2017-01-11 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

How often do we say good things happen when we’re “at the right place at the right time?” Call this serendipity. Coincidences can alter the course of our lives such as meeting a soul mate or getting a great job. And several seconds or a few feet in either direction can determine whether an animal is rescued, continues to suffer or dies.

What’s it all about, Alfie? Crossing paths can change the life of the rescuer as much as the fate of the dog or cat saved. Such a moment opened my eyes to the plight of shelter dogs. We got our first Afghan Hound in 1980. “Juliet” was a dog dynamo and speed demon. A year later we began talking about adopting an Afghan playmate for her.

On the way home from my teacher car pool, I stopped to talk to a couple who had an older Afghan on their front lawn. They recently found him. The story sounded as if “Foo” had a series of owners and broken bones that healed without vet care.


Little Rockaway Little Rockaway Months later returning from a school budget vote, I spied “Foo” in the back of a squad car. We pulled up at a light to tell the policeman where the Afghan lived. He said, “This dog is on his way to the pound because he just bit the owner.” We followed the car to the old Babylon Shelter on Edison Avenue.

A bite history made “Foo” unavailable for adoption. Yet, the director said we could take him, if the previous people signed him over to me. I learned more while talking to these people. They used him to breed with their female Afghan. I met the pups. They talked openly about drug use. We decided to give “Foo” a second chance as “Alfie.”

We had him six years until he died of old age. He loved Juliet and us. Alfie was aggressive to all other dogs and wary of strangers. Someone with a cigarette or beer could trigger him. I called him the “Norman Bates of Dogs” because he’d snap; then become apologetic within seconds. Alfie taught me a lot about dogs damaged by people.


Henry the three-legged Redbone Coonhound Henry the three-legged Redbone Coonhound Alfie also prompted me to enter a town shelter for the first time. Back then shelters were packed, two dogs to a run. Strays were only held a week for possible redemption. Owner surrenders could be put down immediately. Many were purebreds or young, very adoptable dogs nowadays. There was a stunning Irish Setter next to Alfie, so I called Irish Setter rescue. The woman answering said, “I have too many. What do you want me to do?”

At that moment, I found my mission. If we hadn’t voted for the school budget at precisely that time, we wouldn’t have seen the Afghan in the police car which makes me wonder whether something else would have pushed me into the shelter.

Little Rockaway: A different pet may benefit from a planned meeting. Over the years, we’ve taken strays to the shelter and returned with other pets needing help. Once we came back with a heartworm-positive shaggy dog from Islip Shelter; another time a male and pregnant female Siamese from Babylon.

Little Rockaway’s saga was different. After Sandy, Last Hope was asked for help by a woman with a Rottweiler, squatting in her Far Rockaway home foreclosed before the storm. Gary Rogers of Nassau SPCA, who helped set up the emergency pet shelter at Mitchel Field, and I went to meet the lady. Gary made calls and took her to the local help headquarters to apply for assistance. Over time you learn there are people asking for help who won’t accept it when offered.

It was a zero-degree day. We heard ear-piercing cat cries from across the street, and saw an orange kitten practically frozen in place. Gary scooped him up. We drove back to Last Hope just in time for an intake clinic. The vet discovered the cat was stunted and starved, almost a year old. Little Rockaway was quite friendly and adopted quickly.

Eyewitness aid: Certain injured or abandoned pets are fortunate to have a kind stranger witness the situation which renders them helpless. When a cat was thrown from a car toward a cemetery, someone just happened to be walking her dog. The lady saw the cat tossed and yelled to folks nearby. Someone grabbed the terrified cat as he bolted toward the graves. Later Checkers recovered at Last Hope. It took him weeks to calm down after this act of cruelty. Once relaxed, Checkers was adopted.

Christmas Eve three years ago, Henry, a handsome Redbone Coonhound, was hit by a car in front of a Kentucky firehouse. Most likely someone at the firehouse called the county shelter to pick him up despite the holiday. The Hound’s rear leg was mangled. The shelter had his leg amputated and put him in a nurturing foster home. Shortly after, Henry came to Last Hope in Wantagh by rescue transport.

Henry was embraced by Caryn and her kids. He went to work once a week at Caryn’s grooming job. He goes for runs with his teenage brother. Later he made therapy dog visits at my dad’s nursing home where he made special friends with patients minus a limb, especially his 107-year-old lady friend who lit up when she realized their common bond. Think, if Henry had been hit down the road from the firehouse, he may have perished that Christmas Eve.

For Adoption at Babylon Shelter 9631-643-9270) Lamar St., W. Babylon: “Homer,” a four-month-old tabby kitten with limited, if any, vision, is not quite ready yet. He was spied at the right minute by Jill in the shelter office. She looked into the lobby where there are cat cages and thought she saw an extra kitten. Then she realized he was on the windowsill outside looking in at the other cats. By the time she got outside, he was off the sill and nowhere in sight. It took a while before he was discovered under a bush.

It’s a mystery how friendly “Homer” found his way onto the windowsill because one eye appears withered from infection and the other is deep in the socket. Like his blind poet namesake, “Homer” chose the right second to go on his “Odyssey” so he could be rescued.

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