After an unpredictable year in 2020 and the extreme need of affordable vet care, it was time for 2021 to be our year of enhancing and growing our veterinary programs, including our low-cost vet clinics. With the expertise of our new Community Outreach Manager, Beth, we scheduled two clinic dates with a specific focus on helping seniors in need. Usually having a great amount of experience with pet ownership, seniors also tend to be retired and have lots of time to care for their pets. In turn, pets can provide incredible companionship and love to those that might often be living alone. Though seniors can be one of the best demographics for adoption, they can sometimes lack the resources, support, or even transportation for veterinary care of their animals. Aiming these clinics towards seniors, we hope to not only provide vet care, but to also learn about the needs of the senior community and bridge the gaps to helping them care for their beloved companions.
To prepare for these clinics, Beth contacted Senior, Adult and Family Services in Manchester to get a better scope of the senior community in the area. She contacted representatives from these communities since they have active relationships with the people residing in senior and disability housing. Beth also created and distributed flyers to these housing communities that included information on the upcoming clinics, but also provided other information regarding our other programs, like Canine College dog training or our TNR program, that might be useful. We were excited when calls were coming in to set appointments and looked forward to seeing where we could help!
For our clinic in October, we held the pop-up event at our home base, the Valerie Friedman Program Center in Manchester. We’ve held other clinics in the past at the Program Center and felt very familiar with our set up to get back into the swing of things and we were excited to get started! The appointments were a majority of cats and even a dog that has visited one of our pop-up clinics in the past! Much to our surprise, many of the cats actually seemed to enjoy their time at the vet and loved all the attention and pets! While their animals were being seen by the vet, our OC Team, consisting of volunteers and staff, were able to provide free beds, litter, food, toys, and more to their owners. We also had the opportunity to discuss concerns or behavioral issues that they might have been experiencing with their pets. Ranging from inappropriate peeing, play aggression, or managing a multi-pet household, the OC Team provided tons of education and tips to help with their situation.
In November, with the help of The Mobile Clinic of Eastern CT, we were able to provide a pop-up clinic right in the parking lot of the senior and disability housing community in Manchester. Having the event where this population were residing helped break down any transportation barriers in bringing pets to the vet. Once again our OC Team, which included volunteers Beth V., Paulette, and Ron, provided great support by assisting clients to their appointment at the vet van and distributing more supplies. Beth V. also demonstrated enrichment activities and toys that they could provide to their pets! Having one on one conversations with these clients, we found many trends in some of the barriers they come across regarding veterinary care with their pets, but also other situations they might have difficulty with when it comes to caring for their companions. This included grooming, proper exercise and enrichment, nutrition, and understanding animal behavior. It was a great opportunity to directly hear of the challenges the community is facing and understanding how we can meet those needs with our resources.
For many of the pets, and even some of the clients, this was there first time experiencing veterinary care. We were able to provide discounted prices for vaccines, SNAP testing, bloodwork, physical exams, and even helped cover an emergency vet visit for a senior cat that needed additional care. Follow up care was provided, like spays and neuters, to help ensure these pets received the medical assistance they needed after the clinic. It was a long, but very exciting day of meeting wonderful pets and their compassionate owners. Seeing the love and life that they provided each other, and for us to help strengthen that care, was rewarding for everyone involved. Though Our Companions has been creating low-cost pop up vet clinics for a few years now, we are always constantly learning and innovating as we gain more experience and as the world is changing. Our hopes for 2022 is continuing to grow, learn, and support the beautiful relationship between people and their pets.