He walked into the Healthy Pet Clinic admitting he had little more than the clothes on his back... and his dog. More precisely it was his mother's dog who had passed away about two years before. This lab mix looked like he enjoyed a greater abundance of food than his painfully thin owner. It was another sign that the dog meant the world to this man. Having access to affordable veterinary care also means a lot.
You see, he estimated he walked nearly seven miles to reach the Clinic. He lives near Solvay. The spring Clinic was at the St. Clare Theatre on the campus of Assumption Church on Syracuse's north side. The walk to the Clinic was a challenge, the walk at home would double the distance. But, still he came.
He had time to rest between trips along with all the pet owners. The wait was nearly two hours to get in the door on a gorgeous spring afternoon. An eclectic collection of dogs and cats spread out along the sidewalk and parking lot at Assumption. They were not waiting because the system was inefficient. They were waiting because there was a record number of animals getting care, more than 160 total.
Part of the efficiency came because the Clinic is maturing as it finishes its third year and the volunteers have served nearly 2,000 animals. Part of the effectiveness came because the Cornell Veterinary College Shelter Medicine Program brought two van loads of staff, students and faculty to care for the animals. Part of the quality came from the volunteer veterinarians and technicians, some of whom had experienced many clinics others like Dr. Leia Lindley, Gabrielle Marolf and Betsy York from the Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital were there for the first time.
An added bonus to the exam, flea and tick treatment and vaccinations the pet owners received for $10 per pet was a major donation of food from the CNY Humane Association and director Christine McNeely. Each pet owner who came through the line had an opportunity to walk out with a bag or two of food. Some of the pet owners clutched that bag as tightly as they held their pets. They had their rabies tags from the Onondaga County Healthy Department. They had their dog license from the City of Syracuse. And, they had a bag of food. That is a good day.
The Clinic staff was reminded of the charitable works by the Franciscan Sisters who call the Assumption Church parish their home base. Sister Collette had called ahead asking if it would be o.k. for a couple of them to bring their beloved pets to the Clinic to be checked out. A sister of the Franciscan order was asking if it would be o.k. for them to come. Of course. Of course.
They paid their $10 fee, but the payment that carried a greater value was the embrace of gratitude they offered as their pets were examined. They were there to remind us of the blessings that come from hard work, commitment and genuine concern for everyone in a community.
As we wrapped up for the day I couldn't help, but think of the man and his dog walking the seven miles back home. This service meant more to him than anyone could estimate.