Monday, May 25, 2009
Safe at home with us, he made our Biscuit quite jealous and prompted Leigh to name him Ham. We placed calls to Luther at WDEF and to the Times Free Press classified advertising department. We even showed him to the good people of Bone Appetite, lest he be a regular customer of theirs. He wasn't.
As fate would have it, another North Chattanooga house pet escaped that weekend. Flyers seeking the return of Petunia appeared all over the neighborhood. We had to clarify in our copy that our recovered dog was indeed a different animal. Even so, numerous callers seeking Petunia were disappointed not to find her.
For the most part, "Ham" was a perfect houseguest. Despite our Biscuit's envious ways, he neither growled nor barked and knew what it meant to go outside. To be sure, someone was missing this creature who so adored his belly rubs and slept peaceably between us. Ham's one vice was his will to escape. Every time we opened a door, he was there, not to greet us but to bolt. The front door still displays scratches, tokens of his urge for freedom.
Monday morning our veterinarian passed a wand over Ham's shoulders and found a microchip. What should have been a process whereby data entry to a website would yield an owner's name in moments merely opened another chapter. All we learned was that the breeder had microchipped him and there the trail turned cold. Three telephone calls later we were no closer to finding his home, so Ham and I departed to get on with my day.
That episode bolstered my belief that there are no hightech solutions to human failings. For example, v-chips in televisions do nothing to curb the viewing of gratuitous violence. What use are microchips in pets if people do not register them? I had imagined identification chipping to be a sort of social service, perhaps a joint effort of the AKC and ASPCA. It is instead a for-profit enterprise requiring a registration fee from the pet's owner. Paying to put a chip in the animal is not a fait accompli.
Ham's real name turned out to be Rufus. Credit goes to our veterinary clinic. A fourth telephone call found his owner, who recovered him that afternoon. It seems that Rufus likes to keep cool atop the floor vents, but his dog tags catch in the grating. Add his propensity for flight and the rest became this story. My opinion of microchipping pets is much improved. If need be, please take a moment to update such records. Our furry friends will thank you for it.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
The Humane Society of the United States estimates the annual intake of American shelters to be as many as eight million animals. Gentle reader, that is one per second of each fifty-hour working week. Half of that intake are euthanized every year. Yes, three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized every year in the US.
“This is society’s problem and multiple segments of society must work together for a solution,” said Dr. Philip A. Bushby of Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in his Keynote Address to PetSmart Charities 2007 Fix-it Forum. “We must stop the reproduction.”
Here in Chattanooga, Wally’s Friends [501(c)(3)] is working toward that goal and this morning, the low-cost, high-volume spay and neuter clinic performed its 20,000th procedure since opening in November of 2006. For Director Eileen Price, Drs. Winn and August and their seven assistants, there was no time for celebration. The daily pace of fifty-plus surgeries fills their lobby, holding cages, operating room and rings their telephone off the hook. Showing the iron discipline that served her well as ballerina in Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ms. Price answered my inquiries throughout her morning rush.
“I decided to devote the second half of my career to helping animals,” explains Price. “PetSmart encouraged development of these clinics in Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee for the prevention of animal cruelty. That’s why I’m here. In New Hampshire, Peter Marsh worked really hard with local government support to spay and neuter. At 70% you really start to see a drop in the number of shelter drop-offs and strays euthanized.”
Our conversation temporarily suspended, I turned to speak with client Nancy Fullam, who had brought a cat to be spayed. She told me, “My [home] vet’s fee was $65 and this meant more driving and fighting traffic, but I like what they’re doing and wanted to support them. They do outreach. We live in north Georgia and they offer us services to bring animals up here.”
The interview with Price continued in the holding area, where she told me that while primary funding had come from PetSmart Charities, local foundations Benwood and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga have also lent their support. A large window to the operating theatre showed Drs. Winn and August at work while a third animal recuperated from and a fourth was being prepared for surgery. Her mission is capital intensive. “All are on heart monitors. Animal temperatures drop under anesthesia, so our tables are heated and they recover on heated rice bags. State of the art protocols protect our reputation and earn the trust of the public.”
“But,” as Dr. Bushby noted, “animals are not the real problem, people are,” and he identified three groups of varying needs. First is financial. Wally’s Friends fee schedule is most reasonable and yes, they can work with those who are truly needy. Second is educational. It is this writer’s hope to propagate the Spay and Neuter ethic so that Bushby’s third prescription, “a kick in the pants”, will not be required.
As Ms. Price bid me farewell, one last question came to mind, “Who is Wally?” From their website: Wally was a German Short-Haired Pointer who was found abandoned, starving and seriously injured on the streets of Sacramento, California. Although suffering, her eyes still held a light of hope and kindness. Wally was rescued and lived a long full life of 17 years. She always welcomed any cat or dog her humans brought home to her, each one homeless as she once was.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Below is the text of my letter published in the Times Free Press last year. The petition drive has ended, but my wish for dog friendlier park, bridge and trail lives on.
November 12, 2008
Dear Times Free Press,
Business meetings downtown went well for me today, so I took a celebratory stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge to admire our riverfront city in its autumnal splendor. It was a rare event for this newly transplanted, North Chattanoogan who walks daily for health and inspiration, because most of those excursions include a dog.
How ironic that the public art on the bridge’s southern end would be a bronze tribute to our best friend. The sign prohibiting pets from crossing is an afterthought, no doubt the result of irresponsible owners who failed to clean up after their dogs. The ban seems extreme, given the opportunity here to educate the public and to extend the welcome to all who would like to use the pedestrian bridge and city parks and trails.
Please join me in signing the petition that Ruth Holmberg, Rick and Julie Brackett, Stephen Dreskin and Vanessa Taylor have written and will submit to the city council. Copies may be found at humane societies, boarding kennels and other pet friendly businesses. Let’s make Chattanooga a city for everyone, including the family dog.