2010-09-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Move over Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The 2011 Afghan Hound Club of America (AHCA) Rescue calendar is about to go to press. Never have there been more blonde bombshells or stunning pin-ups. The rescued dogs featured will take your breath away… but, let’s face it, I am biased. I happen to be editing the calendar for the second year.

Everyone has a favorite breed. To me there are dogs, and then there are Afghans. I was hooked around age five when we visited a family with a majestic Afghan lounging in the kitchen. Over the last 30 years we have owned six of these beauties, often dubbed the “King of Dogs,” so working on the calendar profiles is a labor of love.

Our national breed club publishes a calendar to raise money for rescue efforts throughout the U.S. Owners compete for a spot. This year my Edgar Afghan Poe wearing his Dracula cape is Mr. October. Next year, my duo will be dressed in Mexican garb. Marilyn Danko of the West Missouri AHCA Rescue is a fabulous, photo magician. She and her husband share their farm with pack of Afghans, many rescued. Marilyn is extremely qualified. At her day job for Northrop Grumman, she updates coursework and graphics teaching Air Force students to fly B-2s (Stealth Bombers).

Farrah Farrah I was recruited after tragic circumstances. Randy Byal of Indiana edited the calendar for several years but in 2009 he died suddenly while walking his two beloved Hounds. One Afghan bolted in panic and was killed by a train. The other lives with Randy’s twin brother.

After I learned Marilyn was working alone, I offered to help with the 2010 calendar. Actually the stories submitted for 2011 contain sillier Afghan antics. We feature about 50 dogs (not counting the ones who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge). My job is to make their stories flow, and to trim them to 250 words so we can squeeze in two per month - not an easy task when some proud parents send one thousand words. Ever shrinking drafts get emailed back and forth.

Afghans are high maintenance dogs - physically, because grooming and exercise are a commitment and mentally, because of their fragile psyches. Afghan Rescue is the breed’s vigilant safety net. Presently a Korean import on a base in Alaska hit the Afghan Rescue radar screen.

The calendar’s shining stars are from various backgrounds. Some are re-homed when loving owners die. Ten-year- old “Gibson” was once in Vanity Fair ads and commercials but needed a new home when his owner became too ill to care for her dogs. Others come from hoarders, shelters, backyard breeders, even a dumpster. Five like “Shatow” were found roaming the Mohave Desert in dreadlock mats after authorities told a collector he had to downsize. Another 13-year-old went to a kind man upstate because her military family was sent to Italy and the dog couldn’t weather the flight.

Cinderella herself would rejoice in these Afghan rags to riches talks. Each victimized vagabond transforms when placed in the safe arms of those who understand and appreciate their potential. “Shorty” is an agility ace even though she was sold with an untreated fractured leg; “April Rain” was born with micro-opthalmia (one eye is smaller and virtually useless) but that doesn’t stop her from tagging and tackling her dog pals; “Kronos” one of the 67 from the New Mexico hoarder goes to work each day with his veterinarian Mom.

I am inspired by the lengths Afghan devotees go to rescue these waifs. Erica Lampart flew from Switzerland to Los Angeles to save an Afghan from the New Mexico seizure only to have the airport lose her new dog. After two hours of “Shamir” speeding down the runway, 50 policemen were able to corner him. “April’s” Mom drove round trip from Missouri to Texas to fetch the partially blind pup while “Winchester’s” Mom traveled from Atlanta to Indiana to remove him from squalid conditions. Both dogs had been on Craig’s List.

Once relaxed, Afghans become comedians, beautiful buffoons. “Jackson” rides with his blonde head out the sunroof. “Emma” longs to launch a lingerie line. She steals bras, particularly black ones, and wiggles them on correctly. “Cisco” and “Spotty” were from a terrible start. These brothers drag everything through the doggy door - Shop Vac, heating pad - whether you want it or not. Every remote, cell phone, even the Colorado E-Z pass has trademark teeth marks. Their loving owners just look at them and laugh.

To my delight, many calendar Afghans are dogs I know. Some of them I named. “Kronos” (originally “Frost” after the poet) is Edgar’s Afghan Poe’s brother. “Farrah” is a puppy I pulled from Hempstead Shelter and named in a Circle of Life tribute. Farrah Fawcett had just died, and in the ,70s my first Afghan’s mother had been named for the actress. “Farrah” spent months living with Ulrike Reinisch, a veterinarian behaviorist in CT where she got over her fear of other dogs, and was groomed for this glamour shot by Anna Stromberg who handled this year’s Westminster Best of Breed winner. “Farrah” now lives in a Soho loft with two Terriers. Each day tourists ask for photo ops alongside her on NYC streets.

And then there is my sweet “Whitman”, also from New Mexico. He’d been renamed “Theo” so at first his profile didn’t register. He is a happy Adonis unscathed by his ordeal. “Theo” loves all animals and people. His new Mom sums him up when she writes: “To quote Walt Whitman, his original namesake: ‘I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.’” At $15 each the 2011 Afghan Hound Club of America calendars make gorgeous holiday gifts. They are the only thing that anyone on your list needs. To order: mail checks to AHCA Charitable Trust c/o Barb Hastings, 4071 Gurnee Rd., Westfield, PA 16950 or go to afghanhound.net.

For Adoption at Oyster Bay Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: Too bad there isn’t a Borzoi Mix Rescue. Ten year old Kelly #408 resembles a stately Russian Wolfhound. “Flower” # 344 is an outgoing 2 year old tuxedo cat but her cage is behind the door so she is hard to notice. Adoptions are FREE (including spay/neuter) for the month of September. Theonly fee is $2.50 for NYS dog licenses. Dogs: “Tut” #236- white Shepherd mix; “Tripod” #367- black Pit with the amputated leg. Cats: “Barnum & Bailey”; “Queen Elizabeth” – beautiful longhair; “Gidget”.

Return to top