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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
When 2 Becomes 255
A Michigan man hoards his multiplying Chihuahuas through life and death.

Three weeks ago, Michigan police discovered hundreds of Chihuahuas living in a house covered in urine and feces with garbage piled up to the ceiling. The operation quickly turned into a multi-day rescue that uncovered 105 Chihuahuas, and even more shocking, 150 dogs in freezers who had passed away.

The man who lived in the house, Kenneth Lang, Jr., is now in psychiatric care. Criminal charges are being investigated, but it appears that Lang has an obsessive-compulsive disorder that led him to hoard everything, dogs (dead or alive), garbage, and just about anything else that came into the house.

Sadly, much of the horrible conditions could have been prevented by spaying or neutering. Apparently the 255 dogs are believed to have originated from Lang’s first two dogs. 

Since the discovery, Dearborn Animal Shelter has been working around the clock to give the rescued pups much needed medical care and to help them adjust to the world they’ve been shut out of their entire lives. 

The shelter has received more than 500 applications to adopt the Chihuahuas, which will be matched based on personality among other factors. Moreover, many of these dogs have special social and medical conditions and may take months to be placed into the right homes.

This week, the first 22 Chihuahuas were sent to their forever homes. "These dogs were living under abnormal circumstances and will require a longer learning curve for the most basic of things such as being walked on a leash, or going 'potty' outside,” explains Dearborn Animal Shelter Executive Director Elaine Greene. “Patience will be the key with the new adoptive families."

For more information on the Chihuahuas or to make a donation, visit the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter web site or call 313-943-2697.

News: Guest Posts
Disrupting the Dog-Meat Trade
Animal rights groups target South Korea’s taste for canines.

In January, I wrote about a raid on China’s dog-meat trade. The rescue of 149 dogs from appalling conditions provided a chilling glimpse into the supply-side of this tradition. Now we’re hearing from South Korea, where eating dog is also a strong, albeit often low-profile, practice. The Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) organization estimates that more than two million dogs are killed each year for meat in South Korea. Before they are slaughtered, they endure “horrible conditions—crammed in unsanitary cages, fed with human waste food.” In the end, many are often electrocuted, hanged, burned or beaten to death because of a belief that the animals’ suffering produces a better tasting meat and enhances virility in those who consume it.

United Dogs and Cats, a social network for dog and cat owners in Europe, has launched an international petition drive to bring attention to the issue and pressure the Korean government to enforce its own animal protection measures and to ban the entire dog meat industry. United Dogs seeks no less than one million signatures, which will be presented to Korean officials by KARA. Sometimes I wonder how effective petitions are at changing policymaker’s minds but I see enormous value to a million people learning about this issue.
 
With all this attention on South Korea, it’s important to recognize the situation in the North, where international public opinion holds no sway, may be even more dire. According to an Agence France-Presse story in July, North Korea has been actively promoting the virtues of dog meat, including hosting dog meat food contests in Pyongyang. According to the story, hot dog meat soup is touted for its power to prevent diseases from malnutrition and bolster stamina—making it a special summer favorite in North and South Korea.

News: Guest Posts
Another View of Vick’s Second Chance
With his former Vick dog at his side, one man has mixed feelings.

I witness daily the physical evidence left by Vick and his cohorts. Today, Hector (a former Vick dog, now certified Therapy Dog) suns his chest full of scars on my deck. It was more than a year ago, on Friday the 13th, that we brought Hector home to join our family. He inspected everything like he was making up for lost time.

Hearing of Vick’s reinstatement and signing with the Eagles, I am filled with mixed emotions. This may surprise people, but I am not totally against Vick playing in the NFL. Emotions aside, the best situation that could come out of all this now would be for Vick to truly regret what he did, redeem his image and career, and then advocate for the extremely misunderstood dogs he once abused.  

I appreciate that Vick could get the chance to do this, and I am all for second chances to those who prove themselves. However, I still have a strong sense of doubt that Vick is really sorry for his actions. I still see him as sorry for getting caught. We all know he has people feeding him lines on what to say, so it’s hard to really trust the words coming out of his mouth as genuine. In addition, you have Vick (largely responsible for the dogs’ suffering) getting led by Wayne Pacelle (the man who advocated through HSUS for the dogs to be put down). Sorry, but the irony from the dogs’ perspective is a bit much for me, and with “friends” like that ... well, you know the saying.

I appreciate that Vick is talking out against dog fighting and that organizations are giving him the opportunity to do so. It needs to be done. I just hope that when all the dust settles, he steps up and proves it with his actions. If he’s truly sorry, he’ll do things like donate part of his salary towards the smaller organizations caring for the dogs that need it. The more money he’s willing to part with, the more he’ll show his regret for the cause, not just the regret for being caught. Regardless, I doubt Vick will be harming any more dogs anytime soon, which is a victory in and of itself.

News: Guest Posts
Dark Side of Dairy Farming
The organic milk–puppy mill connection.

This spring, Newsweek reporter Suzanne Smalley reported about Main Line Animal Rescue’s efforts to crackdown on Pennsylvania puppy mills. In that story, she revealed how organic dairy farming operations—in this case, one supplying Horizon Organics and Whole Foods—were sometimes also breeding puppies for profit in wretched conditions. In a July follow-up, Smalley wrote that when she alerted Horizon to her story, they sent an inspector who shut down the farm in question. In addition, Whole Foods issued a “stern request” to vendors that their operations not use farmers who “breed or raise dogs inhumanely.”

A barebones website calling itself PuppyMillK.com provides a slightly more expanded overview of the puppy mill-organic milk nexus (a surprise to me) and identifies Land O' Lakes as an another big name in the mix. While the Newsweek story had a direct and immediate impact, it’s important to keep up the pressure. The financial incentive for farmers to sell puppies on the side is a great temptation. We need to be sure that companies that have built their brands around a wholesome ideal live up to those promises.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Michael Vick Joins the NFL Again
Does he deserve this second chance?

Michael Vick has returned to the NFL to play football after serving 18-months in prison following his conviction. Many people are upset that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed him, and are shocked that he has been reinstated in the league.

As a dog lover in my private life and a dog behaviorist in my professional life, I’m disgusted by what he did. I had trouble reading about the specifics of his case because it was so upsetting it led me to tears and nausea. Yet, I find myself in the minority in the dog world, including, I believe, here at The Bark) because I’m in favor of giving him the opportunity to play football again. Although his prison sentence was much shorter than I would have liked, that was not my call to make. He has paid his debt to society as determined by the justice system and I believe he deserves the chance to return to his former career.

Maybe this sort of compassion comes easily to me because over the years, I have worked with many dogs who have bite histories and serious aggression issues and whose owners came to me hoping to find some way other than euthanasia to keep their families and other people safe from their dog. Whenever I believe that it is possible for a dog to be safe with a combination of treatment and management, I want that dog to have a second chance, but with reasonable limits and expectation to insure the dog’s success. A lot of my career working to help animals with serious aggression issues is based on a fervent belief in second chances. Defining an individual of any species based solely on their mistakes isn’t in my nature. While the comparison should not be taken too far, the same sort of compassion that makes me believe that aggressive dogs deserve a second chance leads to me to extend that same courtesy to Michael Vick, as long as certain limits are in place. Yes, I think it’s right that he not ever be allowed to own another dog, but yes, I think it’s right that he be allowed to play football again.

He has a chance to be a role model for kids about how you can mess up big and go on to live your life. He may be uniquely able to reach people from the same upbringing he had in a culture of violence who are at risk of lawless behavior and show them that what he did was wrong and that he’s changed. Maybe his interest in humane societies and speaking to youth are just a way to improve his image so he can get some of what he lost back and he’s on the path to ruining his life for good, and my support of his second chance will be a waste. Not all second chances in this world prove worthwhile. Or maybe, he’s sincere enough to make a difference in the lives of both animals and people and he may prevent future cases of abuse and violence. The “maybes” just mean that we don’t know now. That’s how second chances are—the outcome varies case by case and there’s some unpredictability.

Some comments I’ve read on a previous blog suggest that Vick’s punishment should be to receive the sort of abuse that he inflicted on those innocent dogs. It seems many people’s anger fuels a desire to torture Vick. I don’t understand that perspective. The abuse that Vick inflicted on those dogs was so horrendous that it was a crime. I don’t see how committing additional crimes of abuse will improve anything. It won’t bring back the dogs he killed or erase the tremendous suffering he caused. It won’t make Vick more likely to become a kind and caring man who does some good in this world. It won’t increase the chance of him being an upstanding citizen from this point forward. Abuse begets more abuse, while compassion breeds more of the same.

I know a lot of dog professionals and dog lovers think otherwise, but I believe that Michael Vick deserves a second chance. What do you think?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fighting for a Rightful Piece of the Trust
Animal welfare organizations contest how Leona Helmsley’s estate has been allocated.

This week, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Maddie’s Fund, filed a petition arguing that Leona Helmsley’s trustees disregarded her wishes to use her multibillion-dollar estate to help dogs. In February, a judge ruled in the trustees’ favor, allowing them to have sole discretionary power to decide which charities would benefit from her estate. The three organizations are calling their lawsuit the most significant financial litigation in animal welfare history. 

The topic has been a heated one since Leona Helmsley, wife of real estate mogul, Harry B. Helmsley, passed away in August 2007 with a fortune estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion. Most notably was the $12 million that Leona left to her own Maltese, Trouble, that later was reduced to $2 million by a judge.

Animal lovers rejoiced when it was revealed that four years earlier, Leona drafted a mission statement for her trust that listed providing for the care of dogs as a priority and other charitable causes could be determined by the trustees. Unfortunately, the last part left a gaping loophole for the current events. 

Furthermore, since the mission statement was never incorporated into her will or the trust documents, it wasn’t legally binding. Though her intentions seem clear, less than one percent of the trustee’s grants announced in April benefits animal related organizations. Of that amount very little went to animal welfare. Ten percent went to the ASPCA and 90 percent to guide dog organizations. 

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there’s a long history of disputing animal trusts. In the later half of the 19th century, a bequest of a $100,000 estate to the ASPCA was contested by the donor’s heirs and a court ruled in their favor.

More recently, tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, left her money to support the arts and the prevention of cruelty to animals or children. But because of that “or,” her trustees chose to allocate the money to only children. 

When it comes to a trust or will, like many others, I assume that my loved ones know how I feel about animals. It’s unbelievable to me that Leona’s trustees would ignore her seemingly obvious intentions and has made me think about how specific you have to be, no matter how much you trust those around you.

Hopefully with the attention this case has received, more people will be careful about how they draft their wills and trusts.

For more information on creating a pet trust, see Rebecca Wallick’s article and HSUS’ online resources on the topic.

News: Guest Posts
Update: Kids Instigate Attack
Teen pleads not guilty; Snaps in limbo.

In June, Julia Kamysz Lane wrote a post about an attack involving a dog. A group of teens allegedly beat a dog, and when strangers intervened, they attacked and sicced their dog on them. The story touched a nerve in all of us—and inspired unprecedented response; anger and sadness pervaded every comment. The overwhelming sentiment was that Snaps, a Pit Bull at the heart of the matter, would be forced to pay a heavy price for the bad choices of the people around him. Even one of the attack victims has said the dog was innocent.

Two months later there have been a few developments in the case. In July, the now-16-year-old who reportedly instigated the attack pled not guilty. She’s been charged with two counts of third-degree assault and one count of being a minor in possession of alcohol. Each of the three charges can result in a 30-day jail sentence. The other younger teens are not being charged at this time. A spokesman for the prosecutor told The Seattle Times “that his office plans to ask for an exceptional sentence if the girl is convicted.”

Meanwhile, Snaps is still alive but in grim circumstances. According to KCACC Exposed, the dog is being kept in solitary confinement at a King County Animal Care and Control shelter. KCACC Exposed is grassroots organization working to improve conditions for animals at the county-run shelters, which have been mired in controversy since a report earlier this year cited “inhumane” practices and “gross inadequacy” in housing animals.

In a July 27 letter to King County Council and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, KCACC Exposed writes:

“For the past month [Snaps] has been locked in solitary confinement at KCACC; kept alone and terrified in a small, bare concrete kennel, without exercise, fresh air, social contact, or enrichment – or even basic comforts such as a bed or towel to sleep on. In fact, KCACC management has gone so far as to specifically instruct its officers that Snaps is to receive only minimal levels of care, such as food, water and cage cleaning, and that staff members are not supposed to make any effort to ease his misery.”

While Snaps’ future has not been officially declared, the decision to keep him isolated bodes very ill for his future.

News: Guest Posts
Guide Dogs for Cats and Dogs?
Amazing stories of seeing-eye canines.

A story in the Daily Telegraph about a blind Border Collie who has his own guide dog didn’t surprise me. I’ve heard a number of stories about dogs acting as guides for blind animals. One news story—about a dog who guided a blind cat to safety after Hurricane Katrina—was even made into a children’s book.

I learned about Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival at the ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award ceremony last month. Named in honor of ASPCA founder Henry Bergh, the award honors books that “promote the humane ethic of compassion and respect for all living things.” (My own children’s book about my Seeing Eye dog—Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound—won a Henry Bergh children’s Book award in 2008.) The awards are given out annually during the American Library Association convention, which met in Chicago this year. As difficult as it was to give up our crown, Hanni and I were thrilled to learn we’d be handing it over to the likes of Two Bobbies. Here's the book's 411:

“During Hurricane Katrina, evacuating New Orleans residents were forced to leave their pets behind. Bobbi the dog was initially chained to keep her safe, but after her owners failed to return, she had to break free. For months, Bobbi wandered the city’s ravaged streets, dragging her chain behind her, followed by her feline companion, Bob Cat. After months of hunger and struggle, the two Bobbies were finally rescued by a construction worker helping to rebuild the city. When he brought them to a shelter, volunteers made an amazing discovery about the devoted friends—Bob Cat was actually blind! He had survived the aftermath of the storm by following the sound Bobbi’s chain made as she dragged it along the ground.”

Hanni and I met the Two Bobbies co-authors—Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery—at the ceremony, and they were as endearing as the two friends they wrote about in their book. Books that win the Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award are available at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) online store and your purchase helps the ASPCA in its “ongoing efforts to educate children about animal awareness and create a more humane nation.”

News: Guest Posts
Louisville Flood Victims Need Help!
Staff and volunteers struggled to save 550 animals from drowning.

Yesterday’s flash flood in Louisville, Kentucky, forced staff and volunteers to quickly evacuate 250 dogs and 300 cats from the Metro Animal Services shelter. Director Giles Meloche said the water rose so fast that it went from three inches to three feet in just 30 minutes. Sadly, despite their herculean efforts, one dog and 10 kittens drowned in their cages.

The flood survivors were transported to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Fair. They stayed overnight and are expected to be able to return to the shelter today. Volunteers are needed to help move the animals back into their kennels and clean up the shelter. If you’d like to volunteer, please email your name and expected date and time of arrival to animals@louisvilleky.gov.    

The shelter lost all of its food and supplies in the flood. If you’d like to donate money to help replace what was lost, you can do so online by clicking here. If you’d like to donate food or supplies, please bring them to the shelter, located at: Metro Animal Services, 3705 Manslick Road, Louisville, Ky 40215.

These poor dogs and cats have been through a lot and could really use a stable home. Please consider adopting one or if you can’t, spread the word to friends, family and neighbors.

News: Guest Posts
My Rescue Trifecta, Plus One
Helping a dog—or three—gets personal. [Web exclusive]

Until recently, my understanding of “rescue” has been too traditional and narrow. I’ve been a breed foster mom. But rescue? Isn’t that something done by selfless, saintly people in nonprofit organizations who give their entire lives to assisting dogs and other animals? Those who drop everything to rescue homeless and lost animals after a natural disaster? I’m no saint.

Yet 2008 was my year of the “rescue trifecta,” when I unexpectedly played a direct role in the rescue of three dogs. I learned anyone can facilitate a rescue when he or she stumbles upon the need. All that’s required is a little creative thinking, lots of compassion and a willingness to see it through. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Rescue #1: Buddy, Easter Sunday, 2008
How appropriate—even for this ardently unreligious woman—that my rescue trifecta started on Easter Sunday, the Christian holiday of rebirth and resurrection. I was living in the mountains of Idaho, near McCall. Ponderosa State Park sits on the edge of town. The park is groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.

I knew if I got on the ski trails early Easter morning, I’d have the park to myself. And I did, until, about 10 minutes into my ski, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and turned to see a large dog of indeterminate lineage. He also stopped. We considered each other, our breath hanging in the frigid air. I called softly, “Hey there…” with my hand extended in greeting, but he stood his ground. Dogs are not allowed on these trails. I assumed he lived nearby and wandered into the park for the same reason I came—peace on a beautiful, sunny morning.

I started skiing again. He followed. He trotted alongside me, then ahead, behind, off into the trees after a chipmunk, back alongside. Yet he wouldn’t come close enough for me to touch. Okay, play it your way, big guy. Let’s ski.

Onward we went, a quiet yet simpatico pair, deeper into the park. The white path, sparkling in the early light, contrasted with the grooved brown bark of tall pines topped with branches of long green needles. Sunshine filtered through the tree tops. The temperature was in the single digits, making everything crisp and vibrant. Views of frozen, snow-covered Payette Lake sneaked through the trees. Somehow, having this dog along made the experience even more perfect.

Soon we came to a fork in the trail. The dog took the right fork. I went left, a little sad he would no longer be my companion, but hoping he was going home. I’d gone only a few yards when he appeared beside me again, before charging off into the trees after another chipmunk.

I started talking to him, as I do my own dogs when I take them on trails with me. “Hey, Buddy. Having fun? Good dog!” I missed my dogs. He assuaged that longing. I laughed and smiled at his antics, launching into the deep untracked snow after critters, clearly having a ball.

After 45 minutes, we reached my turnaround point. I stepped out of my skis, planted my poles, and moved off the trail to pee. Buddy stayed nearby, seeming to guard me. After pulling up my tights, I squatted again, to his level. “Hey, Buddy, come say hi,” I murmured. This time, he did. He not only sniffed my ungloved hand, he melted into my embrace, almost knocking me back into the snow. Oh my. We instantly, incredibly, bonded. He trusted me.

His collar carried no tags. He didn’t feel overly thin. His coat was thick and clean. His eyes were warm and bright.

I spent the return leg wondering, “Is he lost? Abandoned? He can’t have been lost for long.”

I stopped by the ranger’s office and asked if she recognized the dog. “No, but we get strays in the park all the time,” she said. “I usually just call McPaws [the local shelter] and they send someone over to pick them up.”

I wasn’t quite satisfied with that solution. I went outside again. A car with a couple and their two dogs had just arrived. I asked if they recognized Buddy. “No,” the woman said. “But I volunteer at McPaws. I could take him over when we’re done skiing.” This sounded a little better. But I was also thinking I could provide a foster home for him. I knew my two female Malamutes would adore him. “Could I see how he behaves toward your dogs?” I asked the woman. She agreed, saying her female could be a little aggressive. Buddy was off leash; her dog was on leash, and yes, a bit pushy. Buddy simply turned his head away and was completely non-threatening, letting the other dog sniff and posture all she wanted. His was the perfect reaction.

I spent the next ten minutes fighting with myself: “Take him home!” then “No, he’d be 10 miles from his likely home in town.” I finally realized that, if he did have a home, his family would most easily find him at McPaws. With the woman’s assurance she would take him there, and the ranger’s offer to keep him in her office until that time, I left Buddy with the ranger.

My mind churned as I drove home. I wasn’t ready to adopt Buddy myself. I’d been thinking about getting another dog for more than a year, but a much smaller and younger dog. I already have two 80 pound dogs; I didn’t need another large one. But I couldn’t just forget him. In those 90 minutes skiing together, we understood each other, trusted each other. We bonded. He chose me, and now he was mine in the sense that I felt responsible for his wellbeing.

Inspiration struck. Friends in Seattle, who winter in McCall, had lost their 14-year-old Golden a couple of years before. I called them Sunday afternoon, planting the seed. I can be devious, that way. They didn’t reject the idea outright.

Monday dawned. I called the shelter to check on Buddy. Closed! Somehow I waited until they opened Tuesday. Yes, he was there, and doing well. “Very calm, a very sweet dog,” I was told. (This, I already knew.) They found a microchip and would try to reach the person listed. If that failed, he could be adopted as early as Saturday.

I visited Buddy at the shelter. We hugged and I cooed. He was calm and friendly, but subdued. I learned that the phone number on his chip had been disconnected. All other efforts to trace the name failed, but they’d keep trying. I started to wonder if Buddy was a “foreclosure” dog – left behind by a family no longer able to afford to live here.

My Seattle friends called Tuesday evening to ask more questions about Buddy. Good sign. On Wednesday, they drove ten hours to McCall to meet Buddy. Great sign.

We met at the shelter on Thursday. The visit went well. Wife was ready. Husband played it cool. I saw a crack in his armor when he arranged and paid for Buddy to be bathed as we left that day. “Whether we adopt him or not, he should look good.”

The next day, my friends called to say they’d do it and by Saturday “Buddy” was in his new home. But what to name him? They felt he needed a solid, manly name. I jokingly suggested Wally, in my honor, since he found me in the park, I rescued him, and matched him with them. Wally it is.

When I brought the ranger up to speed a few months later, she smiled and said, “Sounds like he found his own Wally’s World.”

Rescue #2: Hope, May 2008
My job was to worry about the man, but I found myself more worried about the puppy.

I sometimes act as a guardian ad litem (temporary, court-appointed guardian) for alleged incapacitated persons. The local prosecutor asked me to represent the best interests of Sam (not his real name), a 77-year-old man who, she feared, was sinking into dementia and unable to care for himself.

I first met Sam in the prosecutor’s office. We quickly discovered common ground: He had graduated from law school and loved dogs. He had a puppy back at his trailer, he said. “The puppy’s blind. Gonna have to put him down,” Sam told me.

I followed Sam to his “home” which was the sort of camper trailer that fits in the bed of a pick-up, set in a gravel parking lot. All his earthly belongings were stuffed inside or underneath it. His landlord disconnected water and electric hook-ups in an attempt to get Sam to leave. His toilet was an old coffee can. It was a warm June day and the puppy was locked inside the trailer. I was saddened by the general clutter and disarray of Sam’s trailer and living circumstances, but happy to see food and water bowls set out for the pup.

Hope, the pup, was an eight-week-old purebred Pointer. Sam picked him up by his scruff, as Hope had no collar. Sam lamented Hope’s blindness and explained that one can’t have that in a hunting line, so Hope would have to be shot. He’d taken Hope to the vet, he said, seeking a cure. The more I heard and observed, the more concerned I became, for both Sam and Hope.

Sam set the pup on the ground. As I watched Hope scamper around the trailer and into the street, it was obvious to me that Hope’s eyes, nose and ears were fully functional. My most immediate fear was that he’d be hit by a car. Apparently, Sam’s previous puppy met just such a fate.

Normally, my job as guardian ad litem would include an investigation of Sam’s current circumstances, his family or community connections, mental and physical health needs, and ultimately, a recommendation to the court regarding his ability to manage his own affairs, whether a guardianship of any level was necessary. This was the first time, in my 25 years of doing this work, that I was so directly confronted with the issue of a pet. Pets are property, and, as such, they would eventually become the responsibility of a guardian, should the court appoint one. In the meantime, Sam was the owner, and made the decisions; he could decide to kill Hope. I simply couldn’t let that happen. This puppy needed immediate care and a safe living situation. Neither I nor anyone else could deprive Sam of his property without a hearing and order from the judge, but that could take days or weeks. My legal duty was to investigate and advocate for Sam’s best interests; my moral duty was to also advocate for this helpless and innocent puppy, to save its life.

McPaws, the local shelter, was bursting at the seams with “foreclosure” pets. Besides, Hope wasn’t a stray or surrendered animal. It would be a clear conflict of interest for me to take Hope. I asked everyone I knew if they’d take the pup. Finally – with the prosecutor working to get Sam on board – a court clerk stepped forward, saying she would take Hope in on a foster basis; if Sam was unable to reclaim him, she would adopt him permanently. Sam, to my relief, was happy with this arrangement; with his mental health issues, I don’t think he was capable of bonding with the puppy.

Another successful rescue! I learned, two months later, that Hope was doing wonderfully in his new home, as was Sam (assisted living, in another community).

Rescue #3: Finn MacCool, July, 2008 
Now it was time to address my own companion animal needs. I wanted to add a young, smaller dog to my pack. My two Malamutes—best trail running companions a woman could ever want—are aging and slowing. Our runs are getting shorter, and less frequent; often we just hike or walk.

Many trail running friends have Aussies. Good trail dogs. I investigated breeders, while regularly surfing Petfinder.com. The idea of rescuing appealed to me; my interest increased after the experiences with Wally and Hope. A friend recommended a specific rescue organization. Within a couple weeks of my contacting the organization and completing their paperwork, I was offered a young male, about six months old, likely a mini-Aussie.

He and his siblings had been dumped at the door of a shelter in eastern Washington by an unscrupulous breeder known to the local breed-rescue community. The first attempt to get all three to the Idaho rescue failed; while his siblings arrived safely, this boy got away and was a stray for a month until he was found tied to the front door of another shelter, miles away. Photos verified it was the same dog.

In for a rescue penny, in for a pound!

I named this rescued redheaded mini-Aussie Finn MacCool, after a minor Celtic god: The heroic Finn-MacCool delights in cross-country running into strange situations with dogged persistence. Finn has some separation anxiety, but gains confidence daily. My Malamutes accept Finn completely. He brings out their inner-puppy, shaving years off their ages. Occasionally all three hike trails with me, Finn leading the charge. His name fits him, and he fits me.

Coda, July 20, 2009
It happened again. Last night, I was riding my bike on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle. I came down and around a bend to see a wet dog dash up a driveway and into the road in front of me, obviously scared and lost. Left alone, he’d surely be hit by a car. I braked, twisted my bike shoes out of the pedals, and stopped, straddling my bike. “Hey you, come say hello,” I calmly said. To my surprise, he did. His butt wiggled in friendliness, and he sniffed my hand. He was soaking wet, making me guess he’d been swimming in Lake Washington. He shook, soaking me! I noticed a Haltie dangling from his neck. He allowed me to pet him and wrap my fingers around the main band of the Haltie so I could control him, keeping him out of the road. He wore no other collar, no obvious ID. Now what?

He seemed willing to stay with me, so I quickly got off my bike and tossed it into some roadside shrubs. I scanned the area, but no people appeared; I couldn’t hear anyone calling out. With cleats on my bike shoes, walking was difficult. I walked with the dog—either a very tall Wheaten, a cream-colored Standard Poodle, or a mix—across the road to peer down the driveway he’d come from. No one appeared to be home at the house at the top of the driveway, and I wasn’t able to walk down the steep drive to the house down below.

I pulled my cell phone out, but wasn’t yet ready to make the call for animal control. A few cars passed. I hoped one would see the incongruity of a woman wearing a bike helmet and shoes holding a wet dog by the side of the road, but no one stopped or offered to help. Finally, I sat with the dog on someone’s lawn, determined to wait as long as I could before dark fell. The dog stretched out next to me and started rolling in the grass, tossing his legs in the air and pushing them against me; he grunted with joy and pleasure, making me laugh out loud.

Ten minutes later, a car came around the corner and made a beeline for us. A young man, jumped out, smiling broadly with relief and hugged the dog, who was clearly glad to see him. I explained my end of the transaction. The young man said they were at a friend’s house when the dog spooked, ran under a fence, into the lake and just kept going. Boaters saw him swimming. We were a good half-mile away from where the dog started! After introducing himself, the man thanked me profusely for keeping his dog safe. I said no thanks were necessary, I hoped others would do the same if one of my dogs was lost. I did diplomatically suggest he make sure his dog always had ID on him in the future, just in case.

As I rode home I felt such joy at helping reunite dog and guardian. I mentioned the episode on my Facebook page and got lots of atta girls! from my friends.

My rescue trifecta—Wally, Hope and Finn—plus one has taught me that rescues can be accomplished by anyone, with a minimum of effort but an abundance of concern for the animal. Rescues can present themselves in a wide assortment of scenarios.

Imagine if all of us took on the welfare of just one rescue dog or cat a year. Maybe you find a stray and deliver it to the Humane Society or local shelter, following its status until it has been adopted. Maybe through your job as a social worker, home health care worker or hospital employee, you hear about a pet suddenly alone (because it’s human has died or is gravely ill) and arrange for its care. Perhaps you find a dog or cat, injured by the side of the road, or lost after a natural disaster, and take it to a vet for treatment, guaranteeing payment or asking friends to pitch in to cover the cost. You can do something.

Even if we can’t foster or adopt the animal, we can work our contacts, place some calls, write some emails, do our utmost to reunite them with their guardians, or if none can be found, search for a new home, taking that burden away from an already overcrowded and financially strapped shelter system. We can donate the cost of food and vet care while that dog or cat is in shelter or rescue or foster care. We can visit them, soothing, socializing and exercising them, which makes them easier to adopt.

Make that one pet your project in 2009. Make it personal. It’s not that difficult; it doesn’t require a long term commitment. It simply requires a big heart and a can-do attitude. The rewards—for pets, and us—are enormous.

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