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, 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.
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.
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.