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November 29, 2011 > Ohlone Humane Society: Build it and they will come

Ohlone Humane Society: Build it and they will come

By Nancy Lyon

Many people have dreams of the future but they are often only temporary fantasies to be filed away as something that might have been. Others have visions that build the future; with persistence and commitment that dream grows into a reality.

For many years, Evonne Phelps tirelessly followed her passion of rescuing animals in need. During a long and sometimes discouraging time as one of the founders of Nike Animal Rescue Foundation (NARF), the seemingly endless number of animals needing to be re-homed was overwhelming. It became Evonne's vision that many more dogs, cats and other companion animals could be prevented from adding to the tragic overpopulation problem if veterinary costs to spay or neuter animals were more affordable.

Available funding was limited and establishing a low-cost clinic was a financial burden not to be taken lightly. It was then that she met Fremont Animal Shelter veterinarian Dr. Bonnie Erhorn and shelter veterinary technician Dottie Hutcheon and realized they shared a common goal of expanding low-cost spay/neuter services to the community. The Catch-22 was that they didn't have the financial resources to buy a state-of-the art clinic.

Their initial effort was to set up a clinic at the Fremont Animal Shelter during days it was closed but it soon proved cumbersome for all involved given the limited space and the increased number of animals that used the onsite surgery. Both parties agreed that continuing at the animal shelter was no longer a viable option and it was time to move on.

Given their limited assets, offering limited spay/neuter services through non-profit animal organizations was a safer bet financially. With this game plan in place, the search to purchase an affordable location was on. Fremont Animal Services Officer Duane Maxfield who had worked with them at the shelter, offered to keep an eye out for a suitable facility and when he discovered that Dr. William Young, who owned the Centerville Pet Clinic was retiring, he gave Evonne a heads up and hope that a future For Paws Clinic might no longer be a dream.

Negotiations took six months; timing was a crucial factor. Evonne had property that she wanted to sell and ended up using the proceeds from that real estate sale to fund the purchase of the clinic. They were fortunate to inherit many supplies and equipment needed to start with the sale, but Evonne spent her own money to get For Paws off the ground. All in all, she bankrolled the first year plus, until For Paws gained momentum.

For several years, For Paws continued at the Centerville location although space was very limited making the setup less than ideal as the building was shared with another veterinary practice. Many of the first clients were people that they told about the low cost of For Paws services. Also NARF was a steady customer... Evonne was doing a lot more rescue of large breed litters and moms from out-of-area shelters. When pups came in, they would spay or neuter them, showcase and place them... and the mom dogs too.

At that time, with a growing list of clients that included both local and many out-of-area non-profits, it was once again time to consider moving on. Any move is a challenge at best and after months of searching, the new home for For Paws was a larger but colorless place recently vacated by a local veterinarian.

That was two years ago and the drab setting is now a thing of the past. A visit to For Paws is a trip into a cheerful wonderland of color and artistry mostly due to the multi-talented Dr. Bonnie. Its services are now available to everyone, so they serve very needy folks as well as smart shoppers. They have never advertised, growing by word of mouth and a reputation of good care that continues to draw in more and more clients, some from very far away... amazing really! Some full-scale clinics now refer For Paws to clients that cannot afford their fees and include referrals from the Fremont Shelter.

When asked about her vision for the future, Evonne said she never really had a goal other than helping to spay and neuter as many animals as the clinic can, keep on going and offer rescue groups lower veterinary costs to help them assist even more companion animals.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the success of Evonne's dream was that last week, For Paws celebrated its 10,000th spay/neuter surgery. An amazing tribute to the vision of one dedicated woman whose unfailing efforts have prevented the birth of literally hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals who had little or no chance of a quality life.

Dreams can come true but it takes more than a vision, it takes hard work and a belief that it will happen if you just keep trying; as the saying goes... "build it and they will come."

For Paws Clinic
40501 B. Fremont Blvd (& Eugene), Fremont
(510) 573-4660

Contact Ohlone Humane Society for Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Assistance at (510) 792-4587

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