Shelter Medicine Club members Leila Shetula, Karina Vajda and Jessika Rosewitz get advice from '21 graduate Dr. Eilea Delgadillo while examining a patient at the Street Dawgs & Cats event.
Oct. 20, 2021
Story and photos by Jens Odegaard
Stephanie Hampton is busy organizing a portrait session for a group of folks and their pets at Avery Park in Corvallis, Oregon. She’s wearing a bright purple shirt that says "survivor." Concurrent with the COVID-19 pandemic, she was diagnosed with, treated for and survived pancreatic cancer.
But this isn’t a group of cancer survivors. The portrait session is for people accessing animal health care services for their pets at an event Hampton organizes twice per year. The event is called Street Dawgs & Cats, and Hampton founded it nine years ago. Portraits will be printed and framed and given out to the subjects around Christmastime.
In 2012, Hampton got involved with Occupy Corvallis, a local movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. During that, “I really clicked with homeless pet owners who were on the street, and they still have enough love left to have a pet,” Hampton said. “They had a bond. You could just see it.”
Wanting to help meet the health needs of their pets, Hampton thought, “'Well we've got the vet school up here, you know?' So I called and I found the Shelter Medicine Club, and they were happy to come and they have been the heart of this.
“It’s the only event in town where the housed and the unhoused can get together over their mutual love of their pets.”
Victoria Ryan, president of the Shelter Medicine Club, poses for a photo with one of her patients.
Victoria Ryan, a second-year veterinary student at Oregon State University’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, is the current president of the Shelter Medicine Club whose mission is to provide volunteer veterinary services to those in need.
At the Street Dawgs & Cats events, “we're here to do vaccinations, flea and deworming treatments, as well as a thorough physical exam to make sure that these pets are overall in good health.” Ryan said. “I grew up pretty low income myself. So I think I saw firsthand how difficult it can be to find affordable pet care when you are in a tough financial situation. Accessibility and affordability of care mean different things to different people so we try to provide what services we can for free here. We are so grateful to have a club full of students who care deeply about their community as well as the pets in it, and who helped make this event possible.”
In addition to the students, local veterinarians volunteer their services to oversee rabies vaccinations and mentor the students. “It's just a great event to provide free care for patients that need it,” said Dr. Jason Christensen, owner of Hello Vet Pet Wellness Center in Corvallis.
Dr. Jason Christensen and Shelter Medicine Club member Katie Donovan examine Maggie Oreo Suitcase.
An Iowa State graduate, Christensen got connected to the event through a couple of chance encounters with Oregon State veterinary students. “One of the students came into my new hospital and was a client of mine there, and they were talking about it. And then one of the shelter med students came and got an old fridge at our yard sale, and we just kind of got hooked up that way,” Christensen said. “I love teaching and helping out. It was a weird year with COVID, and as much hands-on experience the students can get, the better.”
As well as veterinary care, Hampton provides a chili feed as well as picnic tables full of free pet accessories and supplies: leashes, collars, harnesses, beds, food and water bowls, dog and cat food and blankets. Initially, Hampton paid for the food and pet supplies with her “Social Security check.”
The picnic tables full of donated items.
It’s still a pretty shoestring operation, but Hampton now has help with the operation from Nicole Massie. “I got involved through just meeting Stephanie, and we have a very similar compassion and similar hearts in that area,” Massie said. “The bond is so important between people and their pets. And so I think if we can provide for the pet what they need, it does good for the human heart as well.”
Street Dawgs & Cats also has a donation center at local pet supply store Animal Crackers Pet Supply, and Hampton is working on making Street Dawgs & Cats nonprofit to more easily gather monetary donations. “We've kind of got the paperwork, but neither one of us are very good at it. But if somebody who has knowledge of that would step forward, that'd be perfect,” Hampton said.
At this edition of the event, the students and vets saw approximately 40 pets. One of them was Maggie Oreo Suitcase, a corgi-border collie mix. “My son worked for her to earn her – when he finally got up his grades, he got a dog. And so he wanted to name her Oreo. And I was like, ‘I'm not screaming Oreo down the road.’ And so we came up with Maggie, and then he still wanted Oreo. And then my daughter always called her Suitcase. So she just got all three,” explained Kristin Appelt, Maggie Oreo Suitcase’s owner.
Maggie Oreo Suitcase poses in a new sweater that owner Kristin Appelt selected for her from the donation table.
It’s Appelt’s third time accessing services through Street Dawgs and Cats. “I haven't needed to for a long time, but things have been so hard lately that this was really great for her to have her rabies shot. It would’ve cost me, you know, $300 to get her in for all that stuff. It would’ve killed me. So I'm really grateful for this,” Appelt said. “[The students] are just always so giving. They're making you feel like they're gifting you, and then they smile about it, and that just feels good.”