After a few months delay, during which our officer positions transitioned to the next year of students, we have eventually resumed our monthly procedure days! On June 16th a group of students had the opportunity to work with Dr. Alison Stambaugh on two dental procedures. We were able to examine Little Boy and Midnight, two brother cats that are regular patients of Mercer Clinic as both cats had severe dental disease that ultimately required full mouth extractions (which can equate up to 60 teeth!). Thanks to the Pet Retention Grant that we received this past year from PetSmart Charities, our clinic has been able to update our dental surgery suite and we now have both a brand new dental radiograph and dental cleaning machine. Dental x-rays are extremely helpful in giving the doctor an idea of which teeth are missing, fractured or need to be removed, and are therefore essential in performing a thorough dental cleaning. As veterinary students, it can be difficult to obtain training to learn how to position our patients and to perform dental radiographs, so we are truly excited for this hands-on experience. Once our patient is comfortably resting, we take one full set of radiographs before the cleaning and one more set at the end to make sure everything looks good before waking them up! Both Little Boy and Midnight did well under anesthesia and recovered comfortably before being picked up in the afternoon. All in all it was a long day, but an exciting start to using all of Mercer’s new dental equipment!
While seeing patients at Mercer Clinic, I’ve had the privilege to understand peoples’ lives better. We don’t pry, but sometimes the veterinary staff are people that folks just want to share with. I’ve heard stories from the heart-rending to the heartwarming, and sometimes stories that are both at the same time. Pets are always big players in these stories, charming us with their antics, comforting and anchoring as only a companion can, or just soaking up and radiating back a feeling of love that the heart truly needs.
Amidst these touching stories, a term that has really stuck with me is “in transition.” A young man from out of state, eyes touched with just a bit of fear but also filled with a lot of love, describes his concern for his pitbull mix companion. The relocation has been stressful on both of them; they live out of his car as he looks for work and a place to call home. With nothing to his name but his dog and his car, he looks forward to a better day, and describes his situation as: “We’re in transition.” A middle-aged woman, with worry creases on her forehead but also the crinkles of kind, smiling eyes on her cheeks, brings in her sweet chihuahua buddy for vaccine updates and a checkup. Right now, they’re living wherever they can set a tent; but she’s hoping some distant relatives will be able to put them up in a proper home soon. She describes her housing status as “in transition.”
I deeply appreciate the fortitude and hopefulness of that sentiment. Change whirls around us in the world, but there’s a profound strength in the simple act of welcoming tomorrow. To draw close your most faithful friend – four-footed or otherwise – and say, “Here we go, we’re in transition!” – that is a powerful way to live. To refuse to be a victim, to claim a life that is more abundant in joy, to lay hold of every dear and beautiful moment, that is the way to live a life worth living! At Mercer, I’ve seen the way that pets help to empower people to live that way, how they can put our focus back on the goodness of life. The satisfaction of a good stretch, the hilarious thrill of a tennis ball – pets can share with us the boundless joy that’s there waiting in the simple things of life. They can help us stop and appreciate the goodness of living. It is my privilege to work in the field of veterinary medicine, because it is our job to support the health of the human-animal bond, which makes that kind of sharing possible.
My time as Mercer’s webmaster is drawing to a close. As spring progresses, the members of my officer team have been training our replacements for the coming year. This will be my final article as webmaster, and with it comes a mixture of emotions: pride in what my team has accomplished, a touch of sadness at letting go, but also a thrill of hope at seeing the enthusiasm of the incoming team. These are the emotions of being “in transition.” If I’ve learned anything from the pets and clients of Mercer Clinic, I’ve learned that a time of transition is a time of hope. Along with my peers from the current team, I am very proud of the incoming officer team, and looking forward to what they accomplish in the coming year, even as our year of leadership comes to a close. Thank you to my peers and colleagues, to all the donors and grant writers who support us, to all the volunteers, and all our clients and patients. Every one of you plays a part in making Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless one of the most special places in the world, and I wish you all the best blessings in the coming year!
Class of 2021
Webmaster/Historian, Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless
Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless would like to send a special “Thank-You” to PetSmart Charities. Due to a generous grant from PetSmart Charities this year, we were able to make upgrades to our procedure suite equipment. This means that we will be able to deliver dental care to more kinds of patients, with kitty dentals coming soon! PetSmart Charities is a nonprofit organization supporting pets and the people who love them. Projects they have been involved with include a massive campaign providing resources for increasing animal adoptions, extensive provision of resources to community support organizations for pets and their families, and support of over 4,000 organizations — including Mercer Clinic — who are working to reduce and prevent pet homelessness. We sincerely appreciate the financial role that PetSmart charities has played in helping Mercer Clinic continue delivering high quality care to our patients and clients this year!
We would like to say a special thank-you to The Banfield Foundation for a generous grant this year. The funding will help to maintain and improve our equipment at our free community veterinary clinic for the pets of the homeless. The goal of The Banfield Foundation is to help all pets get access to veterinary care. The Banfield Foundation has been involved in delivering veterinary care as part of disaster relief, helping to fund the care of pets that would otherwise become separated from their households, and partnering with outreach clinics across the nation. We appreciate the financial role that The Banfield Foundation has played this year, in helping Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless continue to deliver high-quality veterinary care to pets in the Sacramento, CA region.
"He's just so itchy, see, look!" said my client, gesturing for my attention. I was part of a team of about six people, variously veterinary students and undergraduate students, all helping with the office visit for this family and their four pets at Mercer Clinic. I was assigned to the itchy pet in question. From the record and from my physical exam, even though I’m still in training as a clinician, I had a pretty good idea what was causing the itching. We were only waiting for my overseeing DVM to come and discuss the case with me, and write out the appropriate prescriptions. I was getting a little concerned, though, because this was the fifth time that the client had pointed out the itching episodes that we were, hopefully, going to have a cure for very soon. I was concerned that I hadn’t done enough to communicate with the client, to understand his observations and to communicate what we were going to do for his itchy best friend. With their minimal means, our clients manage to get to our monthly clinic with their pets, and often wait for hours so that their animals can be seen. I feel honored by their trust, and I want to honor their care for their pets, by providing them with my very best service. It concerns me if there’s any sign of miscommunication or misunderstanding during a visit, so I was doing my best to understand whether anything had gone wrong.
When the volunteer DVM overseeing our team began examining my itchy patient, he repeated his concern to the vet, “Look, he’s just so itchy!” as the dog started happily scratching away again. I had been hearing my client’s words, but only then did I truly understand their meaning. He was not expressing frustration with how things were going, or doubt about my team’s ability to take care of the problem. It was a little vague to me at first, but my client was actually expressing something very positive with his metronomic reminders about his dog’s condition: the thing that he was expressing, was care.
Veterinary students practice communication in labs and scenarios, but the entirety of our professional communication cannot be summed up between the start and stop of an office visit or a phone call. We need to broaden our view. We should realize that clients who walk into our clinics with their four-footed best friends in tow, in that very act, are communicating a profound kind of trust in our profession. They are placing the health of family members into the capable care of veterinary professionals and paraprofessionals. At a charity clinic like Mercer, the fact that people are willing to wait patiently all morning and most of the day to get care for their pets, shows the respect and value that they place on the service we provide. It also communicates the care and effort that they put into their animals’ wellbeing every day, as all good pet owners do. On the other side of the exam table, vet students who do their best with every assignment and every clinical encounter – who even volunteer extra time to care for the pets affected by disasters such as the wildfires this summer, as many of my peers did – communicate just how passionate they are about caring, how dedicated they are to a lifestyle of humankindness.
All these things – inspirational peers, dedicated mentors, and clients who are doing their very best for their animals – surround me with hope and confidence in the field of veterinary medicine. Pets can bring out the best in us, and pet care is a nexus where very different people can share their best with one another through their mutual interest in nurturing our animal companions.
As we wrapped up our visit, our itchy friend was already looking more comfortable, and his concerned caregiver was unambiguously relieved. Their family was one of the last groups seen by the clinic that Saturday. Not only were they some of the most patient clients of the day, but they were also some of the most grateful. Our medical team saw four pets, addressed nine health concerns among them, and sent away one big, happy family at the end of the day. That’s the kind of day that inspires a person like myself to keep doing one’s best in his or her training and career development. It’s fuel for another day and another year. For me, it’s what made 2018 a wonderful year to be a part of Mercer Clinic.
Thank you to everyone – volunteers, donors, internet friends, clients, and pets – who were involved with Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless in 2018. You all make this amazing experience possible. Happy Holidays, and many blessings in the coming year!
by Russ-Erik Darnell
DVM Candidate, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2021
Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless Webmaster and Historian
Mercer in the News! Check out this article from local print news outlet ENTERPRISE, celebrating the 23rd anniversary of the Holiday Pet Baskets Program that adds some holiday cheer to our December clinic each year, thanks to a wonderful team of volunteers. Also, don’t forget that you can support the holiday pet baskets program here!
October clinic saw the summer heat finally giving way to a cooler fall. Wait times were longer than we wanted because a number of our volunteers were away for conferences or other reasons. However, congrats to the smaller team of volunteers that were able to come and run the clinic that day; you all still saw over 100 pets!
November clinic was heavily impacted by the smoke from the California fires. The haze was thick, but our pets and clients brought us sunny cheer to brighten up the gloom! Special thanks to the first year veterinary student volunteers, who came in force this clinic. Thanks to everyone’s hard work, our entire schedule of pets for the day was seen, and the clinic closed completely on time this month. See you all again for our big December clinic event, and don’t forget to support the Holiday Pet Baskets Program as we prepare for our holiday clinic!
September Clinic ran smoothly, with the influx of students back for the new term and more volunteers from the new Veterinary Medicine Class of 2022 joining us at the clinic (thank you, first years)! It took me a while to gather the data about the September clinic, but turned out September was a big kitty month for Mercer! We had about 120 patients, this time with 40 cats and 80 dogs. The kitties are taking over!
September clinic at Mercer was noticeably cooler than clinic day in August. Here, on the first day of fall, the change of seasons reminds me that I’m approaching a full year of volunteering with Mercer Clinic. I’ve seen our little outreach building in just about every kind of weather that our (admittedly mild) Northern California climate offers. In a sense, my total time at the clinic has been brief – especially since our clinic day happens monthly – but at the same time, a year is not a small part of a human life.
In a similar way, the human connections I’ve seen at the clinic would be considered brief to any outside observer – and yet they are disproportionately impactful. As month follows month, each time I volunteer I’m starting to see more than one familiar face during the day. Beyond familiar, in fact. It would be fair to call many of these familiar faces – human, canine, or feline – friends. The human ability to bond with another being through empathy can transcend the limitations of time, place, differences of experience, and sometimes even differences of species!
Meditating on how these admittedly brief vet/patient/client visits have affected my life, inspires me to improve the other encounters in my life. Every day we reach many intersections. We cross paths with other drivers or pedestrians at literal intersections on roads. We have brief interactions with the stranger behind the counter or the person coming out the door. Every meeting, every intersection, is a snapshot of two lives: lives full of individual history, cares, and hopes. In that intersection, those two lives share a connection, if for the briefest of moments, and that’s our opportunity to pour something good from our lives into others.
In sharing goodness, enriching other lives, we enrich our own. That is an idea which I have observed to ring true – both for myself, and for my fellow volunteers at Mercer. Seeing these new friends each month is a refreshing reminder of what we are trying to do as medical professionals. It’s a reminder of our drive to bring healing to the world around us. It’s an encouragement for us to maintain our studies, so that we will have high quality knowledge and skills. That knowledge and skillfulness is the gift that our lives will give to those around us throughout our careers.
A gift of empathy doesn’t have to be career-defining to change someone’s life, though – or, at least, to change their day. No matter what your occupation or your social position, you have the opportunity, time and again each day, to turn a chance encounter into a memory. Let’s join together to make fellow lives better! Maybe you can find an opportunity to be kind rather than angry at that guy who cut you off in traffic. Maybe you take a moment to share a friendly greeting with a stranger passing in the hall. Maybe you choose to slow down for a moment to tell that loved one you interact with all day long, how much you appreciate them being a positive part of your life. These moments we share make our lives brighter too. Even a dog recognizes someone they got along well with last month. Even a nervous kitty can relax a bit when they meet a human who was kind before. Taking a moment to enrich one another works for our best friends; surely it can work for humans too!
by Russ-Erik Darnell
DVM Candidate, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2021
Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless Webmaster and Historian
“I rescued this dog!” my client said proudly, as her delightful little Chihuahua mix wiggled happily in her arms. The young woman standing there with her dog, at one of our outside pet exam tables, could not boast of any material prosperity as the world defines it. At the time, she didn't even have a roof over her head, not a home to call her own. Home was just an idea between her and her dog. She told me a story of abuse and neglect that had led to a pup almost being drowned in the River. When the she saw the little creature’s life on the line, she stepped in with her rescue. “You sure did rescue her! Looks like she’s doing great,” I said as I listened to her story, and examined a happy, healthy, well-cared-for pet.
I've had similar conversations many times at Mercer. There's always a special glow to a person as they assert, "I rescued this pet." It's like seeing the perfection of our humanness, glimpsing someone's ideal self. Hearing the statement so frequently from our Mercer clients has made me reevaluate my mental image of the term "pet rescue." I realized that somehow my mental picture implicitly involved more -- well -- resources. I guess that, before, I mostly pictured a family from the suburbs going to the shelter and picking out a pet for their kids. Here, at Mercer Clinic, I found an equally valid interpretation of “rescue.” The image of these fine folks, who were sharing what little they had with a fellow creature, even represented the idea of “rescue” better than my old mental image had. They proved that you don't have to be rich to rescue a pet -- you don't even have to be moderately prosperous. These beautiful people are doing a service of inestimable value to society, keeping precious creatures out of our crowded shelters, creating homes where there were none before.
We in the medical profession, student and doctor and teacher and assistant alike, pride ourselves on thinking with precision. Our thoughts are disciplined. Our opinions and impressions are meticulously shaped by research, honest observation, and Facts. It's not often that we find a mental definition that we need to refine. That's why I feel compelled to write down what I learned about "rescue."
As I worked on improving my definition of “rescue,” I remembered the common saying in shelter work, “This dog rescued me.” It turns out that we can be rescued not just FROM something bad but TO something better. The bonds I see between people and their pets are most often two-way rescues for both parties. The pet is living an enriched, healthier life; and the person is expressing their natural capacity for care. Both are thriving together.
For myself, treating a pet's health, helping that bond to thrive, is my rescue. As Sherlock Holmes would say, it's "rescue from ennui." Veterinary medicine is a vocation that brings interest and excitement, challenge and accomplishment to my work life. Beyond that, it's also rescue to a life of caring, the opportunity to be just one player in a person's story and a pet's story.
Our work at Mercer brings people together. Students, clinicians, organizers, undergrads -- all of them volunteers -- work with and for some of the most humble and authentically caring pet people you could ever meet. During a clinic day we are care providers and medical consultants to these wonderful people and their pets. Beyond that, for the brief duration of an office visit, we get to be someone's friend. Friend to our brother or sister of the human race, but also friend to the canine and feline beings who associate with us and make our lives richer. Relationships are our true wealth. My work here reminds me of that so clearly. It's a lesson I want to keep in mind for the rest of my career. It's how I want to practice medicine for every one of my patients, for as long as I’m allowed to stay on this earth and do this work. This is what veterinary medicine means to me and to my peers. This is a life, rescued. This is a life that thrives. This is Mercer clinic.
If you'd like to support the work of Mercer Clinic for the Pets of the Homeless, click the donate button on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MercerClinic/.
You can also support via Amazon Smile at smile.amazon.com/ch/68-0284501
If you are a veterinarian or pre-veterinary student who would like to volunteer with us, you can contact our team via our Facebook page or by email at email@example.com.
Our inspirational thought for July is written by Erik Darnell, DVM candidate in the class of 2021 at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Historian and Webmaster for Mercer Clinic.