We are grateful that Dr. Nels, a very experienced veterinarian, joins a small group of dedicated volunteer vet techs and animal lovers in a periodic Free Pet Clinic at Open Door Mission. I had the honor of greeting guest dogs and cats, along with their humans, at the most recent Clinic. It was a steady stream of barks, yips, purrs and meows that certainly kept my attention.
The Clinic gives pet owners with limited means the opportunity to catch up with their dog’s or cat’s vaccinations. The doctor performs nail trims and overall health checks on the pets, encouraging each owner to keep the pet they’ve chosen in good health. And it all comes at no charge to the owner.
The Clinic also offers complimentary pet food, the occasional treats, and even pet clothing and collars provided by the generosity of Omaha Wags to Riches, a local animal-foster and care organization.
Yet for all the organizational and professional care these events offer, there is one unmistakable element in the Clinic room: the very real understanding that, for these people living on the edge, the animals they bring in their arms and that walk at their side are part of their safety net of relationships. Perhaps more so part of that safety net than many of the humans they’ve known.
There is a special element of respect shown by Dr. Nels and the volunteers toward each pet and each owner. They recognize the link forged by shared experience. They see that certain pets belong to certain owners and vice versa. It isn’t about legal ownership, either. It’s more about acceptance and belonging. It’s about the value of a companion that has a proven track record in tough times. It’s about telling a friend things no one else will hear.
It may be part of the reason why God created dogs and cats and human beings and called the arrangement “good.” And why, today, it’s still good for so many of us.