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2009-12-09 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

“Veronica”, a young, extremely friendly Beagle stayed in an outdoor kennel with 2 other dogs at a West Virginia shelter, a small facility run by a few dedicated souls trying to do the impossible. Veronica, typical of so many Southern dogs, existed under the equation SPACE=TIME=LIFE. Is it right to reach out to shelter dogs far away when so many on Long Island, especially the plentiful “lifer” Pits sentenced to solitary confinement, need our attention? Thisquestion tortures me and other rescuers.

There is a Mason-Dixon Line for shelter dogs. Stays are shorter and euthanasia rates of highly adoptable dogs are higher in the South because there is just no room to house the constant flow of unwanted dogs. Others never make it to the shelter, for “SSS”- which means “Shoot, Shovel, Shut Up”- is often the rural solution to eliminate a starving stray, or hunting Hound not up to snuff. Discarded Beagles, Coonhounds, and Labs are a dime a dozen wherever the spay/neuter message hasn’t taken root as it has in the Northeast and other higher income regions.

A few fortunate dogs find their way North where homes are more available with the assistance of shared transports, the canine equivalent of the Underground Railroad. Sparky another Beagle from the same West Virginia shelter sparked Veronica’s journey because rescue dogs often have cosmic connections. This time a chain of once pathetic Beagles, linked by love, found its way to her.

Rescuers get endless pleas for help, but certain situations really grab you. Vivid details stand out. The Last Hope web mistress forwarded an email from Michele, an extremely articulate high school English teacher. She knew “Last Hope had its hands full rescuing dogs from local pounds” when she wrote that after Tom, her Beagle saved from a laboratory died, she searched for another Beagle suffering a similar plight to adopt in Tom’s honor. Her quest instead led to Sparky a 12 year old Beagle gasping from heat exhaustion, lying in the road across from a police station. The lady who found him could not get the police to help.

Michele explained how Rosy, director in rural West Virginia at Wetzel County Animal Shelter (WCAS) heard and got Sparky, barely alive, on a stretcher and nursed him back to health. Thanks to Donna and a Delaware transport group, Michele wound up adopting Sparky who has blossomed and prompted a continued friendship with Rosy and Donna. Michele described the many obstacles Rosy was up against since she left her job as a registered nurse 8 years ago to try to improve the deplorable conditions of the rural shelter and the attitudes of the locals towards animals. The email was heart breaking. Michele asked if Last Hope could help in any small way so more Wetzel dogs could be saved. Perhaps Michele knew Last Hope just brought a Coonhound here from Kentucky. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t get her message out of my mind.

After clicking on www.wetzelpets.petfinder.com.to tour the tiny WCAS shelter; then on their adoptable pet list, a photo pulled me into the Veronica vortex. (“Veronica” is my middle name and tie to my grandmother who adored her dogs.) As desirable as this Beagle was, no one there would redeem or want her. My neighbor was anxiously awaiting a female Beagle, and although “Beagle” is a relatively easy LI request, I could only offer her males. Without committing, I asked Rosy about temperament testing, vetting and transports. Rosy was extremely helpful but since I am used to EBay where Pay Pal whisks your heart’s desire to your door, Veronica’s deliverance was going to be a bit more complex. She was 500 miles away.

Wetzel Co. Shelter in New Martinsville only has 7 small indoor cages and 10 outdoor enclosures with igloo shelters, yet only 2 employees a day tend to about 500 dogs a year. Intake is so overwhelming that several dogs must share each outdoor run year round. As is the case with LI deprived dogs, shelter accommodations, no matter how sparse they seem to us, are the Waldorf Astoria when compared to the life the dogs had before. Wetzel hold time is dependent on this precious communal space, so dogs, even those previously starved, cannot be food or dog aggressive. Few dogs are adopted by residents. Rosy seeks loving, indoor homes. Themajority of the dogs adopted go out through rescue groups.

We arranged Veronica’s transport via Donna of Delaware Alliance for Animal Welfare Groups (www. daawgs.org) - the same Donna who delivered Sparky. This wonderful network helps Wetzel and other WV and Ohio shelters. Veronica was spayed and heart worm tested last Thursday. She left Wetzel again on Friday so Parkersburg Humane, an hour to the east, could combine a van full of shelter dogs to bring to Maryland on Saturday where Donna (who began her trip in southeast PA) met them to drive Veronica and a Pit puppy to Delaware, our rendezvous point, a mere 170 miles away from LI. The Pit pup would become a DAAWG foster.

Meanwhile nifty navigator Doris and I left early enough to do some Christmas shopping and even geo-caching in Delaware while we awaited our Beagle bundle of joy, slightly delayed by a surprise snowstorm. Veronica is a treasure. She exited her crate kissing everyone and didn’t make a peep the whole trip. I fed her pizza crusts at rest stops to transform her into a New Yorker. Next day, she already had a good application at Last Hope but not my neighbor, because there is another twist of Beagle karma.

Coming Next Week-a New Concept: why not adopt a shelter? Veronica, similar to the familiar starfish parable, is a single dog spared in a sea of discards. She is symbolic of thousands of deserving dogs like her; while WCAS represents thousands of struggling rural shelters. Wetzel which now has a 501 c 3 Supporters’ Group desperately needs funds and supplies. One dog saved is not enough. Next week I would like to propose a holiday campaign, asking kind folks to Adopt Wetzel County Animal Shelter. I promise you won’t have to trek to West Virginia or take in a needy Beagle, (unless you want to).

Adoptables Back Home at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: When it rains it pours. After we arranged to foster Veronica, a female Beagle, foraging for food by a hot dog truck came into the shelter. The Commack Rd. area adjoining the Pilgrim/Edgewood property is our Beagle dumping ground, a microcosm of the rural South. Rabbit hunters abandon hunting hounds there. My neighbor plans to call this Beagle “Vicki”. Next day an older, thinner female Beagle, covered by ticks, turned up in the same vicinity. She and Vicki appear to know each other. All 3 gals (Veronica too) have had litters. The senior was christened “Violet” to complete the V trilogy. Come meet “Violet” in Cage 42 and/or see the many other Babylon Shelter deserving dogs and cats online at Petfinder-NY275.

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