The Vos of love

Michael Stockinger

There are shelters or places that give food, and offer health and legal services for the homeless including some who are lonely and in need of companionship.

In some cases these people will find a stray dog or cat and adopt them to lessen their loneliness.

But what happens to these animals when they need help?

That’s exactly what 81-year-old Anneke Vos thought 23 years ago when she began working at Loaves and Fishes, a homeless shelter located on North C Street.

“When Loaves and Fishes started it was very small and they would give out sandwiches,” Vos said, with a thick Dutch accent.

“Men would bring their dogs and that was very sad because these animals, of course, had to be fed, but there was never any food for them.”

Then, Vos began to bring food and other supplies to the shelter for the homeless animals.

“I brought leashes and collars, and tried to persuade people to have their animals fixed, which came out of my own money,” Vos said.

Vos is very friendly and seems to know everyone at the shelter. While walking through the village-like setting of Loaves and Fishes, she waves and greets every person she encounters. Although she is 81-years-old, Vos is still very sharp and walks the length of the village with no problems.

After years of providing services to the homeless and their animals, Vos said that Loaves and Fishes allowed her to build a kennel for the animals while their owners did what they needed to do at the shelter.

“We built the kennel from scratch. It was all dirt and we put in the cages,” Vos said. “We made mistakes and the cages broke at first, but then we realized that we needed to make them out of steel.”

The kennel is small and definitely handmade with its cement floor, boarded walls and a patched together ceiling.

“We open the kennel at seven in the morning, and the animals can stay until three in the afternoon, but my condition is that the animals must be fixed in order to stay here,” Vos said.

“We don’t need more dogs and cats,” Vos said. “Cats are so overpopulated it is horrible ?” they should all be fixed.”

“Sometimes people will bring in six to seven cats to be fed, and they all need to be fixed, which we will pay for,” Vos said.

While in the kennel for the day, the animals are given food and water. They are also taken out for walks throughout the day.

As far as funds go, Vos said she racks up a $5000 veterinarian bill a month, which she pays most of from her own pocket or through donations.

“I don’t like begging and asking for donations – the places I call, they always know my voice and what I’m asking for,” Vos said.

People also donate money and pet supplies, which are definitely needed, Vos said.

One of the organizations that helps is WOOF, which stands for Welfare of Our Furry Friends – WOOF donates ripped or torn bags of pet food that is collected from grocery stores.

Animals are not only brought in to be fed, but are also brought in for medical attention.

“I’m here everyday and people always call me with accidents, abscesses, and you name it ?” the calls start early in the morning, but that comes with the job,” Vos said.

Vos said typically 40-45 animals are brought in each day. Not only are these animals cats and dogs but any animal you can think of has been brought in.

“They bring in baby birds, opossums, snakes, baby raccoons, ferrets, squirrels, and once a lemming ?” I say these are wild animals and they tell me ‘No, I’ll take care of them,'” Vos said.

“They bring in random animals and they want me to help them,” Vos said. “They’re lonely people. Whatever they see, they say ‘I’ll take it to Anneke,'” Vos said.

Vos said that she gives these wild animals to local wild animal rescue centers, or buys the person food and cages for their pet.

“With birds, I will take them to wildlife people,” Vos said. “Whatever it is, I call them and find out what I should do.”

“They all take care of each other out there, and so they also want to take care of the animals they encounter,” Vos said.

Currently, the animals can only stay in the kennel for the day, and if left over night they are given to the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which Vos doesn’t like doing.

“I’ll never bring anything to the pound because they are put down there, and I don’t like the SPCA,” Vos said. “If I bring them to the SPCA, I’ll put a hold on them so they don’t get killed.”

Although the kennel and services that Loaves and Fishes offer for pets has come a long way from its beginnings, Vos still wants it to expand it.

“My dream is to have foster homes for the animals to be adopted as pets, and to have a real kennel that offers protection from rain and where animals can stay overnight,” Vos said.

If you would like to donate money or supplies to Loaves and Fishes, call (916) 446-0874.

Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]