2012-02-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

If an old dog could pen his last wishes it may read something like the following, which comes from an email being circulated by the PETCO Foundation:

“Before humans die, they write their last will and testament and give their home and all they have, to those they leave behind. If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I’d ask for….

To a poor and lonely stray, I would give:

--My happy home.

--My bowl and cozy bed, soft pillows and all my toys.

--The lap, which I loved so much.

--The hand that stroked my fur and the sweet voice which spoke my name. I’d will to the sad, scared shelter dog the place I had in my human’s loving heart, of which there seems to be no bounds. So, when I die, please do not say, “I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain are more than I can stand.” Instead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope and give MY place to HIM. This is the only thing that I can give… The love I left behind.”

Last Hope dog center play yard. Note the tombstones in background. Last Hope dog center play yard. Note the tombstones in background. Author Unknown

Although it may sound simplistic, owners who have recently lost a beloved pet fall into one of three categories: those adamantly opposed to adopting another pet because they do not want to be vulnerable to heartbreak again; those who choose to wait a certain amount of time either to grieve or out of “respect” for their irreplaceable pet and those compelled to get another pet ASAP.

We run into many folks who fit the last two categories at the shelters. Once these adopters start looking, there is often a sense of urgency to fill the pet void. The determined ones have already spent hours perusing Petfinder and/or combing other shelters. They are ready for a new four-legged companion. When a rescuer ascertains that the adopter has great pet potential, the race is on to find the right furry fit for that particular person or family because you know that your adoption window of opportunity will be tiny. You hope the homeless tabby or Terrier you’ve been advocating will be fortunate, not that you begrudge another animal in need. You just want your waif to be the chosen ONE.

Before Last Hope Animal Rescue moved the dog adoption center to the former Bideawee Shelter last June, I was a little uneasy about having our shelter within Bideawee’s 18-acre pet cemetery, especially since the dogs would have to tip toe past graves to get to the fenced play yard out back. It is an odd and eerie juxtaposition. Thankfully, the grave of Nixon’s famous Cocker Spaniel “Checkers” is closer to Wantagh Parkway. It’s farther from our playground.

Out of respect, Last Hope dog walkers stay on the path. Even though the dogs don’t know where they are, it upsets me, especially since my outdoor photos tend to have tombstones in the background. Many of the headstones have the departed pets’ images immortalized in marble. Plenty of the graves have flowers or stuffed animals placed on top. The inscriptions are quite moving. You could spend hours reading them; but if you do, bring a box of tissues.

Moving to Wantagh has been a boon for Last Hope’s dogs. We have attracted many new and fabulous volunteers, well over 200. The dogs get plenty of TLC and attention. New dogs come and go quickly because we have more help doing home checks and formalities. Dogs that have lingered among the masses at town shelters are more conspicuous at Last Hope. Our dog adoptions continue to increase, all with excellent pet references. Compare 88 dog adoptions in 2010 to 164 in 2011, and then add 23 more in Jan. 2012 alone. We hope the momentum continues.

After eight months in our new location, I’ve realized that being within the magnificent pet cemetery has tangential benefits. Many of our guests have plots in the pet cemetery. Some have just lost a pet; others regularly visit their pets’ graves. They come inside the shelter to donate supplies, tour our facility and sometimes to search for the next dog of their dreams. It speaks volumes about the caliber of the home when adoption applicants mention their pets are buried at Bideawee.

I always read between the lines when I speak to people seeking a dog. To me, these folks move up several notches on the “applicant ladder.” Usually this statement about having a pet plot (something I don’t have) implies that not only do they have the means to care for a new dog, but they also will shower the dog with love and consider him an integral part of their family, now and forever. Thus, the dying dog’s last will and testament above will be fulfilled.

For adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Both poster dogs come from the “where are our owners; we deserve better” file. This young wiggly wagging Cocker Spaniel #12-50 has a microchip and a cherry eye, a fixable condition common to his and other breeds. His owner has been notified but has not replied. The Cocker deserves better. “Merlin” #12-77 a longhaired dapple Dachshund (blue eye and brown eye) was found wandering near Rt. 109 last week. How could someone lose such a cutie and not come looking for him? The Doxie deserves better too. Female: “Delilah” the American Bulldog gets to hang out in the office but she would prefer a home; “Hope” the Shepherd mix loves to play outdoors; the “Odd Couple”- Mama Pit and her tiny puppy who looks like a Schnauzer. Males: “Max” the abandoned Samoyed; “Pepe” the Sheltie/Corgi mix came in with an imbedded dew claw; “Luigi” the five year old Cockapoo, supposed to be good with kids, dogs and cats.

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