2009-09-09 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson
Many good things happen behind the scenes at Long Is­land municipal shelters. Too often the public only hears from the critics, or the self-pro­claimed

crusaders who pretend to spend time there.

Thisweek I would like to spot­light a “quiet” mitzvah on behalf of “Kember”, a young, debilitated German Shepherd signed over to Babylon Town Shelter to be “put to sleep” by her owner. Thanks to the efforts of a caring staff member, not only is Kember alive, but she is on her way to better health and hopefully happiness (when she finds a new home).

In early August Babylon Shelter was called to Wy­andanch to pick up Kember, a 4 year old purebred German Shepherd to be euthanized at the owner’s request because he could not manage her skin con­dition. Yes, her skin was black and leathery plus her coat sparse and brit­tle, but the poor dog was also virtually im­mobile,

Shown in photo is Kember minus 17 lbs. Shown in photo is Kember minus 17 lbs. because she was morbidly obese. Weighing a whop­ping

128 pounds, she was carrying about 60 extra pounds. (Although the breed standard doesn’t list a weight range, ideally, a female Shepherd of her stature should be no more than 70-75 pounds.) When the shelter sees a dog in terrible condition like this, it’s a tough call whether to report the owner to the SPCA.

I have mentioned in previous “Pets” that Kristin Siarkowicz, Babylon ACO (Animal Control Officer) is a Shepherd advo­cate extraordinaire. Her own titled dogs compete in agility and sheep herding trials throughout the US, but, like many dog lovers, she is not in the position to take home another pet. She saw this pathetic soul as soon as she arrived. Theextremely fat and bald Shep­herd looked as if she might have a manageable thyroid condition. Should she dare to try to save this dog? Such a dilemma; Kristin was torn: “Euthanize her to put her out of her misery…or put her on antibiot­ics to get her skin and ears under control and then decide?” Time was of essence.

Pets for Adoption Shown at right, Beverly~ Shepherd/Spitz Pets for Adoption Shown at right, Beverly~ Shepherd/Spitz Trying not to be judgmental, Kristin called the own­er and learned he had taken Kember to the vet, had her spayed, but could not afford the recommended blood tests that would have gotten to the root of her problems. Instead he tried antibiotics for her chronic infections, but this was not enough to alleviate her es­calating symptoms.

Kristin knew that the full blood work-up and thy­roid tests would be an initial expense, but if her hunch were correct, the lifetime maintenance medicine-So­loxine,

a synthetic thyroid hormone –would average about $20 a month. She would have to heartworm test Kember first because the dog had never been on preventives. If she had heartworm also, the thyroid solution would be moot. Minor miracle, Kember was heartworm negative. Lab tests did reveal a severe thy­roid deficiency, most likely a congenital hyporoidism that runs in the breed. At first there was a chance that Shepherd Rescue could board her at their vet, but that fizzled, although she is posted on their rescue site. Kristin, who works part time at a veterinary clinic, assumed full respon­sibility for the lab tests, the meds and the dog’s care at the shelter. Since the skin allergy and thyroid is­sues are tied together, Kember was also put on a novel protein diet (dry fish-based food), Keflex pills for her skin and given medicated baths. She is housed in the first run, behind homemade “privacy shades” because the first and last cage in a kennel tend to be the most stressful. With Soloxine, some improvement should show quickly, yet Kember’s transformation has been amaz­ing. When first at the shelter, Kember took 3 steps and then had to lie down. Now 4 weeks later she plays in the shelter yard, rolling on her back, acting goofy with a tennis ball and then licking her caretakers. Fuzzy new hair is starting to grow. Best of all, she has already lost 17 pounds. She was down to 111 at last weigh-in. Even her nose looks more “Rin Tin Tin” pointy. Kember still has a long way to go. But this is a great start. Before the meds, Kember was lethargic, practically inert. When dogs are in a weakened state, it’s difficultto assess true temperament. Now she has energy and a “personality”. She is starting to act like a real dog, a little woofie with that trademark Shepherd bark when people walk by, but she pipes right down when reprimanded. She’s housebroken and loving, not dog aggressive, but a bit too interested in Kristin’s Chihua­hua and the parking lot ferals when they began to run, so to be cautious; a home without small dogs or cats is recommended.

Shown at left,Sal ~ Mackerel Tabby Shown at left,Sal ~ Mackerel Tabby Besides Kristin’s in­tervention, Kember’s recovery is possible because of the coop­eration of Chris El­ton, the shelter direc­tor and a supportive staff that made sure Kember got her pills, special diet and exer­cise

while Kristin was on vacation. Kember (Cage 37) is not at happily ever after yet. For the rest of her life, she will need daily meds and periodic blood work to fine tune her thy­roid dose. Now if she could only find a special Shep­herd savvy someone who could continue monitoring her care, she will repay that kindness with trademark Shepherd loyalty.

For Adoption at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: “Beverly” #578 is a mature yet small Shepherd/Spitz who seems to love people. She was found as a stray in Hicksville. Poor “Sal” #368 is a 5 year old mackerel tabby who lost his home due to an eviction. He is quite friendly but appears depressed in his cage so long. Dogs: “Fidget” # 538- the pretty Hound mix with Greyhound eyes; “Gypsy” # 367-Cattle Dog mix; a frightened female Pointer mix #618. Cats: “Schroeder” –longhaired tuxedo in the lobby showcase; “Prudence” #529- gorgeous flamepoint Tonkinese mix.

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