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2017-12-27 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Happy New Year! Nice News: The following “Pets” first published 9/22/16 recently won the 2017 Dog Writers Association of America Writing Competition award in the “newspaper article or column rescue” category:

Once in a while a day is “purebred shelter dog perfect”. This is a rare, canine occurrence similar to a total eclipse. All the forces of breed rescue, timing and circumstance come together, so dogs needing specific placements wind up in their safest environments. Last Saturday was such a day, thanks to National Pyrenees Rescue, several Border Collie rescues and advance scout volunteers.

Two puppies in need were at Babylon Shelter involved in a humane law enforcement case. The background of the case was puzzling. A Wheatley Heights woman kept quite a few puppies, all different breeds (apparently pet store pups) on her elevated deck. No one has figured out why. The puppies free roamed during some of the hottest weeks, but did not always have access to shelter as they grew too big for the tiny doghouses.


“Big Guy’s” foster family, courtesy of National Pyrenees Rescue. “Big Guy’s” foster family, courtesy of National Pyrenees Rescue. The pups didn’t appear to have much socialization with people. If they got off the deck, they were able to escape the unsecured yard. Sometimes neighbors would see them loose, grab them and call the shelter for help. Other times the shelter would spend days trying to catch the runaways. A Miniature Aussie puppy ran along the railroad tracks and no one could get him. Somehow he got back to his yard. A French Bulldog puppy wasn’t so fortunate. He was killed by a car.

Shortly after, the shelter captured two more of these pups. “Charlie” a six-month-old Border Collie puppy, and a week or so later, “Big Guy” a six-month old Great Pyrenees escaped the yard. Both took a group effort to bring them to shelter safely. The puppies were forced to live in the shelter environment for three months waiting an investigation by humane law enforcement. These babies couldn’t gather applications because they weren’t available for adoption.


“Charlie” the Border Collie puppy at Babylon Shelter. “Charlie” the Border Collie puppy at Babylon Shelter. Think of how their precious puppyhood was wasted: Most likely born in a horrible puppy mill. Shipped at a young age to a pet store. Then months on the hot deck without individual attention. Finally the whole summer- June to September- growing up in a municipal shelter. Puppyhood provides a brief window for positive impressions of the world, and is prime time to start nurturing a pup’s mind and breed strengths. No offense to the shelter, but these puppies grew up in four distinct prisons. Finally in September, law enforcement got the owner to sign the two pups over. Now we could reach out for proper placement and mental rehabilitation.

Big Guy is friendly and outgoing. He hasn’t matured yet. Great Pyrenees are not big, white Golden Retrievers. He is best suited for a breed-experienced owner who understands how, if not corrected, his inherited inclination to guard his family (since he doesn’t have sheep) could become problematic.

With a shelter OK, I reached out to the director of National Pyrenees Rescue and eight other breed contacts on the East coast. My post went out after midnight on 9/11, and the first response arrived in less than ten minutes. “Do you need a rescue to take him, or do you need us to send you applicants? Happy to do either,” said Jean from Big Fluffy Dogs.

At dawn Barbara Mattson director of National Pyrenees Rescue (NPR) answered to be assured my request was the shelter’s wish too, because of NPR’s overload of discarded Pyrenees from Southern states- presently 185 in foster or boarding. Once certain, Barbara put a foster search in motion, sent a volunteer photographer and an evaluator. Other Pyrenees groups posted Big Guy. After the first LI foster fell through, Courtney and Steve from East Patchogue took the Big Guy home to meet their resident Pyrs on Saturday. NPR just happened to have a booth at the Tanner Park Family Fair also. We couldn’t be more thrilled about how NPR (www.nationalpyr.org)and regional rescues advocated for Big Guy.

There are no “good pet store breeds”, yet certain breeds are more at risk when purchased by clueless customers who merely like how their look. Pyrenees puppies resemble polar bear cubs but they grow up to be over 100 pounds. Border Collies and Great Pyrenees are genetically hardwired with jobs to do. Border Collies herd flocks, whereas Pyrenees guard flocks. Confinement was more damaging to Charlie the Border Collie pup because of his pent-up energy/instinct to herd. He’d be in the yard with his buddy Big Guy but viewed other dogs, mostly Pits, in adjacent yards as wayward sheep.

Kristin, ACO at the shelter, trains her German Shepherd Dogs to compete in sheep herding. Her expert eye saw the effects of Charlie’s prolonged stay. Below is a portion of her 9/17 Facebook plea to agility and herding dog friends to assist Charlie: “He is completely over the top with any environmental stimulation around him. Charlie has some obsessive-patterned kennel behaviors, he fence runs with the sight of any dog, and he stalks. No surprise I’m sure for those familiar with the breed. Charlie does not have a great appetite at the shelter and combined with his self-destructive physical activity, it is difficult to get and keep weight on him.”

The response to Kristin’s Charlie plea was overwhelming. Friends offered the intervention of three Border Collie rescues- East Coast Herding- Dog Organization Rescue, New England Border Collie Rescue and Glen Highland Farm, north of Binghamton. Christy and her daughter Makayla were Border Collie agility participants on LI and recently moved to PA.

They happened to be here over the weekend, and came to the shelter to do a formal evaluation of Charlie. Christy saw his issues, potential and good conformation despite his low weight. She offered to bring him to Glen Highland Farm (www.glenhighlandfarm.com) on her way home, about a six hour side trip. Glen Highland is a 175 acre sanctuary and rehab facility for Border Collies and mixes in need. Glen Highland “grads” have competed in Westminster Kennel Club Agility Trials. Sunday morning Charlie started his journey to the greener pastures of Border Collie rescue.

The magic charm of purebred rescue shows how volunteers passionate about their breed will jump through hoops and go the extra mile for dogs they are yet to meet. National Pyrenees Rescue and Border Collie Rescue synchronized that magic for Big Guy and Charlie. This magic is fueled by donations, and every little bit helps.

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