For much of the past two years, on the first Tuesday of each month, veterinarian Julie Tavares has pulled into the parking lot at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall on Southeast Seventh Street and set up shop to treat dogs and cats belonging to homeless and low-income people.
GRANTS PASS — For much of the past two years, on the first Tuesday of each month, veterinarian Julie Tavares has pulled into the parking lot at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall on Southeast Seventh Street and set up shop to treat dogs and cats belonging to homeless and low-income people.
On a recent Tuesday, Tavares opened up the tailgate to her van and set up a card table on the blacktop, piling the table with paperwork, medicine and supplies. With help from veterinary technician Kyrmet Jackson and soup kitchen volunteer Donna Harold, the threesome dispensed care to about 30 animals over nearly three hours of work.
It was care that might have cost as much as $2,000 at a traditional animal clinic, but the crew took in but $32 in donations on this day. Donations from manufacturers of pet medicine help make the parking lot clinic a reality.
The people who use the service and the nearby soup kitchen have little money for pet care. Still, they love their pets. To a homeless person, a dog can be a companion, a watchdog and even a live, warming pillow.
"The human-animal bond is a strong thing," Harold said, as people lined up with their pets. "To them, these animals are family."
The effort to provide free care for pets has been dubbed the Homeless Oregon Pet Project. It's a fledging endeavor that Tavares hopes will achieve official nonprofit status. The project provides animals with vaccines, flea treatments and general health care.
"It's a good service," said Ken Isgrigg, who has been bringing his pit bull, JoJo, monthly to the clinic. "I wish there were more vets that would do what she's doing."
Angela Smith brought in her pit bull, Indaka, as she has done for about a year or more. Indaka got shots, including rabies, parvo and distemper, along with heartworm pills and a flea treatment.
One visitor explained how his dog was killing rats around camp. "If she gets bit, call and we'll vaccinate her again," Tavares told him.
On this day, the weather was unseasonably warm. People stood in line patiently, although many dogs barked and lunged. Tavares spent a few minutes, maybe five at most, on each animal.
The donation jar did not fill. One lady who brought in six dogs accounted for $30 of the $32 donated that day. The care her dogs received typically would have cost her more than $100 at an animal hospital.
A rough estimate showed that Tavares and her crew provided about $1,500 to $2,000 worth of services that day.
"This is a free thing, but we need donations," Harold said.
Tavares gets by in part with donations from the makers of animal treatment products. Big donors include Pfizer, Schering-Plough and Merial.
"The drug reps are getting tired of my begging," said Tavares, a Rogue River resident who works at the Medford Animal Hospital and Allen Creek Veterinary Hospital. It was Tavares who approached soup kitchen operators with the idea for the clinic.
"There was a need for it," she said simply. "That's why I do it."
It's a public health matter, Tavares added, as she went about her work with a minimum of fuss.
"You're OK sweetie," she said, trying to sooth a dog named Pillow, the animal's owner looked on. "Don't be crabby. No biting. There's your mom."
Jonah Shore brought in his dog, Diogi, for an ear problem. The dog needed an anti-inflammatory medicine.
"Thank you so much," Shore told the crew.