Earlier this month, Kerri Hatcher Fickling took to Facebook to post an offer that she called her Christmas gift for Macon.
I will personally pay for any female dog to be spayed, she said on the social media site. Even more, I will take time off work to pick up your dog, drive her to the vet and return her to you that evening.
Rescuing animals is almost like a full-time job for Fickling, who owns three dogs and is currently fostering 10 more in her home. She also donates money and materials to several area rescue groups.
A glance at Ficklings Facebook page is a window into her passion. Its dominated by images of dogs, and she shares daily posts from rescue groups about animals available for adoption and from owners asking for help finding their lost pets.
Last week was especially heavy with reports of abandoned puppies and pregnant strays all over town, she said.
So she decided to do something dramatic. Somebodys got to end this, Fickling said. I decided that Im going to spay all the female (dogs) in Macon and at least help to take care of Macons problem.
Since then, she has paid for the surgery for 40 to 50 animals, she said, and has been inundated with many more calls and emails from people hoping to take her up on her offer. The interest has come in overwhelming numbers, she said, but she remains determined in her mission. Fickling said she wants to have 2,000 dogs spayed.
Friday, Fickling traveled to Gordon Animal Clinic to drop off six dogs for the surgery.
The clinics veterinarian, Dr. Ivey Dennard, said he works with about a dozen humane groups and offers them a reduced rate on spaying and neutering.
These groups are going out of their way to help control the pet population, Dennard said, but its just the tip of the iceberg.
Dennard, who has been a veterinarian 40 years, said people dont often put a priority on sterilizing their animals because of cost.
People just cant afford the procedures and then buy food and clothes for their children, he said.
Its really nice to have someone like Mrs. Fickling to come and help them out with that, Dennard said. She is going to make a big difference in the Middle Georgia area if she continues doing what she is doing.
In addition to the six dogs she dropped off Friday, Fickling paid for eight more to be operated on at the clinic earlier this week, Dennard said. She also left her credit card, essentially running a tab for anyone who contacts her and agrees to drop off their dog.
Dennard said his clinic charges $55 for spaying each female dog if they are dropped off by a humane group.
Even at this reduced rate, if Fickling reaches her goal of 2,000 animals, it will cost her $110,000.
Fickling owns a real-estate business with her husband and is able to donate money because she has savings, she said.
But beyond the monetary cost, her crusade has brought on new stress.
Im getting hundreds of calls a day while trying to work, while trying to take care of my 7-year-old, she said. I had some people actually be a little bit impolite to me on Facebook.
She figures she must not be responding to calls fast enough for some people.
She thought about giving up because of the unwanted comments, she said, but has since decided to keep true to her holiday promise.
Hopefully this will catch on and spread to other areas, she said.
Fickling said she knows she needs to reach people who dont have computer access or smartphones, so she decided to canvass neighborhoods. She also has reached out to the Bibb County Animal Welfare Department and asked employees to alert people in need to her offer.
Part of my mission now has been education, she said.
There are actually some folks out there who think that dogs need to have a litter or two in order to have a full and enriched life, she said. Its just the most bizarre thing Ive ever come across.
Anyone in Macon interested in having their dog spayed may contact Kerri Klett Hatcher Fickling through her Facebook page.
To contact writer Grant Blankenship, call 256-9589. To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.