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PET HAPPENINGS - December 2001

Chicken Soup For The Animal Lover’s Soul...Moab Style
by Carol Nabrotzky

A young girl sits in front of City Market, with what was obviously, the last puppy of the litter. This small, black, wavy haired puppy with classic big feet, a lab mix of some sort, sat with the little girl patiently waiting for a good home. I couldn’t help but pet the puppy, and in doing so, talked to the young girl about what kind of dog the puppy’s mom (her family’s dog) is. I couldn’t help but wonder in what kind of home this puppy would actually find himself. When she told me her family was thinking about letting their dog have another litter, I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Oh, you don’t want to do that do you? There are already so many puppies and dogs that don’t have homes and can’t get homes. How are more puppies going to find homes?” I know I added a few more comments, but I don’t remember what they were. I hadn’t thought about how these comments might effect her, but she seemed to really be considering what I had just said. Hopefully, she may have tried to pass on just one of those thoughts to her parents, and maybe, just maybe, if dogs are really lucky, they would decide to spay the family dog and not give the world another litter of puppies that may not have happy homecomings.

According to the Humane Society of The United States, “4 to 6 million dogs and cats are euthanised in America’s animal shelters each year because they are not wanted by anyone, anywhere. Too many companion animals competing for too few good homes is the most obvious consequence of uncontrolled breeding; however, there are other equally tragic problems that result from pet overpopulation. The transformation of some animal shelters into “warehouses” or cheap sources of animals for use in biomedical experimentation, the acceptance of cruelty to animals as a way of life in our society, and the stress that caring shelter workers suffer when they are forced to euthanise one animal after another are just a few of the consequences of our society’s carelessness. Living creatures have become throwaway items to be cuddled when cute and abandoned when they become inconvenient. Such disregard for animal life pervades and erodes our culture. Consider the fact that in six short years one female dog and her offspring can be the source of 67,000 puppies. In seven years one cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens.”

That said, it behooves us to revisit the commitment we enter into when we consider owning a companion animal, and how animals never consider such a thing as “commitment;” they just love us unconditionally, no matter what. Given this holiday season, remembering what lifts our spirits, I have gathered a few local short stories with a lot of heart, about our animal friends.

Pam Walston recalls an incident that happened on her way back from a dog show in the Phoenix area. Driving through the desert, she pulled off at a turn out where there were two large trash barrels. Pam stopped to check on her dogs in the back of the van, empty food bowls, and check water dishes. She didn’t think much about the pile of rags and other trash that was strewn around the base of the trash barrels. She just wanted to empty some food bowls, and get rid of some trash. As Pam neared the barrels, one of the rags in the pile lifted its head; and it took everything that little puppy could muster, to be able to do so. This little dishwater blond puppy was skin and bones. She could hardly stand, or lift her head. Smaller than a miniature poodle, full of fleas and ticks, this puppy had been someone else’s trash and was hanging on to every last thread of life, just in case someone like Pam might come along. Pam, of course, snatched up that little puppy and took her to the back of the van, where she put two of her own dogs in one carrier, so that this puppy could have a comfortable, safe space. Every so often, Pam would pull off to the side of the road to feed and water the puppy.

As Pam nursed this little dog back to health, her true coat color came forth. She was a beautiful reddish-brown with one black spot on her back hip that trailed down her leg. Pam said it looked like someone had spilled ink on her, and it dribbled down her back leg.

After spaying the dog, Pam found this puppy a home with a helicopter pilot. Due to her small size, she was his constant daily companion in the helicopter, and had found the love and care she was worthy of having, thanks to Pam.

The Dog and Cat Clinic of Moab has its own Florence Nightingale. Though Hesper, Lou Goslin or Dr. Goslin may immediately spring to mind, it is Buckeye that attends to the Clinic’s sick patients in his own wise manner. Buckeye is the stray Siamese-mix that was brought into the clinic by someone who found him in the City Market parking lot. Lou says they waited the standard three days and then, well...he just ended up staying and became the classic “clinic live-in cat.”

It seems Buckeye has been grateful ever since, and shows it by tending to the other sick dogs (yes, dogs) and cats that come into the clinic.

One client, a retired gentleman, took his puppy out everyday for a run or walk out on one of the many trails available in Moab. This particular day, the puppy took off after something that tickled its fancy. After hours of frantic searching, the gentleman found his dog only because she had dragged herself onto the trail. The dog needed surgery, and through this surgery, a bruised liver was revealed as well. Lou said they figured the puppy must have fallen off a ledge to have bruised her liver.
Enter Buckeye, the hand-holding moral support for the sick and injured dogs and cats. Buckeye would leap onto the table and crouch next to this bruised puppy, as she was given her fluids to watch over her. Buckeye stayed in the cage with the puppy at the height of its illness, until the puppy recuperated, and luckily, with Buckeye’s attentiveness, the puppy recovered.

Buckeye also sits on top of the cage of the next animal in surgery, be it cat or dog, waiting for the animal to be placed in the cage for recovery. Lou says, most of the time Buckeye crawls in the cage with the animal and just curls up next to it without preference for dogs or cats. Buckeye has a sense of helping other animals in dire straits, by offering his calming presence and watchful concern. Maybe because of his own precarious experience, he knows what is necessary for well being. Whatever the reason, it is with great wisdom that Lou says, “We let him in with the really sick, and recovering animals, because he seems to be able to give them something we can’t.”

On a lighter note, Randy Zimmerman remembers the stranded cat on top of the telephone pole. You’ve heard of cats stranded in trees, waiting for the fire department’s rescue. This poor cat was stuck high up on a telephone pole with no obvious way to get down, short of learning how to fly. The utility company was called. Men were in place, and the basket and ladder were raised, all to save this unfortunate cat from its risky predicament. As the attempt was made to retrieve the cat from the pole, low and behold, the cat was part flying squirrel. It bolted off the pole, all “four’s” outstretched, falling at least 30 feet, and hit the ground running. Just a couple of days later, the owners called and said the cat had come home totally without a scratch. Purring and happy to be home, this was one lucky cat, hopefully, with eight lives left.

Chickens may not spring to mind when you think of the words “affectionate companion animals,” but I have owned chickens myself and they are more than meets the eye. In their awkward innocence they are more entertaining than a lot of humans I have met. They run to greet you whenever you come outside. They are fun, keep the bug population down in the yard, and when raised from chicks, quite enjoy being petted. With that introduction, Sharon Sidwell recounts the memory of her grandfather’s Banty hen (miniature chicken). This little black Banty was grandpa’s favorite and she held a soft spot in grandpa’s heart. He would go to the door and cluck at her to invite her into the house. Once inside, she was quite content to perch on the back of the recliner and watch the comings and goings of the house. Grandpa would even sneak her a peanut.

Sharon says, “she would watch us play cards at the table, peering at us with one eye and her head cocked. She would cluck softly and make other chicken sounds.”
What really sticks out in Sharon’s mind was when she was about nine years old. Sharon spent a lot of time at her grandpa’s and sometimes slept on the couch. During an illness Sharon had, this little Banty hen would spend her time around Sharon. She seemed to know Sharon was ill and instead of perching on the recliner, as was her habit, she perched on the back of the couch where Sharon was convalescing. She would cluck and coo and make those little chicken noises.
“It was very comforting,” said Sharon. Is it any wonder where the term “Mother Hen” comes from?

My own experience came during a time when I was pet sitting for my niece’s 42 animals in Washington. She lives in a remote area, it’s 10 miles to the main road, and because she’s a vet-tech, her home has turned into a mini shelter, although some of those 42 animals account for goats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits. One day while engaged in the feeding rounds, a stray kitten wandered into the yard. Given her size, I thought she was only about six months old. She’d accompany me around the yard while I tended to the chickens, ducks, and goats. When I picked her up, she was as light as air and though I put food and water out, she never ate very much. Little did I know that she was so emaciated, she couldn’t eat, and ended up in a diabetic coma because of her condition. I came home one day to a drooling, sprawled out cat, that was unable to move. When I called the vet, he told me that it sounded like she was dying, but to bring her in anyway. As I drove like a mad racer to the clinic, I would stroke her head and make her groan to keep her two back feet out of death’s door since it seemed the front two were already through. I promised her that if she made it through this ordeal, she would always, always have a home with me. It has been about a year now, and I am amazed at the level of trust and love she shows around the dogs and other cat. This, without the kind of therapy I would have surely needed having been through what she had.
In the spirit of this holiday season, if you or a friend want to get a puppy or kitten, adopt one from a local shelter or humane society where there is always a wonderful selection of mixed breed and purebred dogs and cats who are just waiting for good homes and loving owners. Roughly 1 out of every 4 animals in shelters nationwide is purebred. Every time people adopt an animal from a shelter, they save one more dog or cat from a tragic fate. Think carefully about the responsi bility you are about to take on and make sure it’s something you can do for the rest of the animal’s life.

In closing, I would like to reprint the “Dog’s Prayer” that was e-mailed to me from my niece.

Dear God, Are there mailmen in Heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize? Dear God, How come people love to smell flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another? Where are their priorities? Dear God, When my family eats dinner they always bless their food. But they never bless mine. So... I’ve been wagging my tail extra fast when they fill my bowl. Have you noticed my own blessing? Dear God, When we get to Heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it the same old story? Dear God, Excuse me, but why are there cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit, but not one named for a dog? How often do you see a cougar riding around? We dogs love a nice ride! I know every breed cannot have its own model, but it would be easy to rename the Chrysler Eagle the Chrysler Beagle! Dear God, If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad dog? Dear God, If we come back as humans, is that good or bad? Dear God, More meatballs, less spaghetti, please. Dear God, When we get to the Pearly Gates, do we have to shake hands to get in? Dear God, Are there dogs on other planets, or are we alone? I have been howling at the moon and stars for a long time, but all I ever hear back is the beagle across the street! Dear God, Is it true that dogs are not allowed in restaurants because we can’t make up our minds what NOT to order? Or is it that thing about carpets again? Dear God, The new terrier I live with just peed on the Oriental rug and I have a feeling my family might blame me ‘cuz they think I’m jealous of this stupid dog. Since they have no sense of smell, how can I convince them I’m innocent?
Sincerely,
the Dog.

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