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AHA!: Serving household pets and their families

Volunteer organization aims to cut costs of spaying, neutering

Volunteer Diana Maculan of Lindenhurst works at the front desk April 6 as she talks about the items donated at the AHA! Alliance for Humane Action Resale Shop on Grand Avenue in Lindenhurst. Maculan became a volunteer after her mother's cat was neutered through AHA!
Volunteer Diana Maculan of Lindenhurst works at the front desk April 6 as she talks about the items donated at the AHA! Alliance for Humane Action Resale Shop on Grand Avenue in Lindenhurst. Maculan became a volunteer after her mother's cat was neutered through AHA!

LINDENHURST – The resale shop is tucked away in Linden Plaza, a small strip of storefronts just off Grand Avenue in Lindenhurst.

With Easter fast approaching, the front window display is decorated with statues of bunnies in different poses. Small squares of potting soil take up one side of the display, where small, tentative sprouts rise up from the dirt to bask in the sunshine whenever it breaks through the clouds. Soon these sprouts will transform into vibrant Mexican sunflowers, just in time for Monarch butterfly season. 

Beyond the window display is a trove of trinkets, treasures and curios waiting to find a new home. Delicate teacups and saucers fill a display on one wall, catty-corner to a collection of old “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys” books. 

Part antiques store, part consignment shop, part boutique, everything in the store is priced to sell. For anyone battling a preemptive round of buyer’s remorse or indecision, this simple fact will help relieve them of their suffering: The proceeds from this resale shop help fund the Alliance for Humane Action’s (AHA!) Animal welfare programs. 

Founded in 2008, AHA! is a volunteer organization dedicated to serving families and their pets by offering a low-cost spay and neutering program for cats, dogs and rabbits. Since its inception, AHA! has “helped thousands of people get their pets safely sterilized and vaccinated” at its two clinics located in Lake Villa and Wonder Lake. 

“You have to have it in here,” founder Sharon Johnson says, tapping her chest as she speaks of the people who devote their time and energy to the program. “We were very lucky when we started our program that our vet in Wonder Lake just said yes. In fact, he just recently spayed and neutered 38 cats for us by himself on a Sunday that was his birthday.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are about “6 (million) to 8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year,” less than half of which go on to find new homes. Spaying and neutering pets can help drastically reduce that number as well as have additional health benefits for the animals. Spaying reduces the possibility of severe health risks, such as breast tumors and uterine infections, “which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats,” according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

Unfortunately, at times, the cost of the procedure can be prohibitive to families.

“It’s ridiculously expensive,” Johnson says. “At first, we started [serving] only the people that really, really need the help. … We’re getting people who are calling that are getting quotes for a cat for $700.”

Johnson adds a common misconception surrounding spaying and neutering cats is to wait six months before doing so when in actuality, a female cat can go into her first heat and get pregnant at four months of age.

Lake County’s Spay and Stay is a program dedicated to “humanely control[ing] the population of feral and stray cats” and nearby McHenry County Animal Services and Assistant Program (ASAP) offers similar services for feral or stray outdoor animals, but Johnson adds: “You have to do both. You can’t just do the feral and then have cats inside that are reproducing as well. So that’s what we do.”

In addition to the spay and neuter program, AHA! also offerings select vaccines and other pet services, including nail trimming and microchipping, that can be added to the pet’s surgery day. 

Eight years ago, Johnson opened the resale shop in order to be able to help families beyond Lake County. 

“We get a little bit of Lake County funding – a little – so that can only help people in Lake County,” she explains. “But look where we sit: There’s McHenry, there’s Wisconsin. I didn’t want to have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t help you.’ So this helps us be able to help those people.”

The store accepts donations of gently used household goods, including but not limited to furniture, books, housewares, handbags and home decor items. It is run by a small team of volunteers, including Johnson. 

The resale shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. AHA!’s clinic days are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; location and hours vary by day and appointments. For information or to book an appointment, call 847-960-8689, ext. 1. 

Dog spay/neuter pricing 

Up to 25 pounds: $85

25 to 80 pounds: $105

More than 80 pounds: $110 and up

Cat spay/neuter pricing

Male/female: $82*

Extra fee if cat in heat: $20

* Cat spay/neuter prices include rabies and distemper vaccines, Lake County rabies tag. All prices include pain medication injection. For additional information and prices, visit www.ahaworks.org.

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