Bob Delp, heavyset and gruff, is perched at the end of a twin-sized bed in a hotel-room-turned animal clinic. It’s dimly lit; a small table covered with a white towel occupies the room’s center. Mamma Bear, a German Shepherd and Rottweiler mix, sits on the floor next to Delp, nuzzling her caramel-brown face against his leg. No way she’s hopping up on that table. Dr. Cherri Trusheim kneels down to meet the dog’s gaze.
“Do you want a treat?” she asked.
Mamma Bear replies politely in the affirmative, calmly lifting her paw.
She is among the first pets to live here at Mary’s Place Guest Rooms, a onetime Travelodge owned by Amazon that, in April, became a temporary homeless shelter run by Mary’s Place. On Thursday, the shelter ran its first clinic for pet residents, a service offered in partnership with Trusheim’s Urban Animal veterinary clinic on Capitol Hill. Delp moved into the shelter a few months ago with his family — his daughter, her husband, their two kids and another puppy named Tinkerbell — after spending nearly a month living in a van. They came to Seattle from Las Vegas, expecting some help with housing that ultimately fell through. Mamma, as she’s affectionately known, has been with them through it all.
Technically, Mamma is the property of Delp’s daughter, Mary, who adopted her two years ago on Black Friday. But there’s no question where Mamma’s true allegiance lies. On the drive up from Las Vegas, she rode shotgun next to Delp the entire way.
Thursday night at the clinic, she hardly left his side.
She gets on just as well with the little ones. Standing outside the makeshift clinic on the shelter’s first floor, Mary’s daughter holds George, a latte-colored kitten singing soft meows. Mamma, with a mother-like gentleness, licks the furry head. Mary’s daughter loves it.
“My kids would be devastated if we couldn’t have Mamma Bear and Tinkerbell with us,” Mary said. “They are really critical for our family’s emotional well-being.”
Finding a place to keep her family together and safe, including their dogs, has been challenging. It is common among traditional shelters to bar temporary residents who arrive bearing partners, possessions and pets. Of six emergency shelters that Mary’s Place manages, The Guest Rooms is the first to accept pets. The fact that families here have their own dorm-style rooms makes that possible, said Liz McDaniel, who oversees the shelter.
Back in the exam room, Trusheim examines a sore on Mamma’s eye. Benign, she says, nothing to worry about. Mamma receives three vaccinations and Trusheim informs Delp that she’ll need a booster shot in the coming weeks.
McDaniel said the clinic aspires to establish an ongoing relationship between Urban Animal and the pets and the families here. The clinic, she said, should occur every month, but scheduling will depend, in part, on the specific needs of the animals.
Since the clinic was announced, the buzz around the shelter has been positive.
“The families are relieved to not have to leave one of their children behind,” McDaniel said.
Beyond the focus on veterinary care, Mary’s Place also has partnered with the MattieDog Foundation, an animal rescue organization, to provide the shelter with monthly shipments of pet food from a Toronto-based pet food company.
Not all of the shelter’s animals rushed to the clinic on Thursday night. A turtle eventually showed up, but the vets had already gone.