This story actually began ten years ago in 2005, Chewelah’s fairy cat mother, Lorraine Schanzenbach took some sick, dying cats she had rescued from a sad situation to Dr. Kam. Sadly, the cats had to be euthanized. During the office call, they talked about how badly Stevens County needed affordable spay/neuter services for the low income residents. Lorraine went home and talked to her husband Bill and the first steps towards making Stevens County Cat Care a reality began to happen.
Fast forward a year. Nine years ago, the group was in its beginning stages with monthly meetings at Polanski’s pizza in Chewelah. We held yard sales and fund raisers to earn money to offer spay/neuter coupons for people to be able to afford to get their cats fixed at the local veterinary clinics. And at the October meeting of that year, something else happened that would change our group forever. Dr. Tami showed up for a meeting and kept coming back!
Eight years ago, our little group heard about a sad situation in Springdale. No lights, no indoor plumbing…but they had 40 cats. As we prepared to take the 40 cats, we wondered how we were going to be able to afford to get them fixed. Dr. Tami offered to spay/neuter them for us for free, but because she was a mobile vet doing home visits, she had no place to fix the cats. So we cleaned off the ping pong table in Lorraine’s garage and Dr. Tami proceeded to start fixing cats. We stood there and watched her, and because it’s hard for me to stay quiet, about the 3rd cat, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I asked if there was something we could do to help. The rest is history. She taught us to hold cats for anesthesia, and shave and scrub and monitor and recover cats. Dr. Kam came and helped with several of the cats too. With the support of both Dr. Tami and Dr. Kam, we began to feel like we could accomplish something, but we really didn’t know what yet.
Seven years ago, we were feeling so good about our little accomplishments and with the support of our two lady vets, we wanted to go bigger. We wanted to hold a large spay/neuter clinic that would be open to the public. But we didn’t have enough equipment. Dr. Tami only had equipment for one vet, not multiple vets! So we called Pet Savers in Spokane and asked their director, Sue Anderson, if they would loan us equipment for our first clinic. They not only loaned us equipment, but brought along volunteers to help us learn the ropes of handling large numbers of cats and people. We fixed 128 cats that day in the old Youth Center in Chewelah. We were on cloud 9 for days! We were ready to tackle the world! Therefore, we learned to write grants and got the money to purchase the necessary equipment and it wasn’t long before we started holding regular clinics.
Now, all good stories need a hero, and this story has a lot of them because every one of our volunteers is a hero. We could not possibly have accomplished all that we have without each and every one of our volunteers. Every single volunteer is important to our team because we would not even be a team without them. We couldn’t fix cats without our veterinarians, and they couldn’t do all the other work that is being done at our clinics without us. Every single one of our volunteers is what makes us successful.
So, how successful are we? Sunday, November 16, 2014, Stevens County Cat Care spay/neutered our 10,000th cat. It was a cold day and the line of shivering cat owners clutching cat carriers extended from the door of the Chewelah Civic Center clear out to the street. With transporters fanning the doors nearly nonstop, the furnace ran almost constantly as 170 of the 188 scheduled cats arrived. Two veterinary technicians evaluated and anesthetized cats while five veterinarians spayed and neutered cats almost nonstop for seven and a half hours, fixing a total of 167 cats (and then spending 2 hours cleaning up the building and helping to load everything in the trailer.)
We needed 119 cats to make 10,000 and the 119th cat was a huge fluffy Persian that the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary had brought. We spay/neuter a lot of cats for the Sanctuary, which helps them keep their costs down. They are a non-profit just like we are and we also share a lot of the same volunteers. Animal people are at a premium in our county and most of us wear multiple ‘hats’. Several of the veterinarians stood together with the cat for a quick photo. (I have a photo of every ‘thousandth’ cat that we have done.) Then suddenly someone thought to check for the kitty’s ‘equipment’….and they were not there! He had apparently been neutered by some previous owner before being relinquished to the Sanctuary. So because we didn’t need to fix him after all, he quickly lost his status as the 10,000th cat and the next cat suddenly had a new title. A female kitty named Amanda became the 10,000th cat, posing for her photo with a smiling Nancy Rose, president and kennel manager of the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary.
Did we celebrate? As with each thousandth cat, we enjoyed a huge cake, donated by our president, Maggie Dickinson, to enjoy with our usual potluck lunch. And I admit, each of us probably glowed rather proudly for the rest of the day. But other than that, we pretty much just started on the next thousand. And our new total, by the way, is ten thousand….and forty eight!