2013-08-07 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

No matter how many times we stress that a stray dog belongs in the LI municipal shelter in the Town where found, or at the very least the shelter be notified and the dog scanned for a microchip, to maximize the owner’s chance of recovering a beloved pet, misguided “do-gooders” often decide to keep the dog or place the dog in a “better” home right away.

As judge and jury, the finder has wrongfully determined the rightful owner doesn’t deserve to get his dog back. The consequences of this pre-judgment can be heartbreaking and tragic, as told in a parable written by Chris Elton, director of Babylon Town Shelter:

We see and hear it all the time in this line of work. There are quite a few folks who find dogs and don’t tell the local shelters about finding them. All sorts of reasons and excuses float to the surface.

“I simply want the dog and I will keep it.” That’s honest at least.

“I am protecting the dog from the stupid owner that lost it.” Folks do lose dogs, it happens to the best of us.

“I don’t want to put the dog in the evil pound where they will just kill it.” Not very likely in a Long Island shelter these days.

“I listed the dog on Craig’s List.” Does everyone have a computer? Does everyone know about Craig’s List?

“I didn’t know we had a shelter.” Duh.

“I think the dog was abused.” Did he tell you about the abuse? You speak Dog or does the dog speak English?

“He’s matted; his owner was terrible to neglect his dog.” Unless, of course, the owner lost him or the dog was stolen months ago.

For all the folks listed above please take the following as a parable, take it very seriously because, tragically, this happened, just a week ago:

A man is getting ready for a date. Just before he jumps in the shower he lets his blind, diabetic dog out into what he thought to be a secure backyard.

The unthinkable but all too common happens: his daughter, a good, responsible kid, has left the gate ajar and the little blind dog escapes. The man finishes his shower, gets dressed and goes to collect his dog, about 20 minutes after he let him out.

Discovering his dog gone, he sets out to find him, calling and canceling his very promising date as he begins his search.

Early in the search he calls our shelter leaving a detailed message describing the dog, its condition, the need for an insulin shot, last known location as well as his contact information.

Fast forward to the following Wednesday: A man calls the shelter inquiring as to how to dispose a deceased dog. After questioning he admits that it is not his dog that died, rather he found the dog.

Arriving at the shelter and after further questioning we determined that: A.) He found the dog on Saturday, on a street very close to the location of the lost dog, right around the time the dog disappeared. B.) He did not contact the shelter, or anyone else for that matter, until the dog passed on Wednesday morning. In essence, his inaction caused a dog to die. Somebody else’s dog.

Now I must chime in again. This mishap didn’t have to happen. A simple phone call to the shelter would have produced an instant reunion and saved the diabetic dog’s life. Babylon Shelter does a diligent job of “connecting the lost dog dots.”

When “Bruiser,” an eight-year-old visually impaired, diabetic Cairn Terrier, went missing in North Babylon on July 20, his family searched for hours, posted flyers saying the Cairn needed insulin, including putting one on the King Kullen bulletin board (you may have gotten your Beacon Shopper right under that flyer) and left a complete message on the shelter’s tape. When the dog who had never escaped before vanished so quickly, they hoped that someone had picked him up and that he would be safe until the person saw their flyer or notified the shelter so they could reclaim him. They figured that person would have to realize Bruiser had vision trouble.

Accidents do happen. Any dog can get lost. Landscapers are notorious for leaving gates unlatched. I’ve owned Afghans for over 30 years but once inadvertently let my “Trevor” out a partially open gate while he was recovering from ear and skull surgery. By some miracle, two veterinarians happened to be driving by, heard the name of the operation and corralled him with their cars. Bruiser’s family wasn’t so lucky.

The Cairn’s owner, Joe, explained that Bruiser had been diagnosed with diabetes several months ago. He gave him two shots of insulin each day. Over the years Joe, at first a reluctant dog owner had come to adore his Terrier who he called “the greatest dog.” He slept on the floor next to Bruiser when first adjusting to his condition, so Joe could let him out in the middle of the night when he needed to relieve himself.

It’s so hard to accept that a beloved pet is suddenly gone. Joe catches himself checking the gate and worrying when he hears firecrackers because Bruiser feared them so. “This ending was so preventable. It was such an easy fix,” he said.

Something positive has to come of Bruiser’s untimely death. We’re hoping his tragic story can convince people who find lost dogs that they must contact their municipal shelter ASAP. It isn’t cruel to put a stray in “the pound.” To the contrary, the municipal shelter is the logical, legal, and safe haven the found dog should be in (temporarily). In addition, most LI Town shelters have medical staff. Imagine if someone were to find your dog, healthy or infirm, and decide to keep him or to just give him away.

The Babylon Shelter Poster (631-643-9270) has another sad tale: “Tallah” #13-471, a gorgeous longhaired Shepherd, has spent her entire life chained to a doghouse. Her owner died several months ago so neighbors continued to feed her in that setting until distant family surrendered her to the shelter. Her mats resemble a tutu. Age estimates range from six to 10 years old; yet this girl seems younger- happy, active and vibrant- despite her ordeal. “Tallah” deserves better. Visit the shelter at 51 Lamar Street in W. Babylon to see “Tallah” and many more homeless dogs and cats.

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