2013-07-24 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
“And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor, Shall be lifted -- Nevermore!” - Edgar Allan Poe This quote from the famous poem “The Raven” by Poe describes how hoarders’ pets must feel once they are liberated from their disgusting prisons that masquerade as homes. Their souls (as well as bodies) are lifted from the filthy floor. A better existence is about to begin, if they are lucky enough to survive the neglect. That’s why I chose Mr. Poe as the namesake for my Edgar Afghan Poe who began life on such a dark side.
This month marks five years since the Santa Fe Animal Control seizure of 67 Afghan Hounds (and 25 parrots) all in deplorable condition from a New Mexico hoarder. At least 14 of the dogs died right away, most were puppies who succumbed to parvo. The rest is Afghan Hound Rescue history.
On the Santa Fe shelter intake sheet, Edgar was known as “Dog # 31; Name: Unknown.” I wrote in “Edgar Afghan Poe,” probably the first name he ever had, when he was flown to the East Coast for triage. I named the seven who came to LI after literary figures because we needed to tap into the eloquent potential of these magnificent creatures buried under fear, squalor and mats.
It may be just a coincidence that July has significant hoarder case anniversaries. Two weeks ago, “Pets” marked 10 years since the hoarder seizure of 33 small dogs on Greene Avenue in Lindenhurst. I am fortunate to share my life with a wonderful dog from each of these horrific ordeals. In both cases, many people rallied together to offer the best to these animal victims of someone’s compulsion to collect living, breathing beings.
On July 14, 2008, at 3 a.m., authorities equipped with nets and catch poles raided this small house in the desert, rounding up the scared and starving Hounds camped out everywhere inside, even on top of each other in the stairway. These dogs had no contact with humans outside of the owner, so their sheer terror must have been a chapter right out Poe’s pages of horror. The plucked parrots kept in the basement were taken also.
The “Pets” account online at Beacon 7/31/08 describes our local effort to calm the seven transported here. We used Velveeta as their tasty valium. They spent a week at a LI kennel where Afghan rescue volunteers tended to their medical, mental and grooming needs before dispersing them to foster homes throughout the Mid-Atlantic. I had my own key so I could be there for the duration.
The owner had started out as a breeder/rescue person and gradually went over the edge. Her foundation Afghans came from various well-known lines and began breeding randomly. It didn’t seem like any pups were ever placed. She billed her setup online as a “Country Club for Afghans” and displayed odd photos of the dogs outside on playground equipment, some dogs relaxed in tents on trampolines.
Conditions had deteriorated. The husband left, the owner was ill, the house foreclosed and the power turned off. She signed the dogs over which meant they could be adopted from the shelter but refused to relinquish the birds. In a controversial strategy, animal control used the dogs as bargaining chips to get her to sign over the birds. They promised her several dogs back which was absurd because she had nowhere to live herself.
Meanwhile the national breed rescue and regional Afghan Rescues collaborated to disperse the dogs to breedsavvy people throughout the US. Our seven flew to Newark close to a kennel on LI. Imagine how terrified these traumatized Afghans who never left that house must have been. After the shelter ordeal came the airport experience during a July as sweltering as the present one.
Last week on July 14, I posted Edgar’s shelter intake sheet where he looks like a matted 18th century French nobleman, and the Afghan rescue world chimed in. We heard from caretakers in this parallel universe- folks in Tucson, Ohio, CA, PA, CT and even Switzerland sharing their accounts of compassion to this extended Afghan family. The thread read like an internet family reunion. People posted before/after photos, some of NM Afghans I knew quite well; others I had never seen.
Christine O’Connor from Arizona wrote about de-stressing their group outside in a familiar climate. She said: “I remember going to the shelter (our rescue coordinator’s husband and I drove 16 hours round trip to pick up as many as we could fit in the van (six) and take them back to Tucson. It was horrible seeing so many checked out frightened Afghans. We took the most checked out we could find and started back. We were blessed. After hard work clipping, socializing and training, all six found fabulous homes and have thrived since.”
Erica Lampart flew to CA from Switzerland as soon as she learned of the Afghan airlift and adopted “Shamir” who we feel is closely related to Edgar. When he got loose at LAX, it took the police several hours to catch him on the runway. Erica said: “Shamir is the first Afghan (six before) unfortunately I can NOT let off the leash. As soon as he gets scared, he no longer relies on me and wants to get away. It was, at the beginning, very difficult to go walking with him, because of the many people here. Switzerland is very small and very overcrowded. We have no doggie parks here and our gardens are small. We are accustomed to go there three times a day road walking. But he has learned since about a year, not to fear people. What a great success. Shamir is the most difficult Affie I ever had but I love him and my life is for him.”
Finally Christine summed up the effort when she posted: “It was awesome how everyone pulled together and made it happen. People pitched in when and where they could - it was a marvel and a time to take pride in being part of the greater Afghan Hound community.”