When Forsyth County veterinarian Tracy Land opened an e-mail that said she had been selected by the Animal Planet cable television network as a top 10 finalist for "hero of the year," she thought it was spam and deleted it.
Come to find out, it was legitimate.
In fact, Land's co-worker, Pet Vet Manager Terrye Bradley, was the one who nominated her for the honor.
"Terrye may have mentioned that she nominated me a few months back, but I didn't think anything about it," Land said. "When I heard I was in the top 10, I was like, 'What? Top 10 of what?'"
Forsyth County residents can go online to vote for Land for "hero of the year." If she wins, Animal Planet will donate $10,000 to an animal-related charity of her choice.
Land said if she were to win, she would put the money toward "Project Spay/Neuter" at her Pet Vet Inc. practice to concentrate on sterilization.
She estimated she could sterilize about 250 pets with that kind of money.
Land said when she heard about the top prize, her first thought was, "How many animals can we spay with that kind of money? It would be a lot fewer litters in the county next year."
Bradley said last month the business had to stop taking applications for a financial assistance program for spaying and neutering animals.
If Land wins the contest, the clinic can continue with its program for low-income families, offering $15 sterilization for pets.
"If you make spaying and neutering available to low-income pet owners, that has a high impact on the number of excess animals at the pound," Land said.
"Statistically," she continued, "a large part of your population of surplus pets come from low-income owners. Because if you're struggling to pay your rent, you're not going to have the money to get your animal spayed or neutered."
If Land wins, she will also get a free trip for two anywhere she wants, so long as it's animal welfare-related.
"That would be nice," she said.
Land has been performing sterilizations for 21 years. In that time, she's spayed or neutered about 55,000 pets.
She averages 35 spay and neuter procedures a day, five days a week.
Voting began Monday and runs through Oct. 13. The winner will be announced Dec. 4 during Animal Planet's Heroes Week.