Wexler loves dogs, supports clinic
Tennessee native Robyn Wexler has lived in San Diego and Ireland, but two years ago she settled back in Bedford County to be near her mother.
Wexler has spent much of her life traveling and searching for antiques to purchase and resell and had a shop in San Diego, but she has found a more valuable calling serving as the donor development director for the Middle Tennessee Spay and Neuter Clinic in Shelbyville, where she has been pleasantly amazed at the community-wide, grassroots effort to support the work of the clinic where an average of 25 dogs and cats are treated each day. Wexler, who owns a red brindle Greyhound named George and a black Border Collie named Bama, spent some time talking with Mark McGee for this week's Sunday Conversation.
T-G: What draws people to want to work with animals?
Wexler: "My grandfather, Bill Towery, and my mother lived on the edge of town at the time on Cannon Boulevard. People would constantly dump animals out there back in the 1950s and '60s. My grandfather and mother absolutely loved animals. They would take in all the strays. They had a rescue deal in the basement.
"My mother would make batches of oatmeal to feed the dogs, cats or whatever was there.
"So I was always brought up with that aesthetic. I do not have any children, so my dogs are like children to me. We always had dogs growing up. I grew up with rescue dogs. They have always been a part of my life."
"In California I did numerous events at my antique shop. I worked with rescue groups there. I also was involved in volunteer work in Mexico with the Baja Animal Sanctuary. It was an hour away from where I lived. I would organize food and supplies donations and veterinarians willing to volunteer their time to go down there. It has been a big portion of what I do inherently and naturally."
T-G: How did you get involved with the Middle Tennessee Spay and Neuter Clinic?
Wexler: "When I came to Bedford County I wanted to go and volunteer somewhere. Someone suggested the Middle Tennessee Spay and Neuter Clinic. I started volunteering and did that for seven months. I cleaned surgical instruments, helped clean incubations tubes and did laundry ... whatever they needed me to do.
"Because of my background it morphed into me becoming the director of donor development for the clinic. I do PR, community relations and work on any kind of events we have. I try to be the face of the clinic and go out into the community and talk with people about spaying and neutering their animals and the benefits of that and being a liaison between the community and the clinic. We are always looking for more ways to do fund-raising.
"I never know what a day is going to be like. But that is part of the excitement of the job. I love being out in the community, but I love being in the clinic too."
T-G: Why are some people hesitant to spay or neuter their animals?
Wexler: "A big problem everywhere is accidental litter situations. Between five and ten million animals are euthanized in the United States each year because there are not enough homes. We look at spaying and neutering as rescue prevention. We want every animal to have a safe home and a loving family.
"They say they want to breed them and have more dogs just like that dog. I want my children to see the miracle of birth. There are videos and books to show that.
"They think it is going to hurt the animal. You are going to end up with a much better dog or cat with a better temperament. They are going to be healthier. Testicular cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer occur in animals just like in humans. Spaying and neutering can help prevent these cancers from happening."
T-G: Are the people of Bedford County becoming more educated about the benefits and need for spaying and neutering their animals?
Wexler: "I have been so impressed with all of the work the people in the animal community and individuals are doing. People are really stepping up to get their dogs fixed.
"There are so many lovely rescue groups working to find the correct homes for animals. Everyone is working together to alleviate overpopulation of animals and helping to keep them out of shelters. The rescue community here is phenomenal.
"I am madly in love with this community. People are so kind. People have jumped on board to do things and help us in so many ways. I cannot say enough for the generosity, compassion and the love for animals people in the community have here.
"The clinic was founded in 2010 and we currently are at roughly 19,000 spay and neuter surgeries -- quite amazing and impressive numbers!
"MTSNC is busy. We also use grants. That is one of the big things I do. Anyone who wants to have an animal spayed or neutered can afford to have it done. We offer high-volume, high-quality, low-cost spay and neuter services.
"Financial donations are really down right now because there have been so many natural disasters like the hurricanes and the wildfires which have happened all at one time. We hope people do not forget about our needs here at Middle Tennessee Spay and Neuter Clinic."
T-G: Who oversees and performs the operations?
Wexler: "We have a medical director, Dr. Rachel M. Lampley. Kimberly Warren is the executive director for MTSNC."
T-G: What are your two favorite breeds of dogs?
Wexler: "I have had as many as five Greyhounds, but pit bulls are also one of my favorites. One of my really special dogs, a pit mix, Luca, was found in a dumpster down in Tijuana and was rescued by the Baja Animal Sanctuary. He was very ill. I took him to the shop every day. He could barely walk. With a lot of love, food and veterinary care he lived to be 13.
"Just as with people all dogs are individuals. I love the way pit bulls look. I think they are so handsome ... so gorgeous. And they are sweet dogs. They can end up in the wrong hands. They want to please their owners and people have exploited that."
T-G: Greyhounds are usually available from various Greyhound rescue groups after their racing careers have ended. What are the traits you like about a Greyhound?
Wexler: "They are a different breed from regular dogs. I'm not an expert, but from my experience the best way I can summarize it is they are very similar to horses when they have outlived their usefulness on the race track.
"At two years old, if they are not going to be bred or they are not going to make it as a racer, what are you going to do with these animals?
"Greyhound rescue groups will go anywhere to rescue a Greyhound. You are saving a life.
"They are sprinters. They want to run through your house or garden and then eat and sleep. They are quite low key. They are very tidy. They do not bark a lot. They are gentle, loving and so sweet.
"You have to be really careful in keeping them on leashes. They can run 40 miles an hour and they can take off and then not know where they are.
"They have paper-thin skins. If they get a tiny scrape from something they will bleed like crazy. They cannot be outside. They cannot deal with hot or cold temperatures. If you want to have a dog inside and be part of the family I think a greyhound is a good choice as a cherished family companion."
T-G: Talk about how Bama became a rescue dog?
"Wexler: "He was rescued prior to when I got here. He was in the floods in Nashville in 2010. He was rescued off of a roof with his litter mates during the flood. He is wonderful."
T-G: What basic information does the public need to know about the clinic?
Wexler: "We are open three days a week -- Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The fee for cats for spaying and neutering is $30. Dogs can be spayed and neutered for $50. There is an extra charge of dogs over 50 pounds.
"Animals can be dropped off between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. It is same-day surgery. Dogs can be picked up between 3 and 3:30 p.m. Cats can be picked up between 3:30 and 4 p.m.
"Vaccinations are $10. Micro-chipping is $20. Heartworm tests are $20 and feline leukemia/HIV tests are $25."
T-G: Are you still involved in the buying and selling of antiques?
Wexler: "I do not currently have a shop, but I am still involved with antiques on an independent basis. I do a little bit of selling. My main focus is my job with the spay and neuter clinic."
T-G: I know you bought antiques in Ireland for resale in the United States, but you have also lived there. What is your fascination with the "Emerald Isle"?
Wexler: "While I was in college at San Diego State University, I went to Ireland for a summer and lived and worked there in Dublin.
"But the first time I went was in 1988 and I fell madly in love with it. I had a place to stay there so I went over there and worked as a waitress.
"When I had my shop in San Diego I imported European antiques so I would go to England, Ireland and France. I would go to Ireland at least once a year. I love Irish history. I have spent a lot of time in Belfast in Northern Ireland. I just feel really at home there. It is a very special place for me."