Leo Carroll rolled through the shadowy light of dawn recently on what he calls his "mission of kindness."
At the wheel of a Los Angeles County's "Pet Mobile," he headed for Lucy Miller's house in Whittier to pick up her charcoal-black cat, Midnight.
It is the kind of trip Carroll has made often since last year when the Department of Animal Care and Control began a pickup and delivery service that transports pets belonging to senior citizens and the disabled to a county spay-neuter clinic, where the surgery is performed for a standard fee.
Miller's cat was going to the department's Downey facility to be spayed, an operation that means a 24-hour stay at the clinic.
Important to Senior Citizens
"To a senior or a shut-in, the pets are exceptionally important. . . . To them, pets are like a companion or a child. It's everything," said Carroll, 69, a retired food service manager who has been a volunteer reserve animal control officer for five years.
"Those people are concerned about how you're going to handle their animal," he said. "You've got to be as gentle as a feather. The key is a lot of tender loving care. It's sort of a mission of kindness."
Carroll's approach has received high marks from the county Department of Senior Citizen Affairs, which last month agreed to finance the program for a second year, allocating $5,000 to keep the Pet Mobile mini-bus running through December.
For the next two months, the bright blue mini-bus, which was donated to the county by a Hollywood-based group, Actors and Others for Animals, will be based at the Downey animal shelter on Garfield Avenue, serving most of southeast Los Angeles County.
Later, the program will rotate among the county's other five shelters--in Carson, Baldwin Park, Agoura Hills, Lancaster and Castaic, said Kaye Michelson, the Pet Mobile project coordinator.
In 1984, the county received about 500 inquiries into the program, with Carroll picking up 105 cats and dogs for surgery.
"At first a lot of people ask, 'What's the catch?' But there just isn't any," Michelson said. "We're just providing a free service because it benefits them and us, by reducing the potential for unwanted litters."