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Clifford the Big Red Bus

October 2, 2023

Officially, 2017 is when Ruthless Kindness was incorporated and received 501c3 nonprofit status. But 2020 is when Clifford the Big Red Bus, our mobile medical unit, entered the scene. So that’s when things really got moving.

Ruthless Kindness had been providing free veterinary care for people in crisis since being founded. However, when clients don’t have transportation or the ability to wait for a traditional veterinary appointment, it can be difficult to hold appointments. We needed to meet people and their animals where they were physically located. We needed to be able to meet them in a short enough time frame for them to access other critical services that they needed. It became obvious that we needed a mobile exam room. Except, as far as we knew, that wasn’t something that existed.

There are mobile veterinary units that are equipped with surgery suites and often cost a quarter million dollars. This would be excessively expensive and excessively large. We just needed to be able to bring a safe space for conversations and veterinary care to our clients and their furry family members.

None of us can remember where the idea to retrofit an ambulance came from, but once it occurred to us, we knew it was exactly what was needed. Ambulances have storage for medications, outlets for electricity, lights, and are easily disinfected. It was perfect.

After stiff competition on a government auction website, Clifford joined the family. He had previously been part of a fire station in a ski town in Utah, where they had used his 4WD for search and rescue and other tasks. A family member of a colleague flew to Utah and drove Clifford back to California for us. Then came the long process of taxes, permits, and registrations. Then finally it was time for Clifford to hit the road.

Clifford changed everything for the better. Every medication and piece of equipment that we need for a veterinary exam and additional veterinary treatment is contained and kept ready. We can respond to urgent calls, and be on our way with everything we need in minutes. We can hold all-day veterinary clinics for large groups of clients, with all of the supplies that we need. Cats have a quiet space to be examined that is contained. Our efficiency, organization, and our operational model improved greatly thanks to Clifford.

Most importantly, our ability to serve our clients and patients improved greatly with our mobile unit.

Affectionately known as Clifford the Big red Bus, our mobile veterinary unit is, in reality, making a huge difference for pets and people in our community. Clifford has seen over 1600 mobile veterinary patients. Every one of these patients is underserved with inadequate access to veterinary care. Most do not have a reliable source of pet food, but Clifford is able to deliver free pet food to all of our patients. Many of these clients are victims of domestic violence, and all are experiencing severe life challenges. All received care that was free of charge, at a location accessible for them.

Our farm animals are available for sponsorship, and so is Clifford. Running and maintaining Clifford is an expensive endeavor, with costs averaging over $7000 per year. If you feel moved to donate in honor of Clifford, we would be honored to put your support to use reaching more pets and people in need.

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