My Mentor’s Advice

900 and Counting

Just before I joined the SPCA for Monterey County, a wise mentor gave me two pieces of advice.  First, he said, “You won’t know exactly what you have for a full two years.” This has been right-on.  I’ve been here 17 months, I’m still learning and expect, to some extent, I will always be learning here.

Secondly, he said, “Do something big within your first six months.” I’m happy to say we made two big moves. First, we committed to a spay/neuter program targeting the Salinas community, where we have traditionally seen the most incoming, unwanted animals.  By offering weekend surgery slots convenient for pet owners who work during the week and setting our price even lower than our already low rates, we found the magic formula.  We’ve altered more than 400 pets from the highest need areas in Salinas since this past April; more important, comparing this year to last year when we had no special program,  we’ve seen the numbers of unwanted pets and accidental litters coming from Salinas drop by 25%.  These results strongly suggest a causal relationship.

Preventing animals from coming to us in the first place is priority one.  Not far behind, is doing more for treatable animals who come to us.  Healthy animals — those with no medical concerns or behavioral issues — have never been the challenge. For years, we’ve successfully rehomed them (including 1,278 this past year).  It’s the ones with treatable conditions that have tested us.  We made many well, but had room to improve.

For our other big move, we’ve changed the lives of far more treatable animals. We gave our program a name, and added resources thanks to our community’s generous support.  Now, our mailings, special events, newsletter stories and social media posts all highlight our TLC Program. It’s the hallmark SPCA program, the medical work and behavior attention we provide animals to make them better and make them adoptable. On the behavior end, much of this work is carried out by Behavior Department staff, but is also accomplished with dedicated, talented volunteers.

This past year, we made well more than 900 treatable animals. And, on average, we spent at least $1,200 on each one. I’ll tell you about one guy who far exceeded that amount.  

“Peanut” arrived in our care a few months ago.  His tiny leg was broken in two places and we suspected he was hit by a car. We provided pain control, stabilized the fractures and provided anti-inflammatory medications. Peanut received surgery in mid-September — special plating to ensure proper healing of the fractures. Next, he needed a quiet foster home for recovery, followed by limited activity restrictions, and we had a foster family ready to help. Once he was ready for adoption, his foster family was torn, as they often are; sad to see their Peanut go, but ready for their next “project.”

This message we received yesterday from from Peanut’s adopter, Dave, made our day:

As I knew it would, the social adjustment took place almost immediately and it is now as if Peanut had been part of the family for years. It’s one of the countless amazing things about dogs that they are able to do this so effortlessly. On top of that, Peanut has also bonded to me, following me everywhere just as Tiggy and Dinky do, and even sleeping under the covers with me last night. I don’t suppose it would be good policy for the SPCA to facilitate on-going contact between me and Maraya, Peanut’s obviously loving foster “mom”, but please let her know how much I appreciate everything she did to preserve his life and how awed I am by her ability to do it, knowing how all that loving care must end. He’s asleep at my feet as I write this, and looking at him in contented repose makes me more than ever aware of just how fortunate he is…Thanks again for everything the SPCA does on behalf of otherwise defenseless animals in peril.

Tomorrow, another “Peanut” will need us. The day after that, maybe two or three more. We never turn them away. With more than 900 TLC Program successes this year, we see them daily. Each is meaningful, each a team effort.

This lifesaving work — and the spay/neuter outreach — simply would not happen without supporters  who believe in our work and our direction and without talented staff and dedicated volunteers.

For our supporters’ confidence in us and their generosity, we say thank you 900 times!