The Gusmobile: A Winnetka Family Helps Save Chicago’s Pets

The Gus Mobile looks unassuming on the outside.

The white PAWS Chicago truck is marked with pictures of cats and Gus, the dog who is the vehicle’s namesake. But step inside, and the “Gus Bus” is a fully equipped spay and neuter clinic.

The Gus Mobile was donated by Winnetka residents Philip and Janice Beck, who adopted the real-life Gus, a Golden Retriever mix, after he was rescued by PAWS volunteers during the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, floods in 2008. Gus became the perfect companion for the Beck’s other dog, Henry. But it was a friend in Denver who had funded a spay and neuter van for a local animal shelter who inspired the idea.

“We talked to the PAWS people about whether that would be useful in Chicago, and they said it would be very useful,” says Philip. “When it came to naming it we thought it would be fun to name it after Gus because he was a shelter dog for PAWS.”

The 33-foot bus has three operating tables, its own oxygen-making machine, air conditioning, heating, refrigeration and anesthetics—the Gus Mobile is not messing around! Surgeons here can perform up to 65 surgeries a day, and all on wheels.

Those wheels are necessary to achieve the goal of PAWS Chicago.

“Our mission is to make Chicago a no kill city,” says Rochelle Michalek, executive director of PAWS Chicago.

The Gus Mobile is part of PAWS’ effort to offer accessible, low-cost spay and neuters across the city to decrease the amount of stray animals who must be put down.  Thanks to a partnership with PETCO, PAWS performs free spay and neuters for Chicago pet owners on Medicare or those living within designated sectors of the city with the highest numbers of stray animal calls, mainly on the south side of Chicago. The general public is also welcome to spay and neutering in the Gus Mobile for a standard price of $25 for cats and $125 for dogs.

“To date, we have done about 112,000 surgeries,” says Michalek.

PAWS Chicago is the city’s largest no kill pet adoption organization. The 14,000 square foot headquarters on North Clybourn in Chicago houses the cats and dogs up for adoption in clean and spacious rooms. Also at their headquarters is the Lurie Medical Clinic, where cats and dogs brought to PAWS are treated for illness and disease upon arrival.

“It is very warm, very welcoming, and educational. We are taking fear out of adoption,” says Michalek.

Spay and neuters are performed in the Gus Mobile at the PETCO located on 11720 S. Marshfield Avenue on selected Sundays from May through October. Please call (773) 522-7729 for more information.

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