2011-06-15 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

It was the grandest of grand openings. On June 4th, Last Hope Animal Rescue celebrated the ribbon cutting of our new Wantagh Dog and Cat Adoption Center. The parking lot looked like a carnival but some of the most memorable moments occurred behind the scenes. We’ll get to those hidden “happily ever afters” soon. First – the party.

Let the tours begin: Last Hope helpers spent the last few months sprucing up our new space, the shelter at 3300 Beltagh Avenue that Bideawee closed abruptly two years ago. Now love is back in the air. Not only does the building sparkle, but it is alive again with eager pets awaiting homes, exercised and embraced by scores of volunteers.

So many donated their time and talents to make the Grand Opening a success; there are too many wonderful folks to name here. People from near and far stopped by just to say how thrilled they were that the shelter was open again. Every gesture is appreciated by Last Hope and our foster pets, present and future.

Westy and Bailey at Last Hope in Wantagh grand opening. Westy and Bailey at Last Hope in Wantagh grand opening. O Sole Mio! The sun beamed on the outdoor festivities including a DJ, plus pet behavior, training and CPR experts. Erin Grins from Slap Dash Comedy juggled on stilts and then created balloon dogs and cats while a huge Westy the Dog from Westy’s Storage of Hicksville posed for photos. Girl Scout Troop #1247 of West Islip manned (is that the correct verb for Girl Scouts?) the face painting and craft table amid a giantjewelryandbakedgoodsfleamarket.

At noon, several political dignitaries and the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce joined Last Hope in cutting the red ribbon. Later, Reverend Krantz from the Church of the Advent in Westbury blessed the facility and all pets present. Then he walked next door and blessed the Town of Hempstead Shelter animals. Meanwhile, an army of volunteers buzzed around Last Hope in matching T-shirt “uniforms” to mark the occasion.

Shown Above, “Cindy” - Shepherd/Lab Shown Above, “Cindy” - Shepherd/Lab Now for the quiet K-9 miracles: Presently, Last Hope places about 400 cats and 100 dogs a year. Private rescues, like Last Hope, have the luxury of picking and choosing dogs for adoption; whereas municipal shelters don’t. They must take all strays and most owner surrenders. It is much easier to be noticed if you are a homeless pet in the care of a private group rather than lost in the sea of sameness at a town pound. Top that with super showcasing when a crowd attends a shelter grand opening.

All Last Hope dogs are from town shelters. Newly arrived Brookhaven Shelter beauties - Shannon, a Golden Retriever whose owner died, and Anita, a Pit there for almost three years. - I repeat - almost three years - were adopted by applicants at the grand opening. I delivered two Babylon Shelter dogs shortly before June 4. One was Bailey the Beagle mix who had been fished out of the Amityville canal.

male Coonhound male Coonhound Last Hope began as a two-woman operation 30 years ago. One founder, Janet Brasco, was at the Wantagh celebration. She retired from rescue in 1991 when she handed the reins over to Linda Stuurman. Janet came to wish Last Hope well, and to rejoice in how far the organization had progressed. Janet asked me Bailey’s story because her older Beagle mix had recently died. Well, Bailey, now Bess, went home with Last Hope’s founder. Could we ask for anything more?

When accompanying the reverend to the Hempstead blessing, we ran into Liz a police officer and Last Hope supporter, campaigning for Faith, a brindle mix found tied up in Elmont. Supposedly she had been used as a bait dog. Liz visited her everyday and could attest to her wonderful temperament. This may sounded jaded, but shelters overflow with brindle Pit types. Linda is barraged with requests to take shelter dogs (mostly from me). What made this brindle so special? Well, Faith is exceptional; her spirit radiated because of her advocate, Liz. Within hours, Faith became a Last Hope dog scoffed up by friends of volunteers. Adoption inquiries never happen that fast. It was due to the magic of the moment.

Puppies “Take to the Skies”: More magic soared to Wantagh from 731 miles away. Last Hope pulls dogs from an overcrowded shelter in Kentucky, with a high euthanasia rate. Two litters of puppies stood little chance of survival if they remained there, but no land transport was scheduled for the weekend of the grand opening.

Instead, Last Hope volunteer Dale got in touch with a pilot friend Alex. She actually met his family when she helped them trap and neuter feral cats. After Dale’s extensive flight coordination, six lucky pups arrived by way of “relay” air transport that began Saturday morning in Kentucky and ended that evening at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. Because of the generosity of three pilots, all members of an organization known as Pilots ‘N’ Paws, these Shepherd/Husky pups are safe under Last Hope’s care.

Pilot Jon picked up the pups in Owensboro, KY and flew them to Amy in Danville, KY who took them to Alex in Hagerstown, MD who brought them home with him to Farmingdale. The pups were given “potty” breaks and water before the each leg of their journey.

Pilots ‘N’ Paws is a volunteer network that brings together pilots who fly homeless animals at no charge to rescue groups all over the United

States. Pilots ‘N’ Paws combines the pilots’ passion for aviation with their love of animals. Although the separate legs of their flight totaled about five and a half hours, our puppies handled the long trip well. We even had the ability to track their journey via the web. Best of all, a foster parent was waiting at Wantagh to take each pup home. To learn more about Pilots ‘N’ Paws missions of mercy, visit: www.pilotsnpaws.org.

Costco donated sheet cake for the grand opening. It already said: “Love is in the Air”. Besides referring to our airmail pups, you could see and feel the love everywhere. With this fitting confectionery inscription, you could taste it too.

For Adoption: These poster pups are at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon. “Cindy” in Cage 48 is a friendly 4 yr. old Shepherd/Lab from an eviction. This handsome male Coonhound in Cage 1 came in as a stray. Based on his breed, there’s a good chance he is from a Southern shelter like the Last Hope pups flown in from Kentucky. There are many lovely cats too.

Females: Boxer; Honey the Husky; Holly the talkative tortie; Pits- Mona Lisa, Lydia and Trixie.

Males: Pug; senior Yorkie; Santo the German Shepherd, Maverick the yellow Lab.

Reminder: My Search for Sensation & the Westminster Kennel Club in Babylon program at Town of Babylon History Museum, 47 W. Main St., Sat. June 18 at 1 pm. Free. Call 587-3750. Optional field trip to the site after the talk.

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