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2011-12-21 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Post- “Franklin, WV: No Shelter, Dana Suffers the Cold”

Whether or not you are religious, the birth at Bethlehem opens our collective consciousness at Christmas time. Tales of individuals left homeless, hungry and cold are particularly poignant around this time of year. Thus, a plea for “Dana”, a starved mother Shepherd mix abandoned on a West Virginia mountain, and then enduring sub-freezing nights chained to a wooden box too small to fit her frigid frame was hard to ignore. The dog’s predicament was reminiscent of a shivering infant in a manger.

No sacrilege is intended by this canine Christmas comparison. Even St. Patrick’s Cathedral has added a yellow Lab statue to the crèche this year; plus the breath of the animals in the stable was the only source of warmth that first Noel. Historically, the whole concept of displaying a manger came from St. Francis of Assisi.

A “manger” is symbolic of the Nativity. Mary and Joseph sought refuge in a stable when there was no room at the inn. Actually a “manger” is merely a wooden trough or box used to feed livestock. Mary placed the baby Jesus in the manger as a cradle but the term “manger” is commonly confused with the stable. A manger is just a small wooden box.

Dana chained to her box in West Virginia Dana chained to her box in West Virginia However, the box shelter of the starving dog Dana was useless. All she had to protect her from the elements was this tiny box with no floor so she was forced to sleep on the frozen mud. Dana was one of many dogs abandoned on this WV mountain top, and then taken in by a man that tries to be kind but has little to support stray dogs. He can’t offer them shelter or vet care; he barely can afford dog food so most, like Dana, are tied outside on his property and become emaciated. Walking skeletons cannot weather the WV winter.

The “Mountain Man” hands the dogs over unspayed to anyone who wants them. Most impoverished homes in the Appalachians will continue this cycle of neglect and pet overpopulation. Dana, an absolute doll, is only about 18 months old, but it is apparent she has already had several litters. If she survived there, she would have continued to have more, because even dogs on a chain can get pregnant.

Thankfully there are angels in this part of rural West Virginia specifically Carol Hutchison and all the volunteers from Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS) in Franklin. You may recall the puppies, Pearl and Porter, both chained in another WV yard, who came to Last Hope on a transport during the October snowstorm after Carol convinced their owner to surrender them. (See online “Pets” Beacon 11/3/11). Both Pearl and Porter found loving homes on LI shortly after arriving at Last Hope.

PAWS is part of a dedicated WV/KY rescue network. Unfortunately, the network has had so much experience rescuing emaciated dogs that they share a strict protocol for safely feeding starved dogs. You cannot give too much food, too fast. When rescued, Dana was rated a #2 (thin) on the #1-5 veterinary body score index. Carol started slowly feeding her a veterinary intestinal diet; then gradually added puppy food as a calorie bonus.

PAWS has only a few, precious foster homes and no shelter of their own. Desperate dogs are waiting in the wings. Volunteers, like Carol, a transplanted vet tech from NJ, do outreach to improve the quality of life for WV dogs and cats by visiting people with outdoor pets and offering to neuter and vet them at no charge. That is how she first ran into the Mountain Man. He trusts her, and she knows not to jeopardize that trust. Dog diplomacy is essential. When the temperature plummeted to 22 degrees one night, Carol got him to part with Dana. She gave him an igloo to ease the suffering of his next foundling until she can fetch that one too.

PAWS also takes in stray and unwanted dogs and cats from their sheriff’s department that would have otherwise gone to a kill shelter in the next county. Animals there are only held five days before being put down. When an approved rescue in the Northeast such as Last Hope accepts one of their dogs/cats, PAWS can then save another that was bound for the pound or sentenced to a life on a chain.

Relying completely on donations, PAWS provides veterinary care and works miracles repairing wounded souls. However, this ecomonically challenged area lacks a supply of responsible homes. PAWS crosses state lines to showcase fosters where there is improved pet placement potential, but prospects are still limited. Carol brought two puppies from an unwanted litter to a Virginia Petco. After a screening process, the male got a great home while the applicants for the female (Bindi) forgot to tell her that they changed their mind.

In rescue, there is a “dog domino” effect. One pup in need can unknowingly get others noticed. Carol checked Porter a stray chained in a yard, and saw Pearl the tiny Beagle/ Chihuahua puppy on another chain. This time Carol heard that Tinsel a matted Poodle had been thrown from a car. The Mountain Man had Tinsel tied to his porch. If it hadn’t have been for Tinsel, she wouldn’t have spotted Suzie, a poor Shihtzu, or Dana tethered to her box.

Although Bindi’s home fell through after the transport filled, the coordinator squeezed in passenger #29. We waited briefly for two drivers at the White Plains meeting spot and were able to deliver the duo just as Last Hope’s symbolic “Trees of Love” ceremony was ending. Meanwhile, Carol will be going back to the Mountain Man soon in hopes of bringing a Sheltie and Terrier to a better life. This Christmas Dana and Bindi left two foster spaces warm for them.

For Adoption: Dana and Bindi are extremely loving and are at Last Hope Adoption Center at 3300 Beltagh Ave. Wantagh, call 631-946-9528. Our poster kitty “Katie” #20725 is at Babylon Shelter, 51 Lamar St., W. Babylon, call 631-643-9270. Her owner passed away last spring and her family could not drop Katie off at the shelter fast enough. Babylon Shelter will be closed on the Friday and Monday of both Christmas and New Year’s weeks, but will be open on both Saturdays.

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