Perhaps, over the past few months, you've read one of our "Patch/NJ Aid for Animals Pet of the Week" pieces.
We've been running them each Sunday at 10 a.m. since August.
The woman who has been providing us with the write-up and photos of the dogs and cats is Kelly Matthews—a Gloucester Township resident and board member at New Jersey Aid for Animals.
Kelly has decided to begin blogging for Patch. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks and months to see what she's been up to under "Local Voices."
This week, in place of the usual "Pet of the Week" article, we're going to feature Kelly's first Patch blog. We figure it's the least we could do for the woman who has helped us shed some light on the plight of rescue animals in our area.
Without further adieu, here is Kelly's first Patch blog entry:
About two years ago I read an article in the Courier-Post about a woman named Kathy McGuire and my life changed. Back in my early 20s I had volunteered at a local shelter cleaning kennels after my full-time job and I enjoyed the work. I've loved animals my whole life; I'm one of “those people” who as a kid would drag home anything that needed rescuing. Along the way I grew up and fell into my career, but I never stopped wanting to do something. I donated, shared animal stories with friends and tried to attend events. Like a lot of you, I have animals and they're a part of my family. You would never pass by a chance to help a dog or cat in need, right? So looking for a way to help just a little bit more I took the big leap. I reached out to Kathy on Halloween and made this very simple request:
I am interested in helping in any way I can. I don't have the financial means to donate but I do have plenty of time. I live in the 08049 zip code. Thank you in advance.
Who knew that short email was going to rekindle the fire I had in my 20s to jump back into the rescue community? So much has changed and I had such a limited exposure then, I had a lot to learn. My first event was the Camden clinic. Let me set the scene for you, because I am sure you're picturing some cute event where a darling puppy strolls in and gets a shot and everyone is happy. Wrong. Not even close. First of all, we're talking downtown Camden right next to the jail and what she is giving away, well, I'll tell you what—go check your last vet bill when you got your annual shots and get back to me.
Kathy told me to show up at 8:00 a.m. to set up and it was raining. I had no idea who she was so I parked and started looking. I saw a lady who matched the picture I saw in the paper and a big hulking guy unloading equipment from a truck and figured this was the right spot. Nothing could have prepared me for the rest of that day, not even the time I spent working with inmates or the cable company. The blitz was on right away and the line formed heavy despite the rain; people wanted their shots and the free food that Gary (big hulking guy had a name!) was unloading by the pallet full. Whoa! This was not my mother's rescue group. These people hustled and did what needed to be done in the moment. They worked with other groups, welcomed new people, did whatever it took. This was where I wanted to be. So what the heck were we doing out there?! Kathy moves at a frenetic pace so another volunteer gave me a rundown over two sips of coffee—the only 60-second break I got from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. when we left.
New Jersey Aid for Animals delivers free shots to the residents of Camden City four times over the summer. The clinics are open to anyone who shows up until the shots run out. Sometimes if we can secure it, there is free food. These events bring out people from all walks of life with dogs and cats who would otherwise go without the shot. Their owners either can't afford it or can't get to the vet. A homeless man rolled up with five chihuahuas in a baby carriage; people take the clinics seriously. We partner with vets and vet techs who come in to deliver these shots. While they're doing it, people are doing typical “Hey can you take a look at this?” stuff and appointments are being made on the fly. It's total madness. Dogs with tumors and matted coats, cats with infected eyes or oozing noses—you name it, someone has shown up with it at a clinic. Our vets have calmly assessed it and provided on the spot appointment times for their clinic. The person just has to show up with the animal, and get it spayed or neutered, if it isn't altered already, while it's there. If we don't control the population it will continue to grow at a staggering rate. Unless you're breeding your pet for a profit, and you're licensed to do so through the state, there is no reason not to have them altered. Plus, we're offering it at an insanely low cost—win-win going on here people.
These shots cost NJ Aid for Animals about $5 and we fundraise continuously to purchase them. The canine parvovirus and distemper combo shot provided for dogs isn't mandatory by law, but I learned those diseases are what dogs in Camden were dying from every summer. Kathy does everything she can to bring those shots to the streets. Later I learned a huge part of our focus was those shots and low-cost spay and neuter. She even hunted down Bernard Hopkins and launched a billboard campaign to advertise the low cost spay and neuter programs across New Jersey.
Sure, it's important to rescue animals and we do that, and I'll share some stories about our rescues in the coming weeks and months. Funny stories with happy, funny endings, like Lobo, and sad stories with tragic outcomes that leave you wondering why, like the Alvarez dogs. Our mission is this: To enrich the life of every animal we touch; provide programs for domestic animals on wellness, humane education, and spay and neuter, with a focus on impoverished communities; and report abuse and pursue justice for abused animals.
I always thought what could I do for animals? I'm crippled, I have no money, I have a child who needs my time and a house to run. We all have "stuff" that needs us, right? You'd be surprised how you can make an impact if you're willing to send one email and take a chance.