One Day: Happy Paws Spay/Neuter Clinic

Published 8:45 am Monday, February 26, 2018

One day at the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society’s Happy Paws Spay/Neuter Clinic, a volunteer said, “It’s a zoo out there!” during early morning check-in.

Twenty-nine appointments for dogs and cats were scheduled for surgery that day.

A continuous stream of pet owners bringing their “babies” in crates and in arms met with volunteers to fill out paperwork necessary for the simple surgical procedure to take place.

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However, one large dog refused to cooperate and had to be coaxed in through the back door by his owner and her family.

Volunteer, John Turner, holds a small dog before weighing him for surgery.

Once volunteers checked in, gently weighed and determined sex of the animals, dogs were placed in kennels in one room while cats were separated in another.

Katie Turbyfill, volunteer director of the clinic said sometimes a cat owner will bring in their pet, “thinking it’s a princess, and it’s really a prince,” she said laughing. “They’re usually embarrassed,” she said, “but it happens a lot with cats — especially young cats.”

Barking, yipping, howling and meowing echoed down the short hall. However when lights were dimmed the animals settled down.

At the same time, 12 volunteers dressed in scrubs hustled around a brightly lit pre-op room and surgical area getting ready for the all-day spay, neuter and recovery process to begin.

Happy Paws Spay/Neuter clinic offers low-cost, high quality services to pet owners who qualify. Just nearly two weeks ago, the clinic boasted of its 13,000th surgery. Just think how many unwanted puppies and kittens were prevented from being born and perhaps dropped of at the animal shelter, Turbyfill said.

Lisa Smenthawski keeps a constant eye on all of the cats recovering from surgery. Each cat is is wrapped in soft towels, have little pillows and are resting on warmed disks.

The clinic is staffed by licensed veterinarian, Malinda Ferrell, and vet technician, Jason Brunz.

The rest are all volunteers who passionately care about the welfare of animals and want to help control unwanted litters.

Volunteer Carla Bates, far left, works with Mike Russell as he checks in his dog for surgery. Another volunteer and clients are also in the waiting room at the Happy Paws Clinic one day.

They are also a group of friends who joke around and laugh a lot. Even their staff directory shows their sense of humor. For example, Jennifer Back (fabulous feline friend); Katie Bright (surgical room ringer); Linda and Terry Taylor (decontamination experts); Neil Eklund (database honcho); Susan Hensley (appointment czar); Janet Martin (fantastic fur friend); Jane McKune (crackerjack cat crony); Charlotta Norby (dog room diva); and Bettie Poland (ultrasonic bionic woman).

Volunteers do everything from helping animals calm down with soft words, gentle pats and snuggles.

Janet Martin carries in a box full of clean towels she had taken home to wash and fold that are to be used again at the clinic.

Others haul dozens of dirty towels to their own homes to wash and fold; they sterilize equipment in an autoclave; clean and wipe down working areas; prep sedated animals by shaving and plucking the surgical areas, clean up feces in kennels and on pre-op tables and even express pets’ bladders to empty them before surgery begins.

When all was ready this one day, the first cat was brought in — boy cats always go first, Turbyfill said, because they take longer to wake up from anesthesia. Then the female cats, followed by dogs — males and females in any order.

Two operating tables were used: the veterinarian performed surgery on one animal while a another pet on the second table was administered anesthesia.

Because the clinic’s staff and volunteers, “keep their eyes on each animal all day,” Turbyfill said, they don’t get to leave for lunch. “But we’re spoiled.”

She said some volunteers deliver delicious meals and desserts to the clinic so they can take breaks in shifts and grab a bite to eat. “We are very grateful.”

But the work isn’t profitable. The spay/neuter clinic loses money on each surgery, Turbyfill said.

Happy Paws Spay/Neuter Clinic volunteer director, Katie Turbyfill, keeps detailed records of each surgery as she helps to monitor cats waking up from the procedure.

Everyone involved in the clinic are adamant about having pets spayed and neutered, Turbyfill said. And medical supplies and professionals’ salaries quickly add up. That’s why they are always looking for ways to fund the clinic through special projects, donations and grants. This funding helps keep the fee down for pet owners who need the low-cost service.

The clinic also offers free spay and neuter services for pit bulls, Turbyfill said, but she doesn’t know how long this will continue.

“We need to find another source of funding,” for that program.

By the end of the day on Thursday — the only day the clinic is open — 10 dogs and 16 cats were resting comfortably and ready to go home.

But before they are released to their owners, Turbyfill said, “They have to be able to walk out of here with their tails wagging.”

Neil Eklund, right, discusses payment options for a client at the spay and neuter clinic. He also keeps all of the clinic’s statistics and rabies vaccination charts in order