AMERICAN CANYON — A gift has given back to Napa County pet owners – twice.

At a clinic Sunday in American Canyon, the owners of 155 dogs and cats lined up to bring in their furry companions for shots, tracking microchips, and spay and neuter vouchers – all offered free through the nonprofit Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR). It was a gift that drew the gratitude of many visitors enabled to protect their four-legged family members, without spending hundreds of dollars for a veterinarian visit.

“It’s a godsend; for my daughter, it’s a godsend,” said Debbie Donham of Vallejo as she held her daughter Kari’s 4-year-old Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix Midnight outside the city’s Senior Multi-Use Center – one of several dozen owners who queued up before the clinic opened at 11 a.m.

“This is a blessing like you would not believe. I cannot believe it’s true – I can’t express how grateful I am for this,” said Gina Bennett, whose 6-month-old cats Maurice Gibb and Lily Chops – rescued from shelters two weeks apart – stretched in separate carriers at her feet.

It was the second such event since January organized by JARR for the benefit of low-income and veteran pet owners, made possible by a $40,000 donation by the local philanthropist Beverly Wendel in memory of her late husband Barry Wendel, a psychologist and animal lover who died in 2014 at age 72. The group held an earlier clinic in Napa for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and is planning a third in Lake County this May, according to co-founder Monica Stevens.

Making the clinics possible was a promise to match donations to JARR dollar for dollar, an effort Beverly Wendel said was inspired by the couple’s past donations to animal rescue programs. In particular, the gift was intended to increase the number of spayed and neutered pets to reduce the homeless animal population, she told the St. Helena Star in December.

The seasonal increase in feline births made Sunday’s program, JARR’s third in American Canyon, all the more timely for pet welfare, according to Stevens.

“We like to get in at the front end, especially with cats, because the kitten season is upon us,” she said of the spay-neuter vouchers, which JARR is offering in partnership with Napa Humane. “This is a constant need; we expect people from Napa, Solano, even Sonoma – that tells you what the need is.”

“It’s very valuable; it enables people who are strapped for money to do the right thing by their dogs,” said Robert Vega, an American Canyon resident who arrived to get shots for his 4-year-old bichon-poodle brothers Hugo and Chiva. “And free always tends to be the clincher there.”

Once inside the senior center building, teams of volunteers tended to dogs in one room and cats in another. Tables bore dozens of small syringes to vaccinate the pets against rabies, distemper, parvovirus and other diseases – as well as treats to soothe the more frightened or jumpy patients before their shots.

One of the shortest trips to the American Canyon clinic was the block-long stroll by Destiny Peña, who carried her 2-month-old puppy Winston to be chipped “because he’s everywhere,” she admitted with a laugh. “If he does escape, somebody’s gonna take him and they won’t want to give him back!”

Waiting her turn outside the clinic, Peña soon made conversation with the woman next in line, Rachel Wilkes of Vallejo, while Winston curiously nuzzled Wilkes’ four-footed friend Prince.

“Last year, we lost a cat, which I never got vaccinated,” recalled Wilkes before nodding toward the dog in her lap. “I decided we’d make sure we didn’t let anything happen to him.”

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.