Spay and Neuter Clinic Tales: Good Neighbors
I thought Maggie was Tom’s mother when they came in to the clinic together. Tom’s two dogs were out of surgery and in recovery, so I asked Maggie if I could talk to her while Tom completed the release forms.
“You’re his mom?” I asked, certain that she was.
“Oh, no!” she said, “I’m just his neighbor.”
“How did you happen to come here with him today?”
“I brought one of my cats in yesterday and told Tom that he needed to bring his dogs today. I told him that you’d help him. He came right down and you gave him a voucher for today.”
I asked Maggie to tell me about her cat. “I’m a cat person,” she said, “So when I heard a sound from under the hood of my car this spring, I knew what it was. I opened the hood, and there the little thing was, curled up on the engine.” Then she added, “I’ve been waiting ever since for your clinic so I could get her fixed like my other two cats. I gave you my ten dollars. Then I gave you another ten dollars to fix my down-the-street-neighbor-Alice’s cat. I told Alice that she needed to get her cat fixed, and she said she couldn’t afford to. So I told her to come here and I’d pay the ten dollars. So she did, and I did.”
I asked Maggie about Alice’s cat. She said, “People moved away and left it. So Alice started feeding it, and now it’s hers.” Then she added, “You gotta keep cats here inside. People will kill ‘em. Big dogs run loose and will kill ‘em, but people will kill ‘em, too.”
I asked Maggie about Tom’s two dogs. “Tom’s out of work, so he rented a room from my neighbor girl. She works two jobs and rents out bedrooms to make ends meet. She works real hard. The woman who rented out her other bedroom just moved out a month ago and left her two dogs, a male and a female. Never came back for ‘em. Tom started taking care of ‘em.”
“Wow,” I said. “Sounds like a lot of people around here move off and leave their animals.”
“They do,” she said. Then she added, “Most of the neighbors are good people who try to take care of animals. But some are bad people. There’s some bad people here. Drugs and illegal substances. And they let their dogs run loose. And they kill cats. They don’t like cats. They killed my cat Sally this year. I think it was teenagers.”
I asked her about Tom. She said, “He’s been out of work for a long time. But he’s a good person and works hard. He tries to help everyone in the neighborhood. He’ll do anything to help anybody. People are really poor here, but we all try to help each other.”
I asked her what the clinic meant to her, told her that I was writing a grant to try to keep it going because we’d lost our Bob Barker funding. First she looked alarmed and said, “I already gave my ten dollars, and then ten more for Alice! I’m on disability. I can’t give any more!”
I assured her that I didn’t want her money. I explained that I was writing grants for places like the ASPCA and Best Friends. Then she said, “Maybe I could help you. Let me give you my phone number. I’ll do anything I can to help.”
I told her that what I needed her to do was tell me if the clinic had made a difference in the community, and how she knew if it did. She said, “I used to see seven, eight stray dogs every week. Now I hardly ever see a stray. Dogs run loose, but you know who every dog belongs to. We don’t have strays any more since you started these clinics. Your clinics make a difference. They make a BIG difference. The people here need ‘em. You’ve got to get the money to keep ‘em going. I’ll help you any way I can. Just call me.” She reached out for my notepad and wrote down her name and phone number. “Just you call me,” she said. “I’ll do anything I can to help. Just you call me, and I’ll help.”
Thanks, Maggie. You’ve already helped than you’ll ever know.