Tuesday Mornings

Providing pet care for those with plenty of love, but not enough resources.

By Kaitlin Hall | July 6, 2018

It’s Blue’s first visit. The gray chihuahua mix was adopted last week after four years in a shelter by Toby Starling, a homeless, alcoholic veteran who came to Gainesville two years ago. Starling is now sober and hopes to give Blue a new life. That’s why he has come to St. Francis Pet Care.

The line forms early each Tuesday morning outside the downtown Gainesville clinic that offers free veterinary care for pet owners who are homeless, low-income or recently unemployed.

David Rodriguez comforts Blondie as she receives her shots. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
David Rodriguez comforts Blondie as she receives her shots. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
St. Francis volunteer David Rodriguez, 23, fills out paperwork as he starts his day at the clinic. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
St. Francis volunteer David Rodriguez, 23, fills out paperwork as he starts his day at the clinic. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)

David Rodriguez, 23, is one of the many volunteers giving vaccinations, trimming nails, dispensing medicine and donating pet food to the furry patients. For Rodriquez and the other volunteers, so many are regulars that they know the pets by name. Without a glance to their files, they know who likes what treats, who gets a little aggressive when their paws are touched and who probably needs to go on a diet since the last time they were seen.

The animal clinic is currently one open room that fits three exam tables. They use the bathroom as a space to safely exam cats without the risk of them running away. However, they hope to open a new building in September that will have much more space and multiple private rooms.

David Rodriguez discusses the health of Vera Matthew's dog, Nate, as she waits outside to be seen by a vet. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
David Rodriguez discusses the health of Vera Matthew’s dog, Nate, as she waits outside to be seen by a vet. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
Pamela Campell holds her dog, Blondie, as she gets caught up on all of her shots. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
Pamela Campell holds her dog, Blondie, as she gets caught up on all of her shots. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)

Dogs bounce around each other, obviously friends, as their owners hug and spend the wait time catching up. First-timers swap stories about when their dogs got into chocolate. One woman shares with another how her chemo treatments are going. And it takes just a few minutes to learn that Chip’s favorite snack is crackers.

Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein, one of the clinic's founders, discusses Chip's health with his mom, Roche Vann. Vann arrived at the clinic at 6 a.m., two hours before it opens, to be the first in line. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein, one of the clinic’s founders, discusses Chip’s health with his mom, Roche Vann. Vann arrived at the clinic at 6 a.m., two hours before it opens, to be the first in line. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
David Rodriguez cradles Nate as he gets his nails clipped. Often, one volunteer will hold a pet while another trims the pet's nails. This keeps the animal calm and both volunteers safe. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
David Rodriguez cradles Nate as he gets his nails clipped. Often, one volunteer will hold a pet while another trims the pet’s nails. This keeps the animal calm and both volunteers safe. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)

When Dale Kaplan-Stein, Chris Machen and Natalie Isaza founded the clinic, they had the intentions of providing care for the animals of people who had plenty of love to give but not enough resources. What they ended up with was not only a successful clinic, but a tight-knit community within a community. One that accepts all walks of life: from chihuahuas to Great Danes and everything in between.

David Rodriguez sweeps the clinic's floor after the last patient left Tuesday, June 19, 2018. The clinic is open for four hours every Tuesday, but many patients show up early to get a place in line and ensure their pets will be able to see a vet. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)
David Rodriguez sweeps the clinic’s floor after the last patient left Tuesday, June 19, 2018. The clinic is open for four hours every Tuesday, but many patients show up early to get a place in line and ensure their pets will be able to see a vet. (Kaitlin Hall/WUFT News)