I first met the good people of Spay-Neuter-Now at their annual Spayghetti Dinner and silent auction. I was more than happy to participate at their fundraiser with my book Rescue Me and was eager to learn more.
How better to do that than by spending a day volunteering? And I figured, as long as I’m there, how about I bring my notebook and camera and write an article? No short volunteer hours for me. I would arrive early (or so I thought) and spend the day.
When I arrived at 7:45 the SNN team was already at work. At 5 AM, General manager Kevin Mace, LVT, had driven the Neuter Commuter to the Betterman farm, where he plugged it in and prepped it for the day ahead. The garage space had been transformed into an outdoor suite with a floor tarp, crates, the intake table and weigh-in scale. The surgical team was inside preparing to start their first cat surgery at 8 AM.
Check in time is 7-9 AM. By 7:30, six cats, including one feral cat(on the right) were awaiting surgery. Each crate is tagged with a number corresponding with the information on their cards. The number also represents how many animals had been spayed/neutered this year.
Clients arrive with paperwork and pets in hand. They have already been approved, scheduled and briefed by phone about preparing their animals for surgery. Some people bring stray cats or more than one pet. One woman brought three barn cats. The fourth, a female, eluded her capture. Another traveled over an hour to bring her cats.
At check in, applications and vaccine records (if available) are checked, and clients are asked about vaccinations and flea treatment. Rabies vaccines are required by law for dogs and cats in NY state. Finally, cash payment is collected and phone numbers are verified so they can be called when it’s time for pick up.
During intake, dogs are weighed in order to determine medication dosages and amount of payment. Taz weighed less than 25 pounds, so his service cost $100, the minimum for dogs. After observing Taz and getting a quick lesson, I helped out by doing weigh-ins.
This is Taz (#571), the dog I followed throughout the day. Taz, a shih tzu terrier mix, was brought into the waiting area and settled in his crate by “dad”, Jesse Wilton. At less than 2 years old, Taz had already fathered puppies. He was here because, as“ mom” Brittany told us,
“…too many females, we don’t need any more puppies!”
For the most part, the cats waited quietly in their kennels. This was not the case for some of the dogs. Calming nervous crying and barking dogs (and their concerned people) was my next assignment as Kevin continued checking in the remaining patients.
Sandra Young, DVM and Michael Schaff. LVT, gave Taz and the other dogs their pre-surgery check-ups in the outdoor bay. (Cats are checked inside the Neuter Commuter) Once they are deemed healthy enough for surgery, a sedative containing the first dose of pain medication is administered. Things got much quieter once all the dogs were sedated. We kept a careful eye on them to make sure they were alright.
At around 11 AM Taz was brought into the mobile clinic for his pre-op and surgery. First he was given his IV injectable anesthetic and pain medication by Jaylynn Boyce, LVT.
Once asleep, Taz was intubated, vaccinated, given flea treatments and prepped for surgery. “Intubating” means that an endotracheal tube (a plastic tube with a balloon surrounding it) is placed down a surgery patient’s trachea. It maintains an open airway while allowing the delivery of anesthetic gas and oxygen directly to the lungs.
Time for surgery. (Squeamish me didn’t watch too much of it. And from a distance) Michael Scaff, LVT controlled the gas anesthetic and monitored Taz’s breathing while Dr. Young removed Taz’s testes and stitched him up. The entire surgery went surprisingly fast – no more than 15 minutes. Dr. Young is specially trained and experienced in high quality high volume spay neuter (HQHVSN).
After surgery, Taz slept off the anesthesia. He would remain here for about an hour for close monitoring until he was ready to come back outside. Because he is a brachycephalic breed (a dog with a short snout like a shih tzu), the breathing tube was to be left in as long as possible.
While Taz was in recovery and the next dog was being prepped for surgery, volunteer Judy Tinker cleaned the instruments and re-wrapped the surgical packs to be autoclaved for the next surgery day. She also helped monitor animals going into and out of surgery.
Space is tight in the Neuter Commuter. Everything is well organized and the four member team works together quickly and smoothly.
A still groggy Taz is now back in his crate. What began as a waiting room is now the post-op recovery room. Because of the type of anesthetics administered, cats are more alert than dogs after surgery. It’s important to rouse sleeping dogs often to make sure they are okay.
Kevin checks on a recovering kitty. At around 1 PM he began calling their people to pick them up. (and let me add that we also had a delicious lunch around that time thanks to Denise and Bea)
At 2 PM a now more alert and happier Taz is picked up by his family. They have his neuter and updated vaccine record in hand, as well as a three day supply of pain medication. They were also given written and oral instructions explaining how to care for him as he recovers over the next few weeks.
My volunteer day with Spay-Neuter-Now ended around 3 PM, but the team was still going. The last few cat surgeries were in progress and the post-op dogs and cats were in various stages of recovery.
After the last animal goes home, it will be time for Kevin to take down the crates and drive the Neuter Commuter back to Hammond where he will ready it for its next round of patients.
In Closing…A Few Personal Words
I would like to thank the SNN team for allowing me to volunteer, take pictures, and pepper them (especially Kevin) with questions throughout the day. I thank Taz’s family for allowing me to photograph him and to use those photos for this article. And I especially want to thank Bea Schermerhorn for bringing her dream to life.
Perhaps I shouldn’t share this, but I will. My last half hour at the clinic was spent with Bea Schermerhorn, founder of SNN. At over 80 years young, Bea still pours her heart and soul into her mission of helping the animals she loves. Yet, even with over 16,000 spayed and neutered animals to her credit, she is still saddened by the fact that her incredible SNN has only made a dent in the problem she hopes to solve.
You see, it is estimated that there are still 100,000 intact dogs and cats in our region of NNY alone. 50,000 of those are unowned cats.The hard truth is that those numbers are much bigger than the capacity of one mobile unit and its dedicated staff can handle. It is bigger than the amount of donations they receive. Bea knows that with more donations they could do so much more. They want to do more.
I hugged this dear lady and reminded her of what her head already knows, that were it not for Spay-Neuter-Now and their supporters that the overpopulation problem and the suffering it brings would have been much worse. Yet even as I spoke I knew my words could not be enough. For a true animal lover and advocate, the heart only rests when the suffering ends for all.
As I drove away these ever so true words by Margaret Meade came to mind.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you, my new hero and friend for showing me what one woman and a dream can do to change her corner of the world.
Visit Spay-Neuter-Now at http://www.spayneuternow.org