An unprecedented medical approach is being implemented in a Quebec City clinic reserved for vulnerable and marginalized people. Le Spot has been offering free veterinary care since spring 2021 with the idea that by treating animals, it is also possible to treat owners. Proof that the idea is bearing fruit: it has already saved lives.
It is a happy shambles that welcomes The duty behind the threshold of the Spot Clinic. Between the simmering coffee, the loud voices and the warm hubbub, a yelp sounds here and there. It’s veterinary care day at the local downtown Quebec City, and as soon as the doors open, the reception room is filled with little legged patients.
Jane brought her two cats, Mr. Mustache and Snookie. For this energetic 41-year-old mother of three grown children, her animals don’t just provide companionship. They provide, first, a balance that was often lacking in his life marked by turbulence.
“I’m an emotional addict,” explains Jane. They just needed to tell me you’re beautiful, you’re fine, and I was gone. Her Prince Charmings have never been so for long. His stories of “love”, made of abuse and denigration, have always dented his heart. Whenever affection and self-esteem waned, it was the drug that replaced them.
For three years, Snookie and Mr. Mustache have given Jane what her exes never knew how to give her, “without the whining, without the stubbornness and without [la] deal with all names”.
“These cats bring me a lot of love,” she says. They prevented me from going to freeze alone, at night, to satisfy my emotional need. »
Direct to the right care
While the veterinarians in the consultation room examine the sores of the two felines, Jane, in the waiting room, discusses hers with her peer helper, a woman. A former spouse recently resurfaced. A new source of anxiety that she is however able, today, to calm. “Now I’m fine,” she says. I am stable with my accommodation and my cats. »
The peer helper listens and takes news. If these are bad, he directs Jane towards the care provided by the Spot clinic. Doctors, nurses, dentists, nutritionists: for the past eight years, a whole team of caregivers, supported by students from Laval University, have been helping to relieve, often on a voluntary basis, the ailments of those who cross the threshold.
“People who come to Spot have faced significant challenges in their lives,” says its general coordinator, Marie-Pier Landry. Drug addiction, homelessness, poverty or violence: the clinic relieves the distress of those who “fall through the cracks of the system”. They were more than 1000, last year, to benefit from the services of Spot.
Relieve the masters
Since March 2021, the clinic has also treated animals, one day per month. Since then, the phone has not stopped ringing, to such an extent that peer helpers have to devote, on average, ten hours a week to filtering calls.
Florence Bergia and Marie-Ève Fortin, two professional veterinarians, rooted the service at Spot. Without knowing it, the two colleagues were giving birth to a model hitherto unheard of in Quebec. “We only found one clinic like that, and it’s in California,” says Dr.D Bergia. Here, no such clinic, which integrates veterinary care and general care for vulnerable people, exists. »
It is with the objective of relieving the masters that the Dres Bergia and Fortin treat the animals at the clinic. “It allows you to make a connection with people who have animals, explains Florence Bergia. We enter their intimate sphere by talking about their animal. It is a facilitator to get in touch with them. »
The animal usually represents, for a person in the street, an obstacle to obtaining care since it is necessary to resign oneself to abandoning it before crossing the door of a health establishment. “People who are homeless often don’t want to go to the hospital because they have nowhere to leave their pet,” says Dr.D Fort. At the Spot clinic, the dog or cat no longer becomes a hindrance, but rather a means of obtaining treatment.
“These are people who will not necessarily consult for themselves,” continues Marie-Ève Fortin. When they come here for their animal, a bond of trust is created, and it is easier to help them. They almost always start talking about their own health when talking about their pet’s. »
Daniel and Angie
Barely set up, the Spot clinic’s veterinary care service was already helping to save at least two lives. Daniel and his adorable pug were, last year, among the first to benefit from it. With two cancers, little Angie seemed doomed. His master too.
“I had made three attempts, explains Daniel. The fourth, I swore it would be the last. »
Single for a long time, the man with blue eyes and the 62 years that seem little lived his loneliness badly. In 2021, he was in such bad shape that he no longer traveled without his social worker. “He was extremely, extremely fragile,” say the Dres Bergia and Fortin. Daniel’s life, when he walked through the door of the Spot for the first time, depended only on the little dog he held in his arms. “If she left, he says, I left too. »
A year and a half later, Angie is doing wonderfully – just like her master, who has since become a volunteer for the clinic. “This is where I found my GP. And my meetings with my social worker, concludes Daniel with pride, are more and more spaced out. »
Still single, but less alone, Daniel feels at the clinic at home. He socializes, discusses, welcomes with obvious pleasure those who, like him a year and a half ago, pass the doorstep with an animal in bad shape in their arms. “They are angels here. They save lives.