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2012-07-25 / Columnists

Pets Pets Pets

Babylon Town Shelter has had amazing owner/ pet reunions, like the Jack Russell we flew back to Atlanta or the Westie recovered after someone found him and kept him two years. But never one like this case that has taken on a life of it’s own on Facebook. The “Riley/ Ranger Recovery” story and photo posted July 11 is still going strong with 2,786 LIKES, 994 SHARES, 399 COMMENTS and close to 40,000 people who have seen the post. These Facebook numbers are bound to go up between the time I write and you read this column. The figures have already increased while I’ve been typing.

At Babylon Shelter, stray dogs without licenses or registered microchips are held seven days to give their owners a chance to reclaim them before going up for adoption. State law only requires five days. Licensed and chipped dogs get additional stray-hold time, phone calls and letters in the mail.

“Riley” (really “Ranger”) reunited with his owner “Riley” (really “Ranger”) reunited with his owner In general, it seems that if the owner doesn’t surface in the first 48 hours, he “ain’t comin” unless there is a really good reason such as being at the International Space Station or on vacation with the pet sitters (usually relatives, not professionals) who have misplaced the dog that they are supposed to be watching. That is, unless you don’t want the owners to show because the dog is so neglected or starved for attention. Then to everyone’s dismay, the owners arrive moments before the dog is scheduled to leave with a rescue or approved adopter.

In early March, a neutered, stray Border Collie dynamo was picked up near Lindenhurst High School. He was quite exuberant, dragging wimps like me down the kennel in his desire to get to the yard. The staff named him “Riley.” He was a poster pet in “Pets” on April 5, but we now know his owner wouldn’t be reading our local papers. Riley began to settle when volunteers started taking him on long walks around the fenced sump trail behind the shelter, but he still had no adoption prospects. This turned out to be a good thing.

On July 9, a North Fork man left a message on the shelter tape that he thought his friend had located his missing dog on the Babylon Petfinder site. He rushed to the shelter the next morning when more details matched. The sheer joy of an ecstatic dog seeing his best bud after so long was captured by a camera phone. Riley (really “Ranger”) is nine years old- another shocker. Everyone thought he was about three. It is possible that someone sinister had a hand in making Ranger disappear once before. This time, he surfaced 55 miles away. It won’t happen again.

Here’s the Babylon Animal Shelter Facebook post that, along with the reunion photo, continues to touch so many people. One Facebook comment was, “Who could see this and not at least get a lump in their throat?”

“Usually our photo posts are adoptions and updates; we don’t usually post photos of redemptions. This is a special case though; I don’t think there was a dry eye at the shelter this morning after watching the reaction of a dog that saw his owner for the first time in four months of sitting in a cage. Ranger (known by us as Riley) was reunited with his owner today. Ranger, who is nine years old, has been with us for four months. His owner lives a very far distance from our shelter. With luck on his side, a friend saw his photo on our Petfinder site and notified the owner who couldn’t get to us fast enough this morning. There are two morals to this story. One is that before Ranger left, he got a parting gift of a microchip. Should Ranger get lost on his own (accidents do happen) or should someone try and disappear Ranger again on his owner (sometimes things don’t happen by accident), he will easily be reunited with his owner via the microchip. Moral number two is that no matter how much work the Petfinder site is, all of the time it takes outside of the hours we work, wondering if it is worth it to keep up the site; this one story makes it all worth it. I thank you Christina for keeping the photos rolling, the number that you have to take weekly is overwhelming, often it feels like we will never catch up, I don’t think we ever do catch up! Thank you, Joanne, for contributing photos as you can. –Kristin”

There are additional morals. First, an owner should not be quick to give up hope when searching for a lost pet, especially with the incredible online tools available. Petfinder and Facebook’s Lost and Found Pets of LI (Lafpoli) make miracles happen. Next, a lost LI dog belongs in the town shelter where the dog was found for at least a week to maximize the chances that the dog will be redeemed. “Ranger” is an exceptional case of a dog far from his own neighborhood, but recently I got a call from folks who found a Terrier mix on a Sunday and didn’t know what to do. Rather than bring the dog to their town shelter which has 24/7 drop off, they wanted to hand the dog over immediately to a private rescue for adoption. What if someone was desperately looking? What if he were your lost dog?

Less than 10 years ago, the Ranger Reunion would have never happened at a LI municipal shelter. An unclaimed stray would have been euthanized long before four months. There are plenty of places in the US, including NYC, where strays are still put down as soon as their short hold is up. Many of the WV rescues that Last Hope works with do not have county or town shelters. A dog given to the warden is a dead dog because there is no spot to hold the dog. That’s why we are getting four highly adoptable WV dogs this weekend. Finally, Ranger’s happy ending has a ripple effect for Babylon Shelter. Facebook sends weekly statistics to administrators of group pages. Because of Ranger, the weekly reach went from 4,000 to more than 96,000. Now if only every one of the 96,000 would visit to adopt a dog or cat.

Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Poster Pets at Lamar St. W. Babylon represent the past and future: “Shorty” #94230 is enjoying a dip in the pool despite marking one year at the shelter this month. A victim of an eviction, “Shorty” seems comfortable around smaller dogs. This Siamese-mix mom and her kittens are not ready to go yet. They have to be weaned plus spay/neutered first. Lots of other kitties have their bags packed. They just need a loving place to call their own. More Dogs: “Pinky” senior Shih tzu; Beagle duo; “Mischka” Husky; purebred Boxer.

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