2009-08-19 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Alex, black Pit Bull. Alex, black Pit Bull. This is a plea for one particular Pit Bull, lost in a sea of canine clones, struggling to be noticed again. For a brief time, the Pit lived with someone completely devoted to him. The dog and man only had each other, but when this young man died unexpectedly last month, the dog remained by his side for days until somebody noticed.

The man had no family nearby. His father lives in Greece. To make matters worse, the landlord turned the dog into Babylon Shelter as "Puppy", because he didn't know the dog's true name. Once revealed, the true name gave the dog a history connecting several of us to him. More about that in a moment….

First consider this Jeffersonian tenet: All dogs are not created equal. When in shelters, certain dogs, like Yorkies or Golden Retrievers, stand a much better chance of finding doting homes. A whole rescue network opens for many purebreds; whereas being born a Pit Bull, especially a black or brindle one, is the bottom of the canine opportunity barrel. Be it bad press, bad starts in life, the sickening Vick dog fight stigma and/or homeowner insurance bans, good homes for Pits are few and far between. Since the wrong people want them for the wrong reasons, Pits are bred indiscriminately and discarded by the dozens.

Our municipal shelters are so packed with Pit Bull permutations that individual dogs become blurred within the glut of similar poor souls. They vie for the attention of that rare, responsible person seeking a Pit. The dogs' tales of woe blend too. Theysit and wait. Theywait a long, long time. Extended stays in shelters bottle up energy and stress. Therefore, the Pits do not "show" well.

Enter "Alex", stage left. "Alex" is your typical "knucklehead", strong as an ox, young black Pit who needs training, love and an experienced owner. He had all three for almost a year, before the tragedy happened. Alex has had more of his share of bad and good luck. Unlike most Pits, he has been blessed with two special, though temporary, guardians plus others who care about him. Despite a band of advocates, Alex is homeless once more.

Alex's first guardian angel went above and beyond. Three years ago when he was a skinny stray pup, Pam saw kids tormenting him in Wyandanch traffic. She scoffed him up, but couldn't bring him home to her cats or apartment. She should have brought him to the shelter to make sure no one was looking for him, but she was terrified that he would go back to the same setting. Although she drained her life savings, she boarded him at a vet while advertising for a home. Boarding is the most expensive way to go. It's the rescue money pit.

After a year in one hospital, the rambunctious, cage-crazed Alex wore out his welcome, so Pam had to find a new kennel. Next Pam kept him on the hospital side at Basic Pet Care, the clinic that also rents space to Last Hope who already had several similar Pits for adoption. After 4 more months of boarding, the vet techs who sometimes took Alex home for PJ parties steered Pam to me. I tried to convince her to turn him into the shelter, saying we would publicize him from there, but she was so afraid of who might want him. In the meantime, after paying for a year and a half of boarding, she found Billy Perselis.

Last summer I happened to be a fly on the wall in Basic's waiting room when a man came to pick up his new pooch. I recall him saying he was alone now that his elderly dog had just died, and that he needed Alex as much as Alex needed him. Yes, you want to believe in happily ever after….

Then, last week I got an Email via the Beacon from Billy's friend Jeanne, explaining how she just learned her childhood friend had died suddenly and that his beloved dog was at the shelter 2 weeks already, hoping that I could spotlight this dog. Yep, I had walked right by him. Unfortunately, all black Pits look alike to me. Supposedly his name was "Puppy" but to confuse us more, he wore a collar with tags that traced to "Bruno" a deceased 15 year old Lab. We pressed Jeanne who visited the dog at the shelter for more information about the happy go lucky Pit. She spoke to mutual friends, also shocked to learn of Billy's passing, and discovered the dog's real name was "Alex". Now all the sad pieces fit together-he was the same Alex that Pam had worked so hard to place, the same Alex that the lonely man embraced.

We heard that Billy, a truck driver, and Alex were inseparable, that he walked Alex at Southards Pond.

Pam now understood why Billy hadn't returned her last phone call. (Within Alex's six degrees of separation, soon I realized that Jeanne was the daughter of a dear lady who helped with my Westminster's search at Southards.)

Alex is in Cage 12, Case 92655. Shelter director Chris Elton (631- 643-9270) exercises him everyday. Alex's vet tech pals visit him. Jeanne is reaching out to everyone she knows. We're asking for the "moon"- a one-pet home with a dog-savvy owner, a person who could adore him as much as Billy did. Plenty of dogs and cats are surrendered because their owners pass away, but Alex's plight is more disturbing because it took him so long to find his soul mate. He stood by his best friend even after they were separated far too soon.

Also For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter, Lamar St. West Babylon: As Jeanne realized after coming to meet Alex: "There are so many sweet animals in there. It is sad to see."

She is right- sweet dogs like "Buddy" in Cage 2, an adorable 11 month Airedale mix; "Skip" in the Puppy Room, a perky Jack Russell Terrier; or "Munson" in Cage 13, an athletic Husky mix. There are at least 20 other Pit Bulls trying to make their presence known. They just heard that "Shirley" a Pit that had been at neighboring Islip Shelter over a year was adopted by a lovely couple. That gives them hope, especially blueeyed Hallie in Cage 38. She's been at Babylon for 15 months now. Maybe her luck will change soon too.

Cats: A sampling of the 75 kitties- "Lucy" gorgeous white gal; "Winston" her black brother from the same eviction; "Sugar Daddy" C-3, gray guy who needs an only cat home.

Reminder: Last Hope's "Bella Notte" "puppy love" dinner at Sergio's Restaurant in Massapequa on Sept. 3 from 6 to 9 pm. For tickets, see: www.lasthopeanimalrescue. org.

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