of, it costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars. I mean, we would do that nonetheless, but that means other bills and other things would sacrifice for it.”

GAHS offered its first Community Clinic in March to provide free vaccinations, food, certificates for spaying and neutering and certificates for microchips. Loosely based on a Humane Society of the United States campaign, the clinic’s goal is to help families who otherwise would have trouble caring for their pets.

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“Today, it’s no longer about just spaying and neutering,” GAHS Development Director Donna Kincer said. “It’s about targeting the areas at risk and meeting our underserved pet owners where they are instead of waiting for them to come to us. It’s about having conversations with them, learning their challenges, building relationships and hopefully giving them the resources necessary for a successful relationship with their pet.”

More than 80 cats, kittens, dogs and puppies and their human friends showed up for the first event. In April, 146 pets attended. In May, there were 162.

GAHS now holds a Community Clinic once a month.

“The first couple of them were actually quite crazy,” GAHS Executive Director Steve Dostie said.

Wednesday’s heat and humidity kept the crowd down to about 85 pets. GAHS filled kiddie pools with ice and bowls with water to keep dogs cool while they waited, and it ran the air conditioner in its van to give cats a way to stay cool in their carriers. Staff also handed out frozen treats to the humans in attendance.

Meghan Staples and her rescue kitten, Atreyu, got in line at 11 a.m. for the 1 p.m. clinic. As the crowd gathered around them, Atreyu watched the action, perched on Staples’ shoulders.   

Staples, who lives in Lewiston and has four other cats and two dogs, took in a weeks-old Atreyu after her sister discovered him in a bad situation. Staples plans to train the kitten to be an emotional support cat for her teenage brother.

But first, the kitten needed his shots, and that was an extra expense Staples couldn’t afford.

“I pay rent and (I have) my daughter,” Staples said, cuddling Atreyu. “And the vet visits. I have a dog, she might have cancer … the vet visits kind of get expensive with the medications.” 

Although the clinic was set up to supply shots, food, spay/neuter and microchip certificates, at least one elderly woman on Wednesday was offered a cat carrier to replace the broken one she brought her cat in. There was also free vet advice.

Ron Decesere brought his 3-year-old black Labrador retriever-beagle mix, Eli. The dog needed shots; Decesere needed to know from vet Michelle Maloney why Eli was coughing and what he could do about it at home.

“He’s another member of the family,” Decesere said.

But Eli is more than that, too. He’s also a service dog for Decesere’s 70-year-old wife, providing companionship and responding to medical emergencies. Both husband and wife are retired and disabled, living on a limited income that allows for Eli’s daily care but not bigger expenses like vet bills.

“If I wasn’t able to do this, it would be a burden to us,” Decesere said. “I’m glad they were able to do this.”

GAHS pays for the work out of its operating budget. Dostie believes it is the first shelter in the state to run a clinic like it.

The next community clinic will be held Aug. 16 at Moulton Park in Auburn, next to the Community Little Theatre. All clinics are held from 1 to 3 p.m., or until everyone is seen.

For more information, call the shelter at 207-783-2311 or visit its Facebook page.

Reed, for one, will be back in line, come August. Chewy will need a booster for a vaccination he got on Wednesday.

“Oh, good job, buddy,” the vet said, petting Chewy after his shot. “I’ll see you next month.”

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

Navi and Sunny get ready for a round of medical care at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents in Kennedy Park on Wednesday. Sunny’s human dad, Isaac Butler stands behind them.
Navi and Sunny get ready for a round of medical care at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents in Kennedy Park on Wednesday. Sunny’s human dad, Isaac Butler stands behind them.
Zeus gets a booster shot from Allison Heikkinen while vet assistant Renee Cyr hold him steady at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents in Kennedy park on Wednesday.
Zeus gets a booster shot from Allison Heikkinen while vet assistant Renee Cyr hold him steady at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents in Kennedy park on Wednesday.
Jessica Michaud, left, and Kimberly Bourgoine hold puppies Willie and Trinity at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents at Kennedy Park on Wednesday. The two women met in line and Michaud offered to hold one of Bourgoine’s puppies as her own dog sat patiently at her feet.
Jessica Michaud, left, and Kimberly Bourgoine hold puppies Willie and Trinity at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society tents at Kennedy Park on Wednesday. The two women met in line and Michaud offered to hold one of Bourgoine’s puppies as her own dog sat patiently at her feet.
Cats in crates were kept in an air conditioned van as they waited theri turn for care at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society’s tent on Wednesday.
Cats in crates were kept in an air conditioned van as they waited theri turn for care at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society’s tent on Wednesday.
Bo, the chihuahua waits for care in the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society’s tents in Kennedy Park on Wednesday.
Bo, the chihuahua waits for care in the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society’s tents in Kennedy Park on Wednesday.

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