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 the spring of 2021 with the idea that by treating animals it is also possible to treat owners. A proof that the idea is bearing fruit: it has already saved lives.
It is a happy chaos that welcomes The duty behind the threshold of the Spot Clinic. Between the smoldering coffee, the loud voices and the warm noise, there is a howl here and there. It’s vet day in the local center of Quebec City, and as soon as the doors open, the front desk is filled with small-legged patients.
Jane brought her two cats, Mr. Mustache and Snookie. For this energetic 41-year-old mother of three grown children, her animal not only provides company. They provide, first, a balance that was often lacking in his turbulent life.
“I’m an emotional addict,” Jane explains. They were just going to tell me you’re beautiful, you’re fine, and I’m gone. Her Prince Charmings have never been this long. His stories of “love,” made of abuse and degradation, have always stung his heart. Each time affection and self-esteem waned, it was the drug that replaced them.
For three years, Snookie and Mr. Mustache given Jane what her exes never knew how to give her, “without whining, without stubbornness and without [la] deal with all names ”.
“These cats bring me a lot of love,” she says. They prevented me from freezing alone at night to satisfy my emotional needs. »
Direct to the right care
While the veterinarians in the consultation room examine the wounds of the two felines, Jane in the waiting room discusses her with her peer helper, a woman. Her ex-husband, who was released from prison a few months ago, started harassing her again, she explains. Another relapse after years of sobriety, another stay in therapy. “Now I’m fine,” she says. I am stable with my home 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 Laval University students, have helped alleviate, 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 abuse, homelessness, poverty or violence: The clinic alleviates the need for those who “fall through the cracks of the system”. Last year, they were more than 1000 to benefit from Spots services.
Relieve the masters
Since March 2021, the clinic has also treated animals one day a month. Since then, the phone has not stopped ringing, to such an extent that peer helpers on average have to spend ten hours a week filtering calls.
Florence Bergia and Marie-Ève Fortin, two professional veterinarians, established the service at Spot. Without knowing it, the two colleagues gave birth to a model that had hitherto been unheard of in Quebec. “We only found one such clinic, and that’s in California,” says Dr.D Bergia. There is no such clinic here that integrates veterinary care and general care for vulnerable people. »
It is for the purpose of relieving the masters that Dres Bergia and Fortin treat the animals at the clinic. “It allows you to connect with people who have animals,” Florence Bergia explains. “We enter their intimate sphere by talking about their animals. It’s a facilitator to get in touch with them.”
The animal usually represents, for a person on the street, an obstacle to getting care, as it is necessary to give up to give it up before crossing the door to a health institution. “People who are homeless often do not want to go to the hospital because they have nowhere to leave their pets,” says Dr.D Fort. At the Spot clinic, the dog or cat no longer becomes a hindrance, but rather a means of achieving treatment.
“These are people who do not necessarily want to consult themselves,” Marie-Ève Fortin continues. When they come here for their animals, a bond of trust is created and it is easier to help them. They almost always start talking about their own health when they talk about their pet. »
Daniel and Angie
Barely set up, the Spot Clinic’s veterinary service was already helping to save at least two lives. Last year, Daniel and his adorable pug were among the first to enjoy it. With two cancers, little Angie seemed doomed. Also his master.
“I had made three attempts,” explains Daniel. The fourth, I swore, would be the last. »
Single for a long time, the man with blue eyes and the 62-year-old who seems a 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,” says Dres Bergia and Fortin. Daniel’s life when he walked in the door of the Spot for the first time depended only on the little dog he held in his arms. “If she went, he says, I went too.”
One and a half years later, Angie is having a great time – just like her master, who has since volunteered for the clinic. “It was here I found my doctor. And my meetings with my social worker, Daniel concludes with pride, are becoming more and more scattered. »
Still single, but less alone, Daniel feels at home at the clinic. He socializes, discusses, welcomes with obvious pleasure those who, like him a year and a half ago, pass the door with an animal in poor shape in its arms. “They are angels here. They save lives.