These pets and their humans prove that love is unconditional.
At the corner of 2nd and Washington in downtown Seattle, homeless and low-income people are stretched around the block, waiting outside the Union Gospel Mission Men's Shelter with their pets.
It's a cold, dry winter weekend, the second Saturday in December. The humans and their animals started lining up at 8 A.M. to get first dibs at free winter coats, harnesses, toys, food, litter, and check-ups for their furry companions.
Every other Saturday from 2 to 5 P.M., two dozen volunteers with the Doney Memorial Clinic set up free veterinary services and a pet supply donation center in the basement of the Seattle homeless shelter. Nearly 100 animals go through the doors every month.
A team of veterinary professionals, from veterinarians to technicians, runs the medical part of the clinic while a group of dedicated volunteers helps with the rest.
During my first time volunteering, we clipped nails, cleaned ears, expressed anal glands, drew blood, vaccinated, and medicated. Severe cases - or those needing further medical care - are oftentimes referred to a brick-and-mortar clinic.
Angel was the first pet I met, a pit bull wearing a faux fur plaid jacket to keep warm. Her dad, one of the first in line, had been waiting for six hours.
Precious was a long-haired Dachshund who slept on the streets with his elderly mom. He came into the clinic with six coats on to keep warm. We removed the coats for the exam, and then I helped Precious's mom layer the pooch back up. She instructed me that the coats went on in a specific order, starting with the pink one.
Lucy was a geriatric Pug with horrible breath and a million kisses to give. The squirmy pug with wiggly veins was in desperate need of a dental. She was referred out for dental care after we drew some blood, performed a nail trim, and vaccinated her against rabies, distemper, and parvo.
Pac was a lovable Mastiff with an ear hematoma, a blood-filled pocket in the ear that causes outer ear swelling and is often warm to the touch. Hematomas typically occur from itchy ear infections that make a dog shake its head back and forth. Though we weren't able to drain the hematoma as is typical treatment protocol, we cleaned the ears and sent the owner home with ear medications instructing him to keep up with ear cleaning and try his best to keep Pac from shaking his head.
Three cats with ear mites came in after 5 P.M., and most of the volunteers stayed late to make sure all the animals were seen. All of these cats received vaccines, medication, an ear cleaning, and a nail trim.
The Doney Clinic has a donation fund for some of the veterinary services. It is encouraged that the owners try to pay back the services rendered at clinics outside of the shelter, but Doney Clinic volunteers understand that this often can't happen.
My first volunteer experience at the Doney Clinic filled my heart with so much love and gratitude. While all of the pet parents were extremely grateful for the our services, we all thanked them for being such caring parents and for the joy they brought to our hearts.
If any of the pets encountered are ever deemed to be in neglectful circumstances, the vet staff steps in. However, this rarely occurs. It's plain to see the unconditional love between man and his best friend when you walk through these doors and stand amid the organized chaos. Some of these pet parents don't know what their next meal will be, but they always make sure their pets - who they all call their "best friend" - get food first.
These animals have been with their guardians through the ups and the downs. Their owners make sure they are warm, fed, healthy, and happy. The Doney Clinic could be a sad place, but instead it's filled with endless smiles all around.
Stay tuned for exclusive Wide Open Pets monthly updates on the Doney Clinic, including stories about some of the animals encountered. If you're in the Seattle area and would like to volunteer, send a message on Facebook. Monetary donations are always accepted, too.
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