CEO Sheryl Blancato offers a glimpse inside Second Chance
Day after day, a similar scene plays out. Our veterinarians and vet techs go about their day, seeing pets for checkups and sick visits, or performing scheduled surgeries while reception staff greet pets and pet owners and schedule future appointments. They may have plans after work, even if it’s just to put their feet up and relax. When a phone call comes in of a very sick pet, all those plans change.
It was already midafternoon recently when Second Chance received a call about a dog that couldn’t pee due to a blockage of stones. An emergency facility had temporarily unblocked him, but this was just a temporary fix. Without immediate surgery the dog would suffer in pain, unable to pee, and die. Emergency hospitals are stretched to the limit, just like the owner’s budget. Second Chance was this dog’s only chance.
Suddenly those afterwork plans changed. Schedules were quickly shifted. A vet and two surgery techs agreed to extend their already long day to perform the surgery after their regular day ended.
The dog arrived late afternoon and was prepped for surgery. The surgery began and it didn’t take long to see that the dog was a lot sicker than originally thought. There weren’t just a few stones…there were hundreds of tiny stones. The expected one- to two-hour surgery continued for nearly five hours. Exhausted, the team plugged along. The vet carefully removed the stones while the surgery techs monitored the dog’s vital signs.
The hospital director had left for the day just as the surgery began, expecting the staff to be there just a couple of hours. When the surgery continued into the night, she left her family to provide support. She picked up snacks and Chinese food on the way back to the hospital. It was now after 9 PM and the surgery had to continue, there was no stopping. They had to be sure that no stone was left behind, risking another blockage.
The surgery finally ended a little after 10 PM. Now it was time to monitor the dog’s recovery. The staff could finally sit down and have something to eat. The dog recovered well, the family was ecstatic, and the weary team headed home just before midnight.
This is not an isolated story. It happens more often than you think. This dog is alive today and with his family because three staff members gave up their time and their plans to save a life. I am in awe of the work our staff does at our hospitals and adoption center every day, going above and beyond when necessary to help a pet in need if possible.
Last month, we adjusted the surgery schedule at our largest vet hospital in North Brookfield in response to the current emergency veterinary care crisis that’s affecting pets in Massachusetts and across the country. We reduced spay and neuter surgery capacity to allow our doctors to provide critical care and surgeries, saving an average of 25 pets every week. While spay and neuter services are temporarily limited at this location, our Springfield and Worcester hospitals are running at full capacity.
Dixie was just four months old when she was adopted from Second Chance. Despite a positive meet and greet with her new 3-year-old sister Dakota, things got off to a rocky start. “There were several issues in the beginning with puppy curiousness and not knowing personal space.” Their owners kept a close eye to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.
“I’m told it was the puppy finding her place in the family…In the beginning I was so close to bringing Dixie back because I didn’t think it was fair to her for us to be so focused or controlling of them playing…I loved her to pieces and didn’t want to. I made the appointment to return her but arriving there, getting ready to hand over her leash, that look she gave me…I just couldn’t.
Now 10 months later they are inseparable…Dixie follows her sister Dakota everywhere…They have fun playing & when Dakota has had enough she has this bed- we call it the ‘I’m done, time to take a break bed’ – she goes there, lays down & Dixie is right beside her, which is fine for both of them apparently. So we all ended up living happily ever after! I’m so glad I gave it more time…I couldn’t imagine her not being part of the family.”
The Irony of Reducing Spays and Neuters to Save Lives
The effects of the pandemic have created a perfect storm, this time on land. As COVID-19 took hold here in Massachusetts, residents took advantage of all the extra time at home to welcome a pet into their family. While many veterinary practices were forced to reduce services or temporarily close, veterinary staff in vet hospitals determined to be there for pets embraced a new curbside procedure and quietly became the essential workers for pets across the state. Those that could worked long hours to see all the pets who needed help immediately and had nowhere else to turn. They were there for the pets that needed them, but it’s taken a toll on their spirit.
The country was already facing a veterinarian and vet tech shortage before the pandemic. Now we have more pets that need care and veterinary hospitals and practices are seeing their staff numbers dwindle due to burnout. Current wait times at some local emergency hospitals are lengthy while some other emergency hospitals have decided to temporarily or permanently close.
Second Chance Animal Services, no strangers to saving pet lives, are meeting the crisis head on with an ironic solution. We have significantly reduced the capacity of the low-cost spay and neuter program at ourNorth Brookfield Community Veterinary Hospital for the foreseeable future to help save the lives of pets in critical need.
Our colleagues at area emergency veterinary hospitals tell us they are doing their best to keep up with demand, but they are strained and operating beyond capacity. The situation is dire. Wait times often exceed 12 hours at some facilities and others have made the decision to close for the remainder of the summer.
Second Chance has significantly reduced the capacity of their low-cost spay & neuter program to do their part to help. Day after day, pet owners are bringing pets to us in critical need of emergency surgical care. Without our help, these pets would die, suffer needlessly, or be put to sleep because surgery cannot be scheduled in time to save the pet. We could not let this happen. We need to help as many pets as we can.
We ask for your patience and understanding. We have been working to alleviate the backlog of pets waiting which began in March of 2020 when spay and neuter services were suspended to conserve critical supplies that were then hard to acquire. Our spay and neuter capacity is not only back to pre-pandemic levels, but higher than pre pandemic.
We encourage pet owners to consider using the spay and neuter services at Second Chance’s Springfield or Worcester hospitals. Second Chance wants to be sure that there is surgical space to help as many pets in immediate urgent need as we can. Spay and neuter surgery is important but life-threatening critical needs must come first. We need to be here for those pets who need urgent surgeries.
Second Chance answers the questions we hear the most about pets and grooming.
Why should my pet be groomed?
- Grooming is an important aspect of healthcare for many dogs and cats, especially long-haired breeds. Pets can become at risk for skin and ear infections, urinary tract infections, pain, trouble defecating, or even develop restricted blood supply if mats become too tightly wound around limbs.
- Grooming is not just important for long haired pets, however. Short-haired animals can benefit from grooming as well, but may need it less often. Groomers may be able to help identify if your pet has a problem such as a flea or tick infestation or if your pet is not grooming itself as well as it should be, which could indicate an underlying health problem.
When should I start grooming my puppy professionally?
- Most professional grooming salons will begin grooming puppies and kittens at 16 weeks of age with the recommendation that they are fully vaccinated to help keep them safe when in the salon with other animals.
- Getting your pet started early can help them get used to the grooming process, which makes it much easier on them and their groomer.
How often should I be getting my pet groomed?
- Depending on breed, your pet may need to be groomed every 6-8 weeks. You may request the same groomer every time so that you and your pet will begin to build a relationship with your groomer who should come to understand all your pet’s quirks and preferences. It makes the experience safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
- We also recommend visiting the salon between trims/baths to help your pup get used to all the sights and sounds.
How can I get my puppy used to being groomed?
- Touch your pet frequently to get them used to what will happen during an actual grooming service. This can help desensitize them, making the process much easier and safer.
- Top areas to handle are feet/nails, ears and face. You may try the following to help your pet get used to grooming:
- Rub/hold their feet often (use caution with cats).
- Practice holding their face still and touch around their mouth if tolerated.
- Run the bottom of an electric toothbrush around their feet & face to help them get used to the feeling & sounds of clippers & nail grinders
Is there anything I should do between salon visits?
- Brush! No matter if you have a long-haired or short-haired pet, they all need brushing. Long-haired pets tend to mat very easily, especially as puppies and kittens when their fur is super fine and soft. Matting can be very painful for your pet, so frequent brushing can help reduce the chance of fur becoming matted. Don’t forget mat-prone areas behind the ears, on their backside, or around the armpits.
- It’s recommended you brush your short-haired pup weekly to help keep dead hair from clogging their pores and to keep their natural oils spread evenly throughout their coat to promote shine and healthy fur.
With the lifting of state COVID restrictions, Second Chance is excited to welcome everyone back inside our facilities. For everyone’s comfort, we have a few temporary rules as we adjust and staff members complete vaccinations.
-Masks will be required in animal adoption rooms and lobbies (due to confined spaces)
-Please continue to observe social distancing when possible.
How our adoption process works:
-All potential adopters must fill out our adoption survey so we can better help you find the right pet.
-During high visitor times, we use a number system to hold your place in line. We assist as many people as we have staff to accommodate. This allows us to give you a better, personalized experience by having a dedicated adoption counselor.
-Adoptions are on a first come, first serve basis.
Community Veterinary Hospitals
Starting Tuesday, June 1st, pet owners will once again be able to accompany pets for office visits.
-Masks will be required in exam rooms and lobbies (due to confined spaces)
-We ask that you limit visitors to two pet owners in a room at one time
-Please continue to observe social distancing when possible. (If there are too many people in the lobby, you may be asked to wait outside)
Curbside service will continue to be available for pet owners who wish to remain in their cars while their pet is brought inside for exams.
Our weekly vaccine clinics are now exclusively by pre-registration – eliminating lines and long waits and allowing us to help more pets. Pet owners will remain outside while their pet is brought inside for registered treatments and promptly returned.
To help get your pet caught up on their vaccines, we are holding additional mobile vaccine clinics in Dudley & Southbridge on June 7th and 28th. At this time we are accepting registration for June 7th – you must pre-register to attend.
Woofy’s Grooming: Monday June 7th ~ 9AM to Noon
17 W Main Street, Dudley
Pre-Register for Woofy’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic
*NEW LOCATION* Southbridge Community Veterinary Hospital Parking Lot: Monday June 7th ~ 1PM to 3PM
700 Worcester Street, Southbridge
Pre-Register for Southbridge Mobile Veterinary Clinic