KNOXVILLE, TENN. – A big relief.

That’s exactly what DeAndra called Remote Area Medical’s Veterinary Clinic earlier this year. A chance sighting on the news during the 2022 Winter Olympics alerted her to the clinic, and she knew she needed to get her 3-year-old dog Cleo in for updated shots and a spay surgery.
“I love it,” DeAndra said. “I’ve been needing to do this, but I really couldn’t afford it with COVID and my job. It’s so crazy, because I was just saying, ‘How am I going to be able to save up money for this?’”

RAM’s Veterinary Clinic – in collaboration with Young-Williams Animal Center – was set up in Knoxville during late February. The Driving Health for Pets & People into Vulnerable Communities project is made possible in part by funding from PetSmart Charities. Through that project, RAM and Young-Williams delivered free veterinary services to 131 pets worth more than $20,000 in preventative care at the drive-thru vaccine and microchip clinic on February 26.
“It’s a big relief,” DeAndra told RAM afterward. “I’ve been wanting to get her spayed for a long time, but I just felt like I couldn’t afford it every time I tried to do it. So, when I found out about the clinic, it was a really big help. Everyday stuff – food and gas – it’s just so high, you really can’t afford to do a lot of extra stuff that you want to do. Stuff is just so expensive now.”

DeAndra recently found out she is diabetic, adding that it is another medical expense that would take money away from getting Cleo the care she needed. She had to take care of herself in order to take care of Cleo, and that sometimes left her feeling like a bad pet owner.

“At that time, it [her diagnosis] was very challenging,” she said. “I didn’t have any idea about what things would cost – what type of diabetic I was – and I had to go to all of these specialists for these tests. I thought I’d never be able to get her spayed…I don’t even think I can express in words how much relief this is for me.”

Cleo is a big part of DeAndra’s family. Her 13-month-old grandson has grown up with Cleo, and the duo have a special bond. Since her grandson was born, Cleo just attached to him. DeAndra wants to make sure Cleo was healthy so the two can grow up together.

“It’s so weird,” she said. “She’s so gentle with him. It’s like she knows he’s little. She’ll just sit there and let him pull and tug on her, and he kisses her. At first, we thought she’d be too big, but she’s actually really, really good…she’s more protective of him than she is of us.”

DeAndra shared that the clinic process was easy and organized. She showed up, and volunteers got her through the check-in process. When she arrived at the treatment area, Cleo was able to get more help than DeAndra originally thought.

Cleo had an issue with her fur; there was a patch of hair missing from where she had repeatedly scratched. She received medication for the area, and in the month following the clinic, the hair had grown back.

“I was really impressed,” she said. “I didn’t even think they would get to look at that. I just thought it would be shots, and then, they send you on your way.”

Working in healthcare, DeAndra says she understands the human side of things, but with animals, it’s much the same. It’s about helping others.

“Every single [volunteer] was out there in the rain helping people,” DeAndra recalled. “They were blessings. It was really raining, and they just had smiles on their faces helping. I truly was impressed with that. To do this and not get paid for it – to be out in the rain away from your families to help other people – I truly appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”