2014-05-07 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

At times the most desirable purebred dog in a public shelter is more vulnerable than an inconspicuous dog. Everyone who sees the Basset puppy or the Afghan Hound wants him. “Everyone” is not equipped to handle him. Many breeds are acquired tastes. Afghans are high maintenance while Bassets, like many breeds, do best in the hands of people familiar with their quirks as well as with their specific health issues.

Years ago purebred rescues operated like an underground railroad, without the cooperation or knowledge of shelter management who felt all dogs should be “up for grabs” or dead. The rescues would send incognito volunteers to evaluate and put holds on the dogs. In the 1990s when a Belgian Malinois rescue rep got to Babylon Shelter, she was afraid to reveal her true identity to me, even though I called her.

Since our shelters are now overflowing with Pit Bulls, some shelter directors feel that purebreds should be available first to the public because it’s good PR to have a “variety” of dogs available. Their adoption statistics improve. Meanwhile, the long-term, well being of the purebred may be at stake, especially when the town shelter neglects to screen adopters. Chances are certain purebreds will continue to be relinquished when the same problems frustrate subsequent, novice owners.


LIGRR says that “Tami” is an energetic 5-6-year-old and prefers a one-dog home. LIGRR says that “Tami” is an energetic 5-6-year-old and prefers a one-dog home. Breed rescues, on the other hand, believe the dog’s best interest has to come first. Since the general public had already failed the impounded purebred, the next placement should be with the intervention of those who cherish and understand the particular breed and will do all possible to ensure that this dog never surfaces in the shelter system again.

It has taken time to change the municipal attitude that purebred rescue is not snobbery and that placing dogs properly is not first come, first served like issuing boat slips. Purebred rescues have the ability to do so much more for the homeless dog before placement with indepth screening, home checks, rehab and complete medical care. Equally important, the purebred rescue will protect the dog in their safety net for the rest of its days. Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue (LIGRR) helped a soldier’s one-year-old Golden when he was being deployed. They monitored the dog through the owner’s return and a new marriage. After the man died years later, LIGRR took the dog at age 10 because his second wife didn’t want the Golden any longer.

Presently some municipal shelters contact purebred rescues. LIGRR, an exceptional group, is proactive, calling LI town shelters weekly in search of Goldens. They wind up taking many that are old, quite ill or neglected, and then work miracles with them. Help is also extended to owners who can no longer care for their Goldens. A small band of dedicated LIGRR volunteers mans this labor of love.

Founded 14 years ago, LIGRR, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, embraces 80 to 100 Goldens a year. LIGRR president, Melanie Mayo, says their Goldens come from owner surrenders as well as LI town shelters and Animal Care and Control in NYC. They are trying to rescue Midwest puppy mill breeding Goldens at auctions. As a Mayor’s Alliance member, LIGRR sees Golden listings as soon as they arrive in the crowded city shelters. Dogs are temperament tested before intake. LIGRR reaches out to supporters and their larger base of adoptive homes for foster care. Some dogs are boarded at vets. They do not have a shelter.

“Never Miss a Golden Opportunity” is the LIGRR motto. There are plenty of rescues because Golden Retrievers remain #3 on the AKC breed popularity list. Unfortunately, the breed has more than its share of health problems, many with a suspected genetic basis. Cancer (especially lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma) is the primary cause of premature death in Goldens. Over 60% of all Goldens will succumb to cancer. (See Post “Pets” 4/9/14 about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.)

LIGRR assumes initial medical responsibility if a foster has a chance at quality of life, and has provided cancer operations with pricey follow-up. Other life-threatening conditions are costly too. Goldens are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, plus heart and eye ailments- all expensive to fix or manage. Since LIGRR tries to treat all fosters as if they were personal pets, a tremendous amount of the group’s limited treasury goes toward foster dogs’ veterinary treatment. To donate, go to www.ligrr.org/anniefund.html.

LIGRR’s praises have been sung in “Pets” before but it’s time for an encore. No town shelter should ever hesitate to give LIGRR first dibs on a Golden in need. Here’s proof provided by four Golden Retrievers helped recently by this remarkable rescue:

“Chester,” with the snowy face of a senior Golden, was found tied to Babylon Shelter’s fence along with two old, matted Yorkies. (Yorkie 911 took the tinies.) LIGRR discovered that “Chester” had a mass on his spleen and arranged for a splenectomy. Surprisingly, the biopsy came back benign. Soon after he was fostered by a couple with a summer home in Greenport. Adoption hinged on whether he would be able to climb two flights of stairs in their Chelsea apartment. “Chester” passed the test and his charmed, new life became official.

After Sandy, an emaciated Golden from Mastic Beach arrived at Brookhaven Shelter. She had lumps that looked like suspicious tumors. “Honey” was pregnant and whelped nine Golden puppies less than a week after LIGRR pulled her from the shelter. Mom and babes have all been placed.

“Tami” was an unclaimed stray Golden in upstate Pound Ridge, but this affluent town doesn’t have a shelter because virtually all strays except her are redeemed quickly. “Tami” is looking for a foster or adoptive singledog home now via LIGRR.

LIGRR rescued “Max,” a 16-year-old owner surrender at the Manhattan shelter. He had testicular cancer and a lump on his face. Melanie asked the vet to give her one good reason to put him through a neuter to remove the tumor. The vet said, “He can’t walk,” so the surgery was done. Max is in a foster home where he is learning to deal with other Goldens. Yes, LIGRR can teach an old Golden new tricks.

Special Dog for Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Justice” 14-232 is a middle-aged German Shepherd Dog whose owner recently died. He deserves the best breed-experienced owner there is!

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