Second Chance at a New Life
It’s 9:20 pm when I pull into the OHS parking lot. It’s dark, but I’m just in time—the truck full of precious cargo, the reason I’m at the shelter so late, is driving up to the gate. I’ve been doing this Tuesday night shift twice a month for five years, and I absolutely love it.
I tie my apron on and head inside—tonight’s Second Chance intake has 15 volunteers and two staff on the dog team, a handful of folks on the cat team, and five veterinary students to support both. We are ready to welcome the 71 newest guests of OHS, process them into the shelter, and get them settled in.
A sign in the intake staging area lets us know who we’re expecting: 33 dogs, nine puppies and 29 kittens, coming from four California shelters: Merced, Hayward, Sacramento, and Oakland. We greet the driver, another OHS regular who has transported thousands of animals on these trips, and get to work unloading the truck.
Kittens first, to the cat team, by the cat exam room. Dogs are taken to an open staging area—puppies in the first row, adults in neat rows behind, large dogs to the right. We swarm around them, matching paperwork to numbers on their kennels, checking to make sure no one looks distressed or sick, fawning over them in their crates while we try to talk to each other over the excited barking. 42 dogs make a lot of noise.
It Takes Teamwork
The dog team divides into our specialized roles: there’s the paperwork person, the photographer, the crate-cleaner, two teams to do medical exams, one person to draw up vaccines, and the rest of us are “dog runners.”
Puppies go first, so we suit up into lovely disposable blue plastic gowns and gloves to protect them from wayward germs or cross-contamination—take a puppy and queue up. Go down the line: get a weight; get a photo; get a paper collar with puppy’s name on it; then into an exam room for vaccines, heart and health check, dewormer, flea treatment. Take puppy to his/her assigned kennel which has already been prepared with water, food, toys, bed. Return to start.
By now we’re on adult dogs. Same process minus the gown, plus a quick walk outside to go potty before we do the rest. A staff person helps match adult dogs to be kennel partners, make sure they can be friends. Repeat until done. Occasionally a dog comes in with ticks or a medical issue that must be addressed immediately. We have the resources and team to handle it. Some dogs come in matted and dirty; a couple of ladies note those and will come back in the morning to groom them.
Once all of the animals are processed in, a few of us stay to finish paperwork, enter medical notes in the computer, schedule unaltered animals for spay and neuter within the next day or two, and do a final round to check on every animal before we leave.
It’s nearly one in the morning when I clock out. That’s okay, I’m a night owl. When I get home, I go to bed happy to be a part of this incredible Second Chance program, saving several dozen lives every other Tuesday night.
—contributed by Second Chance volunteer Amanda Ferguson Baisley