An Open Letter To The Residents And Commisioners of Davidson County Re: The Davidson County Animal Sheler

An Open Letter To The Davidson County Commissioners Re: The Davidson County Animal Shelter

There is a serious problem in Davidson County, North Carolina.  Of course, as with most serious problems, there are many
roots:  The lack of owners who care enough to spay or neuter their pets; the throw-away attitude many people have regarding companion animals; the complete lack of humane education in rural communities.
All of these things have contributed to the problem.

Still, the central part of this problem revolves around the Davidson County Animal Shelter.

Davidson County Animal Shelter has been in the news more than a few times in recent months.  At issue are the county’s
continuing use of a gas chamber; the grossly disproportionate euthanasia rates; the lack of initiative on the part of shelter
staff to work with rescue groups or potential adopters; and the repeated assertion of shelter director Judy Lanier that the
problems at the shelter are, in fact, “non-issues.”

My belief, as a person who does not live in Davidson County – someone who is viewing the issue from the outside, so to speak –
is that the problems with the Davidson County Animal Shelter ARE an issue, and that further, Judy Lanier is a large contributing
factor to this issue.

The Davidson County Commissioners have recently been listening to their constituents – which isn’t something they’ve been
known to do in the past.  A recent article in The Dispatch even indicated that Sheriff Grice wants the shelter moved out of the
Davidson County Sheriff Department’s control.  Sheriff Grice was quoted as saying he “no longer wants that responsibility.”

Why, Sheriff Grice – isn’t that a change of heart!  Weren’t you the one who appointed Judy Lanier as shelter director?
As a matter of fact, aren’t you the one who created the position especially for her?  Wasn’t it general knowledge amongst
county employees that the position was created for Judy Lanier, and that in spite of her lack of qualifications, she would be the
only applicant considered, no matter who applied?  Aren’t you the one who made sure she got a higher salary than any
shelter employee – including Animal Control Officers – has ever been paid in Davidson County?  Aren’t you the one who’s
done everything you can to protect her position, going so far as to draft a budget that would render her virtually untouchable?
And as far as that goes – Doesn’t Davidson County have a policy against appointing romantic relations to positions in the
workplace?

If not, they should.

This writer’s humble opinion on the matter is that the Davidson County Animal Shelter needs to be taken out of the control of
the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office – and that Judy Lanier should be removed from her position as shelter director immediately.
Any person who refers to a line of dead animals strewn along a busy county highway as a “non-issue” has no business holding the fates of living animals in her hands.  Any person who considers the high euthanasia rates
“non-newsworthy” does not deserve to be responsible for life and death decisions.  Any person who considers the victims of the
Davidson County Animal Shelter “only animals” needs to take a step back and reevaluate her own humanity.

The previously referenced article further quoted Commissioner Sam Watford as indicating the shelter is in better shape than it
was twelve years ago.  This writer has to wonder – On what is Commissioner Watford basing this assertion?  Twelve years ago,
the combined euthanasia rate for dogs and cats at the Davidson County Animal Shelter was 90%, and the adoption rate was
5%.  Twelve years ago, the shelter staff went out of their ways to work with rescue groups.  One year ago, the combined
euthanasia rate for dogs and cats was 81% and the adoption rate was 11% – still unacceptable!  And today’s Davidson County
Animal Shelter is notorious for not being very cooperative with rescue groups.  I for one fail to see the “considerable”
improvement.

Commissioner Steve Jarvis complimented Forsyth County’s record of shelter/volunteer cooperation.  Commissioner Jarvis, let
me just point out that the director of the Forsyth County Animal Shelter cares not only about the animals in his charge, but also
about his reputation and the reputation of the shelter… Which brings me back to Judy Lanier, who obviously DOES NOT CARE
– she doesn’t care about the animals, and she doesn’t care about her reputation, and she most assuredly doesn’t care about
the shelter’s reputation – or that of Davidson County.

Perhaps the Davidson County Commissioners should take a page from Surry County’s book.  One year ago, Surry County
Animal Shelter had a 78% combined euthanasia rate and a 7% combined adoption rate.  One year ago, Surry County Animal
Shelter Director Gary Brown, under the pressure of negative publicity, public outcry, and general public dissatisfaction,
tendered his resignation.  It seems to this writer that things in Surry County have improved substantially since Mr. Brown’s
resignation.

Maybe it’s time for Davidson County and Judy Lanier to follow Surry County’s lead.  If she won’t resign, fire her.  After all, in the
end, is making sure that Sheriff Grice’s appointee is ensured job security worth the national negative publicity that is descending
on Davidson County?

If this writer was responsible for PR for Davidson County, her humble opinion would be… NO.  Absolutely NOT.

Sincerely,

Heather Camp

Thelma and Louise – A Tale of Two Abandoned Dogs

Back in January, when the weather was practicing its usual funky North Carolina magic, two dogs turned up on the curve above Mona’s house.  One was a small brownish blonde mix; the other was a tall black and white dog who looked rather like a dingo.  These dogs were frightened, cold, and confused.  They would approach any car that slowed or stopped, but would run away as soon as they realized they did not, in fact, know those people.

After a week or so of unsuccessfully attempting to corral these kids, Mona contacted Animal Control.  It was a favor she wanted – just for them to come out and set a trap.  The trap worked and the smaller brownish dog was caught.  At that point Animal Control decided to take the dog back to the shelter (that wasn’t part of the trap borrowing agreement – it was late at night when the ACO found the trap and he decided to overnight the dog at the shelter and call Mona the next morning).

 

The next morning it was snowing, sleeting, slushing, and doing all manner of other unpleasant things.  Mona called and asked if I’d be willing to go by the shelter, pick up the little gal, swing by Mona’s for vaccines, and take her home with me.  I agreed – the roads weren’t snowy/sleety/slushy yet.  I don’t drive on snowy/sleety/slushy roads.  I loaded the big crate into the back of my trusty Toyota Matrix and set off, my son at my side.

Our county shelter is in a horrible location out in the middle of nowhere.  How, you ask, does a county shelter expect to find homes for animals when no one can find the shelter?  Well, evidently, the primary consideration back in 1742, when the shelter was built, was that the county already owned the land… because the county landfill is on the same site.

By the time I got to the shelter, snow was beginning to drift and blow across the road, but it wasn’t sticking.  It was coming down a little heavier, though.  My son and I went into the shelter and I told the chief ACO, “I’m here for the dog you trapped for SCHS.”

This is where the story takes a slightly Twilight Zone turn.  This dog was trapped for us at our request.  It was understood by all parties that the dog would be taken into our custody.  AC, however, decided not to let me have the dog.

“She’s injured,” I protested, for this is what we’d been told by a neighbor.  “She needs to be vetted!”

“There’s nothing wrong with that dog, and you can’t have her until the three day hold period is up.”

I didn’t know what else to say, so I left.  I got about thirty seconds down the road when I decided that I was mad.  “I’m going back,” I told my son, “and I’m not leaving without that dog!”

My son wanted to see me do just that, so I drove to the top of the road, did a U-ey, and headed back to the shelter.

“I want to see the dog,” I told AC.  “I’m not leaving until I see for myself that she’s sound.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that dog.”

“I don’t care.  I want to see it for myself.”

AC saw that I meant what I said, so he went back, got the dog, and brought her up.

She was on the smallish side of medium, with a face and build reminiscent of a Whippet, though she was obviously mixed with other things.  She crouched low to the ground, her head turned away, tremors wracking her body.

“Let me take her with me,” I said.

“You know the law,” AC protested, “and we have to abide by the law.  What if I let you take her and her owner turns up three days from now and wants her back?”

“Look, AC,” I said.  “How long do we hold a shelter dog in quarantine before we put it up for adoption?  Fourteen days.  That’s a hell of a lot longer than three.  If her owners turn up, have them call me – and tell them I have their other dog too.  Now do my paperwork.  This dog is coming home with me.  This isn’t like releasing to the public, AC.  I’m not the public.  I’m SCHS.  It’s different.  Do the paperwork before we wind up spending the rest of the winter snowed in at the dump.”

So without further ado, the paperwork was done and I was loading my newest foster kid into the crate and we were headed to Mona’s, easy as that.

Thus far, the snow hadn’t amounted to much, and though it was bitterly cold, it had stopped precipitating by the time we got to Mona’s.

I carried the little gal from the driveway to the front steps.  Mona came to the door.  As we started up the steps, my son said, “Mama, look.”  Lo and behold, there at the top of the other drive stood tall black dingo dog – also a female.  She came part of the way down the drive, then went back up, then walked along the edge of the road a few paces, then came back to the top of the drive.  The whole time her gaze was riveted on little brownish dog.

I sat down on the front porch steps, little brownish dog at my feet.  She uttered a whine, watching her friend up the hill intently.  I sent my son around behind the house with instructions to climb the hill on the far side of the other driveway and to walk slowly down the side of the road – I was hoping that the boy would push tall black dingo dog down toward us.

What actually happened was next door neighbor came by to pick up something, saw what I was doing, sat down beside me, and when tall black dingo dog’s yearning for her little brownish friend overcame her fear of strangers, and she came down to us, he gently put his arms around her and held her while Mona brought us a second slip lead.

Just like that, I had both of those dogs in my possession.  It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life.

We came inside to thaw out and have a bite of stew.  Mona took these photos to send to North Shore – she was pretty sure they’d take these girls, who were a little thin but very attractive, and fearful but non-aggressive:

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After we had stew, Mona’s hubby came home.  He said we should name the dogs Thelma and Louise.  The names seemed to suit them.  Thelma was the little brownish gal; Louise was tall black dingo dog.

Thelma and Louise were very people-social and dog-social.  They also learned to be cat-social.  They weren’t overly fond of the goats, and like the rest of the dogs, they considered chicken to be a menu item of high repute… like most of the rest of the dogs, they never had the opportunity to sample live chicken.

Our official photographers, Tammera and Jessica, snapped these photos for us:

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Within two weeks of catching them, I noticed that Thelma wasn’t feeling well.  I took her to my vet, where she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.  Luckily, Lyme is easily treated with drugs in the Doxycycline family.  Unfortunately, her antibiotic schedule conflicted with the North Shore transport.

Louise went to North Shore the same day as T. Rex, another of my fosters.  (Read more about T. Rex here https://heathermcamp.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/t-rex-and-the-dinosaurs/)

I was heartbroken that day.  T. Rex was a special foster, one that I’d spent a great deal of time and energy training to be nice.  Louise was also a special foster – I’d had to work to earn her trust, and in one fell swoop, not only did I betray that trust, but I ripped her from her bonded friend Thelma as well.  Unbeknownst to me, Mona snapped these candid shots of me apologizing to Louise:

 

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It turned out that it was a good thing that Thelma didn’t make that transport.  The week after Louise left, I called Mona.

“I think Thelma’s pregnant,” I said.

“She couldn’t be,” Mona said.  “She’s been with you the whole time!”

Other than pups too young to be neutered, and of course livestock, I won’t have an unaltered animal on my property.

“I’m pretty sure she was pregnant when I got her, for her to be starting to show now.”

Another week, another conversation with Mona:

“I am 100% positive that Thelma is pregnant.”

“Oh, boy.”

So Mona wrote to North Shore and asked if they wanted us to abort her or let her have the pups.  To my relief, North Shore’s response was, “Let her have them!”

Let me stop right here to say that if North Shore had said to abort, I’d have had Thelma at the clinic the next day.  I’m opposed to human abortion.  It strikes some of my critics as hypocritical of me to oppose human abortion and support animal abortion.  My stance is this:  Puppies and Kittens are being euthanized in animal shelters all across this country every day.  They’re the victims of a mass genocide perpetrated by people who don’t alter their pets.  They starve in gutters and on gravel country roads.  Baby humans aren’t being euthanized.  There are families out there eager to adopt baby humans; puppies and kittens aren’t so lucky.

I will abort a dog or cat, but I don’t do it happily.  It’s a hard decision to make.  It’s hard on veterinary surgeons and their staff, who are left with viable third term puppies and kittens that have to be removed and euthanized.  It’s hard on the mother dogs and cats, who, especially if aborted later in the pregnancies, grieve for their lost babies.

Do I support it?  Yes, because it’s a necessity in the current pet overpopulation crisis, and preferable to euthanizing a six week old or ten month old or fifteen year old unwanted pet.  Do I like it?  Hell no.  

So I was beyond relieved to learn that North Shore wanted Thelma’s puppies.

I made arrangements with Mona to move Thelma to her house prior to delivery.  It’s not that I didn’t want them; I’d have LOVED to raise them.  However, my home is chaotic, full of teenagers and dogs and cats and parakeets and what have you.  Mona’s is quiet, and I deemed it a much better home for whelping and raising puppies.

It didn’t quite happen that way – mainly because Mona didn’t believe me when I told her that Thelma would be delivering soon.  She thought I was exaggerating the progress of the pregnancy.

Thelma delivered her puppies in my big crate in my bedroom with me by her side.  She delivered seven beautiful, fat, perfect puppies, almost as motley a litter as Maggie’s pups had been.  I sat with her from the time her labor started, around midnight, until she delivered the last pup around six in the morning.  A few hours later, Mona’s oldest daughter and my oldest daughter came by to collect Thelma and company and take them to Mona’s.

Thelma enjoyed her time at Mona’s… but I was very gratified that she was tickled to death to see me every time I came over, and she was always sad when I left.  She was a wonderful little mama dog.  When it came time for Thelma and her puppies to go to North Shore, I was at work and so I didn’t get to say good-bye.   

So now I’m sitting here crimping up again, just like I do when I tell these foster tales, and I’m sure you, Gentle Reader, are wondering yet again WHY I continue to put myself through this heartbreak.

I think these photos answer that question:

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Opinions From the Life Experience of a Spay/Neuter Advocate (or, why it’s stupid not to alter your pets)

My daughter is pregnant.  She is 18 years old; dad is 17 years old.  Dad’s mom & I are the same age and have had similar experiences in our lives.  I call her “the other grandma,” because that’s easier than saying, “My friend whose son impregnated my daughter.”  I say, “the other grandma,” and my friends and coworkers and family immediately know to whom I am referring.

Tuesday evening the other grandma was on her way to work in Winston when she saw something in the road ahead of her.  It took her a moment to realize what she was seeing; as soon as reality hit, she slammed on her brakes, slammed the car into park, and further risked her life by leaping into the midst of heavy traffic and snatching a tiny baby kitten from the jaws of sure death.  

Baby daddy is allergic to cats; so is the other grandpa and the six year old aunt.  So the other grandma called me and asked if I knew of anyone who could take baby kitten.  The other grandma loves cats, and would love to have one – she’s hoping that her little daughter will either outgrow her allergy or outgrow the severity of it and that she’ll one day be able to have a cat.  Tuesday, of course, was not that one day.  So I agreed to swing by when she got home from work and take baby kitten off her hands.

Baby kitten is sick.  She’s seen two different vets, with the same general diagnosis and prognosis:  Mild thickened conjunctivitis, a pretty serious crusty urinary tract infection, FeLV/FIV negative (best news of all), definitely too young to leave mama… and, thanks to the other grandma, who is currently on the hero list of many fans, one lucky miracle kitty.

Of course, kitty wouldn’t be costing me an arm and a leg if someone out there had had the common sense to spay and neuter their cats.  Somewhere out there an idiot (or perhaps two) has an unspayed female cat and an unneutered male cat who are happily reproducing.  This chart, which I found on the Stanford University site, pretty much sums up the stupidity of those cat owners:

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Spay USA offers a great nationwide referral service.  There are plenty more great spay/neuter clinics that aren’t affiliated with Spay USA.  Google “Low-cost spay neuter {your zip code}” and you’ll get links to the ones in your area.

I work for a non-profit, high-volume spay/neuter clinic.  We’re struggling right now to stay open because we just aren’t getting any business.  I remember when I used to take my own animals and Stokes County Humane Society foster animals to this same clinic and the line would be around the lobby, out the door, and down the sidewalk.  I don’t for one minute believe that we’ve spayed all of the animals in the Piedmont-Triad area and that we’re no longer needed.  

I’m out $200 and counting on a kitten I don’t want whose life was in danger because of someone else’s stupidity.  I’ll be the first one to tell you that there are worse fates than death… but when I say that, I mean death by humane euthanasia.  The death this kitten faced was not humane.  She was either going to be crushed to death by a passing car; or, if she’d made it out of the road, she’d have died of starvation, or illness, or as a meal for some hungry dog or wild animal.  None of those deaths are humane, and this kitten, that I don’t want, did NOT deserve any of those deaths.  

My hat is off to the other grandma for snatching baby kitten out of traffic that day.  The other grandma put her life on the line to do the right thing – and she continued to do the right thing by contacting me, and she has offered to help with the medicals because she feels responsible.  I think the other grandma is a wonderful person, and it warms my heart to know that she is willing to accept financial responsibility for an animal for which she is by no means responsible.  

No, the responsibility goes back to the party or parties who took on the ownership of cats without being willing or able to take on the responsibility that goes along with pet ownership.

Live in the PIedmont-Triad area of North Carolina?  Call Central Spay, Neuter and Wellness for an appointment today.  Our prices are low, our staff is amazing (no lie, I work there, I know), and we know what we’re doing.  Check out our website – http://www.centralspay.com.  

In case you’re still not convinced that you need to alter your animals, I have a couple more Spay USA images for you:

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Still not convinced?  Then you, my friend, need serious help.

For myself, I feel that baby kitten’s story is all the convincing anyone should need.  Not every kitten is lucky enough to have someone like the other grandma come along to save it.

Rescued: The Most Overused and Misunderstood Buzzword of Our Time

In addition to my volunteer work for the Stokes County Humane Society, I have a “real” job.  I work for a non-profit low-cost spay/neuter clinic.  We charge $80 to spay a female dog under 40 lb – my own vet charges $300 for the same surgery.  I make this distinction so you will understand why it rubs me the wrong way when I answer the phone and have this conversation:

“How much to spay a thirty pound dog?”

“Eighty dollars – if she’s not current on her rabies we’re required by state law to give one and that’s $15 more.”

– Silence –

“Hello?  Are you still there?”

“Oh.  Yeah.  It’s just that I… I rescued this dog, and $95… wow, that’s really expensive.  Since I rescued this dog and everything, can I get a discount or something?”

“Our prices are three times lower than most full-service clinics – we’re a non-profit, and we’ve discounted these prices as low as they can go.”

“Well, I can’t afford it.  I just won’t spay her.  I can’t believe you charge that much.  That’s terrible.”

End conversation.

Today I’m going to say the things I’m thinking during those conversations, and I’m likely going to step on as many toes as I did yesterday – but these are things that need to be said, because until we take off our rose-colored glasses and face the real issues, nothing will ever change.

What is rescue?  Well, in the simplest possible terms, rescue is when someone is taken from a perilous or life-threatening situation and taken to safety and a better situation.

Rescue is when a man is stranded on the roof of his house during a major flood and the National Guard helicopter comes and airlifts him to dry ground, where he is then provided with food, shelter, clothing, running water, medical care, and information on how to improve his situation, protect his assets, and avoid being caught in a flood again.

Rescue is NOT taking that man from that roof and putting him on a higher roof a few houses down.  He’s farther away from the water on a two-story roof, but he’s still in the same basic situation as he was before:  No shelter, no food, no safety.

Rescue is when a person or group pulls a dog from a kill shelter, or picks up a cat from the streets, and immediately takes that animal to a vet for a checkup, and then places the animal in a place where it will be sheltered, fed, watered, handled, trained, vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and given medication when applicable – and where, eventually, it will be adopted by a family who will continue the standard of care provided by the original rescuer.

Rescue is NOT when a person takes an animal from a shelter or off the street and takes it to a home where it is NOT vetted, vaccinated, spayed/neutered, where it doesn’t have constant access to clean water, where it won’t receive emergency care if needed, and where it will most likely die a probably painful death due to neglect.

If you can’t afford to have a dog vetted, vaccinated, and altered, you did NOT rescue that dog.  

If you go to the animal shelter and get an American Pit Bull Terrier for free because his adoption fee is sponsored, and you take that bully home with you and immediately start looking for a bitch to breed him with even though you can’t afford good quality food and basic vaccines and wellness care, you did NOT rescue that dog.  You haven’t bettered his situation; you’ve only changed it – probably for the worse.

If your dog dies of congestive heart failure due to heartworm disease because you couldn’t afford an annual heartworm test and heartworm preventative, then you did NOT rescue that dog.  In fact, that dog might have been better off having never been “rescued.”

If your dog dies of parvo or distemper because you couldn’t afford to keep him vaccinated, then you did not rescue that dog.

If your dog spits out litter after litter of puppies and eventually dies as a result of a complicated delivery or a pyometra, you did NOT rescue that dog.  You prolonged her life but you didn’t provide any sort of quality of life.  

If you have so many animals that you can’t afford to feed them, you can’t (or don’t) clean up after them, and they are behind on their vaccines, then you did NOT rescue those animals. In fact, if that is the case, you are a hoarder, and most of your animals are going to wind up euthanised anyway as a result of long-term neglect, so you might as well have spared them the suffering and left them in the shelter.  If you’re a hoarder you’re most likely  holding onto those animals because you don’t think anyone else can love or care for them as well as you.  If this is your stance, let me enlighten you:  You are NOT providing them any sort of care, and if you really loved them you’d let them go to people who CAN provide them with the care they need.

If you can’t afford to take care of an animal that you intend to keep, you didn’t rescue that animal.  If you rush into oncoming traffic and pluck a puppy from the brink of death, only to take it home and let it die because you couldn’t afford to have it treated for tapeworms, then you didn’t rescue that puppy.  If you pluck the pup from traffic and carry it to a rescue group or a shelter facility – even a high-kill shelter facility – because you’ve got the sense to know you’re not financially able to care for a pet, then – THEN – you have rescued that puppy.  Otherwise, you might have taken it out of the frying pan, but you’ve left it in the fire.

Stokes County Humane Society is a non-profit animal welfare organisation that does have a couple of no-kill rescue programs.  SCHS immediately vets any and all animals brought out of the shelter.  We vaccinate, we heartworm test, and we spay/neuter.  We feed the animals in our program high-quality foods.  All of the animals in our program are in foster homes where they are taught indoor and outdoor manners, receive basic training, and are loved and treated as family pets for the duration of their stay.  Foster families take their foster pups and dogs on camping trips, hiking in the mountains, to soccer games, to parks, festivals, and parades.  We have an adoption application process that includes reference checks, home visits, and requires a potential adopter to meet the animal at least once prior to the adoption being finalized.  We firmly believe that anyone who can’t afford our $150 adoption fee for a fully vetted, vaccinated, microchipped, spayed/neutered animal won’t be able to provide the care the animal needs.  That’s the reason we charge an adoption fee!  One hundred fifty dollars doesn’t BEGIN to compensate for what we’ve spent on these kids while they’re in our care.

Yesterday I spoke out in opposition of sponsoring adoption fees for shelter adoptions.  Today I remain firm in that opposition, but I will say this:  The only time I would ever support an adoption fee sponsorship would be if there was an application process that included reference checks and a home visit prior to the adoption, and if a legally binding adoption contract including a spay/neuter clause for unaltered animals was required.

If there is no contract, if there is no spay/neuter clause, then those animals coming out of shelters on sponsorships aren’t being rescued.  It might make you feel warm and fuzzy inside because those animals are no longer on death row in the shelter, but your actions haven’t improved their lives.  If their lives haven’t been improved, then your sponsorship dollars have been wasted.

Why Adoption Fees Should Never Be Sponsored – the OFFICIAL Stokes County Humane Society Stance

We are lucky here in Stokes County, NC, to have a great network of sane animal welfare advocates.  People care.  Some of the people who care are people who do amazing things – witness Candis Loy of Animal Rescue of Stokes County, and Mona Triplett of Stokes County Humane Society.  Both groups are at the forefront of advocacy, education, and rescue in this county.  Of course, both groups are also volunteer based and donation supported, and so their great works are limited.

Mona dedicated a great deal of time and personal resources to earning the educational credits required to qualify as an official Cruelty Investigator.  Last year she was appointed to the position by the Stokes County Board of Commissioners.  Mona has been involved in humane education and rescue for many, many years, so she was pretty sure she’d already seen it all.

She was wrong.

One of the most shocking aspects of Mona’s work as County Cruelty Investigator has been how many dogs and cats that are “rescued” from the shelter wind up victims of gross neglect and in some cases blatant and intentional abuse.  

Even more shocking is the fact that the majority of shelter “rescues” that Mona winds up investigating were pulled from the shelter by people who couldn’t afford the adoption fee.  How, you ask, was this possible?  Well, there is a group of well-meaning individuals who sponsor adoption fees for animals in the Stokes County Animal Shelter.  These people are doing a great thing – they’re putting up their own hard-earned funds as an incentive for other people to rescue animals from death row.  We respect their dedication to these animals and their willingness to help get them out of the shelter and into loving homes.

That being said, the Stokes County Humane Society has adopted this official stance:

Anyone who cannot afford a $36 pull fee at the county animal impoundment facility does not need to own an animal.  Period.  

If you can’t afford a $36 pull fee, how are you going to afford a wellness visit at the vet?  My vet is pretty reasonably priced, but I just walked out of his office today with my daughter’s seven year old cat – who we’ve had for all but four months of the entire seven years of her life – $110 poorer.  That’s right, that says ONE HUNDRED TEN DOLLARS.  What in the world was wrong with kitty?  NOTHING.  Well, her nerves are shot as a result of our move last fall, but other than that she’s healthy as the proverbial horse.  What, then, did I pay for today?  An annual wellness visit:  a complete physical exam, a fecal flotation, a feline leukemia/feline immunodeficiency virus test, a rabies vaccine, a feline distemper vaccine, and, since the test was negative, a feline leukemia vaccine.  I didn’t have to pay my vet’s prices for these vaccines, mind you – I can get them at cost from my own employer – but I’ve been worried about kitty lately, she’s been under a lot of stress, and I didn’t want to vaccinate her without making sure she was in tip-top health.  Physically, she is.  Mentally is another story.  (Note: I spent another $15 at PetCo on a pheromone collar that I hope will help soothe her mental upset and anguish.)

I’m not here today to talk about my daughter’s bipolar cat, of course – but she’s a perfect example of the point I’m trying to make.

Two weeks ago I spent $36 per dog for a heartworm/tick-borne-pathogen test at my vet’s office.  He never charges me an office visit for my dogs unless they need an examination, because I’m one of his best clients and he loves me.  If I couldn’t afford a $36 pull fee, then how would I be able to afford this very necessary test?

The least expensive heartworm preventative on the market costs around $60 for six doses for a medium sized dog.  The preventative I use includes a flea control agent as well and markets for around $90 for six doses for the same size dog.  I have eight dogs right now, four of whom are much larger.  I’m lucky; I can get it at cost, which still isn’t cheap… but if I didn’t work where I do, I’d have to pay market prices – you do the math.  If I couldn’t afford a $36 pull fee, how would I afford heartworm preventative?

I’m sure you’ve all read my post about Biscuit – if not, please do.  I’m out around $200 on that incident, and I’m lucky yet again that my vet loves me and supports what I do.  If I couldn’t afford a $36 pull fee, what would have happened to Biscuit?  Nothing good, I assure you.

My vet, whom I love, charges around $300 to spay a 35 lb bitch in heat.  That’s a little pricey no matter who you are.  Central Spay, Neuter and Wellness Clinic in Kernersville charges $80 to spay the same dog.  If you can’t afford a $36 pull fee, how in the world are you going to swing an $80 spay fee (plus $15 for the rabies if it wasn’t received elsewhere)?

I spend around $250 a month on dog food…  If I couldn’t afford a $36 pull fee, how would I feed my dogs???

Now that we’ve had a few examples of the sorts of expenses animal owners incur, let’s look at a couple of the actual cruelty cases that have led us to publicly declare our opposition of adoption fee sponsorships.

Case #1  Last year, a pregnant bitch was pulled from Stokes County Animal Shelter.  SCHS volunteers offered at that time to assist the woman with placement of the pups once they were old enough.  A few weeks later, Mona received a tip that there was a hoarding situation with abject neglect in the northern part of the county.  Upon arrival at the property, Mona found that it was the woman who had taken the pregnant bitch.  The pups were in a cardboard box on her front porch, with a hand-lettered “Free To Good Home” sign tacked to the front.  Other animals on the property lacked appropriate shelter, were malnourished, and/or didn’t have access to fresh water.  There was animal feces throughout the house.  There were also very young children on the property.  Mona issued a formal reprimand and a list of compliance items to the woman and said that she would return in a week or so to make sure all issues had been dealt with – when she returned to the property later the woman was in compliance with a few of the requirements.  Unfortunately, in spite of the lack of care these animals received, there was no legal grounds for seizure and so the animals are still on the property.

A few weeks ago, it came to our attention that the poor bitch is pregnant again.  To make this even more onerous, we had offered the woman assistance in getting her animals altered.  She refused our aide.

Case #2  Mona recently received a call from a woman who had gotten a medium-sized bitch from the shelter with the adoption fee sponsored.  The woman said that she took the dog because it was free.  She is on disability and can’t afford veterinary care, and so the dog never received a physical exam.  When she called Mona, she said the dog had been vomiting non-stop for a week and a half, and since she couldn’t afford veterinary care, she wanted SCHS to take the dog.  Mona refused – all of our foster homes are past full, mine included, and none of us currently have facilities to quarantine a potentially contagious animal.  The woman became angry and said in that case, she would just return the dog to the shelter.  Mona told her that what we could do was help with having the dog vetted, and she arranged for the woman to take the dog to Dr. Debbie Cowan in Walnut Cove.  She didn’t show up at Dr. Cowan’s office for the scheduled visit.  The woman claims she has a health condition that only allows her to drive two hours each day, and that she was too busy during her two hours of daily driving time to take the dog to the vet right away.  It was the following week when the woman finally got around to taking the dog to Dr. Cowan’s office.  The dog was diagnosed with a severe pyometra and underwent an emergency spay and IV fluids and antibiotics.  She’s been in the hospital now since this past Tuesday, and is still in very, very bad shape.  When clinic staff questioned the woman as to her delay in dropping the dog off, her response was, “I suppose the dog is so important that you don’t even care if I might be going blind!”  Clinic staff was wise enough not to respond.  Mona discussed the situation with Candis at Animal Rescue and they agreed to take joint custody of the dog and share the expenses.  The woman agreed to surrender the dog.  The dog is still in the hospital fighting this very serious infection.

Those are the two cases that I chose to illustrate why we are opposed to pull fee sponsorships.  They are not the only ones, nor are they the worst of the many; because they are fairly uncomplicated, they are the ones I chose.  However, there is one more case that I think needs to be included – the difference is that while those two cases involved individual animals, this one involves multiples animals.

Case #3  Our shelter recently euthanized nearly all of the dogs being held and ceased canine intake and adoptions in order to purge a massive outbreak of parvovirus.  Parvo is one of the nastiest illnesses in existence in the dog world.  It was unknown prior to the mid-1970s, and while it is easy to prevent, it’s difficult to treat, has a 100% mortality rate if not treated, and even if it is treated there’s still no guarantee of survival.  How do you prevent it?  By following the recommended vaccination schedule.  Most vets recommend three or four initial vaccines, starting at age 8 weeks and repeating every three to four weeks until the series is complete, and then an annual booster up to age four, at which point the booster can be given every three years.  Why am I including this as a case to make my point?  Because the parvo vaccine (which is included in the DHPP vaccine) is only $15 at Central Spay, Neuter and Wellness Clinic, only $17 at my personal veterinary clinic (neither of these clinics charge an office visit fee for vaccines, though it is recommended that anyone with a new puppy also obtain a complete exam), and is also available (though not recommended by me or by most veterinary and drug company professionals) over the counter at feed & seed stores such as Tractor Supply for around $7.  If you can’t afford a $36 adoption fee, it’s extremely unlikely you’re going to be able to afford the entire DHPP series.

I’m sure that this is going to make a great many people angry.  If so, good.  That is my intention.  If I make you angry, then that means that what I’ve said has hit a nerve, and hopefully it will make you rethink your methods.

The people who are sponsoring these adoption fees are doing so for the right reasons… unfortunately, your offer is being accepted by people who shouldn’t have an animal in their care, custody or control for any reason, ever.  If you want to help increase the adoptions at the shelter, offer to sponsor the initial veterinary exam, or the first round of vaccines, or better yet, the spay/neuter surgery.  You’ll be doing the animals in our community far more good that way.

Memories and Random Triggers

Tonight, I fried catfish for supper.  I do this four or five times a year.  Tonight was the first for this year.  As the fish crackled merrily in the fryer  I broke off a piece that was already done and nibbled at it, and was overwhelmed by an unexpected memory of a ritual I haven’t thought of for close to twenty years.

At the middle of the second semester of my sophomore year of high school, I moved to Texas to live with my maternal grandfather on his cattle ranch.  To call it a ranch is perhaps overly optimistic.  He ran around twenty head of Charolais on two hundred acres, all that was left of the empire his father had homesteaded in the early part of the twentieth century; the rest was lost or sold during and immediately following The Great Depression, when my great-grandparents lost millions of dollars and thousands of acres.

I adored my grandfather, and I loved the ranch.  DG, as he was known, and I settled quickly into a very comfortable routine.  I went to school.  I had chores around the house and the ranch.  And we had our little rituals, never to be skipped, never varied.  Thursdays for supper we had pizza off the buffet at Mr. Gatti’s in Early.  Mondays we had lunch from The Hickory Stick in Brownwood, home of the best damned chopped barbecue sandwich that’s ever been made.  (Sadly, neither Mr. Gatti’s nor The Hickory Stick are around these days.)  Saturday nights and Sundays after church we would go to either The Section Hand Steakhouse, Golden Corral, or Underwood’s (another very fine barbecue restaurant, one which, thankfully, is still extant).  

Tuesdays, however, we had fried catfish at the Bangs Cafe in downtown Bangs.  Downtown is possibly a misnomer – you could stand at one end of downtown Bangs and throw a rock and hit the far side of uptown Bangs right on the nose.  There was one stoplight in town.  When DG was a boy, it was a stop sign, and one time he and some of his friends stole clothes from the mayor’s clothesline, dressed the stop sign with them, and hauled it to the town square.  The mayor was furious.  I don’t think they got caught.  

I went to high school in Bangs.  I made the best friends I’d ever had up til then in Bangs.  I fell in love in Bangs – and had my heart broken there too.  These memories are never far from mind, and I’m still in contact with quite a few of those good old friends.  (Say what you will about Facebook, it’s kept me in touch with quite a few people I’d have lost otherwise.)

However, I’d forgotten about the catfish at the Bangs Cafe.  That was likely some of the most exquisite fried catfish I’ve ever had in my life.  Possibly this is the result of the good memories surrounding those Tuesday nights, but I’d be willing to bet the catfish really was as good as I remember it being.  

I’ve never cherished moments as much as I cherished those one-on-one times with DG.  

It’s funny how nibbling on a piece of catfish fresh out of the fryer tonight brought Tuesday night with DG at the Bangs Cafe flooding back as if it was yesterday.  I could have closed my eyes and made a wish and stepped back into the dimly lit wood-paneled diner and taken my seat next to DG – if magic responded the way memory does, I could have followed that memory and I would have done it.  

Hard on the heels of memories of the Bangs Cafe came memories of warm summer evenings spent on the front porch watching the stars come out in the east as the sun painted its deathbed promises in the west; evenings listening to coyotes yipping and cattle lowing and the occasional sounds of goats or sheep or peacocks on neighboring ranches.  Evenings spent sitting side by side with DG, Bonnie the Border Collie stretched out on the cool concrete between our chairs, listening as we contemplated the nature of man and the universe, religion as opposed to faith, science, mathematics, fine arts, breeding programs, and the merits of a good dog.  

Sometimes I can hear a song I haven’t heard for years and I’ll think about a boy or a friend or a teacher.  Sometimes I can smell fresh-mown hay and remember haying time on the ranch.  Barns and stables never fail to inundate me with memories of those days.  Now and then – but rarely even so – I’ll hear a diesel engine at a gas station and turn, expecting to see DG and Bonnie sitting in the pickup waiting on me to pay for the gas – Bonnie would always move to the cab when I got out of the truck, and she’d always flip me in the face with her tail when she gave me back my seat.  A dry wind transports me fairly often to the windswept plain atop the butte where we ranched.  

Tonight, however, I made a trip I haven’t made since I left, and I’m left wondering if the old cafe is still in operation, and if so, whether they still serve catfish on Tuesday nights.

Biscuit – or, rescuing isn’t always rainbows and unicorns

Last summer my husband and his coworkers were facing yet ANOTHER long-term (several months time) layoff and the week before the layoff one of his coworkers started telling him about a dog that he was going to have to take to the shelter. They live in Mt. Airy – and I think it goes without saying that my husband reacted to the idea of a dog going to the Surry County Shelter the same way any of us would have. He told his coworker he would take the dog, but only if the dog kennel and dog house were part of the package. After some initial hemming and hawing his coworker agreed.
Mind you, this was arranged without my knowledge or consent. Biscuit is what’s known as a personal foster: Because my husband went out on his own and took responsibility for this dog, without first getting approval from the group with which we work, Biscuit is not sponsored. Everything that I do with Biscuit is at my expense.
The day Biscuit’s former owner brought him to us I started to guess that there was more to the story than had been originally revealed. Here is the story, which I’ve cobbled together from what we were told, what we WEREN’T told, and what we’ve experienced since Biscuit has lived with us:
Biscuit showed up in Mt. Airy as a puppy, a few years ago – they couldn’t remember exactly when. They bought a dogloo and a 10×10 pen and that was the pup’s home for the next three or four years. They fed him when they thought about it; otherwise he was never handled. We were told he didn’t eat or drink very much; the truth of the matter is his appetite is great and he drinks as much water as any dog his size – they just didn’t care enough to give him food and fresh water regularly. The first night he was with us, he bit me when I brought him his food. I remained calm and went ahead and put his food down; I didn’t freak out until I got back in the house. My husband wanted to shoot the dog; I refused any notion of doing so. I rescue – I don’t give up on a dog the first night. Ever. No matter what… And I WON’T have a dog shot, period. Instead, I drew up vaccines and went back out to the pen, vaccinated him, and spent the next half-hour convincing him he could trust me. He was horrified by the entire situation. He’d never been in a car; he’d never been around strangers; and suddenly he took a car trip and had strangers thrust on him all on the same day. Of COURSE he bit me! I would have done the same!
That weekend we were having a rabies clinic in Sandy Ridge, and we brought Biscuit along for his very first ever rabies shot. The following week I had him neutered. He’s been on numerous car rides since, to the vet, to adoption events… He never bit me or anyone else again.
The only bad thing about Biscuit’s new life was my very own dog, Max, who is an Akita mix. Max, who is neutered, hated Biscuit from the moment Biscuit came to me. Max has never objected to adult females or to puppies of any sex, but he absolutely had a bloodlust-type hatred for poor Biscuit.
Biscuit was kennel-crazy when I first got him. As I write this he is laying quietly in a large crate in my living room – I hope that means he’s not kennel-crazy anymore. He only barks when my cat walks by.
I’ve learned a great deal about Biscuit in our time together. Biscuit loves to run – he loves it more than he loves anything else. He also loves to chase tennis balls. We haven’t quite achieved “fetch” yet, but he’s getting there. He loves to play with other dogs, and he enjoys meeting people. He’s rough, but that’s because he was never socialized. There’s not an alpha or aggressive bone in his body – his whole goal in life is to PLAY, and when he’s all played out, he wants someone to love him. He wants a job, and he wants to belong somewhere.
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We had done a fairly good job of keeping Max and Biscuit separated until two weekends ago. Sunday March 10th Biscuit somehow got the gate of his kennel open and got into the main yard. Max and his minions took advantage of the opportunity to beat the hell out of Biscuit. Biscuit did not fight back; from all appearances he broke away at the first opportunity and ran to hide in his dogloo, which is where I found him later that morning. We cleaned him up and determined that his injuries, though serious, were not life-threatening nor in imminent danger of becoming so; we gave him antibiotics and pain meds and my husband had him at my vet as soon as they opened the next morning.
That was almost two weeks ago. I brought Biscuit home from the clinic this past Friday morning. He’s had two surgeries to insert drains and looks pathetic with his neck shaved and the stitches from the drains – they didn’t stitch the wound from the fight. As I said before, he’s quietly laying in my largest crate on a nice soft pillow and hasn’t made a peep since he’s been home. I’ve walked him on the leash so he could potty and he’s done very well… He’s greeted my other dogs (of course I kept him away from my bad boys) and my mother’s dogs as well – there’s honestly not a mean bone in his body. He wants to be friends with everyone and doesn’t deserve Max’s ill will.
Besides having been kennel-crazy when I first got him, Biscuit also has some resource-guarding tendencies. I believe this stems from his having not been fed and handled regularly during the first three or four years of his life. I also believe that someone with the skills and time to work with him could work past those tendencies.
Biscuit has been neutered, vaccinated, and cared for at my expense; the last two weeks worth of medical treatments have also been at my expense; I will never recoup these expenses. I don’t say that because I regret the cost – I don’t. I say it because people don’t always understand that rescue is not always rainbows and unicorns – it is emotionally and physically draining, and it can be financially costly.
Biscuit deserves far better than I can provide… I was afraid of something like this happening when my husband agreed to take in a strange adult male, but I can’t bring myself to wish that we hadn’t taken him. I just want a better life for him than this. I think he would be ideal for a family with an older boy to play ball with him and take him fishing and exploring, or someone who likes jogging and long walks.
If you’re reading this blog and are interested in Biscuit, please email me: hcamp@stokescountyhumanesociety.com.
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