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2009-09-09 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson
Many good things happen behind the scenes at Long Island municipal shelters. Too oftenthe public only hears from the critics, or the self-proclaimed crusaders who pretend to spend time there. This week I would like to spotlight a “quiet” mitzvah on behalf of “Kember”, a young, debilitated German Shepherd signed over to Babylon Town Shelter to be “put to sleep” by her owner. Thanks to the efforts of a caring staff member, not only is Kember alive, but she is on her way to better health and hopefully happiness (when she finds a new home). In early August Babylon Shelter was called to Wyandanch to pick up Kember, a 4 year old purebred German Shepherd to be euthanized at the owner’s request because he could not manage her skin condition. Yes, her skin was black and leathery plus her coat sparse and brittle, but the poor dog was also virtually immobile, because she was morbidly obese. Weighing a whopping 128 pounds, she was carrying about 60 extra pounds. (Although the breed standard doesn’t list a weight range, ideally, a female Shepherd of her stature should be no more than 70-75 pounds.) When the shelter sees a dog in terrible condition like this, it’s a tough call whether to report the owner to the SPCA.

Shown in photo is Kember minus 17 pounds. Shown in photo is Kember minus 17 pounds. I have mentioned in previous “Pets” that Kristin Siarkowicz, Babylon ACO (Animal Control Officer)is a Shepherd advocate extraordinaire. Her own titled dogs compete in agility and sheep herding trials throughout the US, but, like many dog lovers, she is not in the position to take home another pet. She saw this pathetic soul as soon as she arrived. Theextremely fat and bald Shepherd looked as if she might have a manageable thyroid condition. Should she dare to try to save this dog? Such a dilemma; Kristin was torn: “Euthanize her to put her out of her misery…or put her on antibiotics to get her skin and ears under control and then decide?” Time was of essence. Trying not to be judgmental, Kristin called the owner and learned he had taken Kember to the vet, had her spayed, but could not affordthe recommended blood tests that would have gotten to the root of her problems. Instead he tried antibiotics for her chronic infections, but this was not enough to alleviate her escalating symptoms. Kristin knew that the full blood work-up and thyroid tests would be an initial expense, but if her hunch were correct, the lifetime maintenance medicine-Soloxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone –would only be about $20 a month. She would have to heartworm test Kember first because the dog had never been on preventives. If she had heartworm also, the thyroid solution would be moot. Minor miracle, Kember was heartworm negative. Lab tests did reveal a severe thyroid deficiency, most likely a congenital hypothyroidism that runs in the breed. At first there was a chance that Shepherd Rescue could board her at their vet, but that fizzled, although she is posted on their rescue site. Kristin, who works part time at a veterinary clinic, assumed full responsibility for the lab tests, the meds and the dog’s care at the shelter. Since the skin allergy and thyroid issues are tied together, Kember was also put on a novel protein diet (dry fish-based food), Keflex pills for her skin and given medicated baths. She is housed in the first run, behind homemade “privacy shades” because the first and last cage in a kennel tend to be the most stressful. With Soloxine, some improvement should show quickly, yet Kember’s transformation has been amazing. When first at the shelter, Kember took 3 steps and then had to lie down. Now 4 weeks later she plays in the shelter yard, rolling on her back, acting goofy with a tennis ball and then licking her caretakers. Fuzzy new hair is starting to grow. Best of all, she has already lost 17 pounds. She was down to 111 at last weigh-in. Even her nose looks more “Rin Tin Tin” pointy. Kember still has a long way to go. But this is a great start. Before the meds, Kember was lethargic, practically inert. When dogs are in a weakened state, it’s difficult to assess true temperament. Now she has energy and a “personality”. She is starting to act like a real dog, a little woofie with that trademark Shepherd bark when people walk by, but she pipes right down when reprimanded. She’s housebroken and loving, not dog aggressive, but a bit too interested in Kristin’s Chihuahua and the parking lot ferals when they began to run, so to be cautious; a home without small dogs or cats is recommended. Besides Kristin’s intervention, Kember’s recovery is possible because of the cooperation of Chris Elton, the shelter director and a supportive staff that made sure Kember got her pills, special diet and exercise while Kristin was on vacation. Kember (Cage 37) is not at happily ever after yet. For the rest of her life, she will need daily meds and periodic blood work to finetune her thyroid dose. Now if she could only finda special Shepherd-savvy someone who could continue monitoring her care, she will repay this kindness with that trademark Shepherd loyalty.

Pets for Adoption Shown below, Sugar Daddy~ gray cat Pets for Adoption Shown below, Sugar Daddy~ gray cat Shown above, Hallie ~ Patient Pit Shown above, Hallie ~ Patient Pit Also for Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Both poster pets have been waiting eons. “Hallie”, the longest pooch resident has been at the shelter since Memorial Day ‘08. Thishappy Pit (Cage 38) with one blue eye, settles down for belly rubs afterrunning around. “Sugar Daddy” in C-3 a gray cat, whose neuter fee has been paid by his rescuer, is affectionate but prefers people over other cats or dogs.

Males: “Alex”, the black Pit (Cage 12) whose owner passed away, has an entourage of pals, including a certified applied animal behaviorist who will help get him settled in a new home; “Bernie” Shep/Rottie Cage 8; “Winston” very friendly black cat . Females: “Roxy”- brindle Pit/Lab Cage 25; “Lucy”- lovely white cat.

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