Tales from a Spay and Neuter Clinic: An Overview
Arkansans love animals. Arkansas is #1 in dog ownership in the nation, #7 in pet ownership. Unfortunately, it’s also 48th in median family income.People in the hills of west-central Arkansas are the folks we serve in our mobile spay and neuter clinics. Good, honest, hardworking people. Help their neighbors. Many were not able to finish high school. Many are functionally illiterate. Many are disabled. They live in poverty. But they try to help animals.
These good people can barely feed themselves, but they give of what little they have to care for the endless stream of injured, frightened, abandoned puppies and dogs who collapse on the roadside after they've been thrown out of a moving car on the county road. Or abandoned by a desperate neighbor who moved away.
They bring freezing kitties out of the winter night, kitties who are trying to warm themselves on a car engine, or who come to their doors anemic from ticks and fleas.
They feed colonies of skinny feral cats and watch helplessly as they multiply exponentially.
These are the people and animals the Hot Springs Village Animal Welfare League Spay and Neuter Clinics help. Not the middle-class people of Hot Springs Village; the people in the poverty-stricken areas around it.
The League offers four 2-day mobile spay and neuter clinics a year in Mountain Pine, Fountain Lake, Crows, and Jessieville. Jessieville’s not on the census. Crows isn’t even on the map. But people live there.
The League contracts with Arkansans for Animals, a nonprofit that runs a mobile clinic and keeps it staffed with a vet and two assistants. But a hundred volunteers are needed to make each two-day clinic run smoothly.
League members post signs advertising the clinic, but word of mouth from former clients is the most powerful advertisement. People call their neighbors, go tell their friends who are sitting on their porches, knock on doors of folks who don’t get out much.
Then, the first day of the clinic, people start coming. The return clients are confident and excited. The new clients are tenuous, anxious. But down the road they come, leading big and little dogs of every ilk: shepherd mixes, pit mixes, small purebreds dumped by puppy millers, whole litters of half-grown pups. From their battered old cars, they unload crates full of the community cats and kittens they feed.
Red-shirted volunteers go into action. They complete paperwork and process whatever fee the clients can pay. Other volunteers crate the animals and comfort the frightened ones.
More volunteers schedule the order of surgeries and carry the animals to and from the mobile operating room.
When the volunteer cooks arrive with food and water at noon, those on the front line grab a sandwich and a drink on the fly.
Good Samaritans stay one-on-one with animals as they begin to recover from surgery, talking to them, stroking them, reassuring them. Owners who arrive early are allowed in the recovery area to comfort their animal family member. Volunteers give pedicures to sleeping animals who need them, check them for fleas and ticks.
Nurses and a retired vet check every animal and stay close to those having cardiac or breathing problems. Experienced volunteers massage and talk to animals having difficulty awakening.
Owners receive education and counseling as they arrive to claim their dogs and cats. They receive gifts of food and other pet supplies. They thank the volunteers over and over. “You don’t know how important this clinic is,” they say as they gather their beloved animal companion to head home. "You don't know how much this community needs you. You make such a difference in our lives. We don't know what we'd do without your help. We don't know what our animals would do."