Spay, Neuter, and the Cover Dog!

Story by Bonnie Craig, Photos Courtesy of Candice Eaton and Chawntel Hunt

As Tucson’s heat rages on, so does the stream of animals pouring into local shelters, so many this time of year being puppies and kittens. Some come in with their terrified and desperate mothers, and some come alone. Often their only hope for survival is a human to bottle feed them every two to four hours. This is not unique to our town, or our part of the country. Companion animal overpopulation and resulting homelessness is a worldwide issue. While so many people work tirelessly to rescue and care for these animals, it can feel like an uphill battle, and ultimately, if we hope to one day solve the problem, we will have to look at root causes, namely, overbreeding, either intentionally or otherwise. So the most obvious solution? Spay and Neuter!

This may sound like an oversimplification of the issue, but regardless, the spaying and neutering of companion animals is indeed the best way to ensure that there are enough homes to go around, which currently, is far from the case. The ASPCA estimates that companion animals (predominantly dogs and cats) enter US shelters at a rate of 6.3 million yearly. Of those 6.3 million, they estimate that 920,000 are euthanized. These rates are down significantly from past years, likely as a result of higher reunion and adoption rates, as well as education and better access to resources, such as low cost spay and neuter programs. Ask any animal lover, however, if 920,000 euthanasians per year is an acceptable number, and chances are, the answer will be no, across the board.

Recently, The Tucson Dog Magazine was able to help out one local non-profit that works to solve the problem of pet overpopulation. The Yappy Hour event, held at the Skyline Country Club, raised over 750 dollars for Spay and Neuter Solutions (SNS) generating private pledges as well. It also helped the Tucson Dog find our latest cover model, to be immortalized by photographer, Candice Eaton. The day of the event the club was all abuzz. People enjoyed fancy snacks and sips, their pups by their sides, as they relaxed and took in a doggy fashion show. The manager even got in on the fun, dressing up as a dog as well. Many entered the cover dog contest, and all entrants were tres chic, but after a vote, it came down to just one runner up and the winner.

Runner up, Doug, a 9-month-old French bulldog, was born for the runway. He also enjoys the good life at home with his family, parents Chawntel and Eric Hunt and human brother Jase. He has his own splash pad, enjoys car rides, fetch, napping, and sunbathing on the patio. At his brother’s soccer and baseball games he sometimes steals the show, but who can blame him?

It’s just that animal magnetism. According to mom, Chawntel, “He is very protective but is working on his relationship with the trash collectors. He aspires to be a professional food critic, sampling as much human food as he can get.” He is a perfect fit to our family!” It sure sounds like it! What a great guy you are, Doug the dog.

Taking first place and weighing in at 12 mighty pounds, meet Declan the Cavapoo.

For those left scratching their heads, a Cavapoo is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Say that three times fast!) and a poodle. Like so many midwestern snowbirds, this former Buckeye moved to Tucson from Ohio. He joined his new southwestern family, Ken and Linda Burr, at the tender age of three months. Ken was struggling with his health, and since he had had a  similar dog when he was young, Linda felt that Declan would be just what the doctor ordered. Declan proved to be a true and loyal friend and family member to the Burrs, comforting and entertaining Ken through the months of his illness at home. Declan was not above a little mischief, however, and his tendency toward petty theft, along with his facial markings resembling a mask, earned him the nickname, Bandit, from Ken. Even when Ken was eventually hospitalized, Declan never missed a chance to visit his dear friend.

Sadly, Ken passed away in March of 2023. Through their devastating loss, Declan and Linda stuck together, however, and have become best friends. They are working as a team to curb the kleptomania, and practicing some new skills as well. There are the common skills such as sit, heal, and come, as well as the more advanced safety skill of stopping at the end of the driveway to check for traffic before heading out on walks. We all know the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street. His current favorite trick is a little more flashy however. Declan loves to give high fives, and after politely sitting for a greeting, lavishes them on the neighbors he meets on walks.

Declan loves all the human friends he makes, and he loves to make dogs friends too. He especially enjoys rubbing shoulders with other pampered pups at the groomers.’ He’s really just a salon kind of guy, especially when it comes to the dryer. Declan loves dryers so much that he drops everything and comes running any time he hears Linda doing her hair.

Ever the active boy, Declan likes to run and fetch his ball, and is becoming a pro at getting in and out of his travel carrier, which he will be taking on its maiden voyage in October when he goes on his first airplane ride. In the meantime, and in keeping with his taste for the finer things in life, Declan enjoys his visits to the country club, where he is quite popular, and of course took his cover dog win, simultaneously helping other pups in need by raising money for Spay and Neuter Solutions.

Katie Powers founded Spay and Neuter Solutions in 2002. With a background in fostering animals in need, she wanted to do even more, so decided to go straight to the source of the overpopulation issue. She wanted to find a way to help people and their animals access services through education and financial assistance, eliminating two of the main barriers to spay and neuter. 20 years later SNS is still going strong. They provide financial support on a case by case basis. A person can simply apply for help through their website where they also list various low cost clinics and links to organizations that offer live traps on loan. This is especially helpful in the case of the many feral cat colonies that proliferate in Tucson’s warm climate. Trapping, vaccinating, sterilizing, and releasing these essentially wild and often unadoptable felines makes all the difference when it comes to controlling population and disease within the colony.

SNS even has a medical fund dedicated to one such feral cat. The Pretty Boy McTavish Fund is named for a beautiful tuxedo cat who was trapped by SNS Vice President Dot Jones after seven months of trying. Though he had been badly beaten up by other ferals, had serious dental issues, and had contracted FIV, they were able to get him fixed up, and he went on to live the life of a beloved family member. Pretty Boy got lucky in the end, but perhaps he would never have had to go through the suffering he did if we had more organizations like SNS around, and more people willing to alter their animals to prevent not only overpopulation, but also potentially aid the animals’ health and quality of life.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, spaying your female dog or cat can help them avoid breast cancer (yes, this affects non-human mammals as well), uterine infections, and other health problems. Neutering your male can help protect him from enlarged prostate and testicular cancer. There is also evidence to suggest that these procedures result in calmer temperaments in both sexes, and reduce their wanderlust.

All of these factors reinforce the importance of spaying and neutering companion animals, and the organizations like SNS that help make it possible for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. Dot Jones reflects on the event at Skyline saying, “What struck me at the event was the pride and love each person had for their pet(s).  It was displayed in the meticulous grooming each dog had received… and the expression on the pet guardians’ faces as they showed off their pooch.  It made me think that most people who have dogs share that love and pride of their animals, but not all can afford to pamper or care for them in such a luxurious style.  That is why I believe SNS is such an important organization in our community.”  Declan, Doug, and the other country club dogs of the world have made it, with wonderful lives and families who adore them, and are able to give back to the community. This is not to say that less privileged folks love their pets any less. Some of us just need a little help sometimes.

Spaying and neutering your animals will help make the world better for others, but for those who want to pay it forward even farther, there are plenty of ways to help out Spay and Neuter Solutions. Monetary donations are incredibly helpful of course, but they can also use administrative help, general research, grant research, writers, event coordinators, event attendants, and Spanish translators. Requests for help and volunteer inquiries can be addressed to help@spayandneutersolutions.org. So be like Declan, Doug, and their families, and do something to make a difference for animal overpopulation today.



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