Monday, March 19, 2012

It's hip to snip

A dog rests in the kennel area after surgery at Mountain View Humane Waldron-Ricci Spay Neuter Clinic in Christiansburg.

Eric Brady | The Roanoke Times

A dog rests in the kennel area after surgery at Mountain View Humane Waldron-Ricci Spay Neuter Clinic in Christiansburg.

Denise Zampounis of Roanoke brought her half-dozen 8-month-old kittens to the Roanoke Valley SPCA, where the

Rebecca Barnett | The Roanoke Times

Denise Zampounis of Roanoke brought her half-dozen 8-month-old kittens to the Roanoke Valley SPCA, where the "Hip to Snip" mobile picked them up to take them to a low-cost clinic in Christiansburg to get neutered or spayed.

Bobbi Lawson, a vet assistant at Mountain View Humane and the designated driver of the transport, carries Tillie, a Chihuahua.

Rebecca barnett The Roanoke Times

Bobbi Lawson, a vet assistant at Mountain View Humane and the designated driver of the transport, carries Tillie, a Chihuahua.

Nona Nelson, The Happy Wag

Read Nona's blog, The Happy Wag:


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Hip-to-Snip Trip

Any pet is eligible for free, round-trip transportation from the Roanoke Valley SPCA or the Salem Animal Shelter for an appointment at Mountain View Humane. Call 382-0222.
  • Cat spay $58 includes long-lasting postoperative pain medication
  • Cat neuter $45 includes a 12-hour postoperative pain medication
  • Feral cats $25 includes rabies vaccine, ear tip and 12-hour pain medication
  • Dog spay $73 includes take-home pain medication in addition to surgical pain medication
  • Dog neuter $68 includes take-home pain medication in addition to surgical pain medication
  • Additional costs for dogs exceeding 60 pounds and for female cats in heat. Discount for clients or rescue groups bringing five or more animals.
  • Additional services available, see www.mountainviewspayneuter.org for more details.

CHRISTIANSBURG — Shorty was the last passenger to board the Hip-to-Snip mobile at half past 7 on a cold, sunny Wednesday morning. The Lab/basset mix was crated and secured for her ride back to Salem, a little lighter than when she arrived at Mountain View Humane Waldron-Ricci Spay Neuter Clinic the day before.

Joining the now-spayed pooch for the second leg of a round-trip journey were 10 cats — three pets and seven kitties that, along with Shorty, are Salem Animal Shelter residents with aspirations of finding forever homes.

All were now minus their baby-making parts thanks to the mobile and Mountain View Humane, which provides low-cost sterilization services to pets, feral cats and shelter animals.

The 2005 box truck, donated to the clinic last May by Berglund Chevrolet, is wrapped with the message that it is "Hip to Snip," a slogan the clinic hopes will encourage families to get their pets fixed, thus reducing overcrowding in area shelters.

The message has been well received — and used. Since it started running transports last year, 765 pets have hitched a free ride to their appointments at Mountain View Humane.

Bobbi Lawson, a vet assistant at the clinic, is the designated driver of the transport that provides a twice-monthly round trip from Roanoke and Salem to the spay/neuter clinic in Christiansburg.

This load of 11 animals is light, said Lawson, 25. One day during a PetSmart Charities-funded, $20-per-cat spay campaign in February, she transported 53 kitties from Ballard, W.Va., to Mountain View Humane.

First stop

The truck normally transports pets with surgical appointments every other Monday from the Salem Animal Shelter and the Roanoke Valley SPCA, returning the animals the next day. This was an unusual Wednesday run, a make-up from a February cancellation because of snow.

The truck pulled into the RVSPCA adoption center parking lot on Baldwin Avenue by 8:30 a.m., where a handful of pets were waiting with their owners. Among the passengers was Tillie, a 4-pound Chihuahua adopted by Jeannie Francis of Roanoke.

The fawn-and-cream-colored dog quivered as Francis kissed her and placed her in a carrier so plush with fresh blankets the wee dog could barely be seen through the holes. Francis said the pooch, who was found when she wandered into her neighbor's garage, has lived with her family for almost a year. She regrets putting off getting her fixed, she said. "I know it's the right thing to do."

Her family's tight budget inspired her to send the dog on the transport instead of using their regular vet.

"We chose Hip-to-Snip because of the cost," said the stay-at-home mom of two kids, three dogs, two cats and a couple of turtles. Spaying a female dog costs $73 at Mountain View Humane, a fraction of what it would cost for Francis to take Tillie elsewhere. She said it will be money well spent.

"I wouldn't give her away for a million dollars," Francis said as she waited to watch the truck to pull away with Tillie.

The departure was delayed slightly when one owner with appointments for a half-dozen 8-month-old kittens got lost on the way to the shelter. Denise Zampounis finally made it with Ruby, Fluffy, Reeses, Stripers, Blacky and Buttercup.

Zampounis is a walking public service announcement for spaying and neutering, and said she tries to make others aware that the Hip-to-Snip transport is available.

"It's just not fair to the animals," she said of allowing them to have litter after litter, and she scolds those who do not take advantage of low-cost spay/neuter: "Shame on you for not taking a little bit of money to fix your animals."

Equipped with a lift

After paperwork is finished at the RVSPCA, the next stop is Salem, where at 9:15 eager passengers were lined up waiting for the transport. After Shorty and her feline road mates were unloaded, it was time to load the new riders, including Delilah, a 7-month-old dachshund whose owner Jessie Brizendine said was going to Mountain View Humane based a recommendation from her vet.

Cass met Lawson there to help load on the new riders. When it came time to load Catawba, a sweet, 90-pound dog who appeared to be a retriever/Shetland pony mix, they were both grateful for grant money that added a $4,000 hydraulic lift to the truck in January.

After goodbyes have been said, all crates were secured with bungee cords and one particularly apprehensive pooch was calmed with a blanket buffering him from his neighbor.

The truck rolled away with a cacophony of squeals and whines from the 32 pets aboard. But by the time the truck was southbound on Interstate 81, all occupants were calm.

A quick process

The Hip-to-Snip trip ended for the day back at Mountain View Humane at 10:45.

There, Kelly Cunningham, the head vet technician, led a team of eight vet techs and assistants that got the pets unloaded and into holding crates.

Veterinarian Meghan Byrnes finished the last of the few spays she had from early client appointments, and she started examining the new arrivals shortly after 11 a.m. Each pet was checked in, weighed, given a sedative and then prepped for surgery.

Average time for each pet from initial exam to surgery to recovery was one hour, but with teamwork and a well-rehearsed routine, the staff moved all 30 pets through the process during a single afternoon.

"As long as the flow keeps going and no one is standing still, we keep it moving," Byrnes said.

All's well

By the next morning, Tillie, Delilah and all the other newly fixed pets were sent back to their pet parents on the final leg of their Hip-to-Snip trip.

Francis said Tillie whined for about 24 hours after she returned home, but recovered very well.

"She is so silly now and back to her crazy, wild, wonderful self," Francis said.

And Shorty, the shelter dog from Salem, also had a happy ending. She was adopted March 12.

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