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2011-10-05 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Part 1-Pia the Pointer: I am partial to Pointers- partly because I’ve been trailing the 1887 Babylon grave of Sensation, Westminster Kennel Club’s trademark Pointer; partly because the historian of the American Pointer Club is a wonderful mentor; and partly because partnering with the national breed rescue was an incredible experience when an unruly Pointer turned up at a LI shelter. In 2008, Pointer Rescue Organization worked miracles transforming “Don” a Sensation clone from Oyster Bay Shelter.

That’s why I couldn’t ignore pleas for Pia the Pointer even though she was at a West Virginia shelter, and even though there were only 48 hours before she would be put to sleep for lack of room. I get many rescue cross-posts and tend to stay away from the out of state, out of time messages since there are so many needy shelter dogs on LI (though they may not be at death’s door), and because Last Hope already pulls dogs from two overcrowded Kentucky shelters. Nine KY dogs arrived last week; four the week before.

Pia the Pointer praying. Pia the Pointer praying. The 13 dogs are so sweet that all are placed or have applications pending. These rural dogs are sociable and highly adoptable because they must be so to be chosen for transport. All would be put to sleep if organizations up North didn’t take them. In poor rural areas the dogs are kenneled together in tight quarters unlike individual runs here which are mostly filled with Pit Bulls that tend to linger in our shelters. (Beacon “Pets” 5/8/08 for more on the Pit Bull predicament.)

Late Sat 9/17, I was posting on Petfinder when an email titled “beautiful 12lb. mix and german shorthaired pointer 2 die Mon morning” arrived. Since it was sent by a friend whose friend I had connected with German Shorthaired rescue, I opened it, didn’t pay a much attention except to notice that the Pointer was posed in such a way that the text said Pia was “praying” that someone would help her and the 12 lb. Beagle mix in the WV shelter. I forwarded it to German Shorthaired contacts and to Karen the Pointer Club historian, and then resumed putting local dogs on Petfinder.

Karen Blasche in Oregon, the historian for the American Pointer Club, is extremely dedicated to preserving the history of her beloved breed. Her help in my search for Sensation has been immeasurable. My every clue is fact-checked against her amazing archives and analytical nose for sniffing out fact from fiction.

This summer Karen debunked a “photo” of Sensation published in a reputable author’s book. There are no known photographs of Sensation. The imposter Pointer pictured was really a 1925 champion named “Dapple Joe.” Karen back-tracked the source of this error to the flip side of photos in a 1948 sporting journal. Once traced, we ran the mistake by Mr. Stifel, Westminster’s esteemed historian but the author doesn’t know her caption is wrong. When I sent this Pia post, Karen was still mourning the loss of Susie her 14 year old Pointer whose pedigree traced to the great Sensation.

Sunday morning Karen wrote: “Pia isn’t a GSP. She’s an English Pointer” which I should have realized because I spend half my life looking for long dead English Pointers buried here. That got the ball rolling. I started badgering Last Hope; Karen contacted Pointer Rescue Organization; I filed an application with the rescue in WV that arranges vetting and transports; and just to be safe, because euthanasia was done in the morning, around 2 am, I left a phone message at the WV shelter saying Last Hope was interested in Pia.

Monday at 8:30 am the shelter director called to see if I knew that “Pia was very dog aggressive and getting more so the longer she’s here.” Pia had been at the shelter with only 13 runs shared by several dogs in each since August. I could hear a voice in the background contradicting her every answer to my questions, but when I asked who was speaking, she said: “You hear dogs barking.” I said this didn’t agree with Pia’s Petfinder post whereas she replied that the volunteers would try anything to get dogs adopted. I got no reply when I asked if she liked Pia but her tone told me. I said I would get back to her, thinking I was buying Pia some time, but first I tried to ascertain if another dog would have to die that day in her place.

Dog aggression, if true, is a deal breaker. It would be ludicrous to go to such extremes to “import” a dog that didn’t get along with others. I called Karen in Oregon, relayed the director’s conversation, explained why Last Hope wouldn’t take a sight unseen dog described so, and Karen called off any help from Pointer Rescue Organization. The implications of this decision about Pia were clear.

Moments later I got a call from the rescue spokesperson in Ohio, who initiated the “praying Pia” plea. She said that the shelter director discouraged outside rescues, that she never liked Pia for reasons unknown to the volunteers and the other staff person (the voice in the background). Essentially she sabotaged attempts to save certain dogs. She also explained how in the short time the volunteers had intervened, the shelter’s 74% kill rate plummeted to 3%. But this caller had never met Pia, and that bothered me. Then she explained how their network had other volunteers at the shelter every day, and that she’d try to get me a video of Pia, the alleged attack dog in action.

Who do you believe? I am in the shelter game 30 years, spent two decades dealing with an irrational director who did all in his power to undermine any effort to get a dog out the front door rather than into the freezer. Thankfully, he is long retired out of state. But I’ve also dealt with humaniacs, and trusted people who lied about temperaments. I was still reluctant to take Pia, but then the online videos arrived…43 seconds of Pia interacting nicely with other dogs; 7 seconds of Pia curled up on a cot with a Pit Bull. The videos changed everything. Tune in next week for Part 2-Pia’s Transport.

Adoptables at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Mystery surrounds this week’s poster pups. The sweet female Silky Terrier mix #94438 was picked up wearing a dress in Wheatley Heights. Both she and the dress were filthy. “Morgan & Mason” the Landseer Newfie mix duo #94428/29 are probably sister/brother. Morgan looks like a Golden Retriever dipped in chocolate. Many fabulous felines are being overlooked too.

Male: Irish Terrier mix pup; “Reggie”- Cairn mix; Min Pin mix.

Female: “Sheba” & “Honey”- Huskies; chubby Pug; “Mona Lisa”- over-sized Jack Russell mix.

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