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History of the Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Baskets

A group of volunteers at the UCD Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) has carried on a tradition of making holiday pet "baskets" for the Mercer Vet Clinic for the Homeless since 1995. The pet basket tradition stemmed from a VMTH staff newsletter meeting (The VOICE) where the group was trying to decide how they could go about having a holiday charity project. After brainstorming a while, Marcia Nelson and Becky Griffey came up with the great idea of making holiday pet baskets for the pets of the homeless through the Mercer Veterinary Clinic associated with the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Historically, the Mercer Veterinary Clinic was started by vet students Randy Singer and Dori Borjesson, in 1992 which was modeled on a Seattle free pet clinic at the time. The Mercer Veterinary Clinic offers free veterinary care monthly, for the pets of the homeless and is operated by volunteer veterinary faculty, residents and students from the UC Davis Veterinary School and relies entirely on donations. The Clinic is held the second Saturday of every month at the Loaves and Fishes complex at 1321 West "C" St. in Sacramento and scheduled between 8:00 am, and 3:00 pm. Veterinary faculty who volunteer regularly include: Dr. Laurel Gershwin, Dr. Tom Kendall, Dr. Molly May, Dr. Mike Teglass, and Dr. Jill Gallo. The need for this program to continue was evident to all of us who saw the photos of the first event where the delighted pet owners and their pets, apparently, had a great time. It was clear that these very special pets were more like family, than a pet, to their loving owners. Our group was moved and motivated to make this an annual event. Although these less fortunate folks did not have the means to give gifts to their beloved pets, we could help by continuing to organize this event annually and making the holidays a little brighter for them. This year the Holiday Pet Basket distribution will be at the December Mercer Clinic on the second Saturday in December starting at 8:00 am until approximately 1:00 pm.

The former members of the VMTH newsletter committee who still participate annually include Becky Griffey and Eileen Samitz. Becky Griffey was the coordinator for the first four years and Eileen Samitz has been the coordinator for the last ten years. These pet basket "elves" are joined by other helpers, including Marion Derby, Stacey Peters Zindel and her daughter Hannah Judy Wall, Marcia Reemts, Monica Kratochvil, Diane Nayden, Marty Ynostroza, and Matt Nichols.

Lynn and Laura Christianson of PDQ in Davis are kind enough to help us acquire the perfect box sizes needed for the pet basket event. We are very grateful every year to Dawn Cauthen of the VMTH Nutrition Service for handling the ordering and the important delivery timing of getting over 500 pounds of pet food to us in time to put in the holiday pet baskets. Pat Bailey and Lynn Narlesky of the vet schools Dean’s Office, for helping us coordinate with the media to share with this event with the public.

We also have veterinary student "elves" annually who are regular volunteers at the monthly Mercer Pet Clinic for the Homeless. Most of the student volunteers also serve as Mercer Officers to help coordinate the clinic.

Traditionally, the VMTH newsletter staff wrap the pet "baskets" (open empty boxes) with holiday wrapping prior to the noontime "Holiday Pet Basket Stuffing" gathering. In the first year, the holiday pet basket event produced 25 baskets. In subsequent years, the number increased to 40, then 75, 90, 100, 110, 120 and eventually 130. This past year we made 130 baskets due to the growing need. The pet "baskets" are sorted for dogs or cats, labeled accordingly, then filled with a variety of gifts such as food, treats, grooming and skin care items, leashes, and of course, toys for the pets

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