It all started with a road trip. As my wife Blythe and I jumped in our car to drive from our home in Orange County to San Francisco,
We had no idea that we were about to conceive an idea that would have an effect on thousands of lives. We were at a crossroads before our road trip even began, but we need to put the story in reverse a bit before we get to where we are going.
Blythe and I fell in love and got married about a year after I purchased Alicia Pet Clinic from a retiring Dr. Ed Dykstra. My plan was to revamp the little veterinary clinic that was kind of stuck in a funk of non-progressive veterinary care that matched its harvest gold countertops and wood paneling. It was perfect for the late 70s but was long overdue for a big leap forward. I busted my butt for those first 5 years to grow my practice into something vibrant and powerful, as I fully intended when I signed the purchase agreement that we would be leaving our little, beat down clinic for a bigger place that would be able to nurture the veterinary facility of my dreams. After a long search for a location that would suit us, we finally found our spot which was all ready for its makeover from an auto mechanic to an award winning, state-of-the-art veterinary facility. So, as the buildout of the new location proceeded slowly, we came to see the reality of the position that we were in with our old location.
You see, we had this very functional spot that was perfect for doing something with animals, it just wasn’t perfect anymore for our practice. So, what to do? After turning over several options, we began to see that this old place that we were ready to abandon was the key to us achieving a parallel dream that rode along with achieving professional success in my career as a veterinarian: philanthropy. Blythe and I had talked so many times up to that point about how we wanted to eventually give back to the world in a big way; when we had lots of extra money, how we would like to do this or that with it. When would we get to that point? Do we have to wait until the kids are grown and our financial responsibilities give way to extra money as we are ready to retire? That seemed like it was more than a lifetime away and it truly depressed us thinking that we would have to wait to be charitable. We realized before we got north of Los Angeles that we were sitting on our resource and that now was the time to take that big leap.
So, with the community in mind, we created the concept of The Pet Rescue Center. Using our old location as a jumping off point, we could revamp the location into an innovative animal rescue center and resource for the community. We would take all of the problems that we recognized in the pet world and literally try to address all of them with our non-profit. Spay/neuter, rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, education, pet food and supplies for needy pet owners, financial support for indigent pet owners, doing all of it while working cooperatively with shelters, other rescue groups, veterinarians, everybody! By the time we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge, we had it all pinned down including our mission statement and motto. Yes, we were idealistic. Isn’t that how every charity is born?
Well, something happened along the road to opening the doors of The Pet Rescue Center. Right before we were to open the doors of ourinnovative center, the City of Laguna Hills informed us of a zoning issue that they were absolutely not going to overlook which literally killed the idea of our physical location being reborn as The PRC. We went back to the drawing board with the old place, eventually relaunching it into yet another huge community gift: South Orange County’s first low-cost spay and neuter clinic which demands its own story to be told another time. We are still looking for a facility for The Pet Rescue Center and board our rescues until our new home is found.
It’s been a wild ride. The Pet Rescue Center now has saved over 1000 pets and created that many new families, enhancing countless lives. We have provided pet food for hundreds of needy pet owners. We have educated the public, worked with dozens of shelters, rescue groups and veterinarians to make pets well and to intervene in ways that other groups could not. We have innovated in the realm of animal based philanthropy and have set a new standard for animal rescue, community support and collaborative efforts to enhance the lives of pets and the people that love them. We have poured our hearts and souls, our time, and lots and lots of our own money into this dream of giving back. We are proud of what we have created.
written by Matthew Wheaton DVM, Co-Founder The Pet Rescue Center and owner of Alicia Pet Care Center