2008-07-30 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Velveeta became the "valium" for our rescued, stressed Afghan Hounds. A week after authorities seized 67 Afghans and 25 parrots, from a New Mexico hoarder at 3 a.m. July 14, the national breed club flew seven of the traumatized dogs here for a week's intensive R & R at a Long Island kennel before moving on to foster homes. As part of the transformation still in progress, we used cheese as a tasty pacifier. It helped work minor miracles.
Years ago a friend joked that I ran a "halfway house for emotionally disturbed Afghan Hounds." This was never truer than last week when I had the privilege of attending to our shell-shocked, sweet beauties while working alongside compassionate experts in the breed and animal behavior.
Afghan Angel - Anna Stromberg Franzoso- orchestrated the huge effort, surrounding the needy pups with her magic and incredibly skilled friends, too many to mention by name. None of this would have been possible without Don Snyder and Tracey Monahan generously lending their Deer Park boarding kennel, the volunteers' temporary home too.
Animal hoarding is always tragic, but when it involves a large, heavily coated magnificent breed with extremely sensitive psyches like Afghans, the victims are even more heart-breaking. These Afghans had lived in absolute filth at least a year, many never left the house. A dozen puppies died of parvo. Authorities
did not press charges against the owner who they felt was also in need of rescue. The Red Cross is helping clean up her house. Ironically, her website portrays a "Country Home for Afghans".
The Santa Fe animal shelter was faced with a daunting task of housing, vetting, and emergency shaving while Afghan Rescue transported the surviving dogs to several states. Rescue mobilizations like this cost a fortune. To help Afghan Hound Club of America Rescue or see more photos of these gorgeous creatures, visit: www.afghanhound.net. The following chronicles the odyssey of our 7 refugees, named for literary figures in hope that peace would re-enter their damaged spirits: THE ARRIVAL: Early Sat., July 19, Whitman, Frost and Edgar Afghan Poe (my heart throb) landed at Newark Airport. Imagine how terrifying a long flight would be for dogs that had never left their homes or seen outside people. Frost, the cream Adonis, walked out of his Vari-Kennel willingly but Edgar, the domino, was nearly catatonic. He accepted TTouch massage while he plastered himself to the crate which had to be unscrewed to get him in his run. Next day Anna picked up the two blonde girls-Jane Eyre and terrified Charlotte Bronte; plus Cyrano the semi-confident blue and Dante, a matted black & tan clone of Scar in the "Lion King." Despite aesthetic and anxiety woes, all were loving and gorgeous. None had the slightest idea what had or would happen to them. These dogs had never been on a leash. They just froze. Lifting was the way to move them. We spent hours petting and comforting to help them settle. Edgar remains motionless but appreciative. The girls bunked together so Charlotte would feel more secure. ROOM SERVICE: From as far as Riverhead and Westchester, helpers took turns mixing home-cooked chicken and rice in their kibble- a contrast to their former diet. We got them on a housebreaking schedule using belly support to urge them outdoors. Don lent me a key so I could be back for flexible dinner and bedtime visits, along with kind Julianna and Christina Wasolek. (Christina is a behaviorist with Afghan and Bronx Zoo experience, and soon published research about baby elephant vocalizations.) CURBSIDE VET: It was impossible to take the dogs to the vet in their present distressed state. Instead a mobile veterinarian, a good friend of Last Hope, came to the kennel on Tues. We double - leashed and carried each leggy Hound into the van where they were examined, heartworm/parasite tested, and microchipped. Our vet donated his services, but- hush- I'm not allowed to tell anyone he is a nice guy. GROOM-A-THON: Wed. Linda Rana of Murana Afghans and Sue Wrigley, Jane's new Mom, stripped Dante and Whitman. They filled a Hefty bag with hair. Anna and crew completed the metamorphosis later on. Hoses, clippers, dryers, shampoos are threatening to under-socialized dogs. I have witnessed many tough make-overs but have never seen anything as amazing as this. Afghans are so innate
to Anna, that she thinks on her feet and institutes Plan A, B, C so quickly that the Hounds do not even realize they are done. Frost became a bucking bronco when his knotted ears were clipped; matted Jane a raccoon rascal when clipped in stages. Velveeta served as a calming distraction. Later each, nestled in a tied T-shirt (an acupressure soother), was tucked in on new donated beds. We, not the dogs, capped off the hectic evening with pizza and champagne. NEW LEASH ON LIFE: Harnesses are easier then collars on frightened dogs. Part of rehab was to show these accustomed pack dogs that they were not alone. After Sue and I attached a leash to harness so they could get used to the feel, we reunited the clan in the enclosed yard. Seeing their siblings brought happy Hound smiles even to Charlotte. At first Edgar remained the wallflower; yet by the second day he was participating with low wags. Though I've never been so popular, I felt like a cheesy Jane Goodall catering the festivities with liver treats and sliced American. PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW: Friday eve Anna gave the gang finishing touches, HW pills, and bully sticks. Chewing relieves stress. I brought my Afghan to meet Edgar. The intro
went fine; though I haven't convinced "the powers that be" we need another Afghan. All the dogs were slated to leave the next day for breed experienced foster homes. Anna fit the anxious trio with snug coursing jackets. Early Saturday, Dr. Ulrike Reinisch of Connecticut, a veterinary behaviorist and veteran Afghan owner spent several hours determining whether depressed Edgar or shivering Charlotte needed her the most. Ultimately she chose Charlotte to foster, partly since she knew she might never let our gazing guy go. Edgar, still worrying for all 67, will be staying for now at a NJ home with impeccable Afghan credentials. Crates were lined with towels and comforting clouds of shredded paper towels. Our Hounds, sprayed with Rescue Remedy, followed the chicken breast trail. Cyrano left for Maryland. Frost and Jane will stay on LI. Lisa Bryant, coordinator for the whole New Mexico Rescue drove from Philly to meet the dogs, volunteers and fosters. She will bring Dante, Whitman, and Edgar to their waiting families in New Jersey.
"Nevermore," melancholy prince. Neglect and horror, nevermore. Edgar Afghan Poe is still living on the dark side. He haunts me in a way no dog has done before: "On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before." Only time, not Poe's Raven, will tell how my Edgar adjusts, and if we shall ever meet again.