Stacy Fuentes lit up as she peered into the brown and black face of her beloved dog, Bolt, who stared back intently, not bothered by the plastic cone surrounding his head.
Behind him, five more of Fuentes’ dogs — Maddie, Whitney, Gracie, Brownie and Lilly — sported their own “cones of shame,” fresh from having spay or neuter surgeries at the Animal Birth Control Clinic on Tuesday.
The services were provided free of charge as part of the agency’s second annual Pet Health Day for Meals & Wheels clients.
Fuentes’ cat, Mama Kitty, also went through the procedure but remained at the clinic overnight to recover from dental work that also was performed at no cost.
The clinic serviced 18 pets, providing free vaccinations, flea treatments, heart worm prevention and spay/neuter surgeries as needed.
The agency also joined with nonprofit group Angel Paws to take the animals to and from the appointments.
“There are a number of Meals & Wheels clients that, their closest being to them is a four-legged being,” said Carrie Kuehl, executive director of the clinic. “We know that these people don’t use the precious resources they have for basic animal care for their pets, and most of these animals need something.”
Fuentes, 49, is disabled because of a seizure disorder and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
She paid out of pocket for two other dogs to have sterilization surgeries, but she didn’t have money to take care of the remaining animals, all strays she has taken in over the years.
Meals & Wheels provides food for her and the animals during the week, she said.
“My dogs, when I have a seizure, they surround me in a circle like an Indian tribe,” Fuentes said. “They’re very protective of me.”
Kuehl estimated that offering the services will cost around $1,200, money it had not raised or budgeted for this year. She hopes local residents will pitch in funds to help cover the event.
Madeline Goff, a Meals & Wheels client since 2000, had her cats, Mr. Jinx and Lacy, and Chihuahua taken in for vaccinations and flea treatments, while a second Chihuahua was spayed. But when her pets were delivered to her home Tuesday afternoon, Goff was surprised and relieved that the services were free.
“When do I pay y’all?” Goff said to Jordan Culpepper, an intern for Meals & Wheels. “Nothing? . . . Well, this is just too good.”
Goff, 68, has been on disability since 1998 for a variety of ailments, including fibromyalgia, severe rheumatoid arthritis, a heart condition and seizures.
She also has a brace on her right knee and has spinal damage that causes her to use a cane.
“The hardest thing is getting them the care that they need because I can’t drive and have to have someone else do my driving,” Goff said.
Pet photographer Kit Myers, a clinic board member, also took glamour photos of the animals plus a keepsake photo of the owners with their pets.
“For a lot of these elderly people, this could be the very last picture that they get taken of them,” Kuehl said. “It can become obviously very special to them, because their pet is in it, but also to the family members that are left.”