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October 8, 2008 > Ohlone Humane Society: One VANtastic day!

Ohlone Humane Society: One VANtastic day!

By Nancy Lyon

This year is a very special for OHS - it is our 25th anniversary and we wanted it to be a meaningful year. Looking back all those years ago, we were the first local animal welfare organization to start a low-cost or free Spay/Neuter Assistance program. Over the years we have been able to prevent the birth of literally thousands upon thousands of animals - companion animals who would find little or no quality of life had they been born.

But in spite of our efforts, the problem still grew beyond the ability of many to find quality homes for the deluge of young animals often born only to die young. Today, every 63 seconds in California, a shelter animal is killed for the tragically simple reason - there are not enough good homes available to them.

We decided that this year our mission would be to make an even greater impact in reducing that unacceptable number. We have worked with the ForPaws Clinic now using the Tri-City Animal Shelter surgery and have spayed and neutered a tremendous number of animals. But that was not enough; we needed to reach out into areas that had feral cat problems, making these procedures available to folks that just couldn't afford the rising costs of spaying or neutering their companion animals.

Last Sunday, September 28th, for the first time, we partnered with Fremont Animal Services to bring their mobile surgery van to Fremont's Niles District. That day was "cat day" and the City of Fremont allowed OHS the use of a vacant administration building on the old California Nursery property for the mobile surgery unit; admitting and recovering the cats.

Sounds simple but like any first time endeavor, we wanted to do it right and a bit nervous. Even with an OHS volunteer training session, much was on-the-job experience - lives would be in our care. We were "newbies" at the task at hand. The old, if grand, building hadn't seen a cleaning in years. The first task was convincing resident spiders that we meant them no harm but they had to move. Dust webs festooned lighting fixtures and doorways, table and chairs needed to be rearranged. The small designated cleaning crew arrived and we were on our way to being a clinic.

We arrived at 7:15 a.m. as dawn was peeking over the hills. We waited to be let onto the property with only a short time before patients and their caregivers would arrive for check-in. It's interesting that when it's showtime, you quickly fall into your role.

Veterinary Technician Dot Hutcheon and Dr. Judy Reens old hands at this and following their lead, outwardly, we soon became professionals. After check-in, cats were given primary anesthesia and monitored for surgery readiness. When ready, cats were moved to surgery. When they were returned to the recovery section, respiration was closely watched making sure they did not position themselves in any way that would interfere with breathing. They were turned over every fifteen minutes to prevent respiratory problems. Body temperature was checked and any cats with very low body temperature were re-positioned over heating pads.

Cats were tested for feline leukemia and AIDS before proceeding with surgery. If negative, they were spayed or neutered, given rabies and basic immunization, parasite control administered and micro-chipped should they show up in a local shelter. Great care was taken in handling the cats as most were feral or semi-wild and caution was needed both before surgery and when they were coming out of the anesthesia.

The day ended nine hours later and needless to say, our crew and the folks doing the actual surgery were pretty tired but happy. We had done well - but sadly - we lost one feral cat due to physical problems that made it impossible and inhumane to release him back to the wild. It was an "A-1" day as Dot the vet tech said but we were cautioned to be prepared because it would not always be that smooth; something that we understand and we accepted.

OHS and Fremont Animal Services will continue this free service on a monthly basis in various locations. At the present time, we are focusing on the Niles District because of the extraordinary support given OHS from that community. We want to extend a special note of appreciation to the Niles Main Street Association for the grant given to OHS for this purpose.

We will be accepting applications for dogs and cats both feral and "owned," so check with us about when we will be in your area. We are limited in the number of animals we can spay and neuter in one day.

A very special note of appreciation to our Sunday first-timers but now seasoned volunteers - Judy Canright, Linda Keenann, Sherie Pillado, Paul Arvin, Pia Marloff and our provider of sustenance Barbara Smith, and Fremont Animal Services Sgt John Duzat for his super support. We were all exhausted but we had been tested and grew from the experience - and I can tell you these old bones made themselves known at the end of the day. The final word of the day...SUCCESS!

vet tech name is Dot Hutcheon and the vet Dr. Judy Reens

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