We humans could stand to be more like dogs. Dogs live in the moment. Dogs are quick to forgive offenses. Dogs serve others and thrive in a pack. These are all good lessons. I want to focus on how pack behavior – collaboration – can help local animal lovers take better care of our furry (and winged) friends.

Kirksville – Protect Our Pets (KV-POP) issued its first spay/neuter voucher last week. We are partnering with Kirksville Small Animal Hospital to help people who couldn’t otherwise afford to fix their pets. We’ll be issuing a limited number of vouchers monthly for the next several months as we get established. The voucher makes the pet owner responsible for a $10 co-pay on the spay/neuter surgery no matter the animal’s sex, size, or species. In this way we hope to reach people who need help spaying their big girl dog (who can have as many as twelve or fourteen puppies in a litter) as well as people who have many cats. The benefit of spay/neuter in both cases is tremendous. We look forward to working with Dr. Doak, Dr. Basler, and their staff as we try to limit the number of homeless animals in our area.

KV-POP hopes to collaborate with the Adair County Humane Society (ACHS) and the Field of Dreams Rescue (FODR) on promoting spay/neuter in our area. Both of these organizations have their own spay/neuter programs and protocols in place, but their resources are not unlimited. We hope that they will refer clients to us when they become aware of a need, for example when someone surrenders ten lab mix puppies at the shelter (spay that mama!) or when a pet food bank client is ready to fix another cat. Referrals will be a great way for us to learn about people in need and direct our resources accordingly.

I recently learned about another new collaboration, this time joining cat lovers and bird lovers. Field of Dreams Rescue will be working with Truman State University ornithologist Jason Luscier on a Trap, Neuter, and Release project in a neighborhood between Truman’s campus and downtown Kirksville. FODR is concerned about the number of free-roaming cats in this neighborhood for two reasons: their quality of life is not great (outdoor cats face dangers such as food scarcity, temperature extremes, automobiles, and predators) plus they keep getting more numerous. Professor Luscier, on the other hand, is primarily concerned about the threat that outdoor cats pose to birds. According to the American Birding Conservancy, “scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill 1.4-3.7 billion birds.” This figure includes familiar backyard birds like the Cardinal, Blue Jay, and House Wren, as well as rare and endangered species. One way that people can protect birds it to keep their cats indoors; another way is to control the population of outdoor cats such that their threat is diminished. I understand that this collaboration is still in the planning stages, but it certainly seems worthy of the community’s support.

This is just the beginning. There are so many other possible ways for different organizations, agencies, and institutions to work together toward our common objectives. We would love to see, for example, KV-POP develop a partnership with local schools as we teach children to care for pets at the same time that we promote kindness and compassion. We are excited about the idea of a major adoption event in the city park featuring adoptable animals from both local rescue groups (ACHS and FODR) as well as folks from local veterinary clinics, boarding kennels, groomers, and businesses that sell dog and cat products. Finally we dream of a day when the Adair County Humane Society and Field of Dreams Rescue collaborate on a regular basis for the benefit of homeless dogs and cats: ideally this would mean that the foster-based rescue would stop taking in dogs and cats directly from the public, but rather pull from the shelter when a particular animal has special needs (e.g. nursing mama with babies, animals requiring medication) or is not thriving in the shelter environment. This would relieve both organizations of current burdens at the same time that it allows both to make the best use of their strengths.

KV-POP’s kick-off meeting will take place on Thursday, September 26th at 7:00 PM in the meeting room of the Adair County Health Department (1001 South Jamison Street). We are still actively recruiting new members. We encourage current supporters of both ACHS and FODR and all other animal lovers to join us as we brainstorm about ways that we can do better together.