Pooches and the Pandemic: Vaccine clinics aren’t just for two-legged animals

By Michelle Meehan Schrader

“So what are you doing today?” my husband asked over pancakes, as our one-eyed Shih Tzu, Captain Jack, and 20-year-old cat, Malcolm, circled the breakfast table for crumbs.

“I’m volunteering at a drive-thru vaccine clinic,” I said. “I’ll be taking pictures and interviewing people for a blog.”

“Well, maybe you can get yourself a shot while you’re there. It’s been a few weeks since your first one. Aren’t you due?”

That’s when it hit me. My husband was talking Covid-19. Not rabies.

It’s a sign of our times that Mark would be confused. I quickly set him straight.

“It’s a low-cost vaccine clinic for dogs and cats,” I told him. “These days, people can hardly afford their own medical care let alone their animals’.”

The event was held at the Belleville Area Humane Society, where I proudly serve as a member of the board of directors. Full disclosure: Animal welfare is close to my heart. My beloved Captain Jack came from the shelter, as did our family diva, a feisty Chihuahua named Lola.

And so it was I spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon, scurrying up and down a long line of cars, talking to people about their pets. The humans wore masks. The dogs panted and barked. The cats tried hard to look aloof.

Clients included an overweight, bladder-challenged dachshund mix and a droopy-eyed bloodhound who couldn’t stop sniffing the ground.

A pair of little, white pups – Tink and Baby Gaga – quivered adorably as they peered out a car window.

“They’re both Chihuahua mixes,” said their owner Danny Sabo of O’Fallon. “I inherited Baby Gaga from my granddaughter. And somebody found Tink by the side of the road.”

Maybe Tink and Baby Gaga should meet Merferd, a handsome white pit bull who rode a few cars behind them in line.  “We got him during Covid so he never got to socialize,” Tiffani Hadeler of Belleville said, stroking the big dog’s head.

As it turned out, lots of BAHS alums visited the clinic, including Shelby – a happy-go-lucky, shaggy, mixed breed pooch – who celebrated her 11th birthday with a rabies shot.

All tolled, 53 animals were vaccinated. Many were also micro-chipped.

“Last year, with the pandemic, people had trouble getting in to see their vets,” explained BAHS community outreach manager Jorden Guldner. “So they used our low-cost clinic as a way to stay current on their vaccinations.

“A lot of people are struggling financially so low-cost clinics help them out. Keeping families together with their pets is an important part of what we do.”

When I returned home that afternoon, my husband didn’t have to ask me how the clinic went. He knew by the smile on my face – and the fur on my  jacket – that I’d had a great day.