ashland.news
June 14, 2024

Catty Corner: An Ashland cat gets care from free mobile vet clinic 

Babygirl sports a new harness from Rogue Valley Street Dogs as she awaits the mobile vet clinic, in collaboration with the Street Dog Coalition. Midge Raymond photo
May 27, 2024

How Talent’s Rogue Valley Street Dogs helps local pets in need 

By Midge Raymond 

It’s a sunny morning in Ashland, and in the parking lot of OHRA (Opportunities for Housing, Resources & Assistance), about a half dozen leashed dogs — and one cat, in a harness riding on a walker — gather for a free veterinary clinic offered by the Street Dog Coalition, in collaboration with Talent’s Rogue Valley Street Dogs.

While most of the clinic’s clients today are dogs, there is one cat, Babygirl, whose human, OHRA resident Paula Jacobson, was encouraged by OHRA staff to bring her to the clinic. “I wanted to get a harness so I could bring her outside with me when I smoke,” Jacobson says.

After picking up a harness for the cat, Jacobson returned to the parking lot with Babygirl tucked into the pouch under the seat of her walker. The cat looks relatively calm among the dogs in the parking lot as Laurie Cuddy, president of Rogue Valley Street Dogs, begins the registration process with Jacobson. 

Paula Jacobson, with her cat Babygirl, registers for the Street Dog Coalition mobile vet clinic, in collaboration with Rogue Valley Street Dogs. Midge Raymond photo

There are eight stations Jacobson will usher Babygirl through today, beginning with registration. “What is your primary means of transportation?” Cuddy asks. 

“My walker,” Jacobson replies with a laugh. “I call it my car — with no license.” 

Rogue Valley Street Dogs — formerly called The Street Dog Project and now known simply as Street Dogs — was founded in 2013 as a program of Friends of the Animals before becoming a 501(c)(3) in 2021. Its focus is on improving the quality of life of pets affected by houselessness and poverty, primarily through free spay and neuter surgeries by local veterinarians. Today’s event is in collaboration with the Street Dog Coalition (SDC), a national organization that provides free veterinary care and related services to pets of people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

While the Talent nonprofit may be called Street Dogs, the organization’s mission includes helping cats as well. In the first quarter of this year, Street Dogs distributed 1,887 pounds of food to hungry dogs and cats, helped 362 guardians with 242 dogs and 103 cats at outreach events, vaccinated and paid for vaccines for 140 animals, assisted with 37 urgent veterinary visits and treatments and helped an additional 38 animals with veterinary care through collaborations with the SDC. Street Dogs has spayed and neutered 53 cats so far this year.

“Street Dogs is not just for people who are unhoused,” Cuddy says. “We work with a lot of people who are just unable to afford to medically help their animals.”

At the clinic, as Jacobson answers Cuddy’s questions for the paperwork, Babygirl gets restless and jumps out of the walker, to which she is easily returned. Jacobson doesn’t know how old Babygirl is or whether she’s been spayed. She hasn’t had kittens, Jacobson says, but then she’s always been indoors. Jacobson’s late husband had found the cat as a stray a few years earlier. “She was wandering around by herself, and he brought her home and said, ‘Here’s our new family member,’” Jacobson says. When he died two months ago, she says, Babygirl was curled up on his shoulder. 

OHRA resident Paula Jacobson with her cat, Babygirl. Midge Raymond photo

For a lot of Street Dog clients, Cuddy says, their companion animal is “the one stable relationship in their life. It’s the one being that loves them. That bond is really valuable, and it’s not any less than it is for anybody else. It’s more, in a way, because it’s all they have.”

The morning is heating up, and Babygirl needs to be weighed and microchipped next. Street Dogs volunteer Bob Crowley offers to scan Babygirl for a microchip while she remains in the pouch so both the cat and Jacobson can stay in the shade for a little longer. 

Babygirl does not enjoy the scan, which reveals no microchip, and she dislikes the injection of the microchip even more; she hisses and growls, spats and claws. Crowley has to remove her from the walker to be weighed, and when he returns her to the pouch, the lid falls down. Gaps on the sides allow Babygirl to see out, and the closed space seems to calm her.

According to The Humane Society, more than 20 million pets live in poverty in the United States — three times more than the number who enter animal shelters every year. In addition, 70 percent of pets living in poverty have never seen a veterinarian, and 88 percent of pets in underserved communities are not spayed or neutered. These statistics play out locally, according to Cuddy, who says that most of Street Dog’s furry clients have never been to the vet. “There are so many wonderful organizations in the valley that are helping animals,” she says. “But the majority of them are helping animals who do not have guardians. So for the people that have pets, who love their pets, whose pets are their family but they simply can’t afford to get them spayed or neutered, or if there are any problems at all — they’re at a loss. We work by phone with a tremendous number of people who are housed, but they’re making a choice between keeping their housing and getting their animal to the vet.”

At today’s clinic, most of the humans and companion animals are residents of the OHRA Shelter, including Edwardo Salgado and Kendra Gish, who brought their two dogs, Zeus and Lily, to the clinic after seeing a flyer at OHRA. After registration, Salgado waits in the shelter’s small dog park, tossing a ball for Zeus, who is 12 years old and needs a neuter appointment. Salgado says he and Gish have been at OHRA for about three weeks, and they’re glad the center allows companion animals so they can stay with their dogs.

The national nonprofit Street Dog Coalition partners with Talent’s Rogue Valley Street Dogs to provide supplies and services at local mobile vet clinics. Midge Raymond photo

Whenever they leave the shelter, “we have to take them with us,” he says. “They ride the bus a lot.” 

Kasey Rolih, lead shelter navigator at OHRA, says, “We do require any pet to be in the company of the owner,” though in the case of cats or smaller animals, she admits this can be more of a challenge. “We do work with our guests to make accommodations when necessary.” 

For Paula Jacobson, having a harness for Babygirl will allow her to keep the cat with her as often as possible, and thanks to today’s clinic, Babygirl will also receive medical care and get a spay appointment. By the time she reaches the veterinary station for a checkup, Babygirl has calmed down, but she gets hissy and growly again as veterinarian Leanne Kline examines her. Kline, of Lakeway Veterinary Hospital in Medford, is a Street Dog Coalition volunteer and is co-lead, with Cuddy, of the SDC’s Rogue Valley team. 

“Her heart and lungs sound fine,” Kline tells Jacobson. “The ears look good. There’s not much dental tartar.” Due to Babygirl’s increasing feistiness, Kline declines to palpate the stomach area, but she administers rabies and FVRCP vaccines. 

Then it’s onward to the grooming station, where — as everyone who has worked with Babygirl this morning knows well by now — the cat’s sharp claws are long overdue for a nail trim. Volunteer Kent Bailey, a retired pet groomer, dons protective gloves and wraps Babygirl in a blanket to trim her nails. She protests loudly, but Bailey, with the help of Bob Crowley, gets the job done and returns Babygirl to her hammock. 

Help Street Dogs by attending its annual fundraiser!

Rogue Valley Street Dogs Benefit for Pets Living in Poverty
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 8
Dos Mariposas Winery in Medford
Click here for more info and tickets

By the end of the clinic, the SDC and Street Dogs have served 14 dogs in addition to Babygirl, the only cat of the day. Yet while this day’s work may be done, between clinics and outreach events Street Dogs is looking for community help to keep its services going, through donations as well as volunteers. 

“We’re in dire need of people who can help us transport animals,” says Street Dogs volunteer and board member Jo Cooper. Cooper points out that Street Dogs offers the only low-cost spay/neuter option for dogs in Jackson County, and both finances and transportation are an issue for their clients. 

“We’ve grown tremendously,” says Cuddy, “and we really need volunteers in every area imaginable” — from data entry to answering phones, from helping at outreach events to taking photos and videos for social media. Anyone interested in volunteering can reach out to Cuddy at info@roguevalleystreetdogs.org.

After checking out and receiving Babygirl’s paperwork and microchip record, Jacobson heads back to her room in the OHRA building. “Now I really need a cigarette,” she jokes. 

But she decides to stay in her room with Babygirl for now, to let the cat relax. After jumping out of the walker, Babygirl is released from her harness and enjoys a treat of donated canned food. Moments later, the morning’s drama seems all but forgotten. 

In the end, while the work of Street Dogs is often challenging, Cuddy says, “It’s so worth it, for each individual animal we help and also by serving a need that isn’t being met anywhere else.”

Ashland resident Midge Raymond is co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and author of the novels “Floreana” and “My Last Continent” and co-author of “Devils Island.” Email suggestions and questions for Catty Corner to her at CattyCornerAshland@gmail.com.

Picture of Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond

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