Sunday, July 26, 2009
On Thursday, July 23, 2009, one of our local papers in Montgomery County, Texas, The Conroe Courier, ran an editorial entitled, "How deep will we dig to spare our strays?" You can read the piece here.
Here is the second draft of my response:
In regards to the Editorial “How deep will we dig to spare strays?” (July 23, 2009) I have five proposals:
1) I invite the Editors to come and visit the Montgomery County Animal Shelter to witness first-hand how many people enter the doors of the Shelter to surrender animals. Listen to the stories (some heart-wrenching, others just poor excuses) as to why people have chosen to bring these animals to the Shelter. And be sure to count how many animals are arriving—the Editors might be astonished to realize that during a single day the MCAS may do intakes on more than 120 animals. Many are not “strays.” I’m sure the Shelter Staff would appreciate any advice the Editors could give on how to stem the tide of disposable animals. Unfortunately, when a citizen arrives with a box of kittens or a crate of unwanted puppies, this can't be undone.
2) I invite the Editors to step up as Shelter volunteers. Wear old clothes, tennis shoes or rubber boots, and bring gloves (latex are best) and your own sturdy leashes. Join the already over-worked (not to mention totally unpaid) Shelter volunteers in cleaning kitty litter boxes, wiping down cat cages, swabbing out concrete dog kennels, bathing puppies and washing soiled, stinky towels. Experience for yourselves the joy of a grateful dog who pines for a kind touch or a cat’s contented purr as you rub its back. These animals may be “strays” but they are living creatures, too.
3) I invite the Editors to set a wonderful example for our community by generously contributing their donations (cash is good) to the fine non-profit groups that support the Shelter, including the Friends of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter (www.fmctas.org) or The Woodlands Dog Park (www.thewoodlandsdogparkclub.org). These groups donate thousands of dollars each year to alleviate the suffering of the sick and injured animals that arrive at the Shelter every day. All donations are tax-deductible, of course.
4) I invite the Editors to donate items such as canned dog or puppy food, canned kitten food, bleach, PineSol cleaners, laundry soap, dry dog food, puppy training pads, paper towels, and Dawn dish-washing soap—we need these basic supplies to provide safe conditions for not only the animals but for the people (many of whom are residents of our county) who come to search for a lost pet or find a new pet.
5) I invite the Editors to sponsor Pet Adoption Events. Please, do more than just run a couple column inches the day before. Instead, I suggest that all the Editors band together as volunteers and have The Courier underwrite a series of fun and educational Pet Adoption events. Adoption Events are one of the best venues to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering pets. The Editor-volunteers can arrange for the location and permits, acquire and erect tents or canopies, and set up dog crates, tables and chairs. The Editors can make and post signs and send out flyers, and they can join the Shelter volunteers at the Adoptions. The work done by the Editor-Volunteers would make it possible for the regular Shelter volunteers (who do all the above already) to focus on getting more animals out of the Shelter so that the pet-loving public can interact with them in fun surroundings.
If all of this sounds too daunting, or seems like too much of a commitment to make in the community in which we--Editors, volunteers, tax-paying citizens, stray animals and pets alike--all live, I have one final suggestion:
I encourage the Editors to refrain from acquiring a pet. After all, that pet may one day get lost and might end up in our Shelter, picked up as a “stray.” Sadly, many of our “strays” are obviously well-loved pets—with lush coats, clipped nails, and even collars (but, alas, all too often without tags). If we’re wasting tax-payer money on only “strays,” we certainly wouldn’t want the Editors or their family members to suffer the grief of finding out that their beloved dog or cat ended up the Shelter, thus costing our tax-payers even more money.
I am a resident, voter, and tax-payer who lives in Montgomery County. I am a regular Shelter volunteer. I make cash donations, foster animals and coordinate Adoption Events. I am not nearly as dedicated as many of our Shelter volunteers, but I do what I can. Instead of complaining about money spent on “sparing strays," the Editors should be part of the solution through their volunteer efforts and contributions to our County and City Shelters.
-*- Artwork: Post-digital creation based on the famous "Big-Eyed Puppies" made popular in the late '60s.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Our Shelter is undergoing a lot of changes at the current time, and so no one was surprised when the local FOX News affiliate showed up to make a report:
We're making progress, but it is tooth-grindingly slow.
We're making progress, but it is tooth-grindingly slow.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
My foster dog, who is almost done with his one-month of rest from Heartworm treatment, has had to put up with my Mom's four dogs, including a Chihuahua puppy who sometimes will use the pee-pee pad but who much prefers to tinkle on the carpet.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Ginger, a French bull dog-pit bull mix, loves her foster mom. Ginger is a year old, sweet, smart and athletic. She isn't good around cats.
As an added bonus, Ginger sports the University of Texas logo on her left flank! And her soft coat is that burnt orange color that Texas Longhorn fans absolutely adore. Here in Texas, it's not uncommon for rabid UT fans to decorate their entire house in the school colors (Burnt orange and white).
I told Ginger's foster mom that we should call her "Beva," (since "Bevo," the Longhorn mascot is a steer!). Hook 'em, Ginger!
You can find Ginger, and other great dogs at the Montgomery County, Texas, Animal Shelter, at www.fmctas.org.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Every day at the Shelter, we get pit bulls, American bull dogs, American Staffordshire Terriers and all the possible combinations of bully breed mixes. It is an endless parade of bully dogs.
Some arrive with thick collars strapped to their muscular necks or with sun-bleached nylon harnesses encircling their barrels. Others come bearing full teats and protruding ribs from a recent litter. Many show up with mange—-bright, strawberry-red raw patches cover their faces and ears or splatter across their hind quarters. Many dogs come in with cropped ears—-some just tip-cropped, others sporting badly done home-jobs where the ear tips have been clipped so close to the head that the inner ear is horribly exposed to the elements.
Then there are fighting dogs—with old or fresh scars. The ones that are seized in connection with drug busts or other criminal activities are hustled straight into the “Red Room”—the quarantine room for bite cases and dogs held as evidence. Volunteers and the general public never get to see these dogs. However, many come in as strays or owner surrenders. Most end up in the Kill Room, but a fair number make their way toward the Adoption room, especially if they are young enough and not too blemished. Badly scarred dogs, however, don’t have as a good a chance.
My latest Advocacy Dog is “Blacky,” pictured above. I found him in the Blue Stray-Hold Room on Sunday night, well after the Shelter had been closed to the Public. I was there late putting dogs away after taking them an Off-site event. I have taken to doing a full walk-through of all the rooms each time I go to the Shelter. It is emotionally wrenching, and not all the volunteers will do walk-throughs. But I do.
Blacky (he does have a kennel card with a name, which is a good sign) was in a kennel with three other dogs. A huge black lab with a milk-white splotch on his chin was vigorously humping Blacky when I first saw the dog. Blacky, a bully breed mix of some sort, was trying to sit, and was hunched over so far that his head was between his forelegs. He could not curl up any tighter and remain upright.
I banged on the kennel to get the lab’s attention, but the dog was so caught up in his dominance that he just glared at me and lifted his lip, growling as he continued to hump Blacky. I went and retrieved a kennel worker, George, who got the big lab to back off and moved Blacky to another kennel as his last task before heading home.
I checked on Blacky again, and he was cowering as his new kennel mates pushed and growled at him. As a Volunteer, I’m not really authorized to move dogs, but it was late—just the Volunteers remained. I decided to move him again.
I grabbed his paperwork and hauled Blacky out again and put him into the next kennel to the right. Immediately, a fight broke out. I kicked on the door and hollered at the dogs. They broke up, and I dragged the now shivering, hunkered Blacky out. I didn’t have my leash, so I scrounged a broken slip-leash for Blacky, but he’s a big dog and he wouldn’t move. We keep male dogs on the A side (left) and females on the B side (right), so I cajoled Blacky around to the B side. He relaxed a little bit, pushing hard against my leg, head down and tail tucked. He looked just like the beleaguered little kid in the 1st Grade with a “Kick Me” sign taped on his back.
He was injured—something was wrong with his right front paw—and he could barely walk. I got him back around to the A side, and the dismay on his face was clear. He was terrified. Frantically I scanned the kennels. There was no way I could take an unevaluated, large Stray-Hold bully dog home with me at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.
I had to find him a safe kennel. There was only one available, Kennel #3 with—a single dog, an adolescent lab mix about 6 months old in Kennel 3. He was lethargic and had bloody stools. Someone had scrawled a note about the stools on his kennel card. Sharing a kennel with a sick dog (worms, most likely) was better than being bullied by the other dogs, so I shoved Blacky in. Blacky looked at me as if I had betrayed him. I knew I had, but I could do nothing else. I turned off the lights and left the Blue Room.
I couldn’t get Blacky out of my mind. I went to the Shelter on Tuesday, and he was still in the Blue Room, and still with the young black lab. To my relief, they both looked much better.
One good thing the Shelter Director has done is to hire a dog behaviorist. Mr. G. is one of our dedicated Volunteers, but now he has some authority as an employee to evaluate the dogs. He was working, so I got him and asked if he would come see “my dog.” We all have our “projects,” so Mr. G. agreed.
We got Blacky out and after an informal evaluation, Mr. G. said that Blacky most likely was very young (brilliant white teeth) and had probably been used as a bait dog, based on his extreme submissive behavior and the scarring patterns. Like most bully breeds, Blacky is extremely people-oriented. Mr. G. speculated that Blacky has been kicked by his handlers, but appears very sociable in spite of this. He let us both look at his teeth and handle his injured paws (both front paws and one rear leg) appear to have either old or new bone-joint injuries. We had to put him back in the Blue Room, but now Mr. G. has Blacky on his project list, too, and we spoke to the Blue Room Kennel Manager, and she’s going to try to move Blacky into surgery ASAP so he can get neutered.
This isn’t a happy ending, though. Even if Blacky makes it into the Adoption Room, we’ll have the challenge of finding the right home for a traumatized bully dog. This is all-too common situation at our Shelter, but it’s the only option we have. There is an awesome Bully Breed rescue in our region called Spindletop, but they are always full-up, plus it’s expensive to move a dog into their system.
If you have any rescue contacts in Texas, or if you can offer us a guess as to what sort of bully dog Blacky might be (we’re not thinking pit bull because of his large ears and mouth shape), leave a comment.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This small blackish-brown lab mix was brought in on Sunday with 14 tiny puppies. The mama dog weighs only about 35 pounds, so this is a huge litter for a dog her size. Currently she is in an isolation room, but we're hoping to get her and her puppies into a foster home.
Female dogs with nursing litters are brought into the Shelter weekly. I've seen three or four litters at a time in the Lavender and Pink Rooms (the stray-hold rooms). Currently, the Shelter does not have a space dedicated to newly born puppies and their moms--no whelping boxes, no room where it is quiet and calm so that mama dogs can rest.
We're working to improve these conditions, but it is a slow process.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Here's to a happy, safe and sane Independence Day 2009, and a reminder to keep your pets indoors for July 4th. Shelters receive more animals in the days after the Fireworks Holidays--especially dogs. We're under water restrictions where I live, and this year, for the first time, our Community Associations are cracking down hard on the use of fireworks. Fireworks of any sort have been prohibited in our community for years, but that has never stopped my neighbors. So far, no popping and zinging. My dogs are grateful.
BTW, this is my 50th Post!