A helping paw

Without sweet Zia, a mixed breed pup, Colleen Langdon wouldn’t know she needed to take her life-saving medication. Colleen has Addison’s disease, a condition where her body doesn’t produce critical hormones.

“If my body goes into crisis, all my organs start shutting down,” said Colleen Langdon.

Zia is in training to be Colleen’s therapy dog, so keeping her pup healthy and up to date on all her vaccinations is a top priority. However, Colleen is on disability and works wonders to make her monthly income of $809 cover all the essentials.

The Veterinary Clinic at DHH in downtown Spokane makes it possible for Colleen to keep Zia healthy and take care of herself at the same time.

“Having the clinic, I can get Zia the shots she needs. I couldn’t do it with a standard vet. I would have to go without food and a lot of stuff,” said Colleen.

The clinic provides homeless and low-income pet owners access to dog and cat check-ups, nail-trims, vaccinations, and medicine. Licensed veterinarians and support staff run the clinic, all volunteering their time the first three Wednesdays of every month.

Dr. Denise Pilgeram started volunteering at the clinic 6 years ago and now oversees the operations. The clinic began in 1998 at the Union Gospel Mission and recently moved locations to a small room behind the Catholic Charities apartment complex on Second Avenue in Spokane.

“You hear people say, ‘Well, why do they have a dog? They can’t take care of themselves.’ The truth is we see a lot of clients that have much older dogs. Their pets are 8-9 years old, and their circumstances have changed for whatever reason,” said Dr. Pilgeram.

Dr. Pilegram and other volunteers examine and treat, on average, 60 pets a month. The appointments range from simple vaccinations, and nail trims to skin rashes. When they encounter more severe issues, such as dental disease or an animal in need of surgery, staff work with local vet clinics to provide those treatments at a reduced cost.

When Cori Thomas’s sweet dog, Lexi, needed her teeth cleaned and a stye removed from her eye, Dr. Pilegram reached out to another veterinarian who performed the procedures for half the cost. Cori paid $200 of the bill, and the Veterinary Clinic at DHH paid for the other half.

“It’s amazing, usually walking into a regular vet clinic just to see the doctor is $150, financially it can be really scary,” said Cori Thomas.

The clinic operates solely on donations from clients, the community, and local vet clinics. The clinic buys vaccinations brand new.

“Our clinic alleviates the stress for a pet owner. They feel guilty and stressed because they know their pet needs something and they can’t afford it. It alleviates stress and that burden,” said Dr. Pilegram.

During Zia’s most recent visit, Dr. Patty Sledge gave her a rabies, distemper, and parvo shot. She also gave Colleen a referral for Zia to get spayed. Colleen then teared up as another volunteer handed her a 24-pound bag of quality dog food.

“This is such a blessing,” said Colleen.

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