2009-07-01 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
our whole life, but they make our lives
Roger Caras was our 20th Century St. Francis- naturalist, author of over 60 animal books, president of the ASPCA for 8 years, distinctive voice of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. He was also special correspondent on animals and the environment for numerous NBC and ABC television programs. Caras was an adjunct professor of English at Southampton College and a member of the board overseeing the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. In the 1980s he was Newsday's pet columnist.
Under his leadership, Caras ended the ASPCA's 100-year history as surplus animal control and euthanasia agency for NYC. Instead, he implemented public education and spay/neuter programs, while also establishing the nation's first poison control center for animals.
At the time of his death in 2001, he lived on his Maryland farm which the Caras family shared with 12 dogs, 9 cats, 5 horses, 2 cows, a pair of alpacas and a llama. Despite his busy schedule, he was a warm, caring man who was a mentor to many.
With that said, my friend just rediscovered a treasure that I'd like to share. It's a letter dated March 21, 1986 that Roger Caras sent from his ABC News desk. My friend's ten year-old daughter Emily had written to Mr. Caras with questions about becoming a Junior Handler. She wanted advice on which breed she should choose. Here is his thoughtful response:
I think it is great that you are planning on getting into Junior Handling. It is a wonderful sport.
As for the dog you select it is a very personal matter. Each breed has its advantages and disadvantages and each dog within those breeds is different-just as people are.
One thing you may want to consider is that the Bichon and Maltese both are very much "coat" dogs- they require an enormous amount of care to be attractive in the ring. Can you handle that as well as your schoolwork and everything else in your life?
I would not recommend the English Springer Spaniel unless you use a really top breeder as your source and can rely on them to have your dog bred for temperament. Some Springer lines have become very tricky. Be sure of your dog before you get it. [Note: Mr. Caras is referring to "Springer rage syndrome," a genetic condition that some now believe is unpredictable aggressive behavior caused by a seizure disorder or perhaps a lack of serotonin in the brain.]
Brittanies are fine, active animals but are not great beauties and that counts for a great deal with some judges. Fine dogs, though. The Pembroke is terrific. Theyare not flashy but they are solid and should be easy for you to work with.
Take a look at the English Cocker. They are a coat dog, too, but nowhere near as much work as the other two you mention. TheBasset is a wonderful dog of about the right size- there are manyit is a personal choice. First, though, decide on coat vs. little coat and you cut the choice in half. A very heavy coat job is very time consuming and your dog will look like nothing unless the coat is up to snuff.
Buy only from a top specialty breeder. No other place- never a pet shop.
Best of luck, All best wishes, Roger A. Caras [Theletter is signed in blue pen.]
Emily never became a Junior Handler. However, little did she know that soon after writing her letter two Bassets would be coming into her life. She's an elementary school librarian now, like her Mom, my friend was, which is only fitting, because I think they'd both appreciate that each year since 2005 the ASPCA® Roger Caras Achievement Award honors an outstanding individual or organization who inspires children and makes a contribution to the animal community through literature, action or media…..just like Mr. Caras did by virtue of this letter in 1986.
Paw Note: Ironically, in 1983 when another friend and I were about to launch "Pets" in the Beacon, we wrote to Mr. Caras asking him which topics we should cover. Similar to Emily's letter, he sent an eloquent response, encouraging us that the column possibilities were endless; the world was our "animal oyster," so to speak. I have his postmarked envelope, but although I keep searching hopefully, I cannot find his wonderful letter.
For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270): Waiting at the Lamar St. W. Babylon shelter, this male Beagle in Cage 1 wants a home of his own. He is being quite vocal about his request in that uniquely Beagle baying way. The small tabby kitten wearing the mortar board is part of a group of eight who have just "graduated" from maternity to the fancy Plexiglas "Kitty Korral" in the lobby. Theywent to the vet to be spayed/neutered first. Come see the Kitty Korral, but keep in mind the shelter is closed both July 3rd and 4th for the holiday.
Male: Brussels Griffon mix; Golden mix Cage 2; Westie Cage 13; "Phelps" canal swimming Retriever Cage 5; Hachiko-Akita mix Cage 12.
Female: "Carly"- declawed calico in lobby cage; "Tyra" Rottie mix Cage 42; "Fannie Mae" Border Collie mix Cage 31; "Hallie" Pit mix Cage 38.